EDINBURGH, 9TH JUNE - PEOPLE gathered yesterday at the Bank of Scotland's Earl Grey Street branch, Tollcross, Edinburgh, to protest the unjust and unlawful arrestment of more than £700 in bank account funds from an account held by Edinburgh resident Jaime. The arrestment was carried out by Stirling Park Sheriff Officer's acting on behalf of Edinburgh 'cowboy' landlord and car dealer Mark Fortune.
The Bank quickly called the police but no arrests were made during the two hour-long protest. The protest was called by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty because the account arrest on May 28th was illegal due to the fact that the as the funds frozen are almost entirely income-related benefits, which, under the Social Security Administration Act 1992 as well as recent caselaw, are “inalienable” and exempt from arrestment. Since the arrestment, the Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty has been fighting Jaime's case to have the arrestment lifted and have Jaime's benefits returned.
Since Friday 3rd, members of ECAP accompanied Jaime in three separate meetings with three separate bank managers, each time delivering letters clearly stating the illegality of the arrestment. Jaime and ECAP considered that the Bank of Scotland Area and Regional managers should be quickly concerned that the arrestment might be against the law but it seemed they had little or no concern, instead opting to let the branch's employee's repeatedly deal with the matter on the 'front line'. The bank only started to look into the matter after 12 supporters stayed in the branch for an hour after closing time on 6th June, to insist that justice be done.
Mark Fortune who instructed the arrest is facing a criminal court case for threatening a tenant and “has been banned from renting out properties in Edinburgh amid allegations that he verbally abused and threatened city council officials and tenants”
While the Bank of Scotland workers in the branch were mainly helpful in dealing with a complaint which is essentially not their fault, higher management – namely area manager Adrian O'Neil and Regional Manager Kenneth Lynch – had shown arrogant attitude, refusing to grant an appointment to Jaime or even speak to him on the phone. They have shown none of that 'personal understanding' that is so frequently advertised as the Bank of Scotland 'persona'. The real community players were protesting at the Earl Street branch today demonstrating mutual aid and building community links between people that institutions like the banks are constantly engaged in wearing down.
To show their determination to resist this injustice to Jaime, supporters from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty entered the bank, displaying placards such as BANK OF SCOTLAND – DEBT COLLECTOR FOR CRIMINAL LANDLORD MARK FORTUNE. Drums played and whistles were blown as leaflets were given to customers explaining:
"We are demanding that the frozen funds be released immediately, or failing that that the Bank of Scotland make a payment to Jaime of the same amount, while the matter is resolved."
As the leaflets being distributed to largely supportive customers and passers-by said:
This case potentially affects lots of people on benefits who are being hounded by sheriff officers and who could be subject to bank arrestments. And it’s part of our resistance to the attacks the rich are making on us everyday. We all need to stick together – SOLIDARITY!
To help Jaime's battle for justice, to join the ECAP solidarity network, or just to find out more: