Newsletter Number 7, March 2001


The February 14th Blockade
North and South
Shadow and Substance
Heavy Rain with Punch and Judy
BBC-1 Television One O’clock News
A ludicrously brief description…
Newbury Magistrates Miss the Point
In the Courts
Legal Process for Rachel and Rosie Stumbles On
The Staff of Life
Helen John “Guilty but Justified”
Devolution Issues Raised
Lord Advocate’s Reference
English Legal Support
International News
US Plowshares Trial on 20th March


Welcome to the seventh issue of Speed the Plough! Trident Ploughshares is a campaign to disarm the UK Trident nuclear weapons system in a non-violent, open, peaceful and fully accountable manner. 160 people from 13 countries have pledged to disarm Trident in this way and our supporters’ database contains over 1000 names, including many famous people and members of parliament. We act to uphold international humanitarian law and to expose the illegality of the Trident system.

North and South

I woke up as our coach from Oxford came to a halt outside the Peace Camp. It was about 6 a.m. and still pitch black. The thought that Trident might be lurking in the waters to my left filled me with a deep sense of evil. We set out in procession to the South Gate, led by a group of Japanese Buddhists chanting about peace. A few dozen had already gathered, and we began the blockade at 7. There was very little police presence, since a decision had apparently been made to focus efforts on the North Gate.

As reports began to come in by mobile of arrests at the North Gate, a group of us trekked around in the rain. The sky began to lighten, and I got my first proper view of the loch – beautiful in contrast to the razor wire and rectangular buildings of the base. A long tail- back of stationary cars had already developed.

The police had almost cleared a pathway through as we arrived. I sat down against the gate to fill a gap, but was quickly pushed to the side by officers. Once contact had been made with the gateway, a yellow wedge of police pushed back the protestors, the gate rolled open and to our dismay cars began to enter. Only a few entangled clusters of lock-ons remained, and the police quickly removed them.

I hurried back to the South Gate with a friend to return a camera we were looking after so that we would be able to attempt an action, since we were disappointed that the blockade had been broken. Back at the North Gate at about 10 a.m., a large group of police departed, and their lines looked weak, particularly as there was a regular flow of people across from one side of the road to the other. Terry Johnson and myself innocently ambled across the road, and then darted between the police lines, linking arms and throwing ourselves down in the gateway.

We were separated and arrested. Terry was carted off in a van to Glasgow, and I was shocked to see myself led into the base itself. We drove past the Trident dock, and although I couldn’t see a submarine, I was sick to be this near to it. This was my first arrest and I was unsure of the procedure and a little nervous. The police were

individually quite good natured, and I worked hard to be polite and respectful. I got the impression that they did not consider guarding Trident to be the most rewarding of placements.

They took down my details and I was strip searched (though why a peaceful protestor might be thought to be armed is beyond me) and given a white paper body suit to wear (better than wet clothes). The police phoned the TP2000 legal support team who sent a ’well done’ message, and I felt greatly reassured the friendly people knew where I was. The next few hours mainly consisted of a dull white cell. It was broken with occasional requests for information, finger printing and a photo shoot. Eventually I was charged with Breach of the Peace, and invited to say about 10 words in defence, which I gave as “I was acting to prevent the greater crime of nuclear weapons deployment”. I returned to cell and

tried to sleep until released. The worst part was getting back into my

cold wet clothes.

After release I spent a lovely few hours at the Peace Camp in a warm caravan, drying off and gradually finding out what had happened to my friends. I suspect I will be returning in the near future, and in fact talked to people who have been coming to Faslane for 25 years, but I look forward to the day when the only reason to go there will be the beauty of the landscape.

Justin Alexander, member of Wigwam 2000 (Oxford affinity group).

Shadow and Substance

As I am not in the habit of being apprehended by the police I was rather absent-minded about my arrest at Faslane. To sit on the tarmac in a driving drizzle with a crowd of huddled activists seemed the correct thing to do on this sort of occasion. So when two polite men in yellow oilskins asked me to come with them to one of the white vans, this too seemed to be part of the protocol.

I seem to recall being charged – probably with “breach of the peace” – at the van door. After a long chilling queue, and being rather shut off from the world in a woolly hat and two hoods, I wasn’t quite clear what was going on. I do remember smiling automatically for the photograph, remembering my wife’s admonition always to “look natural” in front of cameras.

