Three Catholic peace activists were found guilty of criminal damage yesterday (Monday) at Hammersmith Magistrates’ Court.
Ray Towey (68) Henrietta Cullinan (50) and Katrina Alton (44) had been charged following their peace witness at the Ministry of Defence during Holy Week 2012.
In a challenge to the UK's nuclear weapons policy, they marked the building with charcoal using the words “Trident Crucifies the Poor” and “Disarm Trident”, and drew simple crosses.
Twenty-five supporters joined the activists for a time of prayer outside the Court today before the three-hour hearing.
Those present said the three offered clear and moving accounts of their peace actions at the Ministry of Defence.
Reports from arresting officers were read out in court which confirmed that there actions had been totally nonviolent and that they had not resisted arrest in any way. While not disputing the fact of their action, they all argued that they had lawful excuse and moral convictions for what they did.
The three explained the relevance of the time and symbols used. Lent, they said, was a time for reflection and repentance at both personal and community levels. Charcoal was an acknowledged symbol of that repentance, used within the Christian faith community.
The protection of life and people was at the heart of their actions, they said, and these were more important than property or buildings.
Their intention in marking the Ministry of Defence building was to engage the Ministry and those who work there in critical reflection on the UK's nuclear defence policy and the Trident programme in particular in order to change it and prevent nuclear weapons from ever being used.
The activists were found guilty and each charged with paying £200 court costs. While the Ministry of Defence had put forward a claim for £400 cleaning costs, the Judge refused this.
The three were given an absolute discharge. All of them made it clear that they could not in conscience pay the court costs.
Their action was supported by the London Catholic Worker, Catholic Peace Action and Pax Christi
Reflecting on the action Katrina Alton said: "We can be charged with 'criminal damage' for using blessed charcoal to proclaim words of truth, when the MOD itself is continuing to perpetuate the use of 'Trident' which is used would result in genocide and environmental catastrophe."
Ray Towey, a missionary doctor who has spent most of the last 20 years in East Africa said: "I have always seen Christian witness against nuclear weapons as a missionary witness and if I risked arrest then I might be able to take the witness also to the courts which give legal protection to these plans for genocide. I do not seek arrest or prison as an end in itself."