An Occupier’s Perspective: From Dan Ashman, Litigant-in-Person


Submitted by Dan Ashman, Litigant-in-Person in the case of City of London Corporation v Occupy London. 

Part One

I felt compelled to stand as a litigant-in-person; it was not an intellectual decision. At first I felt no fear. Later, even the possibility of having debts of tens of thousands of pounds wasn’t enough to deter me. I saw the court case as an opportunity to communicate and to find out whether the justice system is just. It did not matter that I’d never stepped inside a court room in my life. I received a lot of earache from those who feared for my future security and many people offered their support, for which I am grateful beyond words.

Building and presenting my case was a true communal effort that forged new relationships. A healthy dose of reading and long discussions about Roman and Common Law kept me occupied while I Occupied. Research and strategy planning often went on right through the night. A relative stranger offered to assist me, I said “Why not?” and things started to fall into place. We referred to each other as ‘unlearned friends’. I arrived in court with no suit, bad breath, barely any sleep and fear in my belly. Then, out of nowhere, an upsurge of optimism rinsed away the what-have-I-done, rabbit-in-headlight state.

According to the City of London Corporation their issue with the Occupy LSX camp has nothing to do with our call for transparency with regards to their financial dealings and undemocratic institutions. It has nothing to do with the reasons for encampment, nothing to do with the just cause, nothing to do with our challenge to the value system that benefits a small number of the global population. No, all the City is concerned about – so they say – is the tents, duvets, sleeping bags and pillows. The pristine buildings filled with people wearing smart attire are not used to dealing with a public who are there to do something more than sightsee.

The Occupy camp has been an education. It has posed many questions and answered some. Why did people in privileged positions allow things to go the way they have? Job losses, tuition fees, slashed pensions, increased living costs. Surely the experts saw this coming, that’s what they get paid for. Who is profiting from the misfortunes? Where did that bail-out money go? I came to Occupy with some knowledge on these subjects and continue to gain more. The community living is a challenge, the energy can be too intense, trust is sometimes difficult to achieve. Our desires to be part of this exist for so many reasons, from international atrocities to winter deaths due to fuel poverty.

The need to be here will remain until respect is practised at every level of society. As long as some human beings continue to claim everything they can to the detriment of others we will need to keep Occupying. The tent city at St Paul’s provides space for visitors from around Britain and the world to reflect on what we are doing and consenting to. For the first time, we’ve had an opportunity to speak plainly to those who have a disproportionate amount of power; we only gained this by camping on their doorstep. It is in the public interest that we are learning about conditions worldwide and starting to identify with people around the globe. What I am really grateful for is the communal exploration of imagination and creativity. The unexpected interactions and the enlightening conversations. Living in camp through the winter months is truly a physical and psychological feat. I certainly have a new found respect for those who spend their life living on the streets of London.

I and my unlearned friend Steve Rushden attempted to tell this story with a four inch thick dossier of reports and news articles. The questioning of the witnesses was quite enjoyable. There were many highlights to these fascinating court-room encounters, one being Cambridge University law students turning up and helping us out on the last day. After everyone had finished their closing statements the judge paid his complements to all those in attendance. For me, it was an honour to work with everyone involved in the court case and to receive help from those who gave it freely. We did everything that we could. I wish to convey that George and Tammy, along with the other witnesses, did themselves proud. And that despite a verdict against us, this isn’t the end, not by a long way.

