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     Scottish CND     magazine

Trident on Trial

by Brian Quail

On 1st November Les Robertson appeared in Dumbarton District Court on a charge following an action against the convoy. During his trial, he managed to bring in the ruling of the International Court of Justice, and the Geneva Conventions Act of 1995. The magistrate seemed sympathetic and impressed by the lucid and coherent case that Les presented, and left the court to consider her verdict before finding him guilty and admonishing him.

On Friday 6th December, I appeared at the Sheriff Court after an attempt to lock myself onto a nuclear carrier. I too raised the ICJ ruling and the Geneva Conventions Act and also brought up, as a precedent, the case of the four women who broke into British Aerospace and damaged a Hawk Aircraft. I likewise raised the case of 7 activists who broke into a nuclear base in Germany and were acquitted in Stuttgart Court on 28th October this year.

I concluded my submission by tackling what I think is the real problem, and that is the presumed non-justiciability of matters of defence.

I argued that it is a grave misunderstanding of the royal prerogative to assume that it confers immunity from the law on the MoD. While courts have no business challenging the propriety of government policies, they can and must challenge policies that are criminal and illegal, such as conspiracy to commit war crimes. In this I was much assisted by the superb Pax Legalis papers of Rob Manson, and the scholarly and eloquent material kindly provided by Keith Mothersson and Alan Wilkie - for which much thanks.

I was acquitted on the grounds that the Crown's evidence was insufficient, the Sheriff taking pains to make it clear that he was not influenced by anything I had said. I believe that this was something of a body swerve, as I had spelt out in detail the implications of a verdict either way.

If I am guilty and my plea of justification is rejected, then the court is overruling the ICJ verdict and the other laws referred to.

If my plea is accepted, then current UK Trident policy is criminal and illegal. This would mean that the support systems - the military escorts, the workers in the base and the police - are art and part of a conspiracy to commit war crimes.

The courts cannot go on evading the ICJ ruling indefinitely. Perhaps it is time to take a more pro-active and assertive role. Is there any legal eagle out there who has the skills and expertise which I patently lack, and is prepared to take civil action against Rear Admiral Tolhurst, Michael Portillo, John Major et al ? This is an opportunity to free us from Trident and make legal history at the same time.

Scottish CND      magazine