On Tuesday 8th September Nikki Clark & Theo Simon were cleared of aggravated trespass at St Levens dock at Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth, where they had disrupted illegal work on Trident Nuclear Weapons system in July last year.
Why were they cleared? because the Crown Prosecution Services case against them had more holes than a colander. Having spent a more than a year being subject to very restricitive bail conditions the two activists had prepared a case against the lawfulness of Trident and the neccessity of their actions which was all heard during the one day trial in Plymouth.
During the trial the court, media & members of the public heard about why Trident is illegal under International Humanitarrean Law, Customary International Law and under the Geneva convention which was adopted into UK domestic law in the early 2000s.
Part of the Geneva convention is the principle of distinction – any weapon or weapons system needs to be able to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants, due to the nature of the Trident weapons system there is no way that a 100 Kiloton warhead can distinguish between combatants and non-combatants (By the way just one Trident submarine is able to carry up to 48 of these individual warheads at any given time).
Both Theo & Nikki have spent a significant number of years trying to raise these issues through every democratic channel available to them, They’ve signed petitions, attended demos, written letters, written songs! They’ve even gone to their local constabulary and asked the police to investigate the crime of nuclear weapons possession.
The high court judge Lord Hoffman in the court of appeal ruling on Regina vs Jones (Monica Jones smashed up British Bombers so that they couldn’t go to Iraq to bomb civilians). Hoffman was scathing about protestors using direct action to affect change and to bring these issues into the court arena insisting that the democratic means available to ordinary people are sufficient and to leave criminal matters to the police to deal with.
So how were the concerns of the large group of people who reported Trident as a crime to the police treated? Were they taken seriously? You would hope so wouldn’t you?
Some of the reporters experiences were that the police didn’t take it very seriously and behaved far differently to when a more ordinary crime is reported, no details or statments were asked for and no crime reference number given.
Over two months later Nikki (who was one of the reporters) still hadn’t heard back from the police. It was at this point in a situation of escalating international tensions, when she was moved to take the actions for which she has just been tried. In fact it took over a year before she got any answers from the police. Did they contact her to communicate the results of their investigation? No. She had to chase them up for a reply.
So what did they have to say? They claimed that the threshold for a state crime had not been met (whatever that means) and that we’ll have to wait until the government uses Trident to find out (retrospectively) if that use was legal.
Talk about shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. At this point we’ll be lucky to have a judiciary to try such a case. At this point, 15 million people will have been incinerated and no doubt some form of retaliatory attack will be well under way.All 8 of our Nuclear so-called power stations would likely be struggling with issues of either losing access to the grid or being targetted by retaliatory attacks themselves. So you can see the problem with waiting for a ruling on the legality of Nuclear weapons until after they’ve been used can’t you?
The Nuremburg trials were unequivocal about the duty of citizens to stop their governments or state actors engaging in war crimes:
“Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience”
Judge Jackson on the Goering case in 1946.
So where next for citizens wishing to rid the country of illegal nuclear weapons? In the one significant ruling in Scotland the Government rushed in the attorney general & scottish procurator fiscal to undermine the ruling that cleared three women of Trident Ploughshares of any wrong-doing when they threw Trident related equipment into Loch Goil
The criminal justice system in this particular so-called democracy are failing thus far to take seriously these concerns.
A campaign is about to be launched to bring private prosecutions against the secretary for defence for posessing these illegal weapons. I wonder if in this context the courts will fare any better in bringing justice to this criminally unjust state?
And just what are the mysterious thresholds for investigating a state crime that the police alluded to in their letters about Trident?
More will be revealed in the fullness for time. For now though we will celebrate that a committed anti-Trident politician has been selected with a land-slide majority to be the new leader of the labour party. At last a political climate is coming in which we can talk about the illegality of Trident and the immorality of Nuclear weapons as a whole.
(Below are some links that you can explore to learn more about these issues)