Following a two-week trial for protesting against tax avoidance, notorious UKUncut protesters the Brighton Nine heard the outcome of their £100,000 case this week, which ‘The Argus’ has branded a “waste of money”.
On 4 December 2010,members of Brighton Uncut glued their hands to the inside windows of Topshop in response to Topshop boss Sir Philip Green’s supposed £285 million tax dodge, and to protest the link between tax evasion and greater public spending cuts.
Sir Philip Green, whose retail empire includes the likes of Topshop, Topman, Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge and British Home Stores, is accused by UKUncut of channelling £1.2 billion into a number of offshore accounts, including accounts registered to his wife in Monaco. In doing so, according to UKUncut, Sir Green managed to save £285 million, equivalent to the £9000 fees of 32,000 students or the salaries of 20,000 NHS nurses.
Richard Murphy, director of Tax Research UK, agreed that UKUncut’s actions were justified. He told Channel 4 News “I do think there’s a problem. Large businesses are paying a smaller proportion of their income in tax than many individuals and small businesses in the UK and that’s unacceptable”.
For the Brighton Nine, the culmination of the trial saw some cleared without charge, with five found guilty of accidentally damaging two mannequins which toppled over when they entered the window display.
These five are required to pay fines of £200 each, which UKUncut is expecting to cover with voluntary donations from their supporters.
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion who attended the trial, offered full support to the Brighton Nine on her Twitter page, tweeting that “people like Brighton Uncut put the ethics back into politics”.
Protests by UKUncut have not been isolated to Brighton and its surrounding area, and protests have also taken place in Glasgow, Leeds, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham, and there have been further unscheduled protests at Vodafone shops.
In response, many have noted the recent release of t-shirts in Green’s Topshop stores which seem to mock last winter’s spate of student and anti-cut protests.
One, which states that “the students are revolting”, was dubbed by The Guardian’s Ellie Mae O’Hagan an “impotent rebuttal to the protests against [Philip Green’s] tax-avoid- ing empire”.