CHRISTIAN KHAN PRESS RELEASE: PARTIAL VICTORY FOR UCL STUDENT OCCUPATION
8 December 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Kat Craig of Christian Khan Solicitors represented UCL students Sarah Crane-Brewer and Frank Harris in possession proceedings brought by University College London (UCL) management at a hearing in the Central London County Court this afternoon.
In a judgment handed down by Her Honour Judge Faber this afternoon, UCL were granted a possession order for the Jeremy Bentham Room and part of the Slade School of Fine Art, which have been occupied by students since 24 November and 30 November respectively.
However, the students successfully defended a claim for possession over the entirety of UCL’s Gower Street campus. Whilst the students’ argument that the attempt to end the occupation interfered with their rights under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights which enshrine the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association, was not accepted by the Court, Her Honour Judge Faber granted leave to appeal on the issue. She held that, were the appeal to be successful, the order for the Slade School occupation may not have been justified.
Mr Harris, a 19 year old student studying Fine Art, said: “We are very pleased with our partial victory and that the Judge accepted our evidence that both occupations have been peaceful and responsible, and did not disrupt academic activities.”
The Judge acknowledged the occupation’s aims of providing a safe space for UCL students to protest against the rise in tuition fees and the 80% cuts to the teaching budget, with Arts and Humanities courses facing the complete removal of government funding. Many students have been deeply concerned that public protests are no longer safe as a result of police violence and pre-emptive kettling. The occupation also demanded that the London Living Wage is paid to all workers on campus.
Whilst the students consider today’s outcome a victory, they could now face legal costs for the University’s lawyers of almost £40,000. They have not yet been ordered to pay these costs, but the University has until 23 December to ask the Court to make such an order. Ms Crane-Brewer and Mr Harris are both funding their education by way of student loans. Ms Crane-Brewer, a 19 year old
Geography student, said: “We are deeply distressed at the prospect of having to pay this huge sum on top of the debts we already owe, just for trying to defend the right to free speech. This sum reflects the amount of debt many future students will face if fees are increased in line with government proposals. We would hate for others to face the same daunting prospect we now do.”
Ms Craig who, together with barrister Liz Davies, is acting pro bono for the students said: “These young students have been very brave in putting themselves forward to help the Court determine an important point of law. The Judge today paid tribute to both parties for their enlightening arguments and commended all parties for the sensible way in which they have conducted themselves.
In light of these comments we very much hope the University will decide not to enforce these costs against our clients.”
For more information contact Kat Craig on 07876 680 049 or firstname.lastname@example.org