Cavell House, 2a Charing Cross Road is a five-storey building opposite the National Gallery, with secure vaults, large entertainment and conference rooms, and a top floor penthouse suite with great views across London. Last occupied by Royal Bank of Scotland, the building has lain empty for over a year, and squatters moved in late on Friday evening. The new occupiers received notice of civil proceedings to take place on 29th December. These proceedings were instigated by a company called Greencap Ltd. which claimed to own the building, but which is an offshore shell company that paid no tax last year, seems to have dissolved, and has a value of £9. With good press coverage, the occupiers, calling themselves the “Love Activists” announced their intention to use the building over the Xmas period to provide shelter for homeless people and to cook a Christmas dinner. They attracted several hundred pounds in donations from the public to do so. However, Greencap secretly went to court and applied for an emergency injunction. This was served by unidentified bailiffs early this morning, who aided by police, managed to evict all but two protesters. The two, known as Danny and Mouse, went over a balcony and sat precariously on a ledge, refusing to move and causing police to set up a cordoned area on the pavement below. As supporters gathered outside the National Portrait Gallery throughout the day, legal advice, hard to come by with aid cuts in 2014, and even harder to find on Christmas Eve, eventually led to one of the activists, Pete Phoenix, putting together an ‘out of hours’ application to the High Court to vary or discharge the injunction that had been served this morning. While people waited for a judgement from the High Court, various officers talked to Danny and Mouse trying to persuade them to come down, but despite the wind and cold, and the need for a toilet, they stayed put, only allowing police to put some rubber wire harnesses round them to prevent a fall. Finally, the activists heard back from Mrs. Justice Andrews, and she ruled a variation to the injunction in their favour, that “nothing shall prevent entry to the premises in order to prepare for and provide a Christmas dinner for the homeless”, and that for the avoidance of any doubt, the original order could not be used to evict or prevent from entering, anyone involved in the preparation and provision of that dinner. This was an unequivocal victory and was met by celebration and cheering. But the officer in charge, Inspector Evans, refused to read the ruling at first, because it was on a mobile phone (which clearly showed the sending address as the high court), demanding a print copy instead. An internet cafe was found and the document printed, but the Inspector had done a runner. It took nearly an hour before he was next sighted, and a Superintendent who arrived was no help either.
Evans promised to return “in a minute”, but this turned into another half hour, during which time, the balcony activists were persuaded into the building on the basis that the injunction had been overturned. But they were then arrested “on suspicion of criminal damage”, and only after they were removed from the building, the Inspector finally spoke to activists about the new ruling. He said the police had been “trying to establish if the ruling was genuine” but had been unable to do so. He also said that even if it was, since the activists no longer had possession of the building, (thanks to Danny and Mouse’s arrest), they would need to have it enforced by High Court bailiffs, and couldn’t just walk back in. He claimed that the police were only there to prevent any breach of the peace and that it was a purely civil matter, and that not even they could effect entry to the building – he wouldn’t answer under what legal basis he and at least a dozen other police had been entering and leaving all afternoon and evening. Apparently satisfied that his work was done, he disappeared off into the night, leaving two officers at the main door. Although several Gurka security guards were now inside the building, the balcony was empty and all the lights were off. So it seems the law can bend one way for the rich, and another for the poor. When the offshore shell company got its emergency injunction, with no notice to the defendants, giving a telephone number that is unobtainable, bailiffs were accompanied at 8am this morning by more than a dozen police to effect what turns out to be an unlawful eviction based on a document filed by a dissolved company that doesn’t pay any taxes. But when the High Court rules that a dinner for the homeless should be allowed to go ahead, and that the original injunction cannot be construed to stop people from doing so, the police question the veracity of the ruling and continue to guard the building, all paid for by our taxes. Some good news to end the evening however. The secure basement in the building has tonight been retaken by activists, and the Christmas dinner WILL go ahead there at least. Any further attempt at eviction will undoubtedly be completely unlawful. And Danny and Mouse have been released around midnight without charge – so the arrest really does look like a deliberate ploy by the police to side with an offshore company against the homeless and even to subvert the ruling of a High Court Judge.
UPDATE 1am Xmas Morning The mysterious Greencap Ltd company are seriously determined to stop the planned homeless Christmas dinner and have paid for yet another court order, very late on Christmas Eve that overturns Mrs Justice Andrews’ amendment made at tea-time. So once again, police (who actively interfered with the successful implementation of the previous court order and expressed disbelief that it was a genuine document) are happy to run to the aid of private owners and their security goons to evict the Love Activists on the basis of a new document. They’ve failed to provide a stamped copy to the activists however. Eviction is in progress.