Faslane 365 – the year-long blockade of the Faslane nuclear weapons base finished on 1 Oct last year. However as the wheels of justice turn so exceedingly slowly, the resulting court cases are still trundling through the district court in Helensburgh.
It’s a good job that of the 1,150 arrests the Procurator Fiscal (PF) chose to take only 75 prosecutions.
Initially the PF, Andrew Miller, instructed the police to hold people overnight so that he could decide whether to bring them to court when he saw the reports the next day.
As the majority of people were then released with a warning that if they returned they might be prosecuted, it was clearly designed to punish blockaders with a night in custody without the cost and inconvenience of having us all in court.
However, some people saw that warning as an invitation, and returned again and again to the gates of Faslane.
The first trials were not heard until April 07 and we have around eight cases yet to finish. 11 cases have been dropped for a variety of reasons. 18 people were found not guilty, mostly due to hopeless Crown evidence, lack of identification, etc. – although some were as a result of good legal argument.
Of the 31 people so far convicted of “breach of the peace”, 18 have been “admonished” (no fine, but recorded as a conviction) and 13 have been fined (£53–£500).
Throughout the last year one of the most frustrating features of “breach of the peace” trials has been the refusal of the courts to hear any of the reasons why we were there.
Why we were there
After years of Trident Ploughshares cases, they are unwilling to listen to any more international law. But “breach of the peace” is defined in Scotland as causing fear and alarm to any reasonable person or seriously disturbing the community. It has to be considered in its context.
Every time someone starts to explain that context, the PF jumps up and objects, and regularly the justice agrees and tells people to stick to the facts.
In spite of this, the politics and the passion of opposing Trident creeps into the courtroom and declares itself loudly time and again.
There are two other very special F365 cases which should be mentioned. Three women appeared at Dumbarton Sheriff Court in March for climbing over the fence as part of the SOCPA block. (When you get into Faslane, the intruder alarm goes off and all the gates are closed).
Although Tansy was convicted of breaching SOCPA, and Emma with aiding and abetting her, they were both admonished.
And, in October last year, Edinburgh Sheriff Court found Helen John and Georgina Smith guilty of painting a very large number of messages on the walls of the High Court in Edinburgh -they’d been furious at the dismissive way they were released with a letter after a night in the cells. Helen served 40 days in jail and Georgina 45. The court are still trying to collect the £1,500 compensation from them.