Conservative MP attacked at University of Sussex

Ben Richardson - News Editor 19 November 2012

Conservative MP Mike Weatherley had rocks and tomatoes thrown at him after he was attacked on the way to a talk about squatting at the University of Sussex last Wednesday. Two of his staff were injured, with one having a rock thrown at her neck and the other crushing her arm in a door. Security personnel barricaded him and his colleagues in a room until a police van turned up to escort them away. The protesters are not believed to have been students at the university.

Weatherley, MP for Hove in East Sussex, is a prominent supporter of the criminalisation of squatting. He had been invited by the university’s Conservative Society to debate new laws which make it a criminal offence to squat in residential properties. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 came into force on the 1 September this year and means local authorities now have the power to call in the police to arrest squatters, rather than being forced to undergo lengthy civil eviction proceedings. Squatters face a maximum penalty of six months in jail, a £5,000 fine, or both.

Speaking after the attack, Weatherley said: “It’s absolutely outrageous that a peaceful event such as this should be hijacked by a group of violent thugs. As soon as I walked in to the lecture theatre someone attempted to punch me…The squatters have regularly attempted to stop free speech from taking place for the precise reason that they cannot justify their criminal behaviour. I have made a statement to Sussex Police, and to Sussex University Security, about the most violent members of the mob.”

A spokesman for The University of Sussex said: “We are appalled to hear that Mike Weatherley was prevented from speaking on campus by a group of protesters. We believe that the violent disruption was led by activist protesters from outside of the university, not by our students.”

Ben Richardson – News Editor