Occupy Sussex to be evicted as university is granted an injunction


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The Independent Online

The two-month student occupation at Sussex University is to end following a court hearing in London today.

A possession order was granted to the University of Sussex by Mr Justice Sales over an occupation taking place in a key campus building that has reached its seventh and final week.

Following a two-and-a-half-hour court hearing that took place yesterday, the judge granted the University a possession order effective immediately over the whole of campus.

This follows an injunction granted three days earlier by the High Court of Justice banning any and all protests and occupations taking place on campus until September later this year.

Last night students were restricted access from entering the building, with additional security being drafted in to facilitate the new arrangements. Some protesters were forced to leave as they claim they were not allowed to bring food up on to the premises and had to leave the space guarded by security to travel three metres into the campus supermarket.

Head of Security at the University, Rodger Morgan, attended the occupied building at around 20:00 last night to affix copies of the possession order to the doors behind which the occupiers had locked themselves in.

He had granted the occupation until 12 noon today to leave voluntarily before bailiffs or the police were used to forcibly evict those who refused to leave.

Evictors were on campus this morning at the midday deadline, however a member of the ‘legal observer’ team reported that both the police and bailiffs had left the campus.

A crowd of supporters rallied outside the entrance to the occupied building at the deadline to show their support for the occupiers, some of whom have spent over a month in the conference centre space.

There were also private security guards filming the events outside the building leading speculation from many online-users that a reprisal of a rush on the building could be imminent. It is estimated there are around 40 people still in the occupied space.

In a statement released by the University, they explained that they wanted a peaceful end to the occupation so that the space could be returned to staff and students for its normal purposes.

John Duffy, the University’s Registrar and Secretary said: “Continuing the disruptive action would now be unwelcome to the vast majority of the University community and we are determined to ensure there is no repeat of Monday's violence and no further disruption to the University's normal life as we reach the end of the spring term and approach the summer's exams."

The document provided by the court explains that permission is granted to enforce the Order for possession on Friday 29 and Sunday 31 March.

Katharine Holland QC, the University’s barrister, became the first British lawyer to successfully secure an injunction over “protesters unknown”. She said at the hearing that the occupiers have “not one leg to stand on”.

The occupation’s legal representation was reportedly provided pro bono. Their barrister, Jude Bunting, argued that the University’s claim over the detrimental financial impact of the occupation, was without evidence.

In a statement released by the occupation following the hearing earlier this morning they said: “The willingness of management to ignore dialogue with the majority of the campus community, and instead having to no doubt violently drag peaceful students from the University they supposedly run, is sickening.

“The campaign to Stop The Privatisation of Sussex Services will continue, as will the fight to restore freedom of expression on our campus.”

The occupiers have been denied permission to appeal and are due to be evicted this evening or Easter Sunday.