Fortnum and Mason occupation trial beginsTagged as: demo2011 fm145 repression ukuncut
Report from the court room by an anonymous defendant:
Nerve racking morning, early start, with all the anticipation of an 8 months wait since being arrested but a big relief to finally be getting going on this.
The first day started off at fast pace, getting through the prosecutions opening statement and 4 witnesses, cross examined by the prosecution and the defence.
We began with an attempt by the prosecution to amend the charge, practically admitting that the case they had against us was weak and trying to reduce it to a lesser charge. The Judge, DJ Snow, explaining that this is way too late in the day for amendments refused this change! We then swiftly moved on for the prosecution to outline their case and called 4 witnesses, all staff of Fortnum and Mason.
Sitting in the dock behind the glass is not a great feeling, and it seems to me that the politicians and heads of business who collude to dodge £billions in tax whilst ripping apart our health service and education should be here rather than us, but feeling good about my actions 8 months ago and proud to stand up against this in court.
See below for pre trial press release from the campaign, and also an open letter to Simon Pountain, Commander of the Public Order Command of the MET police, following the letters that were sent out to people allegedly involved in the F&M occupation warning them off attending the Nov9 protests.
FORTNUM AND MASON TRIAL BEGINS - PRESS RELEASE 8th Nov
Tommorrow, 10 UK Uncut activists begin their three week trial at Westminster Magistrates Court over their alleged involvement in a tax avoidance protest inside Fortnum and Mason.
Of the 145 people originally arrested at the luxury store on March 26 this year, 29 face trials which will be conducted by the courts in three separate groups, ending in March next year.
The Crown Prosecution Service have charged all the defendants with Aggravated Trespass, alleging that each had an “intention to intimidate”.
Across the three weeks of this first trial Chief Police Officers will be cross examined and the defence are expected to challenge their controversial decision to use ‘mass arrest’ tactics. Information will be revealed about the alleged misleading of protesters by the police  and claims that arrests were made for intelligence gathering purposes , as part of what the protestors brand ‘political policing’.
Adam Ramsay, defendant, says:
“Unlike after the Wall St Crash, not one of the bankers who destroyed our economy in 2008 has faced trial. yet I am in court today for asking a company to pay the tax they owe so that my local library won’t be shut. Is this justice for the 99%?”
Nancy Jones, mother of a defendant says:
“I’m proud of my son for making a stand against the unnecessary government cuts, but i’m horrified that he’s now being put on trial for it! Isn’t the government’s decision to shut down libraries and youth centres a bigger crime than sitting in a shop and protesting about it?”
Jenny Rawlings, defendant, says:
“Going through this process of being arrested and now facing trial has made me feel that our so called right to protest in this country is a farce and that our legal system prioritises the interest of politicians and businesses over that of the public”
NOTES TO EDITORS
 Full charge is as follows:
“On 26/03/2011 at Fortnum and Mason, Piccadilly, W1AER having trespassed on land, namely the premises of Fortnum and Mason, Piccadilly, London, and in relation to a lawful activity, namely the occupier’s retail business, which persons were engaged in on that land, did an act, namely entered the premises in the company of several others and demonstrated, which you intended to have the effect of intimidating those persons or any of them so as to deter them or any of them from engaging in that activity Contrary to section 68(1) and (3) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. “
Third Trial: 19 – 27th March 2012
 Guardian article containing video of protesters being allegedly purposfully mislead:http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/mar/28/cuts-protest-uk-uncut-fortnum
 Lynne Owens, the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said this referring to policing on March 26th:
“We do need to improve the intelligence picture, but our ability to arrest over 200 people at the weekend gives us a very good starting point in terms of building that picture.”
See here for a full transcript:http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmselect/cmhaff/uc917-i/uc91701.htm
The trial schedule
29 people on trial between November 2011 and March 2012 Calendar dates:
First trial: November 2011:
10th, 11th, 14th, 16th, 17th,18th,28th,29th,30th November
Approximate break-down, open to change during the trial:
10 – 17th November: Prosecution’s evidence, including cross examination on Chief Police officers and questions of police tactics and ‘Political Policing’
18, 28– 30th: Defense evidence, including cross examination of defendants. Closing statements from prosecution and defence. Verdict.
Second Trial: 5th – 13th March 2012
Third Trial: 19 – 27th March 2012
Timeline of Events
During the TUC organised march attended by 500,000 people, UK Uncut activists staged a sit-in at Fortnum and Mason luxury store.
This was in protest of Fortnum and Mason’s involvement in avoiding £10 million of tax per year as Private Eye revealed: https://skitch.com/politicalcustard/r39nr/fm-private-eye-1286
Senior police officers inside the store said protesters were “Sensible” and “non-violent” and that nobody would be arrested. In a controversial move, all 145 protesters still inside the store were contained (kettled) and arrested:http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/mar/28/cuts-protest-uk-uncut-fortnum?INTCMP=SRCH
All protesters had their phones and cameras taken, and many had their clothes taken, and spent nearly 24 hours in police cells across the city.
