Appeal against acquittal of ExCeL arms fair protesters refused

Protesters and supporters outside Stratford Magistrates' Court in April

Protesters and supporters outside Stratford Magistrates' Court in April - Credit: Archant

Eight protesters cleared of any wrongdoing for their part in a Docklands arms fair protest will not face a retrial after a judge refused an appeal lodged by the Crown.

The five men and three women were cleared of obstructing the public highway following a week-long trial at Stratford Magistrates’ Court in April.

District Judge Angus Hamilton accepted their defence that they were trying to prevent greater crimes from taking place at the ExCeL-hosted DSEI arms fair last October after they laid in the road or locked onto vehicles to block the passage of tanks and weapons.

This week, the same judge was critical of the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to appeal his verdict.

Mr Hamilton said: “The CPS application repeatedly significantly misrepresents the content of the judgement delivered at the end of the case, and therefore seeks to challenge the decisions reached on wholly erroneous bases.

“The CPS application also muddles factual decisions with decisions of law and it is not open to the CPS to seek to appeal findings of fact.”

Raj Chada is one of the lawyers representing two of the protesters. He said: “From shambles to farce, the CPS has received a slap in the face in its efforts to appeal this decision.

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“It should abandon this application and concentrate on the real wrong-doing at DSEI - weapons that are used to commit heinous crimes throughout the world.”

Giving his verdict after the trial, Mr Hamilton said the court had heard “clear, compelling and largely unchallenged evidence” that illegal arms deals had taken place at every DSEI fair since the event began in 2009.

Expert witnesses gave evidence that illegal weapons of mass destruction and weapons designed for torture had been sold at previous DSEI fairs.

In a joint public statement, the protesters said: “Win or lose, we have throughout remained wholeheartedly at peace with our actions to try and shut down the fair.

“We choose to remain on the side of history that rejects the facilitation of torture and mass indiscriminate killing for corporate profit.

“As ever, our only regret is that we didn’t stop the arms fair. As fresh evidence continues to emerge of the suffering caused by arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other brutal regimes the UK government’s position grows increasingly untenable.”

The DSEI (Defence and Security Equipment International) fair takes place every two years, and is jointly organised by Clarion Events and the UK Government.

Exhibitors include most of the world’s largest arms companies, displaying weapons ranging from rifles to tanks, fighter jets, battleships, missiles, military electronics, surveillance and riot control equipment.