Arms protestors continue court fight

Tom Franklin describes he and his fellow protestors' journey through the courts since their arrest in 2016 at the Defence and Security Equipment International arms fair

Tom Franklin

In 2016, along with eight others, I was arrested at the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair for blocking the public highway in protest at the illegal sales of weapons at the fair, which takes place every other year at the ExCeL Centre in London. The event attracts thousands of peaceful protestors each time it is held, but we were arrested and brought before Stratford Magistrates' court. This is a short update on the situation we find ourselves in at the moment (for background, see Green World 93).

We attended a hearing in April 2016, where we argued that we were attempting to prevent crimes such as the illegal sale of banned arms and that many of the countries invited have a record of crimes against humanity.

The judge accepted our evidence, and said there is clear, credible evidence that criminal wrongdoing had occurred at past DSEI exhibitions and that such criminal activities are not being properly investigated. We were acquitted.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) did not like our defence of preventing crime, though, and decided to appeal, arguing that the judge was wrong in law to allow the defence. The judge turned that down, but the ruling was overturned and the case was allowed to proceed to the High Court in London in May 2017. Some of the key arguments focused on whether we may police society or must leave that to the police, and we should not take direct action.

The CPS also argued, bizarrely, that if the acquittal was allowed to stand we might attack Downing Street. It is difficult to see how one gets from peaceful protest to terrorism.

The High Court has overturned the acquittal, but we will not be retried. We are considering whether to appeal the court's ruling that our defence of preventing crime was insufficient due to the crime we were trying to prevent not being specific enough and too remote in time. Whatever happens, we remain determined to oppose the UK arms trade and its crimes.