Update ***Just after 7:30pm the protesters were served with a legal notice from the law firm Mills & Reeve informing them that they are now tresspassing.***
As Occupy RHUL, the occupation of the Founders building management corridor, reaches its fifth day, college management have finally lost patience with the occupiers.
A letter was issued to the protesters at 10am this morning asking them toend their occupation by 7:30pm this evening. If the protesters stay beyond this point or relocate the occupation elsewhere on college premises the occupation will be considered unlawful.
This move comes after the protesters issued a response to colleges response to the “Principal’s pledge” which the protesters are demanding that Royal Holloways Principal, Prof. Layzell sign. The pledge includes demands that would have the Principal agree to call for a withdrawal of the white paper on HE funding and guarantee that no redundancies or course closures will occur at Royal Holloway.
The Principal’s response to this outlines areas where the protesters and college management are in agreement and those where they are not which can be found here: http://www.thefounder.co.uk/2011/12/04/rhul-principal-responds-to-principals-pledge/.
Occupy RHUL have in return issued a lengthy response which can be found here: http://www.thefounder.co.uk/2011/12/05/protesters-response-to-paul-layzell%E2%80%99s-statement/
Management have stated that the occupation has now cost the college in excess of £3000 in direct costs including cleaning and security. The protesters were quick to respond that this is equivalent to 1.25% of the Principals annual salary.
So far the protesters have had permission from college to remain in occupation and have avoided committing aggravated trespass by allowing those who work in the corridor to come and go as they please (which understandably they have largely chosen not to) and giving in to requests from management to uncover security cameras.
It is important to note that even after 7:30pm the protesters will still not be acting illegally as trespass is a civil matter and not a criminal one. This means that those involved won’t receive a criminal record and can’t legally be manhandled off the premises.
In order to remove the occupiers, college management will have to go through the courts to obtain an injunction at which point bailiffs can be used. This is what happened following the Bedford Square occupation last year which resulted in very substantial legal costs as management chose to pay for a sitting of the high court to fast track the process. That instance was reported as being the first incident in around 20 years that bailiffs physically removed students from an occupation in the UK and supposedly resulted in criticism from college council who are keen to avoid bad press.
It is also unlikely that there will be any legal consequences for those involved as the senior management have signed a pledge written by the protesters stating that they not be victimised and the protest currently has the support of SURHUL, members of the UCU and trade unionists in Surrey County Council.
The Principal writes ‘I believe that we now understand exactly where we agree, and where we most likely never will. This seems to me to be a sensible time to conclude the occupation.’
The protesters are hoping to continue to negotiate with management and currently have no intention of leaving.