Knighton anti-nuclear protestor "ticked off" by court

Reporter:

Barry Jones

KNIGHTON anti-nuclear weapon campaigner Angie Zelter was “admonished” by a Scottish court for her part the blockade of RNAD Coulport, where the UK's nuclear warheads are stored and loaded onto Trident submarines.

Ms Zelter appeared alongside Brian Quail from Glasgow, and Sam Donaldson from Hull, at Dumbarton's Justice of the Peace Court on a charge of breaching the peace, last Thursday.

They had been arrested close to the entrance of the Coulport base on the morning of July 11, during the Trident Ploughshares camp at Peaton Wood on Loch Long.

Following the blockade Angie and Brian had been imprisoned for 16 days on remand after refusing to accept special bail conditions barring them from approaching the nuclear weapon bases at Faslane and Coulport.

JP Symon listened as the accused explained the motivation and justification for their action. Brian gave a harrowing account of the effect on the people of the Marshall Islands of the nuclear weapon tests there.

Angie argued that Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights gave her the right to express her opinion, including by means of obstructing the activity that was the focus of her protest.

Sam told the court that as a Quaker he was obliged to act on the dictates of his conscience in opposing these weapons of mass destruction.

All three felt that the nuclear weapon convoys that carry warheads along the country's roads amount to a massive breach of the peace. Angie also pointed out that the UK courts have never attended to the criminality involved in the active deployment of nuclear weapons.

The police witnesses and the defence agreed that the protest had been conducted in a calm, peaceful and orderly manner.

Acting on the legal summary given by the Assessor, the JP found all three guilty but was content with admonishing them, the lightest penalty that a Scottish court can impose.

This was especially surprising given that in her plea in mitigation Ms Zelter indicated that she would continue to disrupt the activities at the nuclear weapon bases, until Trident was removed, and that Brian told the JP that he did not accept the verdict.

David Mackenzie of Trident Ploughshares said afterwards: “Those present in the court today felt that JP Symon gave the protesters a fair and respectful hearing but saw herself as having no option but to take account of the current legal tests for establishing a charge of breach of the peace.

“At the same time that charge is utterly absurd, given the completely peaceful actions of the protesters on the one hand and the palpable criminality of the UK's weapons of mass destruction on the other.

“An even bigger issue is that people in Scotland who engage in peaceful protests against nuclear weapons (which their elected representatives and Parliament overwhelmingly oppose) end up being punished by Scottish courts. That is intolerable. A criminal justice system which is, in this matter, so much at odds with the wishes of the people, is damaging its own authority and credibility.”

Email:

barry.jones@nwn.co.uk

See full story in the County Times

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