27 Oct 2011

St Paul’s chancellor quits as legal battle looms

As the chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral resigns over the possibility of “violence in the name of the church”, Channel 4 News talks to the head of the legal team representing the protesters.

The Reverend Canon Chancellor Dr Giles Fraser (below) resigned from his post hours after the City district confirmed it is exploring legal action to remove hundreds of protesters from the Occupy London Stock Exchange (OLSX) group who have been camped outside the cathedral for over two weeks.

Rev Fraser, who initially welcomed the demonstrators, said in a short statement: “I resigned because I believe that the chapter has set on a course of action that could mean there will be violence in the name of the church.”

The dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, paid tribute to Rev Fraser saying he was “very sorry to see him go.”

His comments came after he said he was “optimistic” that St Paul’s Cathedral will reopen tomorrow for the first time in a week after the cathedral management resolved their health and safety concerns.

‘An amusing national pantomime’

Mark Field, the MP for the Cities of London and Westminster in which St Paul’s Cathedral sits, also expressed regret at Rev Fraser’s resignation but urged the protesters to eventually move on.

“I think for many people this is now becoming an amusing national pantomime now,” Mr Field told Channel 4 News.

“These are not rioters, they are peaceful protesters, but nevertheless they are causing inconvenience and I hope they feel they’ve made their point and will move on,” he continued.

Protest ‘here till Christmas at least’

But a spokesman for OLSX, who say they are not an anti-capitalist group as such but are opposed to corporate greed, told Channel 4 News that their members have decided they will stay there until at least Christmas time.

The spokesman, Spyro Leemnen, went on to deny that Rev Fraser had made any indication that he would join the protest despite his initial support for it.

“Obviously we’re very sad to see him resigning, he understands the church should stand for the same values as we stand for – social and economic equality. But he has made no such indication he will join us, although we would welcome him with open arms.”

He said the group are now focusing on a potential legal battle with St Paul’s and the City of London Corporation.

Read More: St Paul's U-turn on closure

Legal preparations

One of the leading human rights barristers in the country, John Cooper QC, has decided to head up OLSX’s legal team “absolutely free of charge.”

“Last week I attended a conference in the most unusual of circumstances – it was in a tent,” Mr Cooper told Channel 4 News.

He said that his client has not yet been served with any legal proceedings but they have already ensured they have taken steps to ensure health and safety has been maintained at the site.

“The client has not served with any documentation although we are aware that the Corporation of London is meeting with solicitors tomorrow.

“If proceedings are served against the client, the legal team is on standby but the client stresses the last thing they want to be involved in is a forceful and unseemly eviction,” Mr Cooper said.

St Paul’s Cathedral say they are “continuing to take legal advice on a range of options including court action,” whilst the local authority – the Corporation of London – has confirmed it will meet with their Planning and Transportation committee tomorrow to make a final decision on legal proceedings.

Part of the land housing the camp is owned by St Paul’s, who could decide to pursue action for trespass if they go ahead with the case, while other parts belong to the Corporation of London.

If the Corporation of London were to try and evict the protest, they may seek a case under laws relating to obstruction of the highways.


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