Skeleton Argument Of Angie Zelter

Plymouth District Magistrates’ Court, 17 May 2002


Hirst and Agu v The Chief Constable of W.Yorks. Police 1986 [85 Cr.App.R.143]

Nagy v Weston 1965

Declaration of St. Petersburg, 1868

Martens Clause, 1899

Hague Conventions, 1907

U.N. Charter, 1945

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

Geneva Conventions, 1949

1957 Geneva Conventions Act

Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions, 1977

1995 Geneva Conventions (Amendments) Act

Nuremberg Principles, 1946

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), 1968 1. I was charged as follows:- ’On Sunday 3rd February 2002 at Plymouth without lawful authority or excuse, wilfully obstructed the free passage along a highway, namely Saltash Road contrary to Section 137(1) of the Highways Act 1980.’ 2. I stated at the time of arrest, which was videoed and also repeated at the time of charge (recorded on my charge sheet), that ’I did have a lawful excuse or reason for sitting in the road. I was trying to prevent a crime. I also pointed out it was a Sunday, there was very little traffic about and the Police were blocking the highway and had been before we arrived.’ I also said the Police ’should arrest the real criminals inside’.

3. In my defence I will be attempting to prove the following:-

i) I had lawful authority or excuse for demonstrating peacefully by sitting at the entrance to Drake Gate in front of a line of police who were blocking a closed gate;

ii) the place I was sitting was not an official highway as defined in the Highways Act 1980 but an entranceway into an establishment that is an essential part of a criminal conspiracy;

iii) even if the Court decides that it was a highway nonetheless the use to which I put this road was reasonable in the circumstances;

iv) I did not obstruct ’the free passage along the highway’ as there was no free passage.

v) I had a human right to try to prevent crime by any reasonable means in the circumstances.

4. I shall refer to the judgement of the Divisional Court in Hirst and Agu (a case arising out of an animal rights protest in January 1985 in Bradford) where the original conviction was quashed because the Crown Court had not considered whether they had ’lawful excuse’ for the obstruction, which is a matter of fact. The case sets out in detail the conditions for a defence of ’lawful authority and excuse’. Lord Glidewell, in talking of Nagy v Weston, says ’It is undoubtedly true … that there must be proof that the user in question was an unreasonable user. Whether or not the user amounting to an obstruction is or is not an unreasonable use of the highway is a question of fact. It depends on all the circumstances, including the length of time the obstruction continues, the place where it occurs, the purpose for which it is done, and, of course, whether it does in fact cause an actual obstruction as opposed to a potential obstruction.’ And Mr Justice Otton, when considering the rights of protest states, ’These are rights which it is in the public interest that individuals should possess; and indeed that they should exercise without impediment ….. It is often the only means by which grievances can be brought to the knowledge of those in authority – at any rate with such impact as to gain a remedy….’ 5. I shall also refer to:-

– The Declaration of St. Petersburg, 1868
because unnecessary suffering would be caused if Trident were ever used;
– The Martens Clause, 1899
because humanity does not remain under the protection and authority of the principles of international law derived from established custom, from the principles of humanity and from the dictates of public conscience whilst Trident is maintained and deployed;
– The Hague Conventions, 1907
because unnecessary suffering would be caused and there would be no guarantee of the inviolability of neutral nations if Trident were ever used;
– The U.N. Charter, 1945
because any use of Trident would not be proportionate;
– The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
because the long-lasting radioactive contamination caused by the production, maintenance, deployment and use of Trident interferes with innocent people’s inherent right to life and health;
– The Geneva Conventions, 1949
(which has been brought directly into UK law through the 1957 Geneva Conventions Act) because protection of the wounded, sick, the infirm, expectant mothers, civilian hospitals and health workers could never be ensured through any actual use of Trident;
– The Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions, 1977
(which have also been directly brought into UK law through the 1995 Geneva Conventions (Amendments) Act) because there would be massive incidental losses of civilian lives and widespread, long-term and severe damage to the environment.through any use of Trident.

Serious violations of these treaties and declarations are defined as criminal acts under the

Nuremberg Principles, 1946
in that Principle 6 defines crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Specifically, Nuremberg Principle VI (a) defines Crimes against Peace as “Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of … a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances … Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned”. Nuremberg Principle VI (b) defines War Crimes as “violations of the laws or customs of war” and Nuremberg Principle VI (c) defines Crimes against Humanity as “murder, extermination … and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population … when … carried on in execution of, or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime”. In addition
The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), 1968
is being violated now, in that the United Kingdom is not fulfilling its obligation to negotiate in good faith a nuclear disarmament.

6. I will also be adopting the arguments presented in the skeleton argument on behalf of Ms. Sue Brackenbury, especially those regarding my European Convention rights.

7. I shall bring evidence to show:-

a) that a demonstration (including the sitting in a part of the entranceway to Drake Gate for a short period of time) against unlawful weapons of mass destruction (which is an issue of immense public and international importance and concern) and against the massive safety, health and environmental risks associated with the nuclear activities at Devonport is inherently lawful and is reasonable in the circumstances;

b) that I did not block any traffic as there was none to block;

c) that there was no free passage to be obstructed as the police had themselves blocked the gate into the ’maintenance of mass destruction base’ quite some time before the demonstration even reached that particular gate;

d) that the part of the road I was sitting on only led into the ’maintenance of mass destruction base of Devonport’ and was not part of the public highway;

d) that we had made it clear to many people that we would obviously move for any emergency vehicles and that the police had informed themselves of Trident Ploughshares actions by visiting and collaborating with MOD and Civilian police at Faslane (the home base of the UK’s illegal weapons of mass destruction) and knew that part of our nonviolence and safety guidelines to all our actions is to allow access to all emergency vehicles;

e) that the context of the protest – the re-fitting of Trident – was an illegal act of such magnitude (enabling the continuing deployment of a war machine that could never distinguish between civilian and military targets) that it was reasonable to draw public and government attention by way of such a demonstration;

f) that I believe the maintenance of Trident and Trident related equipment (eg. the hunter killer subs) is a crime under international and national law and that the proper enforcement of these laws could prevent mass murder;

g) that there are extremely grave safety, health and environmental risks associated with operations at Devonport that are not only of concern to local but also to national and international communities (given the known effects of Chernobyl);

h) that my action and other actions like mine do raise such legitimate public concerns by providing a visible public opposition and breaking the official silence and are an essential part of any democratic process;

i) that my action and other actions like mine lead to the prevention of crime.

8. I shall be calling the following expert witnesses in order to explain

’all the circumstances’
’ the purpose for which’
my action was done:- Professor Paul Rogers of Bradford University – expert on Trident; Dr. Chris Buzby, a chemical physics researcher and low level radiation expert; and Mr. John Large of Large and Associates Consulting Engineers, a nuclear consultant.