Part Two

Waiting outside the court, I looked at all the photographers clicking away at the eccentrically dressed. Familiar faces began to gather and filter through the Royal Court doors. The Occupied Justice Banner gets unfurled and stretches across the front. People offer their support and best wishes. Time ticks down till the court case. The court is packed. The reporters fill the seats at the sides. They are finally going to get their news story. The story that they have been wanting. I think how empty those seats were when we presented our evidence. The Judge reads out his summary. To my surprise no mention is made about my legal argument. In the hearing he looked me in the eye, today it takes a few hours until he does. He breaks after the summary and Tammy mic checks encouraging people to stay. She shows her ability to lead with humor and a warm atmosphere descends for a moment. The next hour or so is spent in legal speak. The judge makes it clear that if anyone attempts to keep the tents we will be in contempt of court. He assures the gathering it is normal for a fine or prison sentence to ensue. John Cooper states his grounds for appeal. Denied. George does the same. Denied. It is my turn. I ask the Judge why my legal argument was not stated in the summary. He affirms he has given his ruling. It comes to light I should of received an email two days previous so I can present a legal ground for appeal. I cant, there was no email. I ask for ten minutes to read it so I can understand. Denied. The solicitors and the Judge work out the time span to launch an appeal in the appeals court. Seven working days is given in light of the fact me or George have not received the email of the judgement. The case ends. I shake the hands of the claimants team and say “I’ll probably see you again soon.”

Outside the court the banner is lifted high in font of the entrance. The media cluster blocks the gateway as John Cooper says his piece affirming, as he did in court, we will appeal. Another mic check. The initial statement is echoed in chorus. We clearly and passionately answer the question of our purpose. The banner is taken down revealing a row of about twelve police. The movement marches down the street among the slow travelling traffic on the road. Two interviews and a few offers of assistance for legal advice later the space outside the court is now vacated.

Indignation is inadequate to describe the feeling I’m left with. Though the support and spirit shown by the contributors of this movement reminds me that this is not the end. If our desire is true, if people genuinely wish to see justice done, then the time  will soon come when we don’t ask permission to seek it.

If you are an occupier or a supporter and would like to submit an article, do mail


15 Responses to “An Occupier’s Perspective: From Dan Ashman, Litigant-in-Person”

  1. Just wanted to say thank you for standing up for all of us, for showing there is a lack of real justice in this country because it is THEIR justice system not ours. Just as it is THEIR democracy and THEIR economic system that is destroying our communities and ultimately, our planet.
    In solidarity,

  2. WELL DONE TO YOU ALL…you fought a great fight .. but like we know .. their courts of law !!! not courts of justice…..
    . london ,paris,rome,berlin…we will fight ..we will win

  3. Well done chum. We can only hope that with the increased exposure more people will rally.

  4. Well done to you, George and Tammy for taking the City of London Corp to Court in the first place, and to the legal team, you did us proud, and still are. This is just the beginning…

  5. From an angry spanish, good luck to all the angry people in UK!

  6. Moving article. Thanks and continued Good luck mate.

  7. Totally agree with the lady Jane. This 1% do not represent us. We are never consulted or listened-to when it comes to homes, roads and that bloody ‘HS2’.
    All you Occupiers are a credit to the human race The 1% are not.

  8. Clearly the time has come to consider occupying the Courts. First of all though
    Court procedures need to be learned and rehearsed so that the adversarial
    dysfunction of questioning can be subtly undermined and set in a wider context of the contrasting power of litigants. This virtuous reversal of Court procedures
    would enhance the principles of habeas corpus, due process and the switch to inquisitorial justice over adversarial justice as in European Courts.
    The corruption of English justice (Scotland has its own legal system) has
    paralleled the growth of Corporate power and Corporate ‘rights’ over the last 30 years, now is the time to criminalise Corporate misuse of English judicial procedure.

  9. i haven’t really spoken to you much Dan, probably won’t much either because i’m currently having a bad case of social anxiety, (meh)… but i just wanted to let you and everyone at Occupy know that i am honoured to be involved in such a right cause with so many right on people… humans with real hearts… your words are simple, apt, moving, right and just… i love all of you like you are my brothers and sisters and we will prevail, one way or another…

    in solidarity, caroline X

  10. Thankyou for taking up these issues and trying to get why the occupation is there heard in court.The occupation at St Pauls is a success.I have been up to visit and take away a lot from Occupy LSX over the months.Seen numerous speakers, spoken to lots of individuals and i found given us a message we had but forgotten, the reclamation of public open space to debate the issues of the day . This movement is culture defining and i feel is still in it’s infancy.The spirit of the Occupy movement is established.

