By: Dan Bergin
Six protesters who broke into RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, home of Britain’s first unmanned drones base, were found guilty of criminal damage on Monday. But Judge John Stobart described them as “dutiful people” saying he passed the sentence with a “heavy heart” and would welcome an appeal.
Susan Clarkson, Christopher Cole, Henrietta Cullinan, Anglican clergyman Rev Keith Hebden, Catholic priest Fr Martin Newell and Penelope Walker all denied criminal damage to a fence belonging to the RAF on 3 June, International Child Victims of War Day. After getting over a fence they spent more than half an hour walking around the base distributing leaflets and taking photographs as well as planting a fig tree and a vine as symbols of peace. The group were described as polite and non-threatening. RAF Waddington was put on lockdown until the situation was resolved by the arrival of civilian police.
The group argued that the use of unmanned drones was a breach of international law and accused the government of war crimes.
Rev Hebden told the court: “The decision to pilot armed drones from Waddington makes RAF Waddington a war zone. It brings the Afghanistan conflict into this country and it puts ourselves in grave danger. If this country becomes part of a war zone it makes all of our lives less safe. Our intention was to save lives.”
They were ordered to to pay £10 compensation each to the RAF, £75 in costs and a £15 victim surcharge. District Judge Stobart said: “I find, and not without some hesitation, that the lack of proximity or relationship between the defendants and those in Afghanistan who may be either targeted or hit accidentally by these drones is insufficient. I therefore, with a very heavy heart, find all the defendants guilty.”