London argues Occupiers are a ‘magnet’ for crime and untreated addicts
The anti-capitalist camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral is a “magnet” for crime, drunks and drug addicts, the High Court in London heard at the start of a four-day hearing over eviction proceedings.
The City of London Corporation — the local authority in London’s financial district — is arguing that unless injunctions are granted, the camp outside the London landmark will continue indefinitely.
Up to 200 demonstrators are based at the makeshift camp, which sprung up on October 15 in reaction to the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York.
David Forsdick, the lawyer for the Corporation of London, said the authority was acting to protect the rights and freedoms of local trade and others going about their normal business.
“When one considers the impacts which arise — despite the efforts of some of the protesters to mitigate impacts — the case for the orders sought becomes overwhelming,” he told the court.
He said the limited interference with the protesters’ rights, which the requirement to remove the tents would entail, was justified and proportionate.
Forsdick said the Occupy London Stock Exchange camp had been a magnet for people who had caused disorder, with a substantial increase in crime reported in the area since the camp began.
And while protesters had made efforts to keep the camp clean, urination and defecation were posing a significant problem.
Michael Paget, a lawyer for a representative of the group, refuted the claims and called on the court to consider the message of Christmas when considering its verdict.
“The camp has been in existence for over nine weeks without any serious public order issues arising,” he said.
“The court might think the guidance set out in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us’, is relevant to the balancing exercise.”
He added that the choice “can be summarised, appropriately at this time of year, by the court asking ‘What would Jesus have done?”‘.
The Corporation had also been concerned about the wellbeing of those suffering from mental illness, alcoholism or drug addiction who had been attracted to the camp, he said.
The evidence from many witnesses was of chaotic and vulnerable people causing significant disorder at the camp, the court heard.
“This is a threat to them and to others,” Forsdick said.
The hearing continues Tuesday.
Separately Monday, an appeal judge ruled that protesters occupying an empty London office complex owned by banking giant UBS could argue their case in the Court of Appeal, delaying their eviction.
The protesters will be able to appeal in January against a High Court “possession order” granted to a property firm run by the bank earlier this month.