DSEI ‘not guilty’ verdicts overturned

IssueFebruary - March 2019
News by David Polden

On 22 January, the high court ruled that four Christian peace activists who took action against the DSEI arms fair in September 2017 were actually guilty of highway obstruction at the ExCeL centre in East London.

Chris Cole, Henrietta Cullinan, Jo Frew and Nora Ziegler were all arrested (while locked-on to each other in pairs) on the ‘No Faith in War’ day of action during the run-up to the arms fair. On 7 February 2018, they were found ‘not guilty’ at Stratford magistrates’ court. (PN 2614 – 2615)

The district judge had found that the actions of the four were, in the circumstances, a reasonable exercise of their right to protest and assemble under the Human Rights Act 1998. (Subsequent to this, many others arrested for highway obstruction during the 2017 protests had their cases discontinued.)

The crown prosecution service (CPS) appealed, and the acquittals have now been reversed.

The high court found that ‘the assessment as to proportionality [roughly between the rights of protesters and the rights of road users] by the District Judge was in all the circumstances wrong.’

The high court ordered that ‘the cases will be remitted for the purpose of sentencing’. The four will now probably be fined for their action, and have court costs awarded against them.

This is in contrast to what happened to the activists who had their ‘not guilty’ verdicts at the 2015 DSEI arms fair overturned by the high court. The eight campaigners (from five countries) were told then that they would not be re-tried or face costs. (PN 2608 – 2609)

There were other DSEI 2017 cases that the CPS appealed. The high court refused to overturn the ‘not guilty’ verdicts for the four ‘Quaker Abseilers’ who suspended themselves from a bridge over an ExCeL centre access road. The CPS had appealed too late, the high court found.

Topics: Arms trade