Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Fortnum protest charges dropped

Riot police outside Fortnum and Mason during the 'March for the Alternative' demonstration against government spending cuts in London

Charges have been dropped against 109 protesters accused of storming luxury store Fortnum and Mason during anti-government cuts demonstrations, prosecutors have said.

Campaign group UK Uncut claimed around 200 of its supporters forced themselves into the shop - known as the Queen's grocer - on March 26 as trouble flared in central London.

Another 30 cases are still being pursued, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said. But officials ruled it was not in the public interest to press ahead with the majority of cases.

Chief Crown Prosecutor Alison Saunders said there was sufficient evidence to provide a "realistic prospect of conviction" for aggravated trespass for the majority of defendants.

She added: "I have decided that the cases against 109 individuals who were charged after protesting in Fortnum and Mason on March 26 should be discontinued. However, we will continue to pursue the other 30 cases through the judicial process.

"After careful and necessary investigative work by the police to provide the fullest evidential picture, we have reviewed the evidence now available and considered representations made by the defence teams.

"I have concluded that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction for the offence of aggravated trespass against all the defendants, however, in discontinuing these cases I have considered whether a prosecution is necessarily in the public interest. I have decided that it is not."

The decision was based partly on the fact that the alleged crime was a single incident and that those involved only played a "minor role" in the offending behaviour, she said. They had no history of similar offences and it was decided that any conviction would only result in a "nominal penalty".

Those whose cases have been discontinued have been warned they may not be treated in the same way if they go on to commit other similar offences.

A spokesman for UK Uncut said the high-end shop was chosen because "they dodge tens of millions in tax".

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