  11. Round One has concluded in the fight for global justice… bring on round 2!

    Daniel Ashman’s Closing statement: in City of London’s attempt to evict Occupy LSX, judgement due 11th January

    “The claimant has sought legal action from the outset; at first they joined the cathedral in that action. Then after that they have sort and collected many reports. At this point would like to quote the judge. “It’s accurate as far as it goes but it does not tell the story.’ Although I recognise that I am taking his meaning out of context. It resonated so much I felt compelled to write it down. ’It’s accurate as far as it goes but it does not tell the story’

    What I hope I have done is added to this story. What is taking place now through a network of institutions culminates in genocide. The legal system definition of genocide is: “The deliberate and systematic destruction in any part of any ethnic, racial, religious or national group”

    I believe that institutions in the proximity of the occupation, namely near the London Stock exchange and London’s Central Business District, have continued with the theft of land, theft of resources and murder. The means that are used are multifaceted and with respect I would like to bring to your honour’s and the court’s attention:


    1996 Liverpool jury acquitted four women caused £1.5 million damage to Hawk Fighter Jets at a British Aerospace factory

    1999 3 women cleared of causing £80,000 damage to Trident nuclear submarines computer equipment

    2000 Five Greenpeace volunteers not guilty of criminal damage after occupying an incinerator

    2000 Norwich jury found Greenpeace Lord Melchett and 27 activists not guilty of criminal damage to field of GM crops

    2008 Kingsnorth Trial, coal protesters cleared of criminal damage to Chimney.

    I do believe like many others who stay in the tents that other avenues for recourse reparation, reconciliation and remedy, have been exhausted:
    1. reporting of crimes ignored
    2. protest not effective
    3. petitions not listened to
    4. lobbying not effective
    5. elections not effective
    6. private prosecutions ruled out by courts without justification
    7. crimes not prosecuted
    i. banking
    ii. family law
    iii. war and others

    It is now five in the morning, I have not slept and I will shortly be leaving for Leicester. We have been searching for a number of court cases that have rulings of “lawful excuse.”

    I would like to bring to the attention to the court once more to

    Perhaps by the time you get this we will have produced a written copy of the submission. It is worth noting after a three hour search we could not locate the transcript, only newspaper reports.

    The actual measurement outside the Tea cafe when the width is reduced by the obstruction of tables and chairs is 3.8 metres. It seems strange to me that considering all the reports and documents the corporations have instructed Andrew Colvin to gather, that they have not taken accurate measurements for the true free foot-fall areas within business hours. This is quite a critical omission; I cannot dwell too much on words as I have to leave in 15 minutes.

    Mr Wilkinson has admitted that people can access the Cathedral. Mr Cotton said “There was no pressing need to reopen the garden.” The City of London Police Representative described his force as one of the best in England, and I wish to compliment the police officers for their handling of some very sensitive issues and their cooperation with the occupy tranquillity team.

    I wish the court to know that the team that has freely assembled and wished to contribute to my defence have done it from the camp: in the tents.

    I give permission to Luke Wilkins and Steven Rushton to add what they feel is pertinent to our search for justice.

    My untrained, voluntary legal assistant Steve Rushton is from Southampton, next year he will be writing a postgraduate study to critique Neo-liberalism from an Indigenous perspective. Currently he works in a school as a learning mentor. From his perspective he would like to add:

    “Your honour, thank you for your patience, flexibility and accommodation
    Without the tents, I would not be able to be part of this movement in weekends and using holidays. Occupy is an opportunity to discuss the many critical problems facing the world, including:
    -the annihilation of indigenous peoples
    -the destruction of the commons and the global environments
    -the injustices of the world, such as war and slavery
    -the severe inequalities of the Neo-liberal world

    Occupy and the tents allow me to join a global inclusive dialogue to engender a just, universally sustainable and equitable coherent alternative to the current system. I would question the motives and loyalties of anyone who wanted to stop this dialogue. Your honour with respect I ask, please do not end this: the most important possible human conversation.”

  12. The allegiances of the City of London Police and City of London Corporation can be drawn into sharp question, not least by their decisions concerning the policing arrangements for OccupyLSX. In a press statement, on the 2nd of November, They stated, “The City of London Police has now taken sole responsibility for the protest in St Paul’s Churchyard.”

