Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) welcomes today's acquittal of five of the arms protestors known as the EDO decommissioners who have been on trial at Hove Crown Court on charges of "conspiracy to create criminal damage". The jury accepted their defence of necessity: acting reasonably in the circumstances to prevent a greater evil.
Simon Levin, Tom Woodhead, Ornella Saibene, Bob Nicholls and Harvey Tadman were found not guilty by unanimous verdict. One defendant, Rosa Bellamy, had been earlier discharged due to lack of evidence. The verdicts on the remaining two defendants, Chris Osmond and Elijah James Smith, are expected on Friday, 2 July.
Kaye Stearman, CAAT's spokesperson, said:
We are pleased to see that the actions of these five decommissioners have been seen in their proper context – a heartfelt and genuine protest against a company making weapons for an illegitimate war against civilians. The jury listened to the evidence and to the defence arguments of necessity and came to the conclusion that this was a case of conscience, not conspiracy. We hope that the remaining decommissioners will also be acquitted.
On 17 January 2009, during Israel's attacks on Gaza, six anti-arms trade activists entered weapons factory EDO/ITT in Brighton calling themselves "citizens' decommissioners". ITT/EDO MBM, on Home Farm Road, Brighton, manufactures release clips for F15s and F16s as well as the Paveway system of munitions which were used by the Israeli military against civilians in Gaza. The factory was already the target of the local Smash EDO campaign.
The decommissioners barricaded themselves inside, and proceeded to break computers and other equipment, with the aim of preventing the factory from being able to produce weapons. The decommissioners' actions put an assembly area and machinery used to make bomb release mechanisms out of action. EDO/ITT later estimated the cost of the damage at £250,000.
After the action, nine people were arrested, including the six decommissioners. Four were later released on strict bail conditions. Another was released five months later, after spending time on remand. One person, Elijah Smith, was still imprisoned on remand as the trial was taking place.
Their trial began on 7 June 2010 in Brighton. On 15 June, one of the defendants was acquitted, even before the defence had begun to present their evidence, as there was no evidence that she had known about the decommissioning until after the event.
For further comment please contact CAAT's Press Co-ordinator on 020 7281 0297 or 07990 673 232 or email press.
1. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade together with progressive demilitarisation within arms producing countries. Around 80% of CAAT's funding comes from individual supporters and CAAT is strictly non-violent in all its work.
2. CAAT calls for a complete embargo on all arms exports, imports and transfers to Israel and is a founding member of Stop Arming Israel.