Carry on camping

IssueMarch 2009
News by David Polden

On 5 February, the Court of Appeal quashed Ministry of Defence bye-laws banning “camping in tents, caravans, trees or otherwise” near the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire.

The case, brought by the Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp (AWPC), hinged on whether the ban on camping violated rights to freedom of expression and assembly as guaranteed by articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, now part of English law.

In delivering the court’s unanimous verdict, lord justice Laws said: “Rights worth having are unruly things…. Whether or not the AWPC’s cause is wrong-headed or misconceived is neither here not there, and if their activities are inconvenient or tiresome, the Secretary of State’s shoulders are surely broad enough to cope.” There was also no “pressing social need” for the ban.

A member of AWPC commented: “Today’s outcome is not only a victory for the women’s peace camp, but an important judgement on the right to protest. AWPC will continue to hold our lawful camp to protest against the government’s unlawful nuclear weapons.”

On 9 February, the Guardian revealed that the now mainly US-owned nuclear weapons factory (see below right) has been used for US nuclear warhead research, possibly breaching the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.