Hackney man convicted for Fortnum tax sit-in

fortnum 145 outside court

Pic: Fortnum 145

A Hackney resident is among 10 protesters found guilty of aggravated trespass for his part in a sit-in at department store Fortnum and Mason.

Jake Coleman, 22, was one of the ‘Fortnum 145’ convicted at Westminster Magistrates Court on Thursday morning.

In a judgement by District Judge Snow, Coleman and and nine other activists were ordered to pay £1,000 in costs, with all but one receiving six-month conditional discharges.

Moments after leaving court, Coleman told EastLondonLines: “It’s a horrible attack on our rights to protest.”

“It’s a criminalisation of protest, and we will be appealing the decision. The people who should be on trial are the tax dodgers and bankers.”

Coleman was also fined a further £215 for a previous unrelated conviction.

The sit-in on March 26 was widely televised, largely due to police ‘kettling’ tactics used on the protesters, who claim the protest was peaceful.

Activist broke off from a 500,000-strong TUC march to protest against Fortnum and Mason’s involvement in avoiding £10 million of tax each year.

The group say no act of aggravation was proved at the trial, and that the protest was dubbed “sensible” by the senior police officer on the scene.

Video footage from the protest showing an officer telling protesters they would be able to leave unobstructed was ignored by the court. In his judgement, Judge Snow said: “At no points was any express or implied promise made by the police that the protesters would not be arrested.”

Amy Benbow-Hebbert, Senior Account Manager for Fortnum on Mason, refused to comment, calling it “a matter for the police.”

A statement from the Fortnum 145 campaign said: “As the government’s cuts continue to destroy the economy and people’s lives we will not be put off by these attempts at humiliating and punishing us.”

Of the 145 arrested, 109 had their cases discontinued. In what UKUncut called an “I’m Spartacus” moment, 21 of those concerned asked the Crown Prosecution Service to ‘revive’ their prosecutions in an act of  solidarity with the 30 protesters still facing trial.

Responding to the verdict, @ukuncut tweeted: “Today, 10 people have been convicted for sitting in a shop”.

This is the first of three trials of the Fortnum 145. The final two trials will be held in March 2012.

The group has set up a fund to help pay the legal costs of those convicted. For more information on how to donate click here.

By Tabby Kinder and Will Coldwell


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