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Press Release: Peace-woman to be prosecuted under Anti-Terrorism legislation

fence peace flagJuliet McBride of Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp (AWPC), will appear before Newbury Magistrates Court on 20 and 21 August 2008 charged with trespass on a nuclear licensed site under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA).

Mrs McBride was sitting quietly on a fence holding a rainbow flag with the word "peace" on it, when she was arrested on 10 March 2007. Her action was to draw attention to the new developments at AWE Aldermaston in the week of the parliamentary vote which approved the development of a new generation of nuclear submarines from which to launch Trident missiles. Work on the building of facilities to test, design and build new warheads for the Trident system had, in advance of the vote, already commenced at Aldermaston.

The government brought in s.128 of SOCPA 2005 in order to criminalise trespass on sites designated by the Secretary of State. However, this is the first case in the country to be brought under s.128 as amended by s.12 of the Terrorism Act 2006 which criminalises trespass on a nuclear licensed site. According to the MoD in 2006, the introduction of this "offence will therefore protect the general public's democratic right to protest by ensuring that any such protests are conducted in a safe and controlled environment."

In her defence, Mrs McBride (who despite over 20 years of protest has no previous convictions at Aldermaston) will assert that the prosecution of a peaceful protester under this legislation is disproportionate, and violates the right to freedom of expression.

"Successive governments have shown they are determined to stifle democratic participation in decision-making about Britain's nuclear weapons", said Mrs McBride. " This prosecution is yet another strand in that story..."

She will also challenge the MoD's interpretation of the legislation to apply beyond the boundaries of the Nuclear Licensed Site. During debate on the Terrorism Bill, the Minister who introduced the amendment to SOCPA stated that “there would have to be substantial entry beyond the fence”and that “the individuals concerned would physically have to go beyond the fence”.

Other anti-nuclear and anti-war protesters have been prosecuted under s.128 at Menwith Hill, the US spy-base; Faslane, from where Trident nuclear submarines are deployed and - still awaiting trial - at Lakenheath, from where US nuclear bombs were recently withdrawn.

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For further information contact: Juliet McBride 07841351123 or AWPC on 07887802879

Photograph: Juliet McBride on the fence at Aldermaston with the new Gemini office complex, being built to house some 1500 new staff, in the background

Notes for Editors:
[1] Section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2006 amends the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA), and provides for the offence of criminal trespass at nuclear sites licensed by the Health and Safety Executive, entering into force on 13 April 2006
http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2006/ukpga_20060011_en.pdf
According to an MoD press release (3 April 2006) these sites include the Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston, Atomic Weapons Establishment Burghfield and Her Majesty's Naval Base Devonport.
http://www.gnn.gov.uk/content/detail.asp?ReleaseID=194233&NewsAreaID=2&N...
For previous arrests at other military sites under the SOCPA, see for example, "Helen and Sylvia, the new face of terrorism" (Independent, 6 April 2006) http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/legal/article356033.ece
[2] Hansard, HC Debates, 3 November 2005, Cols 1028-1029