A Quaker pensioner from Yorkshire has begun a prison sentence following her nonviolent action against the Trident nuclear weapons system. Sylvia Boyes, 67, from Keighley, is serving fourteen days in New Hall Prison.
The sentence was given by Bingley Magistrates' Court today (3 February) in response to Boyes' refusal to pay fines arising from a series of protests in and around Faslane Naval Base in Scotland during the summer of 2009.
Boyes' actions included painting a rock with the words “Scots! Say No to Trident”, blockading the Coulport nuclear weapons storage facility, and walking in the main gate of Faslane, the homeport of Trident. For these actions she was charged with Malicious Mischief, Breach of the Peace and Aggravated Trespass.
The pensioner's actions were part of the ongoing campaign by Trident Ploughshares, who describe themselves as a network of global citizens committed to bringing about the disarmament of Trident.
"I know that this country’s continued possession of nuclear weapons constitutes a crime against humanity,” insisted Boyes in court.
She pointed out that, “Each Trident warhead with its explosive power of eight times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, would cause immediate death and destruction followed by the long-term horrific effects of radiation, causing cancers, tumours, as well as long term genetic damage to future generations. Britain has around 160 of these warheads.”
Boyes added, “In no way can the causes of very real conflicts be dealt with by the threat of murder and destruction. Nor can our security be maintained by such threats."
The court refused to allow Boyes to give a statement of her reasons for refusing to pay £700 in fines.
But in a statement released by Trident Ploughshares after the sentence, Boyes explained that, “No government can continue policies without the active or silent acceptance of its people. This includes the police and judiciary. So while I accept responsibility for my actions, I am refusing to pay fines as a further act of civil disobedience and am fully aware of the consequences.”
Boyes is the third British peace activist to have been sentenced to prison in less than a month.
Georgina Smith, 81, was jailed for 45 days last week after she refused to pay a £3,000 compensation order for her part in an anti-Trident protest at the Scottish High Court. Chris Cole, a Roman Catholic activist, has just been released from prison after serving half of a 30-day sentence for non-payment of fines following nonviolent direct action outside a conference of arms dealers.