Eight-one year-old Georgina Smith was released yesterday (7 February) from Cornton Vale Women's Prison ten days early after an anonymous benefactor paid the money she had refused to pay.
Smith served thirteen days of the 45-day sentence for refusing to pay £1,500 compensation. A court had ordered her to hand over the money for painting the sandstone wall of the Edinburgh High Court with the words “Genocide” and No More War Crimes” in a protest against Trident on Remembrance Day 2006.
She and a second woman, Helen John, 70 of Keighley in Yorkshire had already served another 45-day sentence for the action.
Upon release Smith said, “I am fine. I’m not a frail old granny. Anti-nuclear people don’t fade away as soon as they are eighty. They go on resisting these beastly weapons."
Smith demonstrated mixed feelings about the person who had anonymously paid the compensation money.
"It was very kind of whoever paid my fine to do so," she said, "But what they don’t realise is that when we do these actions we want to take responsibility for them ourselves, even if that means going to prison".
Smith is one of three British peace activists to go to prison in less than a month. Sylvia Boyes, a Quaker from Yorkshire, is serving a fourteen-day sentence for refusing to pay fines imposed after an anti-nuclear protest. Chris Cole, a Roman Catholic from Oxford, was released last week after a sentence imposed for non-payment of a fine resulting from nonviolent direct action against the arms trade.
Smith's paint job was a protest against the High Court’s "complicity" in the illegal deployment of “genocidal” nuclear weapons. The High Court ruled in the Lord Advocates Reference (2000) that Trident is legal even though the International Court of Justice had ruled in 1996 that the threat and use of nuclear weapons would generally be illegal.
Last year the Scottish Government determined that it is bound by that LAR ruling and that under the Scotland Act it has no power to act on defence issues.
But in January Trident Ploughshares made a submission to the Scottish Government calling on it to demand the removal of Trident from Scotland saying that it has the legal grounds to refuse to aid and abet the UK government in war crimes. The campaign group is currently awaiting a response from the Scottish government.
The painting of the High Court was also in protest against what the women said was unlawful detention of hundreds of protesters without charge for up to 30 hours as part of the year-long Faslane 365 campaign. In that campaign, over a thousand people were arrested for blockading the Faslane Naval Base, homeport of Trident, the UK's nuclear weapons system.
The government continues to deploy Trident submarines, each carrying 48 nuclear warheads. Each Trident warhead is 8-10 times the size of the Hiroshima bomb, the use of which would inevitably kill hundreds of thousands of civilians and cause untold environmental devastation. Trident Ploughshares insist that this is clearly a violation of international humanitarian law.