University of Sussex granted injunction against student occupation


Aubrey Allegretti@breeallegretti
Wednesday 27 March 2013 11:24
The outnumbered police were heckled into a corner by the hundreds of protesters
The outnumbered police were heckled into a corner by the hundreds of protesters

An injunction has been granted to the University of Sussex over the occupation of Bramber House which began on 7 February earlier this year.

Bundles of injunction notices with a covering letter addressed “to all Sussex students” were displayed in several key campus locations, including on the exterior make-shift wall erected after protesters broke into the University management building, and on the main doors to the building, which is currently being occupied.

The injunction, signed March 25, was taken out on a day of national solidarity that saw protesters from universities and unions gather to oppose the University’s plans to outsource 235 members of staff.

The occupation, which originally held only the conference centre on the top floor of Bramber House, has branched out to occupy the entire floor following the protest yesterday.

The injunction notice was date-marked 25 March 2013. An application was made by Leading Counsel for the claimant to the Judge. It called on the occupiers to return the space to the University.

A witness statement was reportedly taken from John Duffy, the registrar and secritat of the University but it has not been included in the injunction released to students.

Duffy however commented in a statement released by the University yesterday, saying: “While we had made it clear to occupiers that their sit-in was unacceptable, we had tolerated it for several weeks because we could contain it without undue disruption to the day-to-day operation of the University.

“The occupation had for the most part been peaceful, although there had been petty acts of vandalism and breaches of University health and safety policy. Prior to Monday’s demonstration, however, we had become increasingly concerned about the attitude of the occupiers towards staff and other students and to University property and about their increasing willingness to invite people on to campus who had no connection with Sussex.”

The injunction warns those in breach of its terms that if they do not comply they be held in contempt of court leading to possible imprisonment, a fine or their assets seized. A court fee of £465.00 has been charged to the claimant.

The University has released a statement in the last hour explaining that it had “taken this step after the group occupying the space in Bramber House called for many thousands of people to come to campus on Monday to take part in the protest, which led to violence and damage to University property.”

Members of the occupation are said to be in high spirits and are cleaning the occupation space after yesterday’s events which they claim saw 2,000 people in attendance from 27 universities.

The occupiers are said to be consulting a legal team, some of which are students studying Law at the University itself.

They have announced plans for a protest to take place outside the Royal Courts of Justice tomorrow morning at 09:30.

There is a general meeting being called this evening at 18:00 to discuss, deliberate on and debate the future of the occupation in light of the injunction. It is also intended to make people involved aware of their rights.

Members of the occupation have accused the University of “overreacting” by taking out the injunction. Apart from the incident at Sussex House, protests so far have remained mostly peaceful, a member of the occupation has said, and did not warrant the threat of eviction through legal proceedings.

One occupier said “even if we are forced out, the anti-privatisation campaign shows no signs of slowing down”. The injunction refers only to “persons entering or remaining on the campus and buildings of the University of Sussex for the purpose of protest action (without the consent of the University)”.

Following a response by students the University have sought to clarify that "the steps we are taking are specifically around the occupation and the violence we experienced on Monday. The University is categorically not seeking to prevent peaceful demonstrations which don’t involve occupations. We will continue to respect our students’ freedom to demonstrate peacefully on our campus.”

The hearing will take place in London at 10:30 today.

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