11th August 2000
Mr. John Orr O.B.E.
173 Pitt Street
Dear Mr. Orr,
I refer to my letter to you of 20th July dealing with the policy of Strathclyde Police in relation to the legality of Trident and the arrest of Trident Ploughshares activists who see themselves as upholding, not breaking the law.
I have Chief Superintendent Bunch’s reply to which I will respond directly, but since this is mainly a policy matter is seems appropriate to deal with it at service level.
In his final paragraph CS Bunch refers to the twin issues of the interpretation of the law and impartiality. I do recognise the sensitivity required to balance the rights of protesters with those of ordinary citizens which may be affected by protesters’ actions. Yet while this is relevant to our actions at Faslane and Coulport (especially in regard to the potential disruption of ordinary civilian traffic unconnected to the bases) it is hardly the core issue. If Strathclyde Police officers intervene by arresting and bodily removing protesters from a blockade of a gate at Faslane or Coulport in order to allow base workers to enter that base, they are not acting impartially but have chosen to confer “lawful business” status on the Trident operation, or at the very least to ignore the fact that the legality of Trident is increasingly under question. It is not good enough to say that Trident is a government operation or sanctioned by parliament. Many partisan actions by police in the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere in actively supporting or turning a blind eye to ethnic cleansing or murder had governmental sanction. In the modern world, therefore, a police force must have regard to the developing framework of international humanitarian law, to say nothing of basic ethical obligations, as well as to local and national statute. Since national and local government structures have a potential investment in avoiding scrutiny in terms of international humanitarian law, a police force must take its own initiative in checking the validity of its actions and responsibilities in that light. In that context you have a clear duty to consider the matter of Trident’s legality.
This brings me to CS Bunch’s comment about the “interpretation” of the law. The word suggests that subtle issues of law are involved, such as would justify police impartiality, as for instance in a matter of disputed ownership. The Trident issue is nothing like that. To put it as bluntly as possible mass destruction is being planned on your patch and you seem not to be interested. We are deeply frustrated that police and legal authorities consistently turn a deaf ear to our pleas for their intervention.
I do understand that opening up this issue will be challenging. Yet there are appropriate fora in which to begin the exploration of the issue, such as at ACPOS and with the Strathclyde Police Board.
Please be assured that in raising this matter with you we are not merely making a gesture. We seriously want you to change your mind. We long for the day when all the agencies currently colluding with Trident will begin to face their moral and legal responsibilities.
Yours in love, peace and hope
For Trident Ploughshares