Home | Friday 19th December 2008 | Issue 660
THAT'S THE WAY WE LAKE IT
After two years of delays, postponements and legal nonsense the verdict on the Lakenheath 8 case (See SchNEWS 655) finally came through after a four day trial. After locking themselves to the munitions store of the US airbase at Lakenheath back in 2006 the eight were prosecuted for criminal damage and trespassing - under SOCPA section 128. As a maximum punishment the defendants had been looking at a year in the slammer and a £5000 fine. Yet on Wednesday (17th), in spite of being found guilty on both counts, they walked free on a conditional discharges and were ordered to pay the rather more modest fee of £250 each in court costs.
In a case described by the senior crown prosecutor as ‘very complicated and unprecedented’ the defence based their case on the idea that they were acting legally as they were stopping a war crime – the dropping of cluster bombs - from taking place. They claimed that their attempts to alert the authorities had been ignored and so the only action left open to them was to physically prevent the bombs from being loaded onto the planes. The argument was rejected by the prosecution who said that possession of cluster bombs did not constitute a war crime. It did, however, lead to the admission from the USAF that cluster bombs were present at the base, a triumph of sorts after years of ‘we can neither confirm or deny’ responses.
While defendant Mel Harrison stated the group’s intention to continue to fight against the use of cluster bombs, Cdr Bob Mehal, spokesman for the US Department of Defence stated his group’s intention to continue to use them saying “Use of cluster munitions can result in less collateral damage to civilians and civilian infrastructure than unitary weapons”. As the recorded casualties of cluster bombs are 98% civilian we can only assume the ‘unitary weapons’ he was referring to were the type dropped on Hiroshima. For more see www.easterncnduk.org
* Meanwhile, over in West Yorkshire, veteran peace activist Sylvia Boyes was sentenced to three months in jail after refusing to undertake the 150 hours of ‘community punishment’ she was sentenced to for her part in an action this year at Fylingdales Ballistic Missile Early Warning Station in North Yorkshire (see SchNEWS 539). Alongside fellow activist Erica Wilson, Boyes cut through the base perimeter fence and liberally dispersed red paint, a reference to the bloodshed caused by US foreign policy and it’s ever eager friend, the British government.