City of London Suspends Legal Action Against Protestors

The City of London Corporation joined St Paul’s Cathedral on Tuesday in suspending legal action against a group of protestors camped by the side of the cathedral.

Occupy protests in London
Ted Kemp |
Occupy protests in London

The protestors have been camped outside the cathedral since October 15, forming the Occupy London Stock Exchange movement - an offshoot of the global protest movement sparked by the original demonstration Occupy Wall Street.

In a statement Stuart Fraser, the City of London Corporation’s policy chairman, said: “The Church has changed its standpoint and announced it is suspending legal action on its land.

“Given that change, we’ve pressed the ‘pause’ button overnight on legal action affecting the highways – in order to support the cathedral as an important national institution and give time for reflection.

“We want to leave more space for a resolution of this difficult issue – while at the same time not backing away from our responsibilities as a Highway Authority.

“We’re hoping to use a pause – probably of days not weeks – to work out a measured solution.”

The Corporation of London is expected to make a further announcement on its position regarding the protestors encampment tomorrow lunchtime.

The move followed that of St Paul’s Cathedral which suspended its backing for legal steps to evict the protestors from the grounds following advice from the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, late on Monday night.

The cathedral issued a statement on its website earlier on Tuesday, which stated that the resignation of the Dean, the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, had given it the opportunity to reassess the situation.

Members of the cathedral met with representatives from the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest camp to demonstrate their willingness to engage in dialogue on the moral and ethical issues the camp had raised: “without the threat of forcible eviction hanging over both the camp and the church.”

The decision put the cathedral at odds with the Corporation of London, which decided to take legal action against the protestors on Friday in a closed meeting of its planning and transport committee. Both the cathedral and Corporation have previously stressed the importance of working together to resolve the situation.

Earlier in the day the cathedral said it recognized the Corporation of London’s right to take legal action against the protestors on Corporation land.

The land that the protestors occupy is owned jointly by the cathedral and Corporation, and the border between the Corporation’s land and the cathedral’s can best be described as indistinct, making it almost impossible to issue an eviction order against the entire encampment.

The Bishop of London has also invited investment banker Ken Costa, formerly Chairman of UBS Europe and Chairman of Lazard International, to spearhead an initiative reconnecting the financial with the ethical.

Costa will be supported by a number of City, Church and public figures, including Giles Fraser, who although no longer a member of Chapter, will help ensure that the diverse voices of the protest are involved in the process, the cathedral said.

Chartres said: "The alarm bells are ringing all over the world. St. Paul’s has now heard that call. Today’s decision means that the doors are most emphatically open to engage with matters concerning not only those encamped around the Cathedral but millions of others in this country and around the globe. I am delighted that Ken Costa has agreed to spearhead this new initiative which has the opportunity to make a profound difference.”

The Right Reverend Michael Colclough, Canon Pastor of St. Paul’s Cathedral added: "This has been an enormously difficult time for the Cathedral but the Chapter is unanimous in its desire to engage constructively with the protest and the serious issues that have been raised, without the threat of legal action hanging over us. Legal concerns have been at the forefront in recent weeks but now is the time for the moral, the spiritual and the theological to come to the fore.”