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Peace campaigners charges dropped

PUBLISHED: 05:16 28 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:22 24 February 2010

PEACE campaigners who broke through security fencing at a U.S. airbase and brought flying to a standstill by staging a protest on the main runway have had the charges against them scrapped.

PEACE campaigners who broke through security fencing at a U.S. airbase and brought flying to a standstill by staging a protest on the main runway have had the charges against them scrapped.

Eight of the anti-war protesters who prompted a huge security alert early last month when they got into RAF Mildenhall yesterday agreed to be bound over to keep the peace by magistrates sitting at Bury St Edmunds.

After the 20-minute hearing the campaigners insisted their protest had been a success even thought they had agreed to be bound over for 12 months in the sum of £100 for the charges against them to be withdrawn.

Ian Devine, prosecuting, told the court the eight were in a group of 15 protesters who got into the high-security base on January 5: "Entry was gained through the fencing and the protesters made their way to towards one of the runways.

"Air traffic controllers became aware of their presence with the result that all flights into Mildenhall were suspended for a total time of 22 minutes – flights were due to take place at Mildenhall during that time."

He said military staff and Ministry of Defence police were drafted in to deal with the protesters: "It was generally peaceful and all 15 protesters were arrested and taken to various police stations around the county.

"A banner displayed by at least two of the protesters stated, 'Is oil worth one death?'. The Crown's position is that this case can be dealt with by way of a bind over."

The bench backed the proposal and each of the eight defendants agreed to be bound over to keep the peace for 12 months.

The defendants were Benjamin East, 19, of Cooksbridge, Sussex; Darren French, 29, of Bond Street, Norwich; Jacqueline Honour, 27, of Eade Road, Norwich; Richard Lewis, 25, of Jex Road, Norwich; David Mirzoeff, 25, of Wood Green, Long Stratton; Martha Scott, 27, of Sarah Williman Close, Norwich; Susan Shimwell, 22, of Livingstone Street, Norwich and Rebecca Taylor, 28, of Tooks Common, Ilketshall St Andrew.

East and Mirzoeff were each charged with one count of aggravated trespass. The other six were accused of disrupting activity on the base by trespassing.

After the case, Richard Lewis said the protest had achieved the goals set out by the group of individuals from various Earth First organisations: "The protest disrupted activity at the Mildenhall base in respect of them preparing for war. We disrupted operational military flying.

"We are outraged that Britain is allowing the U.S. to continue to prepare for a war that no-one wants in our countryside."

Susan Shimwell said the eight had each decided their time would be better spent campaigning against the war with Iraq rather than fighting the case against them. She said: "I expect people will continue to protest. There is huge anti-war sentiment coming across at the moment and it's being ignored."

She said the protest showed how easy it was to get on to the base at Mildenhall.

Officials at the base, home to the USAF's 100th Air Refuelling Wing, said security levels had not been increased as a result of the incident.

However, a spokesman stressed: "The 100th Security Forces Squadron members vigilantly patrol and protect the installation. Although the protesters entered the installation by climbing the perimeter fence, all were immediately apprehended."


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