Hours passed. In the police cell time warped and looped on itself in strange ways. An early alarm call after a night on the Meeting House floor might have explained a slightly detached unreality. At least it was dry – unlike Faslane. After a while I was joined by two colleagues and we talked and slept. I tried some cod meditation and thought of how some of our friends have endured, and risked, far worse. I was let out after about 10 hours’ incarceration in time to catch the plane back to Sussex.

The police were unfailingly polite and helpful, considering the pressures of processing 150 arrestees. I was given an extra blanket and asked whether I had enjoyed the depressing curry-like substance provided for lunch. I couldn’t eat it. They offered toast instead and I asked for jam on it.

It was all a piece of drama really – theatre of the absurd. The scene was well set and rehearsed. I slipped a little uneasily into my part and the police too had their role to play, which they did correctly if not exactly affably.

And that’s the trouble. The detachment. It must be like that for the nuclear planners and executors. They too have their endearing little moments which help to hide the fact that they, too, are personally responsible for what they do. Intelligent and well-adjusted people work routinely with a system which shows no mercy for human frailty. The drama played out by decent people, us and them, with the murkiness and absurdity relieved by moments of hilarity, is a shadow. The substance is Trident, crouched in the loch and primed to launch the end of the world. If it were like the death camps, there, in front of us, happening now, the daft moments and the nice police would be quite irrelevant. The abstract theology of nuclear deterrence would be revealed for what it is – the ultimate evil.

Meanwhile we must play our part, smile a little at the ludicrous aspects of it all, and from time to time remind ourselves, and those responsible for it, of the monster we are nurturing.

George Farebrother, World Court Project.

Heavy Rain with Punch and Judy

When we arrived at Faslane… I walked to the front of the people near the gate, saw Joy sitting in the road. “inviting” others to join her, so I did, sitting on my folding seat on the road. It was raining heavily. There were young people standing on the pavement beside us. We invited them to join us, which they did, with almost no hesitation. So instead of two elderly women sitting on the road we were suddenly a group of about eight!

At this point, about 7.45, the police came over to start to arrest us. We thought we would be taken immediately to a police van out of the rain. We hoped in vain! We then joined a long queue, each with two police (I had a very nice p.c. and w.p.c..). They carried my folding chair and every few steps they would say: ” Sit down now, Peggie.” (They had heard people calling me that.) Because of the pouring rain and wet people being carried by four officers, and the hoods of their anoraks falling on their faces, it was difficult to know who they were, unless they called out their names.

(At the police station) I explained that I suffered from claustrophobia and was put in a cell with a glass front, so I could see everything going on! Then two charming young people arrived – “Babs”, who spent most of the time sleeping – and “Harry” with whom I had really interesting conversations. We were watching the cell opposite – three or four people went in. I noticed something moving in the small round opening at the top. Then to our great amusement a sort of Punch and Judy started, about the size of my middle finger, one white, one green, appearing through an opening at the top of the flap, the white hitting the green. Then fingers appeared, the flap suddenly fell down and heads appeared! They were having a ball in there and the police seemed to think it was funny.

Veteran Campaigner Peggie Preston.

BBC-1 Television One O’clock News – 14th February 2000

Presenter (Anna Ford):

“More than 150 protesters have been arrested as they tried to blockade a nuclear submarine base in Argyll. Hundreds of people took part in the demonstration, at the Faslane naval base on the Clyde, to try and stop work at the complex where Britain’s Trident submarines are based.”

Reporter (Emma Simpson):

“They swamped the entrances to the base, a sit-down protest, the aim: to bring work here to a halt. Police removed them one by one in chaotic scenes which stopped traffic for nearly an hour. Some demonstrators even attached themselves to oil drums to avoid being lifted. Several Scottish MSPs and Euro MPs were among the protesters.”

[film of protesters being arrested]

Chief Superintendent Harry Bunch (Strathclyde Police):

“It’s been largely a peaceful protest. The demonstrators have congregated here, at the North Gate. They have locked on to pipes and lay down in the road. It’s been cleared and, as I say, the number of arrests now totalling approximately 150 to 160.”


“Today’s demonstration follows a ruling last year that the Trident system was illegal. Three women were acquitted of causing criminal damage for breaking into this base after a Sheriff ruled that attempts to disarm Trident were justified.”

Helen Steven (Anti-nuclear protester):

“The UK is breaking international law at the moment by having these weapons here. So we’re here to say it’s got to stop.”

[placard shown on screen: “A threat to kill millions is illegal. ’Trident Ploughshares 2000’.”]


