In the second broadly positive result for the anti-arms movement, Quaker activist Sam Walton and Reverend Daniel Woodhouse have been acquitted of any law-breaking over their attempt to break into a BAE facility and disarm Typhoon fighter jets destined for Saudi Arabia.
The pair were found not guilty at Burnley Magistrates Court following their arrest for an action at the BAE Systems’ site in Warton, Lancashire on January 29th where they tried to disable the warplanes, which had Saudi markings painted on them, from being used to support the ongoing bombing of Yemen. Sam and Daniel successfully argued that their intention was to save innocent lives and prevent war crimes, by physically disabling the warplanes.
The two campaigners broke in via a fence on the perimeter of the site, and got within five feet of the warplanes before being stopped by BAE security.
District Judge James Clarke said:
They were impressive and eloquent men who held strong views about what they were doing and what they wanted to achieve. They impressed me as being natural in their delivery and honest throughout their evidence…”
I heard about their belief of BAE’s role in the supply of aircraft to Saudi Arabia. I heard about their beliefs regarding the events in Yemen, that they include the death of civilians and the destruction of civilian property, and the basis for their belief that this amounted to war crimes…
However, having considered in full the defence under sec 5 Criminal Damage Act 1971, I find the defendants not guilty.
Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed £3.8 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, including:
- £2.6 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
- £1.1 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)
- £572,000 worth of ML6 licences (Armoured vehicles, tanks)
In a joint statement Sam and Daniel said:
We did not want to take this action, but were compelled to do so in order to stop the UK government’s complicity in the destruction of Yemen. Thousands of people have been killed in the brutal bombardment, while companies like BAE Systems have profited every step of the way.
This vindication from the Courts is further evidence of the hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy that underpins so much of UK foreign policy. It is time for the government to stop putting arms company profits ahead of human rights. We do not regret taking action, and would do it again in a heartbeat. The only thing we regret is that we were not able to finish the job.
The not guilty verdict follows on from a relatively light sentence imposed on activist Deirdre Murphy, who was found guilty earlier this week of calling in a bomb hoax at the Cardiff Arms Fair in March.
The next major anti-war trial will be on November 10th at Stratford Magistrates Court, dealing with people who were arrested at this year’s DSEI arms convention.