Sussex waits to see if it can end occupation

The University of Sussex is still waiting to see if it will be able to evict protesters from an occupation on the campus after a decision at the High Court was adjourned. 

March 28, 2013

The institution had sought a possession order, which would have allowed them to evict the occupation from the university’s Bramber House conference centre.

But at a hearing on March, Mrs Justice Proudman exempted Bramber House from an order she granted over the institution’s campus. A decision over the site has been adjourned until a further hearing on 28 March.

The judge said the adjournment was in order to give the students within the occupation more time to gather evidence and present “their side of the story”.

The university has already been granted an injunction against protesters entering the campus, which it said was to prevent a repetition of the kind of protest seen at Sussex on 25 March.

During the demonstration, glass doors were smashed, documents burned and graffiti drawn on walls. The police were called in to assist university security.  

The anti-privatisation protest and the occupation are around plans to outsource 235 estates and catering jobs at the institution.

The university has said that the legal steps it is taking are specifically around the occupation and the violence experienced at the 25 March protest.

“The university is categorically not seeking to prevent peaceful demonstrations which don’t involve occupations. We will continue to respect our students’ freedom to demonstrate peacefully on our campus,” a university spokesman said.

At the court hearing yesterday, which lasted almost three hours, Katherine Holland QC, representing the university, said that those in the occupation had incited outside protesters to come on to the campus on Monday. There was reason to believe if Bramber House was exempt from the order, further protests would move there, she argued.

Ms Holland added that the university had experienced “considerable losses” as a result of the occupation, including some estimated £135,000 at the conference centre, £19,000 in catering losses, and £80,000 spent on additional security. 

The defence argued that the occupation, in place since 7 February, was peaceful and that incidents that arose as a result of the protest on 25 March had now ceased.

Jude Bunting, a barrister representing a defendant from the occupation, argued that because the protest was about the University of Sussex, the campus was the only place it could realistically be held.

He also called on the judge to balance protester’s rights to freedom of association and expression under the European Convention for Human Rights with the rights of the university over the property.

A statement from the Sussex Against Privatisation campaign said a peaceful protest was still held yesterday on the university campus despite the injunction.

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