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Devonport blockaders’ victory

Five anti-Trident activists acquitted after prosecution fails to make adequate case.

Five defendants arrested at the Devonport blockade in November 2010 went free after appearing before Plymouth magistrates on 9-10 June.

Three Scottish defendants, who had locked-on across the gate to the dock where Trident nuclear submarines are serviced, had been charged with “obstruction of a constable”. The prosecution tried to change this at the hearing to “obstruction of the highway”. The District Judge dismissed the cases because “obstruction of the highway” was a summary offence for which charges had to be laid within six months.

The other two had tried to lock-on under a police van. They were charged with breaching section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986, by not complying with a condition imposed by a senior police officer, through not leaving the road when told to do so.

The judge ruled that questions as to Trident’s legality were irrelevant, so the case hinged on whether the police officer’s order was lawful. The prosecution claimed that it was justified under section 14 to prevent “serious disruption to the life of the community”, but gave little evidence for this claim beyond a police video showing traffic backing-up at lights. The judge found that the prosecution had failed to prove the police officer’s condition was necessary and it was therefore illegal. Ergo, the defendants had not disobeyed a lawful order and were not guilty and were to be awarded costs.

David Polden is PN news editor.