Argument Of Angie Zelter At Preliminary Hearing

On 17/5/02 At Plymouth Magistrates Court

[1] I will be using the following arguments/legal defences:-

i) I had lawful authority or excuse, backed up by the European Convention of Human Rights (in this respect I shall be adopting the arguments presented in the skeleton argument on behalf of Ms. Sue Brackenbury) for demonstrating peacefully by sitting at the entrance to Drake Gate in front of a line of police who were already blocking a closed gate;

ii) the place I was sitting was not an official highway as defined in the Highways Act 1980 but an entranceway into an establishment that is

-  an essential part of a criminal conspiracy to commit mass murder;
-  involved in polluting the local environment with serious and long-lasting radioactive contaminants that are already having a demonstrable effect on the marine wildlife and are likely to have a serious effect on the human population too;
-  a prime target for terrorist attacks that could lead to major nuclear contamination of the whole of the UK.

Thus any traffic going into Devonport would be an unlawful user.

iii) even if the Court decides that it was a highway nonetheless the use to which I put this road was reasonable in the circumstances;

iv) I did not obstruct ’the free passage along the highway’ as there was no free passage. If I was deemed to have been technically obstructing anything then it was merely ’obstructing unlawful activities’ that were against the general public interest.

v) I had a basic human right as well as a moral right to try to prevent crime by any reasonable means in the circumstances.

[2] I shall refer to the judgement of the Divisional Court in Hirst and Agu (a case arising out of an animal rights protest in January 1985 in Bradford) where the original conviction was quashed because the Crown Court had not considered whether they had ’lawful excuse’ for the obstruction, which is a matter of fact. The case sets out in detail the conditions for a defence of ’lawful authority and excuse’. Lord Glidewell, in talking of Nagy v Weston, says ’It is undoubtedly true … that there must be proof that the user in question was an unreasonable user. Whether or not the user amounting to an obstruction is or is not an unreasonable use of the highway is a question of fact. It depends on all the circumstances, including the length of time the obstruction continues, the place where it occurs, the purpose for which it is done, and, of course, whether it does in fact cause an actual obstruction as opposed to a potential obstruction.’ And Mr Justice Otton, when considering the rights of protest states, ’These are rights which it is in the public interest that individuals should possess; and indeed that they should exercise without impediment ….. It is often the only means by which grievances can be brought to the knowledge of those in authority – at any rate with such impact as to gain a remedy….’

[3]. I shall also refer to:-

– The Declaration of St. Petersburg, 1868

because unnecessary suffering would be caused if Trident were ever used;


– The Martens Clause, 1899

because humanity does not remain under the protection and authority of the principles of international law derived from established custom, from the principles of humanity and from the dictates of public conscience whilst Trident is maintained and deployed;


– The Hague Conventions, 1907

because unnecessary suffering would be caused and there would be no guarantee of the inviolability of neutral nations if Trident were ever used;


– The U.N. Charter, 1945

because any use of Trident would not be proportionate;


– The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

because the long-lasting radioactive contamination caused by the production, maintenance, deployment and use of Trident interferes with innocent people’s inherent right to life and health;


– The Geneva Conventions, 1949

(which has been brought directly into UK law through the 1957 Geneva Conventions Act) because protection of the wounded, sick, the infirm, expectant mothers, civilian hospitals and health workers could never be ensured through any actual use of Trident;


– The Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions, 1977

(which have also been directly brought into UK law through the 1995 Geneva Conventions (Amendments) Act) because there would be massive incidental losses of civilian lives and widespread, long-term and severe damage to the environment through any use of Trident.


Serious violations of these treaties and declarations are defined as criminal acts under the

Nuremberg Principles, 1946

in that Principle 6 defines crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Specifically, Nuremberg Principle VI (a) defines Crimes against Peace as “Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of … a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances … Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned”. Nuremberg Principle VI (b) defines War Crimes as “violations of the laws or customs of war” and Nuremberg Principle VI (c) defines Crimes against Humanity as “murder, extermination … and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population … when … carried on in execution of, or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime”.

In addition

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), 1968

is being violated now, in that the United Kingdom is not fulfilling its obligation to negotiate in good faith a nuclear disarmament.