    This timing, a day before the City of London Corporation served eviction orders that called for an eviction the subsequent day, on the 3rd of November, appears to blurs the line between the police and the authority that was proceeding with legal action.

    It also alludes to the potential ties with the Corporations and multinational banks, even suggesting they are working under the control of big-business. This legal action was initiated by The City of London Corporation’s Planning and Transportation Committee, whose members include:
    • Roger Gifford, chairman of the Association of Foreign Banks, which represents all foreign banks based in London.
    • John White, an international banker who previously held a senior position at Lehman Brothers and recently retired as a senior executive at one of the US’s largest banking groups, the Toronto-Dominion Bank Financial Group.
    • Tom Hoffman, a veteran international and investment banker;
    • Oliver Lodge, a longstanding City professional with experience in investment management and regulation of the investment industry;
    • James Pollard of asset manager Invesco Perpetual;
    • Paul Judge, a former director general of the Conservative party, who now chairs Schroder Income Growth Fund.
    • John Spanner, a former City professional who was head of group procurement at Standard Chartered Bank’ Robert Howard, who has worked in the City since 1993 at Charles Stanley & Co, one of Britain’s largest independent private client stockbroking and investment management firms
    • Alan Yarrow, chair of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment and also of the wealth management group Kleinwort Benson.
    • Ian Seaton, who worked in financial public relations before becoming master of one of the City of London’s ancient trade associations,
    • Sophie Fernandes, an account director at Bellenden, which counts Canary Wharf Group among its clients.
    The electoral structure of this council committee, as is the case with most of the City of London Corporation, disproportionally counts votes greatly in the favour of elites and corporate interests and is not democratically structured in the way other local authorities are. The only people to vote against this decision, on this committee, were the two councillors who represent residents that live within the City of London Corporation’s “square mile” and not companies.

    The City of London Police, the City of London Corporation, the Multinational companies, banks, financial institutions and the Home Office have further links and shared agendas:
    • The City of London Police is paid for and works for two bosses; in their figures from their website they state that in 2010-11, they received £26,616,000 directly from the government, £6,135,000 from other grants contributions and reimbursements and £1,711,000 from customers and client receipts. A great deal of the City of London Police’s non-Governmental sources of revenue is from big-business and financial institutions.
    • The Home Secretary Theresa May would like to scrap the Human Rights Act, which includes the right to protest. The Home Secretary’s biographical website states, “She started her career at the Bank of England and went on to hold posts at the Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS) as Head of the European Affairs Unit from 1989-1996, and Senior Adviser on International Affairs between 1996-97.” She also called publicly stated how she wishes to see an end to OccupyLSX.
    • Corporations last year sponsored the British Government £2 billion.

  13. Dan , George, Tammy and Mr Unknown Joliffe, you did us proud, as did the moving and impressive restraint shown by the supporters inside the courtroom. Being abit of a mouthy cow, I found it excruciatingly hard to keep shtum BUT Ive been digging today and discovered that ouR dear JUSTICE KEITH LINDBLOM whilst convinced of his own ‘rightness’ yesterday cocked up big time last year ( May 2010) when he denied a right to appeal in a statutary race relations case in Tottenham …
    the decision was later overturned and won on appeal… Some ‘expert’ deluded members of the British public think that jus’ cos he’s a judge he must be right – WE KNOW BETTER!

  14. A thought inducing piece; thanks for all your efforts.

  15. Inspirational.

    Wherever that ” upsurge of optimism” came from, lets hope that there’s plenty more to draw on.

    Mark Serwotka spoke yesterday, Jan 21, about a need for an alternative to the established political parties in the UK, citing the occupy movement as an expression of the disenchantment that many people feel towards a system which if not broken completely, is in urgent need of repair.

    Whatever you think about Mr Serwotka, the importance of keeping this discussion alive is beyond doubt.

    However talking is only part of the answer. Your actions are fuelling questions being asked of the Government, Banks, Corporations and press which hopefully will lead to new conversations.

    Best Wishes.


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