Big result for pacifist campaigners today as two young peace campaigners, Quaker Sam Walton and Methodist Minister Daniel Woodhouse, were found not guilty today of criminal damage.
Sam Walton and Daniel Woodhouse said they were acting to save lives.
The district judge, James Clarke said: “They were impressive and eloquent men who held strong views about what they were doing and what they wanted to achieve. They impressed me as being natural in their delivery and honest throughout their evidence…I heard about their belief of BAE’s role in the supply of aircraft to Saudi Arabia. I heard about their beliefs regarding the events in Yemen, that they include the death of civilians and the destruction of civilian property, and the basis for their belief that this amounted to war crimes…Having considered in full the defence under sec 5 Criminal Damage Act 1971, I find the defendants not guilty.”
Sam Walton said, “Everyone is a unique and special child of God. We are equal and connected. To destroy a human being is to destroy a part of God.” The court heard that the pair were arrested for trying to disarm Typhoon fighter jets at BAE Systems’ site in Warton, Lancashire on 29 January this year. They were charged with criminal damage.
They made clear they were peaceful protestors. Their supporters stood prayerfully outside Burnley Magistrates Court during the three-day trial.
The men were acting in a personal capacity rather than on behalf of the churches for whom they work. Sam Walton is Peace and Disarmament Programme Manager for Quaker Peace & Social Witness.
In a statement following the case, Paul Parker, the Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain, said, “Quakers in Britain are delighted with this verdict. Sam Walton is a much respected colleague who has worked with us for seven years. Throughout his life he has demonstrated a strong personal commitment to peace.”
“Quakers respect the laws of the state but our first loyalty is to God’s purposes. Quakers in Britain accept the authority of the court,” he continued. “However, as a faith community and historic Peace Church, we will continue to challenge the immorality of the arms trade.”
“Quakers value all human life and view war as failure, he said. “Sam Walton and Daniel Woodhouse were engaged in attempting to highlight the destruction of Yemen through Saudi Arabian bombing. We deplore the continued UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia.”