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Squatters at ex-Royal Mint complex ordered to leave by judge

Published 31/12/2015

Squatters have camped inside the Royal Mint building in Tower Hill in a protest against homelessness
Squatters have camped inside the Royal Mint building in Tower Hill in a protest against homelessness

Anti-capitalist squatters have been ordered by the High Court to leave the former Royal Mint complex opposite the Tower of London after a judge said there was "a real risk" it could become the venue for an illegal New Year's Eve rave.

The judge acted swiftly after hearing a 20-50 strong group had taken over one of the Grade II-listed buildings in the City of London property in protest over Britain's homelessness problem and were refusing to leave.

Mr Justice Henry Carr ruled on Thursday there was a real risk that an attempt to hold a rave could involve possibly hundreds more trespassers and trigger a civil disturbance resulting in danger to life and health.

The judge said he was not prepared to allow that to happen and granted two leaseholder companies - RMC LH Co. Ltd and RM Site Management Ltd - orders for immediate possession and refused the squatters an adjournment of the case to another day.

Later a squatters' spokesman said there was no time to appeal and the group were leaving the building.

The occupation began about 6.28am on December 28 after a security guard was rushed by six protesters as he opened a gateway to Royal Mint Court, which has five listed buildings, including the Johnson Smirke Building targeted by the squatters.

The last coins minted at Tower Hill were in the 1970s, when production was shifted to South Wales. The buildings are awaiting refurbishment.

The judge had been asked by the squatters' representative, law student Jed Miller, to adjourn the application for their removal to give them time to prepare a defence.

Mr Miller, who works for an advisory service for squatters, said the squatters' rights to protest under human rights laws were being infringed and they needed more time to instruct lawyers to put their case before the courts.

Mr Miller argued the buildings were currently surrounded by security staff who were well able to prevent any attempt to hold a rave.

But the judge said that, if he allowed an adjournment, "there is a real risk that an illegal rave would take place" with security staff being "overwhelmed" because of the numbers that might respond to alerts on social media.

He said: "There would be a continuing risk to health and safety and it would enable the occupation to achieve its objective of a rave simply by a request for an adjournment.

"I am not prepared to allow that to happen."

Ruling the legal balance was in favour of an immediate possession order, the judge said the leaseholders' lawyers had put before him evidence that since the occupation began "a very large security presence" had been provided which had already cost about £102,000.

If the squatters remained in the building and the real risk of a rave continued, that would rise to more than £210,000, excluding legal costs, over New Year's Eve and New Year's Day - and there would be no chance of recovering the money from the squatters.

The judge said the squatters had identified themselves as part of the anti-capitalist movements known as "the Bohemians" and "Occupy London" which essentially were "professional trespassers".

Rejecting their claim that they needed time for an adjournment to properly prepare their case, he said: "It seems to me they should have anticipated (the application for possession) and made arrangements in advance of the application."

The judge refused the squatters permission to appeal against his ruling to the Court of Appeal.

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