14 January 2013

The Crown Prosecution Service has cleared four Smash EDO protesters of public order charges after finding ‘no realistic prospect of conviction’. The decision came on 3rd January 2013 just weeks before a five day trial was due to begin in Brighton Magistrates Court.

The four were arrested on 16 July 2012 as they sought to carry out a ‘citizens weapons inspection’ of Brighton arms firm EDO MBM Technology Ltd, a subsidiary of giant US owned arms company ITT Exelis Inc (XLS).

A report of the July 2012 action can be found here.

EDO MBM specialise in the design, development and manufacture of military aircraft weapon system components, including bomb racks, arming units and interfaces for bombs, missiles and rockets used by UK, US, NATO, Israel and numerous other human rights abusing regimes around the globe. The firm developed the entire mechanical and electrical interface system for Raytheon Enhanced Paveway II bombs most recently dropped on Mali by French warplanes.

As well as the firm’s active support for ongoing international crimes, such as acts of state terrorism and wars of aggression, which the domestic legal system protects with royal prerogative impunity, we believe its directors to be involved in the domestic crimes of perjury, fraud, illegal exports of weapon system technology and the assistance of war crimes. These are offences for which they can be prosecuted in the UK courts if there were the political will to do so, but the legal system would rather spend its time punishing and imprisoning petty offences of economic crime carried own by the poor trying to deal with the austerity policies of neo-liberalism and bankers bail outs, than holdĀ  war criminals and profiteers to account for far greater evils. Smash EDO has carried out a grass roots direct action campaign to expose the factory’s complicity in atrocities on the streets and in courts of Brighton since 2004, with the ultimate aim of shutting it down or converting it to civilian use.

Six other protesters were also arrested at the attempted weapons inspection, and were held for several hours. These cases were dropped by the police almost immediately, or at first appearance in court by the CPS, due to lack of evidence of any criminal activity.

These other arrests included an alleged breach of bail by a protester, despite the fact she showed officers an official bail notice that proved she was not breaching her conditions, and arrests for obstruction of the highway, even though the highway was already blocked by a massive police mobile steel cordon designed for serious public emergencies. The protesters were prevented from reaching the factory on Home Farm Road, Moulsecoomb, Brighton by the cordon which was used to wall off the factory.

Three different police forces were involved in the chaotic policing of the event. A draconian police order under Section 14 of the Public Order Act specified a deadline for the end of the protest and the site of a designated protest zone. This was authorized several days before by a senior Sussex Police officer on questionable grounds. On the day paper notices of this order were invisible, and in any case police did not even follow the conditions it set out, as protesters were arrested before the deadline had even expired.

Maps and descriptions of where the designated protest zone was were absent or confusing, with the police even forcing protesters away from the area they were being ordered to protest in by the Section 14 notice.

Ten were arrested altogether. The four that were cleared this month had locked themselves to the steel corden before being arrested and taken into custody.

All ten of those arrested were subjected to extreme police bail conditions that prohibited all communication and social contact between them after release from Hollingbury Custody Centre, on penalty of arrest and imprisonment if breached. These conditions were later varied by a court on the grounds that they were unjust.

Solicitor for the defendants Lydia Dagostino, of Kelly’s Solicitors, said:

“In this case we challenged clear abuses of police power over fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly at an entirely peaceful protest action. We may never know the exact reason why the Crown decided they could not win this case so late in the proceedings, but their admission of ‘no realistic possibility of conviction’ suggests a lack of evidence against our clients was a significant factor in their decision not to go on, and opens the question as to why the proceedings were brought in the first place.”

Andrew Beckett for Smash EDO commented

” This is another legal victory for Smash EDO, but the abuses of police power exposed in this case will not be easily forgotten.”

” While Sussex Police have abused their powers for years in this way, as a means of obstructing legitimate acts of protest by Smash EDO, they have always turned a blind eye to the criminal wrongdoings of EDO MBM Technology Ltd and its parent ITT Exelis Inc. These crimes include perjury, illegal arms exports, fraud, and complicity in war crimes by US, UK, and NATO, and Israeli air forces. EDO MBM also continue to assist the UK in arming human rights abusing regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and others in
spite of UK international obligations not to do so.”