Legal update on National Trust Runnymede court case.
Today a handful of villagers from Runnymede eco-village achieved a small victory for the freedom to assemble in Slough County Court. The case related tothe National Trust site at Runnymede: the historic location where the Magna Carta was sealed by King John in 1215. Runnymede is a place associated with ideas such as: freedom through law, limitations on authority and democracy. The judge decided to remove ‘Persons Unknown’ (meaning it could apply to anyone) from an application for an injunction which would cover over 200 football pitches around the Magna Carta monument and apply to anyone the National Trust deemed to be: ‘trespassing’.
This power if granted would have allowed the NT to forcibly exclude anyone from the Runnymede estate. The NT in their witness statement cited an idea published on the Diggers2012 website (proposed by a local history professor) to hold an assembly in 2015 to commemorate the sealing of the Magna Carta as a reason to get the injunction. As the authorities also want to hold a big commemoration in 2015 with the Queen and other notaries, it seemed that the NT wanted the power to prevent unwanted elements from coming to the Magna Carta site at Runnymede. The judge stated that he felt the injunction was unnessecary and impossible to implement for ‘Persons Unknown’. He did however decide to keep James, Phoenix and Simon as defendants for the injunction. He adjourned the case for 5 weeks in order for both sides to prepare their legal cases.
The judge also granted an order for vacant possession despite there being no tents or structures on NT land by anyone from Runnymede Eco-Village (something acknowledged by the National Trust solicitor). He did not allow defendants to fully finish their legal arguments before making the order for vacant possession. This gives the National Trust the power to forcibly remove people from the land who are in occupation. I.e: using tents, structures or other camping equipment. The defendants pointed out they had no intention of setting up a long term camp on the National Trust as it was not disused and enjoyed by the public.
All defendants made strong and clear submissions relating to the unjust and arbitary nature of the application for the injunction and order for vacant possession (for a video interview from two of them please click here.) Neither of these orders are directed to the area of land where Runnymede Eco-Village is based which is on disused land at the ex-Brunel university Runnymede Campus. The Runnymede Campus is subject to a county court injunction forbidding ‘Diggers2012’ and ‘Persons Unknown’ from remaining on the site. Peacefully, the villagers disobey this law and continue to build structures, plant trees and vegetables and live together in a community that is 3 months old tomorrow. Their message is expressed in the ‘Declaration from the dispossessed written in May this year:
”We: peaceful people, declare our intention to go and cultivate the disused land of this island; to build dwellings and live together in common by the sweat of our brows.
We have one call: every person in this country and the world should have the right to live on the disused land, to grow food and to build a shelter. This right should apply whether you have money or not. We say that no country can be considered free, until this right is available to all.
With our current system in crisis we need a radically different way of growing our communities. We call on the government and all landowners to let those who are willing, make good use of the disused land. Land that is currently held from us by force. By our actions, we seek to show how we can live without destroying the planet or ourselves. Free from the yoke of debt and rent, our labors can be directed to the benefit of all.
Though we may be oppressed for our actions, we will strive to remain peaceful. But we are committed to our cause and will not cease from our efforts until we have achieved our goal.
20th May 2012”