On 11 October Phil Pritchard and Toby Olditch - the B52 Two - walked out of Bristol Crown Court after the jury failed to reach a conclusive verdict in their case for conspiracy to damage US warplanes.
This is the second Fairford disarmament case at Bristol to end inconclusively within the space of a few weeks. In September the jury in Margaret Jones and Paul Milling's case - for damage to USAF supply vehicles at the base - also ended with a hung jury. Both sets of defendants are expected to face a retrial during 2007. Phil and Toby's case arises from their action on 18 March 2003 when they entered the Gloucestershire USAF base with the intention of disarming the B52 bombers stationed there during the invasion of Iraq. The planes were used extensively during the aerial bombardment of the country in the early phase of the war.
During the trial the pair argued that their actions were justified and lawful because they were attempting to protect Iraqi property and prevent war crimes, saying it was their belief that the dropping of cluster and depleted uranium bombs was disproportionate. A significant number of the jury evidently concurred.
Speaking after the trial, Phil said “I stand by our decision to try to stop the bombing... I hope the jury will hear our evidence at the next trial and acquit.” So do we.