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Arms-fair activists ‘not guilty’

21 February 2014

MICHAEL SANDFORD

Unmoved: The protest at the Defence and Security Equipment International arms fair at the ExCeL Centre in East London, in September

Unmoved: The protest at the Defence and Security Equipment International arms fair at the ExCeL Centre in East London, in September

FIVE Christian activists who staged a sit-in at an arms fair last year were all found not guilty earlier this month, after being charged under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994).

Last September, Dan Woodhouse, a Methodist trainee minister, and Chloe Skinner, Chris Wood, James Clayton, and Symon Hill, were arrested at the Defence and Security Equipment International arms fair at the ExCeL Centre in East London. They had blocked an entrance while praying and singing hymns (News, 13 September 2013). 

A judge at Stratford Magistrates Court found all five defendants not guilty, after ruling that they had a "reasonable excuse", because they had not had a clear understanding of the police instructions to move.

"We were given confused and contradictory instructions by police about where we could and couldn't go, and the legal basis for our removal," Mr Hill (pictured, right, centre) said.

After hearing the verdict, Mr Wood said that he was "shocked and relieved. . . Christians of multiple and various denominations have united beside us in affirming out position, recognising that . . .we are speaking out against a system we see as inherently violent and destructive, and contradicting the gospel message of peace and love."

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