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Lords appeal on horizon

Fairford Five

Five peace activists Margaret Jones, Paul Milling, Phil Pritchard, Toby Olditch, and Josh Richards, have been given leave to appeal to the House of Lords with regards to their various attempts at attempt to disarming USAF equipment at Fairford during early 2003.

Toby and Phil said their action was motivated by the inability of international pressure to prevent the prosecution of an illegal and unjustified war. Olditch and Pritchard entered Fairford with the intention to disabling the bombers’ engines with nuts and bolts, and hammering the fuselage of the planes. On the perimeter fence they posted photos of Gulf War Iraqi victims, labelled “Collateral damage?”, and planted peace poppies. The two activists were, however, arrested before they reached the planes. Margaret Jones and Paul Milling were arrested at the base after disabling more than 30 USAF trucks used for carrying bombs, and tankers which were used for fuelling the planes. In a separate action, Josh Richards was arrested while attempting to reach a plane. All five face criminal damage charges, but chose to make pre-trial legal arguments regarding their legal defences – a process which has taken two years to get this far.

An appealing case

Last July, the Court of Appeal confirmed the activists’ right to argue that they were acting to prevent war crimes, with lawful excuse and out of necessity to protect life and property in Iraq. However, the court ruled that the Crime of Aggression was insufficiently well defined for a court to examine and therefore allowed the defendants to submit two questions to the House of Lords, certifying them as points of law of General Public Importance (see http://www.peacenews.info/ news/article/249). The first question is: Is the crime against peace and/or crime of aggression a “crime” within the meaning of Section 3 of of the Criminal Law Act 1967? The second question is: Is the defense of lawful excuse under S5 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 available to a defendant who acts to protect the property of another abroad from damage that will be caused by the Executive's lawful exercise of prerogative power to wage war? And if so, is the issue justiciable in a criminal trial? A date for the hearing is expected soon.

Topics: Iraq | Trials