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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 50, September 2000

Trident Protesters Successfully Defend Action

Mid-September saw the failure of attempts to prosecute two anti-nuclear protesters on charges of criminal damage against the British nuclear-armed submarine HMS Vengeance. The protesters, Rosie James and Rachel Wenham, were accused of hammering test equipment and spray-painting 'Death Machine' and 'Illegal' on the submarine when it was docked at the Barrow naval shipyard in February 1999. On September 19, they were found not guilty of the spray-painting charge. The following day, the jury was discharged after failing to reach a verdict of the charge of equipment-damage charge. By the end of Friday September 21, the state did not appear to have exercised its right to request a re-trial.

During the trial, the defence claimed that the British Trident strategic nuclear system violated international law and numerous international conventions and declarations to which the United Kingdom was party. Expert witnesses for the defence included Professor Paul Rogers of the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, Rebecca Johnson, Executive Director of the Acronym Institute, and Angie Zelter, acquitted of similar charges in October 1999 (see 'Putting Nuclear Weapons on Trial', Disarmament Diplomacy No. 42, December 1999). Speaking on September 20, Rachel Wenham, argued: "Despite the efforts of the UK Government, this case has shown that the moral conscience of the British people is alive and kicking. An English jury has seen the truth about Britain's nuclear weapons system and has questioned the moral and legal legitimacy of Trident."

Reports: Trident - an ever present threat, Trident Ploughshares http://www.gn.apc.org/tp2000) Press Release, September 15; Trident disarmers not guilty on one charge, Trident Ploughshares Press Release, September 19; Trident jury hung on second charge, Trident Ploughshares Press Release, September 20; Trident protesters may face retrial after non-verdict, The Guardian, September 21.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.