Campaign Against Depleted Uranium

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Jury backs campaigner's anti-DU graffiti

Helen John, an anti-nuclear campaigner who daubed 'Ban Depleted Uranium' graffiti on the House of Commons was found guilty last December of criminal damage. But the jury handed the judge a note condoning the actions of the 62-year-old former Greenham Common protester.
Judge Blacksell QC, read the note which said 'We are unanimously agreed that the defendant had reasonable cause for her actions'. He told the jurors: You can take it I can understand that ... and will be true to it.
At one point, the jury asked the judge if they could consider international law when delivering their verdict, but were instructed to the contrary. Sentence was deferred sentence for six months.
Helen had daubed 18-inch high messages 'No star wars', 'Ban trident' and 'Ban depleted uranium' at St Stephen's Gate, the public entrance to the Palace of Westminster, early one morning in September. Apparently despite a 4,500 clean up, the ghost of the slogans may remain for a long time - continuing to inform people of the persistent threats these weapons pose.
MP's give evidence
Tony Benn gave evidence to support Ms John during the trial telling the jury he had been misled or kept in the dark on a number of nuclear issues while a government minister. He agreed that action such as hers was sometimes necessary to alert parliament and the public about what was really going on. "I think dissent and protest of a non-violent kind are an integral part of democracy", Mr Benn said. He also testified that the British Government, with its repeated flouting of international law, was a threat to democracy. Excellent expert witness was also given by MP Alan Simpson who told the court that it was well nigh impossible to get information out of the MoD, even when large spending on projects was involved.
Ms John has been a dedicated anti-nuclear campaigner for many years. She set up the Menwith camp five years ago at Menwith Hill, the biggest US spy base in the world, and renamed the base WoMenwith Hill.

"Unusual" verdict

A spokesman for the lord chancellor's department said it was highly unusual for a jury to convict a defendant, then subsequently condone their actions, but he was unable to say whether the case had set a legal precedent.

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From CADU News 3: Winter 1999/2000

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Page last updated: 6th December 2002