Coulport Blockaders in Court

Report from Dumbarton Justice of the Peace Court

Wed 24 Jan 2018

Jamie Watson and Peter Anderson appeared on a charge of Breach of the Peace for blockading Coulport during the TP summer camp 2017. Jamie represented himself and Peter was represented by Clare Ryan.

The two Finns who took action with them were not present in court.

The Procurator Fiscal (PF) opened the prosecution by calling Inspector Quin who was the operational police commander for Police Scotland that morning. He was in the area to “facilitate peaceful protest” and was called to the Northern Access road just above Coulport where four people were lock-oned across the road. He was told that the Shore Rd was also blocked by a group of 20 people standing in the road. None of the people locked on moved from the road after he gave them the 5 stage appeal so he told the MOD cutting team to cut them out. By this time the road had been closed for 2 hrs and they were arrested. He said that there was another gate which he understood was used by “convoys” although he had no knowledge of what these convoys carried and had never set eyes on one.

Two more witnesses, a Police Scotland constable and an MOD police officer from the cutting team also gave similar evidence although there were inconsistencies about how many other gates there are and whether the road was private. All the witnesses agreed that the protesters were polite and there was no hostility from anyone.

After lunch Jamie submitted that there was no case to answer based on Smith vDonnelly that there had been no evidence of severe alarm and fear to anyone or serious disturbance to the community. He compared their action to other cases where the no case to answer was upheld;  Dyer v Brady and a case in the Dumbarton Sheriff Court last year involving Peace Campers.

The PF opposed it and after going out to consider it the JP rejected Jamie’s submission.

Peter went into the witness box. He answered questions from Clare very straightforwardly saying why he was there and what he did. He said he was expressing his personal objection to the continuation of nuclear weapons at Coulport.  The PF asked why he couldn’t stand at the side of the road and whether he had intended to cause maximum disruption to the traffic to which he replied that he didn’t want to be ignored.

Jamie gave his own testimony by talking about the wider context of having lived at Faslane Peace Camp and been active with Trident Ploughshares. He mentioned our guidelines and that we were a known quantity in the area, that the Scottish public opposed nuclear weapons evidenced by the numbers of anti-Trident representatives elected to the Scottish Parliament and Westminster. He talked about the International Court ruling and the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The PF asked the same daft questions and would Jamie have considered it a failure if he hadn’t been arrested.

The PF summed up his case by saying that there were two issues that had been raised; the political and ethical arguments about nuclear weapons and the actions that the accused had taken on 13 July last year. Only the later was for the court to consider. They had blocked a public road and as in Jones v Carnegie this was “flagrant” behaviour.

Clare on behalf of Peter quoted Dyer v Brady which says blockading is not flagrant and as in that case there was the possibility of access by another route.

Jamie went over the case law again and argued that it was not a Breach of the Peace.

After a fairly long adjournment the JP said that they could have protested at the side of the road and found them both guilty. Peter was fined £50 and Jamie who had a previous conviction £100.