139 were charged with ‘Aggrevated Trespass’ on release.
*Between May and July 109 cases were ‘discontinued’. CPS stated it is ‘not in the public interest to prosecute’
*August: 21 of those who had their cases discontinued sent a letter to the CPS ‘reviving’ their case with the ‘I Am Spartacus Tactic’
‘I am Sparticus’
In July, 109 of the original 145 cases were ‘discontinued’ by the CPS. In August, 21 of those who had their cases discontinued used their right to ‘revive’ a criminal prosecution by sending a letter back to the CPS asking to be put on trial in an unprecedented legal move that served as an act of solidarity with those 30 protesters who still face prosecution. They declared that ‘I am sparticus’ in the process.
These 21 are due in court around the start of the trial, but the exact date is still to be set. At this hearing the 21 will either formally put on trial or formally found ‘not guilty’, as opposed to being ‘discontinued’. A ‘not guilty’ verdict may strongly impact on the legal case of the 30 described above.
For more information please read:
An open letter to Simon Pountain
Open letter to Mr Simon Pountain, Commander of the Public Order Command of the Metropolitan Police Service,
Thank you for your letter regarding the protest organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts on the 9th November 2011. I’ve been away and was actually unaware that the protest was taking place, but will try to attend because I believe that the economy should be organised in a way that adequately funds public services, and that enables access to higher education for all who have the ability and commitment, not just those whose families can find tens of thousands of pounds to support them through university.
The letter came as a surprise because it’s the first time I’ve ever had post from the Met – I assume you decided to write to me because I participated in the UK Uncut protest inside Fortnum and Mason. You wrote to advise me that “It is in the public and your own interest that you do not involve yourself in any type of criminal or anti-social behaviour”. I would greatly appreciate it if you could clarify what forms of protest you view as criminal or as anti-social behaviour. The Human Rights Act protects freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and I’d like to be confident in the knowledge of how I can exercise these rights.
After taking part in the trade union organised march against the cuts on March 26th, I walked through the open doors of Fortnum and Mason and took part in a protest that one of your senior officers on the scene described as “sensible and non-violent”. After singing a song and listening to someone explain that the royal grocers is involved in a scam to avoid paying £10million tax a year, I spent most of the time sat on the floor waiting because your officers had closed the shop due to a disturbance outside. I and the other protestors inside the shop obeyed police requests to group in one area, and customers were left to browse freely – diners in the restaurant and café continued to enjoy their meals. I left as soon as police opened the doors, and on the assurance by the senior police officer that protestors would be allowed to leave freely. This was a lie: outside I was immediately and forcefully arrested by a police man twice my size (I’m a woman who weighs 8 ½ stone and I wasn’t resisting); I was held for 24 hours with very little food; charges were pressed without the presence of a solicitor or any evidence being declared; and I was sent home to the other side of London without my clothes, phone, shoes or coat, in an white, oversized men’s jogging suit, my remaining possessions in a clear plastic bag.
Can you imagine what it feels like to have someone use force to take away a day of your life? For two days after my release I was in shock, my thoughts scattered, swinging between numb disbelief and mild hysteria. I had symptoms of trauma for at least a week longer, as well as a painful bruise on my wrist and a sore shoulder from the way my arm was yanked behind my back. You see, I took part in the UK Uncut protest because I was impressed by the peaceful and creative tactics that the network has become known for, as well as by their argument that not only expresses a problem – the cuts – but also part of the solution – cracking down on corporate tax avoidance and evasion. I would never have believed that entering a shop and sitting on the floor could be classed as “criminal” or “anti-social behaviour”. I was never told I was committing a crime; it was the police’s decision that I remain inside beyond when I was ready to leave and it was a senior police officer who told me I was free to go immediately before I was arrested. Your letter about the Fees and Cuts protest advises me to “move away and create distance” between myself and anyone involved in violence, but I was no where near violence on March 26th and no one has ever alleged that I was.
The case of the first 10 F&M protestors facing trial will be heard on Thursday – this attempt to prosecute a group of people involved in an entirely peaceful and disciplined sit-in is new legal territory. And while no evidence against me has ever been shared and the charges against me have been discontinued, your letter is evidence of the record that has been kept against my name, alongside my DNA. I had a good mind to have my case reinstated to try to get my name cleared, but I simply couldn’t afford the legal fees.
Being arrested is an experience I don’t want to repeat, however unfortunately it’s clear to me that I will want to express political opinions over the coming years. I’m sure thousands of others would appreciate clarity about how we can safely exercise our right to protest in order to influence decision making in this country – after all, we are supposed to live in a democracy.
I look forward to hearing from you.