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First Peace Protestors to Challenge New Law

Sarah Cartin | 06.04.2006 14:01 | SOCPA

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament activists Helen John (68) and Sylvia Boyes (62) were arrested at Menwith Hill Spy Base on Saturday 1st April, the day the new Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 came into force.

Both women entered the base through the front gates wearing peace placards and equipped with household tools in anticipation of an opportunity to take non-violent direct action against the spy equipment on the base.

Helen and Sylvia were held in custody at Harrogate Police Station for twelve hours while the Crown Prosecution Service deliberated on whether to prosecute them under the new legislation. The Director of Public Prosecutions decided to defer any decision for two weeks.

Menwith Hill, run by the US National Security Agency is the largest electronic monitoring station in the world. Campaigners oppose its presence on British soil due to its role in US military operations and its unaccountability to local residents and Parliament.

The new legislation now makes it a criminal offence to trespass on designated MoD sites such as Menwith Hill. Any person found guilty of criminal trespass can be fined up to £5000, be jailed for up to 51 weeks in England and Wales, (or up to 12 months in Scotland) or both.

Nobel Peace Prize nominee Helen John, also a founder of the Menwith Hill Women’s Peace Camp said;

“We have to stop the US’s criminal ‘Star Wars’ mission in the UK.”

Sylvia Boyes, member of ‘Grandmothers for Peace said:

“We are the first people to have been arrested under the SOCP Act which now criminalises trespass. The only criminal trespass and serious organised crime that we need to be worried about is taking place inside Menwith Hill.”

Kate Hudson, National Chair of CND said:

"We have long-held historic rights to protest in Britain, which are a crucial part of our democracy. With this recent legislation the government has crossed the line from being a protector of citizens to being a force which prevents the legitimate right to protest. This is absolutely unacceptable and augurs badly for the future of British civil liberties."

Sarah Cartin
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