Charges have been dropped against 109 of the 139 people facing prosecution for aggravated trespass over the sit-in at Fortnum and Mason during the anti-cuts protest on 26 March.
The decision to press charges at all has been controversial: a reporter from the Independent was inside the fancy grocery shop and noted
They decided all actions via consensus-decision making, whereby you can indicate approval of an action by a quick show of jazz hands… While groups such as Black Bloc were smashing windows on Oxford Street, UK Uncut members were reading books in groups on the floor and tucking into home-made sandwiches.
Footage from the day shows a police officer clearly agreeing the protesters were non-violent and that they were being held inside the store for their own safety. However, on exit the group were kettled, arrested and held in custody for up to a day.
But what’s absolutely astonishing is that the Guardian has now obtained an admission from the Met that they misled protesters. Chief inspector Claire Clark was told of the intention to arrest everyone ten minutes before being filmed at 5.50pm, assuring everyone they would be let go. Apparently Clark feared a ‘breach of the peace’ if she told the truth.
This is really not a good week for engendering public confidence in the Met. Accusations and revelations about senior officers are pouring out of Scotland Yard faster than we can keep up, and now – well, we’ll leave that to solicitors Bindmans, quoted in the Guardian:
It clearly brings the administration of justice into disrepute if an individual is not able to rely on the clear assurances of the police – and in this case a very high ranking officer – engaged in the policing of a peaceful protest