12th October 2001, Helensburgh District Court
Defence to Breach of the Peace for a Blockade Action
1. The High Court, in Smith vs Donnelly[B] , said that for Breach of the Peace “what was required was conduct which presented as genuinely alarming and disturbing, in it’s context, to _any_ reasonable person [emphasis added]”
2. Since I can provide several “reasonable people” who were present and not at all alarmed (including both the prosecution’s police witnesses), then “… any …” must mean “at least one” and not mean “all”. If this is not the case then, on the evidence of the police witnesses, I was not committing Breach of the Peace and so should be acquitted.
3. It follows that the test which the court must apply to my action is “Could a reasonable person have been genuinely alarmed and disturbed by it?”
4. The prosecution contend that the test is satisfied, by a hypothetical “reasonable person”. I shall, for the purposes of this argument only, accept that proposition.
5. I, and many others, find Trident and the work which goes on at Faslane to enable the deployment and use of Trident, to be “genuinely alarming and disturbing”[C]. Further, many of us would find the absence of any effective action aimed at highlighting and disrupting this work to be “genuinely alarming and disturbing”. We do not participate in actions such as this simply because we have too much time on our hands (most of us don’t have enough time on our hands), we do it because we believe it _needs_ doing. I personally believe that if the world possess nuclear weapons indefinitely they will eventually be used (a prospect which no-one can deny is “genuinely alarming and disturbing”). I also believe that actions such as the one I took are the only effective way to oppose the continued possession and deployment of nuclear weapons and, as such, a necessary step on the road to their abolition. As such I would certainly find the absence of such action to be “genuinely alarming and disturbing”, separately from the actual alarm caused by the weapons themselves[D].
6. I believe that I am a reasonable person, as are many of those who share these views. While the law allows the “reasonable person” to be a hypothetical one it does not require it. If, on the other hand, the court does not believe that I am a “reasonable person” then I believe that the figures I mentioned earlier[E] for the number of people who took part in the blockade and the opinion polls findings allow the inference to be drawn that there will be “reasonable” people who would be genuinely alarmed and disturbed at the absence of action such as I took (for the reasons mentioned above). If the prosecution is entitled to rely on an inference as to how a hypothetical “reasonable person” would have reacted then so am I.
7. It follows that the test given in point 3 would also have been satisfied by our failure to take this action.[F]
8. In other words both the action we took and its logical complement satisfy the test, given in point 3, which this court must apply in order to determine whether or not a Breach of the Peace has occurred.
9. This implies that the test cannot meaningfully be applied to this event, since it cannot distinguish between the event and its complement. In legal terms, the law should never place one in a situation where it is impossible to stay within the law – the court cannot attach guilt by default, if one is guilt of something one must have had the option to have been innocent had one acted differently.
10. Since this test was specified by the High Court as the test to be used when considering a charge of breach of the Peace (and bearing in mind that, while the High Court said it did not want to rigidly defined Breach of the Peace for every circumstance, the case the court considered in Smith vs Donnelly was almost identical, in its facts and circumstance, to this one) it follows that the charge of Breach of the Peace cannot meaningfully be applied to this particular situation.
11. Accordingly, this court has no option but to dismiss the charge.
[A] This document is actually a stripped down and cleaned up version of what I presented, but I don’t think I presented it terribly well. I did not present it in court as a series of numbered points but found it helpful to do so here so maybe should have.
[B] Scots Law Times: Issue 27: 3182001
[C] I then went off into a (very short) rant about Trident
[D] All except the first two sentences of this item differ considerably from how I presented this point in court but are, I believe, an improvement on that presentation.
[E] In court I had also, when giving evidence, mentioned that over 1000 people had taken part in the blockade of which approximately 380 were arrested. I also mentioned the opinion poll taken shortly after the Blockade showing 51% support for the action we took. I had done so in order to be able to refer to these figures at this point.
[F] The fact that, had we not taken this action, we would not have been arrested is completely irrelevant. That is a question of enforcement – I am concerned here with the test (which the High Court specified) as a logical test.