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Thursday, October 27, 2016
Lenten protestors guilty over charcoal peace messages
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¬†Dan Martin, Scott Albrecht and Angela Broome were found guilty of the charge 'marking the building without the owner's consent' at Bow Street Magistrates' Court on Monday. They were each charged to pay compensation of £93.00 and court costs of £50.00. In addition, all were given a one-year conditional discharge. The hearing related to their Lenten action at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on 17 March when they marked the building with blessed charcoal with words 'No Trident', 'Choose Life' and 'Trident Robs our Children'. The three, conducting their own defence, argued that they were justified in their actions as they were responding to a criminal state of affairs ie the nuclear war preparations of the government, that they were under duress of circumstance and felt compelled to mark the building and call the workers and the government to desist from nuclear war strategies. On the issue of consent, they argued that their actions were affirmed by their wider faith and peace community and supported by the social teaching of the Church and therefore it was unnecessary to seek the consent of the MoD. The MoD is a public building and, as concerned citizens, informed by discernment and conscience, their actions did not need to be given the approval of the MoD. Pat Gaffney, general secretary of Pax Christi, the International Catholic Peace movement, confirmed that the actions of the defendants at the MoD were consistent with the teaching of the Church and the non-violent practice of believers through the ages. "Especially over the last 30 years, the Church has strongly opposed nuclear weapons and urged its members to promote and work for disarmament," Pat said. Despite efforts by Scott and Dan to raise the issue of the criminality of nuclear weapons, the bench consistently brought the issue back to whether the defendants had the 'owner's ie the MoD's consent. At one point during Pat Gaffney's testimony, the bench made it plain to the defendants that the "MoD is not on trial here, you are". The case was heard the day after the announcement was made from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference that five nuclear powers, including Britain, made an 'unequivocal' commitment to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. Dan Martin said that everyone could take heart at this new commitment taken by our government. Scott Albrecht, in summing up his defence, said if the government takes concrete steps to implement this commitment, actions such as theirs would not be necessary in future. In finding the three guilty, the magistrates said that they had acted in a misguided way and without consent. Asked how they would like to pay the compensation and the costs, all three said that they would not agree to pay. The court has given them 28 days in which to pay.
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