Cathedral protest battle will end in court trial

Occupy Sheffield protestors outside Sheffield Crown Court
Occupy Sheffield protestors outside Sheffield Crown Court
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THE Dean of Sheffield has insisted ‘it’s not too late’ for protesters to leave Sheffield Cathedral peacefully - after a trial was fixed to settle the battle.

A packed court hearing yesterday decided a two-day trial would rule on the cathedral’s possession order seeking to evict anti-capitalist camp Occupy Sheffield from the churchyard where it has been for three months.

But afterwards the Rev Peter Bradley repeated his appeal for protesters to go before the ‘last resort’ of court.

He said: “The best outcome would be for Occupy to move now and they would save everyone a lot of time and the considerable expense that’s going to be caused by going to trial.

“It’s not too late for Occupy to find a way forward.”

The cathedral wants to clear the protest to make way for a £3.5 million development project.

Yesterday campaigners waved placards saying ‘forgive us our trespasses’ outside Sheffield County Court and extra chairs had to be found to seat supporters inside.

Barrister Simon Read, for the cathedral, told High Court judge Mr Justice David Foskett the protest was there ‘without consent’ and had caused ‘disruptions’.

He also heard from barrister Michael Paget, representing Occupy, who said it needed to be proved that there was a ‘pressing social need’ for the possession order.

Mr Paget, who represented Occupy London at their High Court case, also said any possession rights had to be balanced against protesters’ human rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

The cathedral is seeking legal costs totalling £8,000 so far from protesters – which the Dean says is a proportion of total costs incurred.

Mr Justice Foskett said he would visit the cathedral forecourt before the trial started on February 21.

Nigel Slack, a member of Occupy, said afterwards: “I think a trial is good because it gives us the chance to bring our side of the story out more. Finally the Dean and clergy will be forced to explain exactly their reasons for bringing this claim - because we were in the way of a building project.”