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Students face £25k fine for university sit-in

Two await court ruling after Birmingham occupation

Two students who helped occupy a Birmingham University building face being slapped with a fine of up to £25,000 in court today.

Simon Furse and Hattie Craig could be ordered to pay the university's security and legal costs by a judge at Birmingham civil courts.

University bosses served them with an injunction on Friday which, if upheld, could see protest on the campus banned for 12 months.

Mr Furse is a third-year politics students and Ms Craig is a vice-president of Birmingham University Guild of Students.

Both were among a group of around 30 students who barricaded themselves inside the university's senate chamber on Wednesday evening.

The students remaining in the occupation would also face forcible eviction and possible arrest and university sanctions.

University management wrote to the Guild of Students offering to drop the injunction if the occupation was ended.

But the Defend Education group, which organised the sit-in, insisted that it would end only if managers negotiate over their demands.

Its reply said: "We do not recognise your right to withdraw our right to protest and will ignore any attempt to do so.

"Actions on your part to block our right to freedom of expression and freedom of protest will bring the university into massive disrepute.

"Please keep in mind that if you succeed in securing our exit by the courts this will by no means result in the end of our campaign."

The group want university leaders to speak out against government plans to privatise graduate debt, which could see interest rates rocket.

They have also called for cheaper accommodation, a living wage for all university workers and more democratic decision-making.

A spokesperson added: "Need we remind the university that our demands are widely supported by students and staff?"

Students held solidarity rallies outside the occupied building over the weekend and many are expected to demonstrate again outside court.

One student who did not want to be named said that support had kept morale high inside the occupation.

He told the Star: "Everyone is looking out for each other and there's a lovely atmosphere in there, a real comradely spirit.

"Personally, a lot of mates who aren't political at all, or don't appear to be, have all come out because we're fighting on such reasonable grounds.

"The things we're demanding should be in place already. The average student can see that and that's what makes it so exciting."

Birmingham University said it respected "the rights of students to protest peacefully and within the law."

But a spokeswoman said the occupation was "causing disruption and preventing students and staff from accessing parts of the building used for teaching and university business."


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