Charges dropped against TPers after CPS blunders

IssueFebruary 2014
News by David Polden

On 10 and 13 January, Reading magistrates court dismissed charges of ‘obstruction of the highway’ against two groups of Trident Ploughshares (TP) activists because of procedural errors by the crown prosecution service (CPS).

On 10 January, Leonna O’Neill, Jamie Watson and Julia Mercer were on trial for their participation in the international Action AWE blockades outside the atomic weapons establishment (AWE) Burghfield on 2 September last year (see PN 2562). Julia Mercer had received a bundle of papers in the post from the CPS as she left home to travel south for the trial – police witness statements about another case.

At the trial, the CPS solicitor revealed she had only just that morning received over five hours’ worth of police videos that she was supposed to watch before the trial. After the defendants discussed their options (including with the duty solicitor), they decided to not agree to the trial proceeding without police evidence.

The judge threw out the charges, and awarded costs to the defendants.

Famous five

On 13 January, charges for highway obstruction against five members of the Muriel Lesters Trident Ploughshares affinity group, who also took part in the 2 September blockades, were also thrown out.

Lyn Bliss, Zelda Jeffers, Myra Garret, Ann Kobayashi and Jean Taylor had nonviolently blocked the Mearings, a ministry of defence (MoD) road to AWE Burghfield, for an hour on 2 September.

They had only received a CPS letter setting out the case against them, and asking if they wanted to call witnesses, on the Saturday before the Monday trial.

Then, at the trial, the CPS sought an adjournment to check whether the Mearings is a public highway, despite the fact that the defence had provided them with photographs, weeks before, showing that the road was a private MoD entrance way, not ‘the highway’.

Judge Vickers did not grant an adjournment. The allegations were dismissed and costs were awarded to the defendants.

Another protester, arrested at the same time, had pleaded guilty earlier, receiving a £50 fine and £20 in costs to pay. Like the five, she had been able to use the hearing to express her view on the illegality and immorality of Trident and the need for nonviolent civil resistance.