“But the union which represents Faslane civilian staff condemned today’s blockade as a threat to jobs and safety.”

Thanks to Susan and David Scott of The Media Monitoring Service for Peace, Human Rights and the Environment.

AWE Aldermaston: a ludicrously brief description…

The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston has been at the centre of British nuclear weapons production from day one. And from the marches of the 1950s and 1960s to the present day, the site has attracted a fluctuating amount of interest from anti-nuclear campaigners, environmentalists and anti-militarists.

AWE plc (the company), at the Aldermaston site, specifically, is currently responsible for the production, maintenance and (eventual) decommissioning of Britain’s Trident warheads. It is also engaged in developing other areas of nuclear science: including laser technology and materials testing. AWE also retains the capacity for developing a new generation of nuclear weapons, should the British government decide to upgrade/replace Trident at some point in the future.

Aldermaston is owned by the British government, specifically the Ministry of Defence, but since the early 1990s AWE has had “GOCO” status – that is Government Owned – Contractor Operated. This means that while the Ministry owns the site, private companies manage day-to-day operations, and somehow, make a profit. This status also applies to AWE Burghfield – Aldermaston’s sister site, located approximately seven miles away. At Burghfield, high explosives (necessary to detonation) are packed into the warheads (and also removed – for maintenance and in decommissioning).

For the past seven years, the AWEs have been managed by the Hunting-BRAE consortium (Hunting plc, Brown & Root and AEATech). However, Hunting-BRAE’s contract expires on 31 March and the government has chosen a new consortium to manage the site from 1 April 2000. This consortium is comprised of BNFL, Lockheed Martin and Serco. We all know that BNFL’s record in Health and Safety management is not particularly reassuring. Mind you, take a close look at Lockheed and it can make you feel rather queasy.

In terms of waste, AWE Aldermaston is engaged in burning, burying, flushing and storing all grades of radioactive waste. BNFL’s Drigg site and Southampton’s Shanks incinerator have contracts with AWE, for burying and burning respectively. Other waste is deposited into small brooks which flow from the site itself, or through the (now infamous) Pangbourne pipeline, where it is deposited into the Thames. Following an application in 1999 by AWE plc to the Environment Agency – requesting increases in radioactive discharges from both Aldermaston and Burghfield – a lengthy public consultation was carried out which netted around 4000 responses. The outcome of AWE’s application should be determined by the government very soon.

Aldermaston has many unpleasant features, including “hot-spots”, chemical contamination of parts of the site and its environs, and a large store of radioactive waste on-site. Aldermaston is a truly nasty place, never mind being the nerve centre of the Trident programme!

The May Trident Ploughshares camp will take place at Aldermaston, and women from the Aldermaston Women’s Peace Campaign and the Aldermaston Women Trash Trident TP affinity group will be available to answer questions and provide comprehensive briefings on the site and the locality. We hope from the above text you can see how critical it is that anti-nuclear, environmental and anti-militarist activists apply and maintain pressure on Aldermaston (and Burghfield) as part of our continuing resistance to Trident. We look forward to seeing you!

PS. We strongly advise that you hone your supafence/weldmesh climbing/destroying techniques in advance of 19 May – you will need them!

PPS. For any women who get the urge to come and reccy Aldermaston pre-May, AWPC is holding a “Don’t be Fooled” event on April 1st. This is a women-only event and all women are welcome.

PPPS. The Environment Agency has now (bloody typical!) published its report on AWE and can be seen/downloaded (pdf) from their website

Janet Kilburn (Aldermaston Women Trash Trident)

Newbury Magistrates Miss the Point

After mounting a defence similar to that used by the “Trident Three” at Greenock, four members of the Midlands affinity group were found guilty at Newbury Magistrates’ Court on 3rd March. They were charged with causing criminal damage (estimated by the Crown at £1000 + VAT) relating to 13th July last year when they entered AWE Aldermaston. They were defended by Barrister Steven Cottle and Solicitor Gareth Peirce.

The four did not dispute the basic facts referred to in the charge but argued that their action was justified in the light of the illegality of Trident and the need to take urgent action against the war crime it represented. The Stipendiary Magistrate allowed the defence to call expert witnesses. Professor Nick Grief from Bournemouth University gave expert evidence on the applicability of international law to the issue of Trident’s legality. William Peden, International Disarmament Campaigner for Greenpeace, and independent nuclear consultant Dr Frank Barnaby gave evidence on the targeting of Trident missiles and the workings of Britain’s nuclear weapon system.

