Faslane Peace Campers scapegoated?

IssueJune - July 2018
News by David Polden

On 11 April, four defendants from Faslane Peace Camp were tried for aggravated trespass allegedly committed during last September’s week of action against the DSEI arms fair in London.

Most of the 102 activists arrested during the week of action were charged with highway obstruction. The Faslane four were the only protesters to be charged with aggravated trespass, even though their blockading actions were identical to those of many of the others arrested.

The Faslane four were also treated much more harshly than other defendants. The district judge dismissed as unreasonable the defence’s application for disclosure of material relating to the 2017 arms fair.

The defence presented evidence about past breaches of arms export law at DSEI, but the prosecutor pointed out that no evidence was presented of illegal activity in 2017. This was not surprising as no evidence-gathering was possible in 2017, as no civil society representation was allowed in.

The judge ruled that the only activity being obstructed was the passage of traffic (not the installation of the arms fair). She held that the obstruction was demonstrably unlawful and she found all four defendants guilty. She sentenced them all, including two with no previous convictions, to a £500 fine, £200 in court costs and a £30 victim surcharge: £730 per camper, £2,920 in total.

In contrast, the 10 DSEI 2017 activists who were found guilty of highway obstruction received no fines, just conditional discharges along with court costs and a victim surcharge; totalling either £195 or £200.

The final defendant, Maria Gallastegui, was fined £640 after being found guilty of highway obstruction and interfering with vehicles. The judge commented: ‘This would be a worse country if it were not for people like you’ – cold comfort! Maria intends to appeal her sentence.