Debbie Clarke’s defence

28th September 2001, Helensburgh District Court

Court Testimony

The last couple of weeks have demonstrated the hypocrisy and illogical nature of our government’s nuclear arms policy. While Britain and the rest of the world has been horrified and outraged at the loss of innocent life caused by the attack on America, the British government continues to pump over £1 million each year into a weapons system many times more destructive, a system that if used, would inevitably result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

I am here to defend myself against a charge of ’breaching the peace’. I will argue, as many have done before me, that I am not guilty of this charge, as it is precisely peace that we seek to defend.

Although the Scottish courts may disagree, I believe that Trident is illegal under international & humanitarian law. As this court will be aware, Trident is incapable of distinguishing between civilian and military targets, therefore contravening the 1996 ruling by the International Court of Justice. Indeed, the commanders of Trident submarines have said that they would fire their missiles without themselves ever knowing where they would land.

However, I do not intend to make use of the many legal arguments available to me. Whether or not Trident is illegal, & I consider that it is, I believe it is important, in the words of Henry David Thoreau, to ’make a distinction between law and justice, and assert the truth in your hearts over the laws on the books’. This is what I have done in taking action against Trident. I do not believe any law that defends Trident is a just law.

Neither is it a democratic one. The democrat Thomas Paine, writing in the 18th century, was adamant that ’the elected might never form to themselves an interest separate to that of the electors’. Our government never asked us if we wanted Trident. If they ever had done, they would know that many, if not most of their electorate, do not. Despite living in a so-called ’democracy’, we seem today to have little influence over our elected representatives in government. Letters, petitions and legal protest against nuclear arms appear to go unheeded.

This is why I sat in the road at Faslane. I, along with many thousands of other British people, do not support the holding of a weapons system capable of causing death and destruction on an absolutely unimaginable scale, and so I did the little that I could do to try and stop it. Every day that Trident is in existence, it threatens our planet and all the people who live on it. No person or state has the right to hold that kind of threat in their hands. I cannot sit by and watch as Trident makes a mockery of the value of human and planetary life. The action I took at Faslane was wider than a simple demand to shut down Trident. I believe our government must abolish all nuclear weapons, as a step towards world-wide disarmament. If nuclear madness does not end soon, and I quote former US secretary of state Robert McNamara, ’there is a substantial risk that the 21st century will witness a nuclear holocaust’. How can any of us not do all that we can to prevent it?