[4] I shall bring evidence to show:-

a) that a demonstration (including the sitting in a part of the entranceway to Drake Gate for a short period of time) against unlawful weapons of mass destruction (which is an issue of immense public and international importance and concern) and against the massive safety, health and environmental risks associated with the nuclear activities at Devonport is inherently lawful and is reasonable in the circumstances;

b) that I did not block any traffic as there was none to block;

c) that there was no free passage to be obstructed as the police had themselves blocked the gate into the ’maintenance of mass destruction base’ quite some time before the demonstration even reached that particular gate;

d) that the part of the road I was sitting on only led into the ’maintenance of mass destruction base of Devonport’ and was not part of the public highway;

d) that we had made it clear to many people that we would obviously move for any emergency vehicles and that the police had informed themselves of Trident Ploughshares actions by visiting and collaborating with MOD and Civilian police at Faslane (the home base of the UK’s illegal weapons of mass destruction) and knew that part of our nonviolence and safety guidelines to all our actions is to allow access to all emergency vehicles;

e) that the context of the protest – the re-fitting of Trident – was an illegal act of such magnitude (enabling the continuing deployment of a war machine that could never distinguish between civilian and military targets) that it was reasonable to draw public and government attention by way of such a demonstration;

f) that I believe the maintenance of Trident and Trident related equipment (eg. the hunter killer subs) is a crime under international and national law and that the proper enforcement of these laws could prevent mass murder;

g) that there are extremely grave safety, health and environmental risks associated with operations at Devonport that are not only of concern to local but also to national and international communities (given the known effects of Chernobyl);

h) that my action and other actions like mine do raise such legitimate public concerns by providing a visible public opposition and breaking the official silence and are an essential part of any democratic process;

i) that my action and other actions like mine lead to the prevention of crime.

[5] I shall be calling the following expert witnesses in order to explain

’all the circumstances’


’ the purpose for which’

my action was done:- Professor Paul Rogers of Bradford University – expert on Trident; Dr. Chris Buzby, a chemical physics researcher and low level radiation expert; and Mr. John Large of Large and Associates Consulting Engineers, a nuclear consultant.

[6] In response to the CPS skeleton:-


Refutation of Birch v. DPP


1. I think that the argument in the judgement is circular and is legally wrongly arrived at. The judgement says that ’lawful excuse’ can only apply to an activity that is ’otherwise lawful’ like handing out leaflets, and not to one that is patently unlawful like, blocking the highway. But blocking the highway is not patently unlawful except by virtue of the Highways Act and so it is circular to then say that it is the act itself that prevents you from raising a defence under that act.

2. Lord Clyde pointed out in Birch v DPP at 279D that ’The right to use the highway includes the doing of certain other things subsidiary to the user for passage. It is within the scope of the right that the traveller may stop for a while at some point along the way’. 3. And at 280D Lord Clyde said, ’So far as the manner of the exercise of the right is concerned, any use of the highway must not be so conducted as to interfere unreasonably with the lawful use by other members of the public for passage along it.’ I repeat, it says quite clearly – the lawful use.

4. I submit that the use of the highway to service and maintain (in other words – to re-fit) Trident is unlawful and that my sitting in the gate to the base was reasonable in the circumstances.

5. I thus had a lawful excuse.

In order to prove this lawful excuse I have to prove the unlawfulness of Trident which brings me to the international law defence.

International Law Defence.



1. The CPS mention the Hutchinson case in passing. May I make a few brief points to distinguish our case from hers:-

a) Hutchinson gave evidence to the effect that she deliberately made 22 cuts in a fence in order to cause more than £5,000 worth of damage in order to gain access to a Crown Court case. Our action was in order to demonstrate and to try to prevent unlawful activities from taking place at that particular place and at that particular time. The fact that the police were already preventing vehicular access into the unlawful base at the time is another issue that we will deal with in the full trial.

b) The CPS in their skeleton set the context in Hutchinson as dealing with the production of nuclear weapons but our action at Devonport deals with the refitting of actively deployed weapons which can only be used for mass murder. Quite a different context with quite different ramifications in international law.

c) The Hutchinson case at para. 24 formulated a rule of international law which is very different from the one on which I rely.

The rule of international law upon which I would rely is:- the threat or use of nuclear weapons is contrary to international law save possibly in an extreme situation of self-defence in which the very survival of a State is at stake, i.e. when the State is facing annihilation, (in other words the State would have to be able to demonstrate that it was facing annihilation as a State). Moreover, even use in this extreme situation would have to conform to the intransgressible rules of international humanitarian law, i.e they would still have to be able to distinguish between military and civilian targets and not cause unnecessary suffering – (they would have to be controllable in other words).

The Hutchinson case paras. 25 to 38 discusses international law in a very different way to my own discussion and the arguments can be clearly distinguished.

i) I am not so much relying upon policy as a central plank in my argument as to the illegality and criminality of the threat or use of Trident and please note that I say Trident not some general nuclear weapon, whose characteristics are unknown – which is what the ICJ had to contend with because the nuclear weapon states were unwilling to talk about specifics. I rely much more heavily upon the simple and uncontested fact that the UK Trident nuclear weapon system contains nuclear weapons of such a size that they could never be used lawfully, i.e. they are of around 100 kilotons in size and are uncontrollable in their effects over time and space and thus any use would inevitably breach the major intransgressible rules of international humanitarian law.

ii) The intransgressible principles of international humanitarian law apply to all States (para.79 of ICJ Adv.Opin) and the UK stated , ’So far as the customary law of war is concerned, the UK has always accepted that the use of nuclear weapons is subject to the general principles of the jus in bello’(para.86 of the ICJ Adv.Opin).

