28 October 2011
City of London Corporation approves court action to remove St Paul’s campsite
The members of the committee, which is responsible for the highways for the Square Mile business district around St Paul’s, voted for the move after careful consideration and lawyers will begin court action.
Michael Welbank, the elected Member who chaired the committee as its Deputy Chairman, said after the meeting:
‘ Protest is an essential right in a democracy – but camping on the highway is not and we believe we will have a strong highways case because an encampment on a busy thoroughfare clearly impacts the rights of others.’
Stuart Fraser, the City of London Corporation’s Chairman of Policy and Resources, said:
‘ We have no problem with a peaceable 24-hour protest by people without tents – provided the highway is fully usable – but campsites and important highways don’t mix.’
The report the committee considered outlined how the Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights was being used in English law and detailed how action had been taken against campers in Parliament Square.
The formal decision taken was as follows:
- To commence proceedings to remove the encampment on the grounds that the encampment constitutes an unreasonable user [sic] of the highway and/or on such grounds as may be advised.
- In the event the factual circumstances relating to the obstruction of the highway change from those set out in the report before proceedings are commenced, but the encampment remains, that the Committee delegates to the Town Clerk and Chief Executive, in consultation with the Chairman and Deputy Chairman, the decision whether to commence proceedings.
- That a further report be submitted to the Committee on the outcome of the legal proceedings and prior to any enforcement action being taken. An approximate map showing the maintained public highway around St Paul’s (attached) was cited. The hatched area is public highway and the dark semicircle area permissive paths.
It seems now that the City of London Corporation will be taking legal steps to have Protesters’ encampment removed from the highway and other selected areas around Saint Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London. In a way, this will remove the onus away from the Cathedral authorities to clear protesters from the close vicinity – a prospect that prompted the resignation of Canon Chancellor, Giles Fraser.
Whether the court action will succeed in a peaceful withdrawal of the Protesters is yet to be seen. But with the opening of the Cathedral on Friday, 28 Oct., for the usual mid-day Eucharist, there is hope for further easing of the tensions around the choice of St. Paul’s in the City as the venue of the Protest. This action by the City would seem to have let the Cathedral authorities ‘off the hook’ in the meantime, but the protesters might be looking to the cathedral to be a little more supportive of their protest against financial mismanagement in high places.
My prayers are for a peaceful resolution to the problems.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand