The eight men who stormed the Houses of Parliament last November while votes on the Hunting Act were taking place are in court today for the first day of their trial amid vocal support from pro-hunting campaigners.

The trial takes place this week at Bow Street Magistrates Court in London, and as the defendants arrived this morning many people were present outside to show their support for the men who sought to take their case straight to the politicians.

Otis Ferry, David Redvers, John Holliday, Robert Thame, Andrew Elliot, Richard Wakeham, Nicholas Wood and Luke Tomlinson were all arrested and charged following the protest, although some argue the trial is a waste of public money for a minor offence. Others maintain that levels of respect for Parliament must remain in place.

The defendants are denying that their behaviour caused “harassment, alarm or distress”. The court was told that Otis Ferry, 22, was the “prime organiser” of the plan, and heard of his detailed preparation before the actual day, which involved a successful dummy run previous to the actual protest itself.

The Westminster Eight are hoping to prove that they did not in fact cause any distress as a result of their actions, and are expected to try to convince some MPs who were in the chamber at the time of the incident to testify to that effect.

The verdict is expected in a few days, and if any of the defendants are found guilty, they could face a £5000 fine, or up to six months in prison.