After a long set of reasoning by the Magistrate, Roger Franklin, Sylvia Boyes, Marlene Yeo and Alison Crane, were found guilty as charged. In brief, the court had not accepted the distinction between Customary and Treaty International Law, and also felt that the dangers were not sufficiently imminent even if international law was relevant.

Each was ordered to pay £541 in costs (£291 compensation and £250

court/legal costs). Alison and Marlene, being of previous good character, were not punished beyond the costs nor was Roger, his previous offences being a long time in the past. Sylvia, as a persistent offender, was fined £100 in addition to the same costs.

The original action and the vigorous defence are an excellent lead-in to increased Trident Ploughshares activity at Aldermaston (and Newbury!).

Thanks to Alison, River and Peter Yeo for trial reports.

Legal Process for Rachel and Rosie Stumbles On

On 1 February 1999, Rachel Wenham and Rosie James boarded HMS Vengeance, Trident nuclear submarine, at Devonshire Dock in Barrow-in-Furness. They caused damage to the submarine’s testing equipment, to an estimated value in excess of £25,000. They eventually came to trial on 25th January this year but the judge declared on the 28th that the trial could not proceed. This was because the Crown made a last-minute delivery of evidence regarding the value of the damage caused, which did not provide the defence with the time necessary to seek an independent assessment.

The prosecution began the case by delivering a new witness statement claiming that the damage was valued at £110,000. They then procrastinated for two and a half days and avoided bringing clear evidence to substantiate their new witness statement. Estimates of the value have ranged from zero to almost one million pounds.

Having been instructed on Thursday afternoon by the Judge to produce the necessary evidence, the trial was halted when it became apparent that the lack of substance and vagueness of prosecution evidence demanded independent assessment. As this would mean a substantial delay, a new jury was deemed necessary.

Six weeks later, there is still no news of when and where the trial will be. Obviously a whole year was not sufficient for the Crown to get its act together.

To offer financial or other support contact or phone 07808 553778.

The Staff of Life

Out of the tempestuous wind and driving rain of Lancaster, one night during the AWTT trial, a tall, dark young man stepped into the kitchen of the Friends’ Meeting House, where some TP2000 folk were lodging. He declined a cup of tea for, he said, he had something to do first. Drawing from his bag a large bowl, wholemeal flour and yeast, he set about making bread. Only as the dough began to rise, liberating an aroma to tempt the gods, did he sit down for his cup of tea. He had come all the way from Liverpool after a day’s work. Demolishing a hot and fragrant loaf with him at midnight was both a sacrament and a celebration – of Support. The sort of Support that is indispensable to the simplest disarmament action as it is to the most sensational one.

Peter Lanyon.

Helen John “Guilty but Justified”

Last September, Helen painted 18-inch-high messages at St Stephen’s Gate, the public entrance to the Palace of Westminster. They read “No star wars”, “Ban trident” and “Ban depleted uranium weapons”.

On 17th December, the jury in Middlesex Crown Court found her guilty but passed a note to the Judge which read: “We are unanimously agreed that the defendant had reasonable cause for her actions.” The Judge took their comment into account and deferred sentence for six months. He gave Helen a discharge conditional on her good behaviour meantime. The jury had asked the Judge if they were able to take international law into account in reaching their verdict. The Judge said no.Tony Benn testified that the British Government, with its repeated flouting of international law, was a threat to democracy. Excellent expert witness was also given by MP Alan Simpson who told the court that it was nigh well impossible to get information out of the MOD, even when large spending on projects was involved.

Devolution Issues Raised

Pamela Smith raised a Devolution Issue to challenge the right of the Crown to charge her with Breach of the Peace.

At a diet of debate on 25th January she represented herself and argued that the charge of breach of the peace is now invalid in that it contravenes the requirement of the European Convention on Human Rights. Any criminal charge must be accurately framed so that it specifies the limits of the criminality involved, and that Breach of the Peace is a clear example of a vague and unspecified charge. She gave instances from past prosecutions of peace activists to show the inconsistency with which the charge was applied. After consideration, but without explanation, JP McPhail rejected her plea. Pamela has appealed to the High Court.

In the Local Heroes case, one of the accused who has Legal Aid is prejudiced because under the new Legal Aid fixed fee rules, her solicitor has only £300 to prepare and present her case. She has the right to put forward exactly the same kind of defence as that was presented at Greenock Sheriff Court, including calling expert witnesses, which is impossible on £300. The Crown has the same unlimited resources at its disposal as it did at Greenock.

