PEACE WOMEN DEFEAT MINISTRY OF DEFENCE IN FREEDOM TO PROTEST CASE
A Ministry of Defence (MoD) byelaw banning camping ouside the Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston was quashed by the court of appeal today. The case, heard on 26th November 2008, was an appeal in the Judicial Review of the Secretary of State for Defence's decision to introduce byelaws which would have criminalised camping as a form of peaceful protest.
The case brought by Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp(aign) hinged on whether the government’s ban on camping violated their rights to freedom of expression and assembly guaranteed by Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Speaking outside the court after today's judgement, a representative from the Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp said “We welcome today's outcome, which is not only a victory for the women's peace camp but an important judgement on the right to protest. Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp will continue to hold our lawful camp to protest against the government's unlawful nuclear weapons".
Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp(aign) have been camping outside the Atomic Weapons Establishment every month for the last 24 years, in opposition to the manufacture of UK's nuclear weapons. Following the original hearing on 1st February 2008, the court quashed a byelaw outlawing the attaching of banners to the perimeter fence. The MoD chose not to appeal. Today's judgement reverses the original ruling that the ban on camping was justified.
In a unanimous verdict, the Court of Appeal today rejected the Secretary of State for Defence's arguments saying, “Rights worth having are unruly things”. The byelaw prohibiting camping was quashed and the women's peace camp is no longer criminalised. This ruling has an impact beyond AWPC and the Aldermaston nuclear weapons factory. It strengthens the right to protest and legitimises camping as a form of protest.