Activists and UBS face off in High Court

UBS tried to kick out protesters from its disused City office block by sending a text message, the High Court was told yesterday.

The Swiss bank also made a series of errors in its late-night legal efforts to remove the Occupy group, and sent the text on the suggestion of the judge handling the case initially, it was claimed.

The bank served the Sun Street activists with a series of legal papers, including its claim for possession, but then failed to give them “any real clue” how to take part in the 9.45pm telephone hearing, according to a written argument filed against Sun Street Properties, a subsidiary of UBS.

“It is of fundamental importance that everybody has the right to contest the case against them and to bring evidence in the case,” said Stephen Knafler, QC, for the handful of activists who have been named in legal papers.

“It may be a case of a claimant making more haste and less speed.”

The protesters entered the building in the early hours of 18 November and set up a “Bank of Ideas”. They are now challenging the eviction on the grounds it was awarded “without notice” and there is no need to protect people from “imminent, serious injury” as they say they have carried out a health and safety assessment of the empty building.

Their legal papers also claim UBS has engaged in “risky” banking practices and that its equity release products have caused “hardship and distress” for elderly customers.

Around a dozen activists, some sporting thick beards, black and white dreadlocks and combat fatigues, filled the High Court yesterday and exchanged clenched fist signals when they felt proceedings were going in their favour.

UBS said the protesters should be removed because of urgent health and safety concerns. The case was adjourned and Mr Justice Roth is due to rule tomorrow or on Thursday.