Two wins for arms trade activists

IssueAugust - September 2018
News by David Polden

Earlier this summer, Glasgow city council announced that it would not host any more arms fairs and three anti-arms trade protesters in Cardiff were acquitted of trespass outside an arms fair.

In Glasgow, there were protests against the Undersea Defence Technology (UDT) exhibition in Glasgow, sponsored by arms manufacturers BAE Systems and Babcock. Despite the criticism, the Scottish National Party-controlled council defended the UDT arms fair in mid-May, only withdrawing its ‘People Make Glasgow’ logo from the event a week before it took place at the end of June.

The council denied that the UDT conference would discuss the Trident replacement programme (which the SNP opposes). However, an investigation by the CommonSpace online news service uncovered speakers, sessions and student recruitment at the convention all directly linked to the new nuclear weapon system.

As the UDT arms fair closed on 29 June, Glasgow city council declared that it would not host any more arms fairs under its ethical events policy.


Meanwhile, in Cardiff, on 3 July, Catherine Lambert, Imam Sis and another activist had charges against them dropped just before they were due to go on trial for demonstrating outside the Defence Procurement Research Technology Exportability (DPRTE) arms fair in the city on 27 March. (Three other people arrested at DPRTE had signed cautions, which meant instant criminal records but no trial.)

The three had been charged with ‘refusing to leave land’ under section 62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. They were protesting against the sale of arms to Turkey which they believed have been used in attacks on Kurds in Afrin, Syria.

Exhibitors at the DPRTE arms fair included BAE Systems (developing the TF-X stealth fighter jet for Turkey) and Airbus (who make the wings for the A400M multi-role transport aircraft for the Turkish military).

The three activists were acquitted after the judge found that the prosecution had failed to prove they were on private land.

Lawyers from Garden Court Chambers, acting for the three, argued successfully that vital evidence provided by the prosecution at the last minute should be excluded from the case. This led directly to the acquittals.

Your news editor is a bit confused as to the charge in this case. There is an offence under section 62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 of ‘refusing to leave land’ when ordered to do so by a police officer, but it requires quite stringent conditions for it to apply – which almost certainly didn’t apply in this case.

The charge in this case was widely reported as ‘aggravated trespass’, which is also brought in by the act, but in a different section, section 69.

I think the police just made a mistake over the appropriate charge, but if the prosecution failed to prove they were on private land they would have to have been found not guilty of this charge also.

Topics: Arms trade