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     Scottish CND      Magazine

Trident Ploughshares 2000
Days in Court

By the end of 1998 there will have been nineteen TP2000 people tried by Helensburgh District Court and one by Dumbarton Sheriff Court. The statistics of the twenty guilty verdicts donít begin to convey the reality of the inspiring, exhausting and frustrating drama now so well rehearsed in our courtrooms. The basic script is:

Setting the Stage - Before the court begins we have asked that the defendants be given a table for their paperwork, we have moved the rows of seats for the public forward four feet, we have suggested to the Procurator Fiscal (PF) our preferred order for the trials .... we have staked our claim, this is our court too!

The Trial begins - Police officers come along to tell the story of the action in hard fact (although some facts are harder than others). They answer the Fiscal in straight police language. When TPers speak to them the inevitable smile appears; those long conversations in police vans and processing centres pays off when the smile appears telling the court more than the words often do.

The TPers go in the witness box - In spite of numerous interruptions from both the Magistrate and the Fiscal most defendants manage some version of their Ďwhole truthí. If any of our Justices of the Peace (JP) thought that the peace movement consisted of Helensburgh CNDís half dozen and the folk at Faslane Peace Camp they now know that itís full of people of all ages and backgrounds, working in all kinds of ways, in lots of countries, often not their own, with commitment and passion beyond measure. Every person giving evidence has their own personal story to tell, how they came to be standing in the dock in the District Court in Helensburgh. And people bring with them other peoplesí stories, from Chernobyl, Nevada, the Marshall Islands and all the other places affected by the nuclear disease. Then the court is told about the law; the kind of law that they donít want to hear, like the Geneva Convention, the Nuremberg Principles and the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice. The lay magistrate sits there, attentively pretending to understand, whilst the PF just sighs or gazes into space. When the TPer has finished or has said everything that is allowed the PF asks a question or two about fence cutting, (except for PF Donnelly who sometimes forgets that our arguments about Trident and international law are apparently irrelevant and canít resist the urge to defend the nuclear status quo and find fault with our morals and our politics).

Next - The Summing Up. The prosecution takes minutes, a few brief sentences about cutting the fence, breaking byelaws, breaching their version of the peace: the defendant admitted the crime - nothing else needs saying.

The TPers give it their all: reasonable excuse, necessity, self defence, preventing a greater crime, every legal and moral argument they can muster, asking the magistrate to have courage and do the right thing.

The Verdict - The magistrate has listened to the arguments, but Trident isnít on trial, the activist is and they are guilty. Then sometimes an admonishment, sometimes a fine and discussion of how much to pay, how long to find the money, even if its made perfectly clear that we are paying NOTHING.

Court Adjourned - sometimes a round of applause or maybe just hugs from friends, and itís out with the appeal forms and make plans for the next performance.

THE END (or rather just the beginning....)

Itís four months since the TP2000 opening ceremony and there have so far been 20 people on trial, with a total of £2105 in fines and compensation, 233 days spent in prison on remand and goodness knows how many hours of court time taken up. Many people have defended themselves and we also have some very keen young lawyers involved.

There are six cases going to appeal with Angieís having already reached the stage of having been turned down twice for an appeal hearing by Judges at the High Court. There are twenty more trials to be heard in 1999 and the lessons learnt so far can be built on. Extra supporters in Court are always welcome. Itís best to check with Jim and Jane if you are planning to come in case there have been any last minute changes.

Jane & Jim 01436 679194

Scottish CND      Magazine