Press Release :: For immediate use
Friday, April 30th, 2004
A five-day hearing in the case of activists charged with conspiracy and damage to military equipment at Fairford Air Base before the war on Iraq ended today at Bristol Crown Court. The main question before the hearing was whether the matter of the legality of the war could be examined by the UK courts, as part of the defence in a criminal trial.
Three groups of defendants – Paul Milling and Margaret Jones, Philip Pritchard and Toby Olditch, and Josh Richards, all say they have “lawful excuse” for their actions, because the war on Iraq was itself a crime. For the defence, Vaughan Lowe, Tony Jennings QC, Hugo Charlton and James Lewis QC have argued that their clients believed they were acting to prevent destruction and death in an illegal war.
Mr. Justice Grigson stated yesterday, “The hearing must proceed on the basis I will rule that the legality of the war is simply not justiciable in these courts.” In this provisional ruling, the judge accepted the prosecution’s case that British government foreign and military policy cannot be examined as part of a defence in English courts.
Speaking on behalf of Jones, Milling and Richards, Mr. James Lewis QC argued that the judge’s ruling makes it impossible for his clients to have fair trials.
Lawyers for Pritchard and Olditch are also expected to appeal.
The judge’s full written opinion is likely to be given within the next three weeks, with a “fast-track” appeal by the defence following immediately.
On the first day of the Bristol hearing, the judge agreed to allow unrestricted reporting of the Fairford Five cases by the press, as this is in accord with all five defendants’ wishes, and deemed unlikely to prejudice the conduct of the trials.
Milling and Jones said, when they were bailed after a week on remand last Spring, “We have nothing to be ashamed of. The criminals are in Whitehall and the White House.”
More information: Louise James, solicitor, Stokoe Partnership: 07714-851-043 / (020 8) 558 884
Margaret Jones (defendant) (0117) 94 66 885