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University of Sussex v Protesters [2010] PLSCS 105

DATE: 03 Mar 2010

Sussex University applied for a possession order of its campus and buildings as a matter of urgency when the defendant students forced entry to the main administrative building. The defendants had locked key members of staff in their offices in protest against cuts in university funding. Mr Justice Vos granted an injunction in terms preventing persons, including students, from entering or remaining on the campus or buildings in connection with the "camp against cuts" or any associated protest. However, at the time service was being effected, most of the defendants left the building, indicating that they intended to go elsewhere. As a result, the court had to decide whether it was still appropriate to make a possession order. It was held that it was still appropriate to make an immediate possession order. The claimant had the right to occupy its property free of protesters who were intent on damaging the property and imprisoning staff. There was a danger that other buildings on the campus would be occupied if a possession order were not made, since the claimant's bailiff could eject the defendants only if a possession order had already been made. Moreover, the court took a serious view of the effective imprisonment of the claimant's staff and the fact that documents belonging to the claimant had been inspected by the defendants when they ransacked the premises. It was important for the court to protect the claimant's property and staff if it lay within its power to do so. It was also appropriate, where a moving body of protesters was drifting between buildings, that a possession order should be made not only in respect of the buildings that had been occupied but also of the entire campus.