Today the case against Simon Furse, a member of Defend Education Birmingham, was dismissed after accusations from a member of University of Birmingham security were shown to be spurious. The security guard claimed that Simon had caused ‘transient pain’ by brushing against him as he opened a door in the occupied Senate Chambers at the University of Birmingham in November last year. The occupation, which called for better wages for staff, bursaries for students and lower halls fees amongst other demands, lasted for over a week and involved upwards of 100 students throughout the period, only ending after the University spent thousands of pounds to obtain an injunction and have the students forcibly removed by police and bailiffs.
The case was thrown out of court by magistrates after the prosecution presented its evidence. The defence did not have to call any witnesses or make its case. The magistrates said that “no sound tribunal could convict” Simon due to the sheer level of inconsistency and unreliability in the evidence of security guard, David Turner who was described as “discredited”.
Simon was also charged with violent disorder in January after taking part in a national demonstration at the University of Birmingham. He was arrested after being selected from a crowd by University management, based only on his reputation as a regular protestor and campaigner and was subsequently suspended along with 4 other students. These charges were dropped on March 25th after no evidence in support of the allegations was found and Simon was reinstated.
Simon Furse said “I am extremely happy that nothing has come out of the case, but this verdict - and the dropping of the charge of violent disorder - show that the university, the CPS, and the police are working together to attack student dissent. I am not the only student to have false allegations of assault against them. The University of Birmingham made a false allegation of assault two years ago, a student at Sussex had allegations of assault thrown out by the court and Alastair Robinson is going to trial on the 30th of May for nonsense allegations that he assaulted one of his university’s security guards. The Police and CPS need to stop taking universities’ words so seriously when they have been shown to be so willing to have their own students arrested.”
Simon’s arrest is not the first relating to the University of Birmingham campus. In 2014 12 other students were arrested whilst taking part in the same January demonstration. All charges against them were dropped. They were arrested after refusing to give their names as a condition of release from a kettle. Lawyers representing students who were contained for hours without access to food, water and toilets are now seeking a judicial review, believing these tactics were illegal.
Since 2010 there have been 20 arrests relating to peaceful protests challenging the marketisation of higher education at the University. Only one student has ever been convicted. “The arrests, suspensions, injunctions and disciplinaries following these protests are politically motivated and intended to intimidate students and staff into silence and to stop them criticising and challenging the decisions and actions of the University management,” said Roz Burgin, Community Action Officer at the University of Birmingham Guild of Students.
Birmingham is not the only university making politically motivated charges against protesters. Alastair Robinson was arrested for allegedly assaulting a security guard at Leicester university. He was told by the CPS that the case would be dropped because of a total lack of evidence but then was confused when it continued after three first hearings. Students at Leicester university later learned that the complainant, head security guard Colin Monks, was the ex-chief of the Leicestershire police federation. There will be a demonstration outside his trial at 8.30am on the 30th of May.