11th January 2001
Open letter to
Mr. John Orr
173 Pitt Street
Dear Mr. Orr, The Big Blockade -Faslane Naval Base 12th February
You will be aware of our intention, together with British and Scottish CND, to blockade the Faslane base on the date above. As is usual on these occasions we will be happy to liaise with senior officers in that area to ensure a peaceful and safe event in which any disruption or inconvenience to people unconnected to the base is kept to a minimum. In accordance with our policy of openness we will attempt to use the local press to advise people of our intentions.
You will recall our correspondence in August and September of last year on the matter of the role of the civil police in relation to breaches of international humanitarian law in their area. That correspondence ended with Ewen McLellan’s letter of 19th September, giving your view that you could add nothing useful to your letter of 24th August.
There have been relevant developments since that time. After the nine days of hearing in the High Court in Edinburgh in October/November last year the judgment of the High Court on the Lord Advocate’s reference of aspects of the trial of the “Trident Three” is expected soon. During the hearing the Court did not restrict itself to the content of the questions posed by the Lord Advocate, but examined two main issues – the right of ordinary citizens to intervene to uphold international humanitarian law and the legality or otherwise of the UK’s Trident nuclear weapon system. While there is no way of anticipating what the judgment of their Lordships will be, the sheer cogency of the case against Trident that was presented by the Respondents has meant that the prima facie evidence for Trident’s unlawfulness is now ever more firmly in the public domain (Please see court transcripts on the TP website: tridentploughshares.org). This means further that a civil police force, especially one in whose area the operations under question are being conducted, has even less excuse than before for failing to engage in at least preliminary investigations on its own behalf, or for failing to review and revise its current policy of impeding and arresting those who are acting to uphold the law.
My second point is the current public stance of the Government on the applicability of ethical criteria and the Geneva Protocols to the weapons it is prepared to use. In the context of the debate over the new “thermobaric” bomb, a Ministry of Defence spokesperson has said: “If we were to buy any such technology, we would ensure that it complies with the Geneva Convention. We do not wish to have a weapon which is indiscriminate and causes excessive collateral damage.” (Quoted in the Herald January 5th 2001 -“New bomb fuels fears on human cost”). Yet the same Government continues to keep in a state of constant readiness a weapon which everyone acknowledges is massively indiscriminate. The weapon in question is being deployed on your patch. At the very least you should be asking the Government to explain this blatant contradiction.
Once again we ask you to refrain from arresting us when we are doing what we can to prevent crime and uphold the law. You may be aware of a relevant police precedent for doing so. In 1981 the then Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall, John Alderson, refused to ask his officers to arrest protesters who were taking direct action to prevent the Central Electricity Generating Board from testing the suitability of a contested site in Luxulyan in Cornwall for a new nuclear power station. Alderson, who was in his day a pioneer of the community policing and policing by consent which are now accepted as central to effective police work, considered that there was no threat of any breach of the peace. While the parallel with Faslane is not exact, Alderson’s action illustrates the potential for a Chief Constable to take his own counsel on his response to an activity that might conventionally have been dealt with by arrest.
We will, of course, welcome the presence of your officers at Faslane to work with us to ensure that the event is peaceful and safe. If you decide to arrest us our response will be peaceful. For the sake of constructive liaison we would be grateful for an indication of your intentions.
For Trident Ploughshares