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Admonishments and Deferred Sentences for Coulport Activists

Unusually, no fines or other punishments were issued to six people arrested at the Trident Ploughshares disarmament camp in September last year for ac tions at the nuclear weapon depot at Coulport. Barbara Dowling, a retired local government worker from Glasgow, charged with painting a bollard at the main entrance of the base on 7th September, was found guilty and had her sentence deferred for six months. She told the court that there were no signs outside the base telling the public what its business was and she felt that people should know the truth. As a pacifist and Christian she was compelled to act – there was no justice in an indiscriminate killer like Trident. Justice of the Peace Nicolson told her that he would be taking into account whether or not in the interim she paid the Ministry of Defence compensation amounting to £8.34. Barbara said she would not be paying the MoD one penny. Carol Chisholm (34), from Glasgow, and Pippa Robertson (20), a student at Aberdeen, charged with blockading the main gate of the base on the same day, were found guilty and had their sentences deferred for six months to be of good behaviour. The local Ministry of Defence police have developed a 5-step warning process for dealing with this kind of protest. One aspect of this process involves the officer concerned asking protesters to consider the effect on their reputations of being arrested. This caused much amusement at the incident itself and featured in the defences offered by three others also charged with blockading the base of 7th September. Jane Smith (50), a teacher from Granton-on-Spey, Angie Zelter (48), a peace campaigner from Cromer, and Jane Tallents (47), a peace campaigner from Helensburgh, all said that their good reputations depended on challenging crime against humanity. Jane Tallents showed the court a list of her arrests, while Angie displayed the Right Livelihood award she and two others had received for the disarmament of the Trident research barge, Maytime, in 1999. She said that it was likely that nuclear weapons would be used again soon and she urged the JP and the Procurator Fiscal to do what they could in their own roles to lessen that risk. When the JP found all three guilty Jane Tallents advised him that deferring sentence was pointless since in her terms good behaviour meant continuing to take a stand against Trident. In spite of the many convictions on the records of all three of the accused the JP admonished them, apparently because he doubts the value of imposing fines which will not be paid and will lead to short prison sentences.