Injunction malfunction: Sheffield withdraws High Court order on student protests

The University of Sheffield has withdrawn an injunction that students feared would ban campus protests.

December 7, 2011

On 2 December, a High Court judge granted the university permission to remove a group of protesters occupying a lecture theatre in support of public sector strikes.

Students believed the injunction also effectively banned protests from taking place on campus without the university’s approval for up to one year.

Keith Burnett, Sheffield's vice-chancellor, agreed to withdraw the injunction after meeting students’ union officers on 6 December. The university instead obtained a possession order, allowing staff to reclaim any buildings hosting sit-in protests.

The High Court order was granted after those involved in the occupation left of their own accord on 5 December.

A Sheffield spokeswoman said: “The university took on board the concerns of representatives from the students’ union regarding the wording in the injunction application, which was interpreted as preventing protests across the whole of campus unless permission was granted by the university.

“The University of Sheffield fully supports freedom of speech and the right of students to express their views peacefully and within the law, and certainly would not wish in any way to constrain legitimate debate, discussion and protest which does not hamper the educational activities of other students and staff."

She added: “A possession order was obtained today which entitles the university to obtain possession of any university buildings which are occupied for the purposes of a sit-in protest or any other unauthorised occupation. As a result, the injunction has now been withdrawn.”

The Sheffield occupation is just one of several to have taken place across the UK in recent weeks. Last Wednesday, around 30 students took over management space at Royal Holloway, University of London in protest against possible course closures and proposed staff redundancies.

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