Unlike para. 32 of Hutchinson where the Court stated that Mr. Mercer’s rule has not received the assent of the UK, I submit that the rules of international law that are contained within the UK’s Geneva Conventions Act of 1957 and the Geneva Conventions (Amendment) Act of 1995 expressly give effect to the intransgressible principles of international law that are stated in paras. 78 and 79 of the ICJ Adv.Opin. As these Acts are UK acts there are also no problems of establishing the existence of these rules or UK assent to them. Even a cursory glance at the rules contained within these two Acts show how impossible it would be for the UK to use its 100 kiloton nuclear warheads and keep within its own law. Thus the very threat, implicit in the deployment of these weapons is unlawful. LAR.

1. The CPS have raised the LAR proceedings at which I represented myself and which it is important to remember were not appeal proceedings and did not affect my original Greenock acquittal which was won using a detailed international law defence [LAR Opinion 13]. It is also useful to note that the LAR proceedings were political in their initiation and asked only 4 questions. The respondents were not allowed to alter those questions and only answers to those particular questions were given. The whole of the LAR proceedings were an example of ducking the real issues and hiding behind fudges from the ICJ 1996 Advisory Opinion – fudges initiated by the nuclear weapon states who had tried to prevent the ICJ from giving an Advisory Opinion in the first place, fudges, which in my opinion, amounted to lies as they pretended that they might have nuclear weapons of such limited size and with such limited effects that they might conceivably be able to be used without breaching international law. The ICJ Advisory Opinion therefore had to take account of this patent falsehood and was thus much weaker than it would have been had the truth been admitted.

2. Let me now refer to relevant rulings and comments contained within the LAR answers that the CPS refer to in their skeleton argument:-

-  In answer to the first question it was at last clarified, in the context of nuclear weapons, that a rule of international law is a rule of Scots law, it is not foreign law and a lawyer versed in international law can put the arguments. I therefore submit that in this Devonport case international law arguments should be put as they are part and parcel of English law too.
-  In answering questions 2, 3 and 4 the High Court relied upon evidence put at the lower court and agreed that the following facts were not disputed. It would be convenient for this court to agree these same facts although they do not go very far:- those facts not disputed were :- The UK possesses Trident and Trident is not merely possessed but is also deployed.
-  In para 93 of the LAR Opinion there is expressed the prime difference of opinion on the law between the Judges and myself. They state, ’We are not persuaded that even upon the respondents description of, or hypothesis as to, the characteristics of Trident it would be possible to say a priori that a threat to use it, or its use, could never be seen as compatible with the requirements of international humanitarian law.’ I cannot understand their logic at all which closely follows the UK government position. I have never been given one credible example of the use of Trident that could possibly be lawful.

-  Interestingly the LAR states what it considers to be the flaws in my reasoning. These are repeated by the CPS as being that relevant rules of international law do not concern the regulation of states in peace time and that deployment in peace time is different from deployment in war time or times of armed conflict. This position make no sense in the present world where the UK is supporting the USA in its War on Terrorism and has troops in several parts of the world engaged in active combat. At the time of the Greenock trial and the LAR UK fighters were bombing civilians in Iraq ’by accident’ and they are still there bombing various targets. Our troops are now also in Afghanistan. Is this therefore a time of war or peace? For the people of Iraq and Afghanistan it is war – only we have the luxury of pretending it is peace. And even if I were to concede it is a time of peace now or at the time of my many actions, which I do not, does this mean that only at the point of actually using Trident it becomes ’warimte’ and therefore illegal, as Lord Prosser suggests? He cannot have his cake and eat it. Surely in times of peace any threat or plans to mass murder are patently unlawful? Threats to murder are threats to murder whether made by a civilian or a soldier – the only thing that distinguishes a soldier from a common murderer are the laws of war – if these are not relevant then the soldier becomes a common criminal. Is it really likely that the protection afforded to prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions cease to operate when the war has ended even thought there are still prisoners of war in prisons?
-  Prosser continues to muddy the clear waters of reason by stating that ’broadly deterrent conduct, with no specific target and no immediate demands, is familiarly seen as something quite different from a particular threat of practicable violence’. He seems to ignore the continual instances (some of which were raised in the Greenock case) of threats to use nuclear weapons made by British Government officials in times of crises (or what I would call armed conflict) – examples made in the Gulf War, and most recently by Hoon as he sent off the 1,700 troops to Afghanistan.
-  A very good refutation of the LAR has been written by a distinguished lawyer Charles Moxley that I would like to submit to the court.
-  And finally I would like to bring to your notice that our appeal on the findings of the LAR Opinion to the European Court has now been accepted and will be heard in the coming months.

For all of these reasons I submit that there are grave matters of law and evidence to be decided and for justice to be seen to be done no lines of defence should be ruled out.