The Week in Politics by Lilian Pizzichini

There have been two counts of victory in the courts this week. The latest took place yesterday. It concerns Lord Janner, accused of historical child abuse, and the DPP, which refused to prosecute him. Even today’s Daily Mail is impressed. It reports:

“Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders provoked fury among police chiefs when she ruled in April that Lord Janner could not be prosecuted because of his dementia, despite detectives collecting enough evidence to charge him with 22 offences against nine victims in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Mrs Saunders, who earns £205,000 a year, strongly defended her decision – but an external QC was drafted in to reconsider the case after a challenge from alleged victims.

Last night it emerged the CPS has accepted the review’s decision to let the case be heard in court.”

This follows on from a rally that took place yesterday outside Downing Street. Victims and survivors united to break the cycle of abuse. Slowly, the wider public and mainstream media are seeing through the protective façade erected by Establishment figures. As well as an anti-austerity issue, the struggle that survivors of child abuse have mounted is against institutional corruption.

Earlier in the week, The Diggers of Runnymede Eco-Village experienced a similar milestone. The Diggers – named after the land activists who took over or squatted on commons and fields during the English civil war, have lived on the four-acre plot of disused land, 30 miles west of London since 2012. They live under the threat of eviction by property developers Orchid Runnymede. The Diggers were due to be evicted this week pending an appeal. This week’s decision in the Court of Appeal was a stay of execution with potentially significant implications.

Occupy Democracy reported that “Mr Justice Knowles prevented landowner Orchid Runnymede’s enforcement of a summary order of possession. … He ruled the stay of execution was necessary so the Court of Appeal could properly assess whether the eco-village residents were given a full and fair hearing in Guildford County Court on 15th June – the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. The villagers’ case included assertions of rights under the Magna Carta, its companion Charter of the Forest and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Justice Knowles recognised the powerful symbolism of the competing interests in this “exceptional” case when he ruled:

“Given the exceptional location and the history associated with [Runnymede & Coppers Hill Coppice], and the competing and directly differing interests – one seeking possession of ancient forest [for private development] the other side seeking to remain on a site occupied for three years [and to continue to subsist in common from the land].”

Occupy Democracy goes on to quote appellant, Pete Phoenix:

“Today was a major victory for civil liberties and land rights, opening the discussion over access to land to enable people to live in a low-impact, sustainable and off-grid way.”

Julie Timbrell of New Putney Debates and Occupy Democracy, groups who are among those helping the villagers with their legal case, said:

“The villagers sense of the lower court judgment was that property rights trumped all other rights. But villagers contended that this is wrong in principle and that the judge failed to address properly the villagers’ right to sustain themselves in the common realm, to live on waste land and to feed and house themselves through their own efforts, in community. Villagers pointed out that the Charter of the Forest, the companion to the Magna Carta, gave these rights.”

At the same time, across the water, the first two couples to become civil partners in the UK have won the right to have the same-sex marriage ban in Northern Ireland subjected to judicial review. This follows a grass-roots movement that challenged official discrimination.

Movements across the UK are gaining ground all the time. One of the most prominent is DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts). DPAC fights for justice and human rights for all disabled people at a time of austerity and welfare cuts. On Wednesday, they took the struggle into the House of Commons.

The group who protested are set to lose their Independent Living Fund, which was closed for new applicants in 2010 and will officially close next week. Wheelchair-users, carers and other disabled activists staged a protest inside the House of Commons Lobby. They attempted to break through into the Commons chamber and almost succeeded in interrupting Prime Minister’s Questions. Ironically, MPs were grilling David Cameron over the government’s plans to cut £12bn from the welfare budget. The protest scored a victory in gaining media attention and keeping civil rights and austerity on the agenda.

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