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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 May, 2004, 14:24 GMT 15:24 UK
Nuclear protest appeal bid fails
Protest at Faslane Naval base
Faslane is a focus for protests against Trident missiles
Campaigners contesting their convictions for breach of the peace during anti-nuclear demonstrations have had their appeals refused.

Jane Tallents, Margaret Jones, and Gaynor Barrett argued that the charge undermined their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The trio were convicted of the offence for protests at the Scottish Parliament and at the Faslane nuclear base.

Five appeal court judges ruled that their convictions should be upheld.

Had they been successful, the case would have reshaped the definition of one of the most common crimes handled by the Scottish legal system, which, as part of common law, currently has no statutory definition.

In our view the sheriff was entitled to conclude that her conduct was of such a nature as to provoke a reaction of alarm and disturbance among reasonable persons
Appeal judges' ruling
At the start of March, five of Scotland's most senior judges heard the two-day appeal from the members of campaign group Trident Ploughshares.

Ms Tallents, 45, who lives in Helensburgh, was charged with breach of the peace for her part in a protest in the Scottish Parliament in April 2001.

The then Presiding Officer, Sir David Steel, ordered the chamber to be cleared for 10 minutes as Ms Tallents and other protesters shouted slogans, sang, tied herself to a railing and sat down in the aisle refusing to walk while being escorted out by police.

She was convicted of breach of the peace at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in August 2001.

Margaret Scott QC, representing Ms Tallents, told the judges in March that her client's conviction should be quashed because an accused must cause fear and alarm to be guilty of breach of the peace.

Alarming and disturbing

Central to the appeals was a statement by High Court judges in the 2000 case of a protester named Pamela Smith.

In relation to the charge of breach of the peace, they stated: "What is required, therefore, it seems to us, is conduct which does present as genuinely alarming and disturbing, in its context, to any reasonable person."

Giving their ruling at the Appeal Court of the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh, the judges - the Lord Justice General Lord Cullen, Lord MacLean, Lord Macfadyen, Lady Cosgrove and Lord Sutherland - stated: "It is plain...that the question whether certain conduct is genuinely alarming and disturbing depends on the context in which it takes place.

They may rest assured that their judgement will do nothing to deter us from continuing our campaign of direct action against Trident
David Mackenzie
Trident Ploughshares
"In the present case, the conduct of the appellant (Ms Tallents) interrupted and disturbed not only what was being said and heard in the parliament but also the good order which would nave been expected to be observed while a legislature is in session.

"The appellant's conduct was such that it was likely to be persisted in unless there was an intervention by officials or police officers.

"In our view the sheriff was entitled to conclude that her conduct was of such a nature as to provoke a reaction of alarm and disturbance among reasonable persons.

"We consider that this appeal is not well founded."

Common law

Ms Jones, 55, from Bristol, was convicted of breach of the peace and fined 120 during a blockade of Faslane naval base on the Clyde in February 2002.

She and other campaigners were involved in blocking the public road leading to and from the base.

Rejecting her appeal, in a written court decision, the judges said: "If the crime of breach of the peace were to be limited to cases in which there was evidence of actual alarm or annoyance, whether given by the persons who were alarmed or annoyed by others, this would represent an unfortunate and unjustifiable narrowing of the common law."

They also rejected the appeal of Ms Barrett, 25, from Exeter, against a conviction for a blockade of the warhead depot at Coulport in 1999.

David Mackenzie, a member of Trident Ploughshares, reacted angrily to the judgement.

He said: "They said it was important to deter people from disrupting parliament.

"They may rest assured that their judgement will do nothing to deter us from continuing our campaign of direct action against Trident."

Every year about 15,000 people are charged with breach of the peace under Scottish common law.


SEE ALSO:
Breach of peace 'implies fear'
02 Mar 04  |  Scotland
Protest at submarine base
22 Apr 03  |  Scotland
More arrests at anti-Trident demo
12 Feb 02  |  Scotland
Faslane protest sparks 170 arrests
22 Oct 01  |  Scotland


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