High Court Judge calls on Enfield Council to use common sense and negotiate with Famous Friern Barnet Library squatters.
The next squat on from the Peoples library that the library caretakers and activists from the Occupy Movement have occupied is the Arnos Family Resource Centre (ARC)
Recently on the 11th of march in Barnet county court, the ARC Occupiers (Arnos Grove Family Resource Centre), defeated an application for an interim possession order which would have forcefully evicted them in less than 24 hours. (The councils barrister failed to come into the court on time.)
3 days later, we received a new application for possession, this time to be heard on the 19th of March at the Royal Courts Of Justice.
We are the caretakers who squatted Friern Barnet Library back in September 2012. At the time it was an empty and disused building which was going to be sold to private developers and was going to get demolished. Our action successfully resulted in transforming it into an active library and community hub. Since then it has been handed back to the local community who currently run it. The library now has more than 12, 000 donated books and is open 6 days a week.
We attempted to contact Enfield council during the first weeks of the occupation, we sent them our first negotiation letter about who we are and our plans. Throughout this process we have offered to arrange a leaving date and have reasonable negotiations.
We are still open to negotiate while the council who seem to prefer to waste taxpayer’s money on court ( nearly £8,000 so far due to unnecessarily taking us to high court and excessive barristers fees).
The high court judge HHJ Reddihough told Enfield Council that they have failed to prove any evidence about their accusation of substantial risk to persons or property and on the contrary we might be useful to the community as our dozens of support letters from Barnet and Enfield residents show, the council should reflect on their position and come to terms with us without wasting any more money.
Senior solicitor for Enfield council, Antonia Makanjuenjuela, (£229 pounds per hour), says in her witness statement as their main argument at the high court:
“The Defendants are members of a protest group… Occupy… The protest group is large, highly organised and can quickly mobilise large groups…”
The Judge said there is nothing illegal about peaceful protest, he quoted some lines from over 20 support letters we received from the community, and stated:
“we are not a substantial and immediate risk to persons and property we haven´t breached any law by using our right to protest against government cuts and austerity. Commercial squatting is lawful, protesting is legal. There is no illegal occupation as the council keep saying. The judge asked the council to hear a proposition, that we, the Defendants could put together in the lunch hour.
Our barrister Emily Wilsdon put forward a proposal of a licence to stay and use the space as a community centre and to leave when the building was actually needed for development with a agreed period notice to quit.
The council refused any proposals and wanted us to leave within 3 days.
At the hearing the judge clearly stated his surprise about a council with a whole legal department committing so many procedural mistakes and lack of evidence that he threw the case out of the High Courts of Justice to be heard back in the Barnet County Court some point around mid April (a date to be found)
The councils excessive legal fees of £5,000 were denied as they lost the case.
In addition the council were ordered to pay extra £800 to the ‘Access To Justice Foundation’ who help to provide pro bono legal services.
Pete Phoenix veteran community housing activist said
” we wish to see more common sense were some of the 1.4 million empty buildings in the UK are used to create homes, community projects and jobs rather than the governments latest laws that criminalise the homeless and dispossessed. In the middle of a housing crisis the government has put property rights above the human right to shelter.”
It is ironic that Enfield council wants to evict 14 people including a 3 month pregnant woman from a Family centre, to be turned out into the snow.
We have already begun to see the tragic effects of the Governments new anti squatting law with the death of Daniel Gauntlett outside an empty boarded up bungalow in Kent.
For more information or an interview
Contact Pete Phoenix 07769 791387
And Pedro Occupy News Network 07446 605772