An Innocent Conspiracy?

In mid-January, a jury sitting at Manchester Crown Court found two "Trident Ploughshares" activists not guilty on a charge of conspiracy to commit criminal damage to a nuclear submarine.
Sylvia Boyes (57), a peace campaigner from Keighley in Yorkshire, and River, an Open University tutor from Manchester, had attempted in November 1999 to decommission the Trident submarine "Vengeance" when it was undergoing final pre-operational testing in Barrow docks, Cumbria. They even filmed their attempt and it was later shown on "Everyman".

Sylvia put a defense that "What is morally wrong cannot be politically right", as painted on her banner. As a Trident Ploughshares spokesperson said: "When Sylvia is in the witness box it's really hard to remember that she is the one who is supposed to be on trial. The focus is instead on the criminality of Trident, the nuclear chain, the government leaders who make sure it continues to threaten mass murder and the complacency of the rest of us who shrug our shoulders and refuse to take responsibility."

After both the prosecution and defence had made their cases, the jury spent five hours' deliberation but were unable to reach a unanimous verdict. They were then asked by Judge Rhys Davies to try for a majority verdict which they very quickly did: a full acquittal!

The verdict was greeted with delight by activists. Rachel Wenham, who is herself waiting retrial after disarming the same submarine in February 1999, said: "At long last we have got justice from the English courts. The verdict shows that when ordinary British people are given the chance to decide on Trident and the rights of activists to intervene they are willing to be led by their conscience."

A Trident Ploughshares spokesperson added: "This is a great encouragement to us all and will convince yet more people that they too can have a part to play in getting rid of Trident. There's no doubt that Trident's embattled defenders will be feeling even more unsure of their legal position. The disarming work goes on!"

Trident Ploughshares (01324 880744,
GM & District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (0161 834 8301,

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© Networking Newsletter (Feb 2001)