The law

IssueDecember 2016 - January 2017
News by David Polden

In October, two women presented anti-nuclear arguments to Reading magistrates’ court, but were convicted for their actions during the June month of direct action at Atomic Weapons Establishment Burghfield.

On 14 October, Mary Millington pleaded not guilty to painting ‘No more deadly convoys’ on the road without permission, and ‘going equipped’ to cause criminal damage. When she was arrested on 28 June, police took two cans of spray paint and bolt croppers from her.

Mary acknowledged the painting the slogan and planning to cut the Burghfield fence, but argued she had a reasonable and legal excuse. She was aiming to draw attention to the dangerous transport of nuclear warheads across the UK, and to try to prevent a greater crime, the use of nuclear weapons.

The magistrates found her guilty of both charges and imposed a conditional discharge, ordering her to pay £200 to West Berkshire district council in compensation.

On 19 October, Helen Swanston used the ‘prevention of crime’ legal defence in her trial for blocking an entrance to AWE Burghfield for two hours on 7 June. Helen was attached to other protesters through tubes secured inside a car. Helen argued that she was attempting prevent the greater crime of the deployment of nuclear weapons, as nuclear warheads are maintained at Burghfield.

Helen also argued that she had intended to obstruct a private ministry of defence road, not a public highway.

The judge acknowledged the sincerity of Helen’s beliefs, but ruled that she had obstructed a public highway, and dismissed her claim to have been acting to prevent a greater crime as he was not satisfied that there was an ‘imminent’ threat that the nuclear weapons were to be used. He gave Helen a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered her to pay £200 in costs.

Topics: Nuclear weapons