In a hearing at Nottingham County Court, the protesters of the ‘Occupy Nottingham’ movement were today informed that they would have a full trial to determine whether their camp should be allowed to remain in its current position in the centre of Nottingham. The Court confirmed that the three day trial will take place from 30th April 2012 to determine their continued right to protest.
The protesters took up occupation of a small section of Market Square, in the city centre of Nottingham, in October 2011. They have remained there undertaking a peaceful protest as part of the global ‘Occupy’ movement since that date.
The protestors instructed Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) when the local Council applied to Nottingham County Court to regain possession of the part of Square on which the Occupy camp is located. An initial hearing on 13th March 2012 was adjourned until today to give the protesters an opportunity to collect evidence to show the Court that they had a substantial defence to the Council’s claims over the land. Carl Freeman, one of the principal members of the camp, was nominated to be a representative for the movement during the ongoing proceedings.
At today’s hearing, the Council invited the Court to decide the case in their favour, suggesting that no further hearing was necessary and that the protesters’ defence need not be considered in full. PIL and Christopher Brown, a barrister at Matrix Chambers, argued that the protesters’ defence required careful and anxious consideration by the Court. It was suggested that the protesters’ rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, enshrined by Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights, were considerable barriers to a summary disposal of the case.
The Court agreed that a full hearing was necessary and ordered that a trial should take place starting on 30th April 2012 to determine the protesters’ right to continue to occupy Market Square. Until that date, the camp will be entitled to remain in its current position and the Occupy Nottingham protest will continue.
A representative of Public Interest Lawyers stated:
"We welcome Nottingham County Court’s ruling today which allows the Occupy Nottingham protesters a full and substantial hearing of their case. To not give full consideration to how the protesters’ human rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly would be affected by their removal from the centre of Nottingham would have been an affront to justice. The camp now have an opportunity to persuade the Court that they should be allowed to continue to pursue the goals of the Occupy movement in the centre of Nottingham in a location that is both culturally and historically significant and that is integral to the protesters’ attempts to remain constantly engaged with the people of the city. Public Interest Lawyers will continue to assert the significance of the protesters’ rights to assemble in Market Square and the importance in public authorities, such as Nottingham County Council, recognising these rights in their interaction with this, and any other, protest group."