Catholic woman jailed after 'prayer for peace'

By staff writers
July 10, 2009
Fr Martin Newell and Susan Clarkson

A Catholic woman was jailed today following her arrest and conviction for breaking into a military base and praying for peace.

Susan Clarkson of the Oxford Catholic Worker was sentenced to 21 days in prison at Oxford Magistrates Court this morning.

She had refused to pay fines of £1,235 for her anti-war protests at Northwood Military HQ in north London.

As two more British soldiers were killed in Afghanistan this morning, making nine this week, Ms Clarkson said in court that her “actions were both for the victims in Afghanistan and the young soldiers sent there” and that she did not want to pay the fine because it some of it would go to the military.

The Magistrates were sympathetic but said they had to follow the rules.

Together with other Catholic Workers, Ms Clarkson was arrested on December 28th 2007 after putting red paint to symbolise the blood of the victims on the sign outside the HQ. A year later on December 29th 2008, she was arrested after entering the base to pray. December 28th is the Catholic Feast of the Holy Innocents.

Clarkson, along with Fr Martin Newell, had previously pled "not guilty". Both had defended themselves on legal, moral and religious grounds. Despite the prosecution admitting that no-one saw the pair entering the base, they agreed that they had cut through the perimeter fence and entered the base to pray for peace. They were found guilty of 'criminal damage'.

In court, they stated that they had cut open the fence to make a "gateway for peace", "to prepare a way for the Lord" and to open up public access to this highly secretive, mostly underground, base where a billion pound building project is going on.

Susan Clarkson lives and works at St Francis CW House, Oxford, with refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and Congo.

Oxford Catholic Worker is part of the international Catholic Worker (CW) movement started by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in New York in 1933. There are now over 150 autonomous CW houses and communities, including three in the UK.

Northwood Military HQ is a major hub for command and control functions of the British armed forces and NATO, including British forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is a 43 acre site in suburban London accommodating over 2,000 military and civilian personnel.

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