This is considered to be an “inequality of arms” and therefore an infringement of ECHR Article 6.1 which guarantees the right to a “Fair Hearing”. This may seem a bit of a diversion from the Trident argument, but in a way is a direct challenge to the Helensburgh District Court which refuses to listen to the International Law arguments put forward at Greenock. The Local Heroes also put the wind up them a bit by having Advocate John Mayer (in full wig and gown) appear for them at the first hearing, which is unheard of at District Court level!

Alan Wilkie also raised a Devolution Issue which was rejected following a Diet of Debate. Alan was arguing that his arrest at Faslane North gate was a breach of his right under the ECHR to demonstrate peacefully.

Lord Advocate’s Reference

When the Trident Three were acquitted at Greenock Sheriff Court, there was no possibility of the Crown appealing. However, the Lord Advocate has made a Reference to the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh.

This means he has posed four questions for five High Court judges to answer. Although these questions don’t refer directly to Greenock, they are clearly designed to try and show that Sheriff Gimblett got it wrong. They ask whether it is OK to lead customary international law in such cases and whether an international law defence justifies damage. We are presently redrafting the questions and the statement of findings and looking at ways of getting them changed.

The good news is that as it’s the Lord Advocate’s Reference, HE pays for it all although there are discussions going on about Angie’s expenses as someone representing herself. The first procedural hearing is on April 4th, although this might be adjourned. The full Reference is expected sometime in late autumn.

Jane Tallents

English Legal Support

You may know that I have offered to take on some of the work of legal support for Trident Ploughshares in England, and have invited people to get in touch with me.

I am Andrew Gray, e-mail

My role is one of networking information and (with others) of advice, rather than intervention. Particularly needed at the moment are readily accessible documentary resources, such as:

  • legal briefings and bust cards

  • notes on court procedures, appeals, etc.
  • defences and statements used in the past (or ideas for the future)
  • notes on verdicts, judgments, trials, comments by CPS, etc.
  • notes on particular laws, charges, case law, legal argument

  • experience of courts, bailiffs, fines, prison, etc.

If you have any of the above, there are two ways of making it available:

(1) send a short summary of what you’ve got to me, with a note of its length and your contact details, and I will advertise you as the accessible source for it (subject to people sending you the postage/copying costs); OR

(2) send a copy to me, to make available to people directly.

Please remember that this is for English, not Scottish, cases (best understood and handled by Jane Tallents). The idea is to make available the list of resources in a variety of places, so that they might be useful both for those planning detailed legal defences and for those nervously approaching court for the first time.

Many thanks to Peter Lanyon for getting this going.

Andrew Gray

US Plowshares Trial on 20th March

Phil Berrigan joined three others (Susan Crane, Revd Steve Kelly S.J., and Elizabeth Walz,) last December 19 in a bid to call America’s attention to the latest Pentagon environmental attack on the Earth and Her creatures. They took hammers to an A-10 Thunderbolt war plane, the “Warthog”, that shoots depleted uranium shells. This has resulted in a kind of low-level nuclear war against Iraq, Serbia and wherever it’s tested (e.g. Viecques, Scotland, Kansas, Maryland, and on bombing ranges contiguous to at least one Native American reservation).

Phil and the others have been in an overcrowded, noisy county jail ever since. Their trial is coming up on March 20 and will be a world-class defence; they will be represented by former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark and will be bringing in Dr Rosalie Bertell, international expert on DU, and Francis Boyle, expert in International Law.

Phil is 76 and has spent many years in prisons and jails. In his honor, can we vigil for a while this March 20? Can we show that we care about his life, that we honor his long years of sacrifice and service to ideals we hold but are too fearful to fight for with his total commitment? The four defendants face 26 years in prison; that amounts to a life sentence for Phil. Please, join others in at least a short vigil in his name on March 20.

We will stand together in our little northern Wisconsin town of Ashland that evening, from 5 p.m.- 6 p.m., with candles and song,to honor a man who has dedicated so much to the battle against global military domination. Kindly send word if you will be doing anything to note Phil’s trial and I will get word to him. He stands as the Hosea, the Amos, the Jeremiah, the Isaiah of our day and his trials have been often and severe. Thank you.

Tom Howard-Hastings. (Contact Laurentian Shield Resources for Nonviolence, e-mail: for a sample hard copy of our monthly newsletter, or for our little catalog of nonviolence materials. Visit us at: