TP Three Go Scot Free
Ploughshares women force another extraordinary court precedent
Squall Download 2, Dec-1999/Jan-2000, pg. 11.
Three women from the Trident Ploughshares 2000 direct action group have established another extraordinary legal precedent after being cleared of causing £80,000 of damage to a Trident nuclear base despite admitting they had done it. “I have heard nothing which would make it seem to me that the accused acted with criminal intent”, summed up the Scottish Sheriff presiding over an extraordinary four and half week trial which ended in October.
Angie Zelter, Ellen Moxley and Bodil Ulla Roder have been held in prison on remand since sabotaging a floating laboratory at Faslane naval base on June 6. The jury at their trial at Greenock Sheriff's Court heard how the three women had thrown computer equipment into Loch Goil before waiting nearly three hours to be arrested by Ministry of Defence Police. The three women successfully argued that they had carried out the act to highlight the fact that the UK was breaking international law with its deployment of nuclear weapons. They cited a ruling issued by the International Court of Justice in 1996 rendering the threat of nuclear weapon usage as illegal.
In a remarkable decision which sets an astonishing new legal precedent, Sheriff Margaret Gimblett ruled that the three women’s action had been carried out was “justified” under international law. Sheriff Gimblett instructed the jury to acquit the women.
This latest case is another triumph of unusual legal precedents achieved by Ploughshares activists. In 1996, Angie Zelter was among the four Seeds of Hope activists (an all female Ploughshares sub-group) acquitted by Liverpool Crown court of causing £1.5 million damage to a BAe Hawk jet fighter bound for Indonesia. Once again despite admitting culpability, they argued that their criminal damage had been perpetrated to prevent the bigger crime of genocide and therefore had full legal justification. To the shock of the legal establishment, both the jury and the judge agreed.
The Ploughshares direct action movement - which spreads its wings across arms sales, nuclear weapons and genetically modified foods - is now one of the UK’s most successful campaign groups. Their open accountability, exhaustive preparation and irrefutable principled arguments are proving too formidable to be obstructed by the usual legal means. Ploughshare activists working under the group’s principles of direct action, are avowedly non-violent, never wear masks and actually wait around to be arrested following actions in the belief that the subsequent legal process will provide further opportunity to get the Government and big business to be accountable for their actions.
Trident Computers Go Overboard in Loch Goil - A first hand account the three women’s action, written by Ellen Moxley whilst on remand in prison, can be found on SQUALL’s Frontline Communique page.
Strident Against Trident - no group has done more to highlight current issues surrounding nuclear arsenals than the stridently active Trident Ploughshares - 2000
Disarming Women - The four ploughshares women recently acquitted for breaking the nose-cone of a Hawk jet fighter were but the tip of a growing movement. Neil Goodwin reviews its history and the implications of the acquittal. Squall 14, Autumn 1996.