Protest camp 'a magnet for crime'
The anti-capitalist protest camp outside St Paul's Cathedral is a "magnet" for disorder and crime in the area, the High Court has heard.
Counsel for the City of London Corporation said that unless orders for possession and injunctions were granted, the camp - which has been in place since October 15 and currently numbers up to 150 tents - would continue indefinitely.
"When one considers the impacts which arise - despite the efforts of some of the protesters to mitigate impacts - the case for the orders sought becomes overwhelming," David Forsdick told Mr Justice Lindblom, who said he would make a private visit to the site Monday evening.
The courtroom in London was packed with protesters as Mr Forsdick said that the City was not seeking to prevent lawful and peaceful protest or lawful assembly in the general location.
However he said the right to protest enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, and claimed by the protesters, did not justify a semi-permanent campsite on the public highway and, in particular, in a location such as St Paul's Churchyard.
Mr Forsdick said that the limited interference with the protesters' rights, which the requirement to remove the tents would entail, was justified and proportionate, given the impact of the camp on the rights and freedoms of others.
The City and the court could not lawfully tolerate a position in which the rights of worshippers were seriously affected on an ongoing basis, he said.
He also said the rights of staff and clergy to go about their day-to-day business without unacceptable behaviour towards them were seriously impaired, and there was a substantial overall impact on trade in the area.
Mr Forsdick said that, despite the efforts of the protesters' own Tranquillity Working Group, the camp had acted as a magnet for people who had caused significant disorder and a substantial increase in crime in the area.
There was very strong evidence of tension and violence within the camp community and from some at the camp against outsiders, he said.