Five anti-Trident protesters have been found guilty of blockading a nuclear weapons manufacturing facility – days after new concerns were raised about the safety of Britain’s Trident nuclear missiles.
The protesters, who barred the entrance to Burghfield Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire in June of last year, were from the Christian group Put Down the Sword / Trident Ploughshares.
Trident mounted nuclear warheads are assembled at Burghfield, which has been the site of repeated demonstrations for a number of years. The MoD said work on the missile system was disrupted by the protests.
The judgment at Reading Magistrates Court came the same week as the Ministry of Defence acknowledged that a rogue unarmed Trident missile was accidentally fired towards the United States by a British nuclear submarine.
Theresa May was accused of covering up the malfunction of the multi-billion pound system, which happened shortly before the House of Commons were asked to vote through a renewal of the programme.
The activists’ defence team argued that they were acting in accordance with their religious beliefs, which they said were protected by the Human Rights Act.
However district judge Khan said that he did not agree that “that the actions of the defendants were a manifestation of a religious belief” and in any case that “these rights have to yield to the primary right of passing and re-passing the highway” outside the base.
He suggested they could have joined a non-disruptive prayer vigil outside the base instead of blockading its entrance.
The five defendants were Nina Carter-Brown, 33; Nick Cooper, 34; Angela Ditchfield, 38; Joanna Frew, 37; and Alison Parker, 33. They were represented by lawyers from Matrix Chambers and 6KBW.
They were found guilty of wilful obstruction of the highway and were all sentenced to a conditional discharge of six months with costs of £100 and a surcharge of £20.
A joint statement from the defendants said: “We stand by what we said in court: Trident is an illegal and immoral waste of money, a crime against humanity and God.
“The prosecution said we could just have joined in a prayer vigil to the side of the road, instead of lying in it; we said our consciences wouldn't allow that. We believe prayer is important but sometimes our faith compels us to put our whole bodies in the way of injustice and violence.
“The Bible says religious acts are meaningless unless we also stand up for the poor and needy; we are called to bring a just peace with hope for all. We will continue to seek peace, and to take the consequences of doing so. It's a small price to pay for the chance to challenge an evil like nuclear weapons.”
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