A group of Christians who blocked the entrance to a nuclear weapons factory in a protest against the Trident nuclear deterrent programme have had their convictions overturned.
Five members of the Put Down the Sword campaign group were found guilty of wilful obstruction of the highway after staging a demonstration outside the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) plant in Burghfield, Berkshire on 27 June 2016, which they say was to prevent "a crime against humanity and God."
The protest saw the campaigners using superglue and chains to block the road leading to the entrance of the plant which builds the UK's nuclear warheads. The group also used lock-on tubes with messages including 'Jesus said love your enemies don't bomb them' painted on them as part of the protest.
The defendants - Nina Carter-Brown, Nick Cooper, Angela Ditchfield, Joanna Frew, Alison Parker – were found guilty after a judge rejected their claims they should not be prosecuted due to freedom of religion as they were "following Jesus' example of non-violence" by staging the protest and a conviction would be a breach Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act, which allows people to practise their religion.
During the trial, the group called Oxford University lecturer Father Peter Hunter as a witness to argue that it would be "very reasonable" for a Christian to conclude the AWE plant consisted "a very serious threat to human life and to the environment, one which must be vigorously opposed".
The High Court have now overturned their convictions after Put Down the Sword and fellow activists from the Trident Ploughshares network launched an appeal based on what their protest actually obstructed.
The protesters said they did not block the public from using any roads around Burghfield, and were only blocking entry to the site on a private road, which meant they could not be convicted of wilful obstruction of the highway.
At the High Court, Lord Justice Burnett and Sir Wyn Williams ruled that "the prosecution failed to establish by evidence before the District Judge in the course of that single hearing where the boundary lay" and quashed the convictions.
In a joint statement, the defendants said: "We stand by what we said in court: Trident is an illegal and immoral waste of money, a crime against humanity and God.
"The prosecution said we could just have joined in a prayer vigil to the side of the road, instead of lying in it; we said our consciences wouldn't allow that. We believe prayer is important but sometimes our faith compels us to put our whole bodies in the way of injustice and violence.
"The Bible says religious acts are meaningless unless we also stand up for the poor and needy; we are called to bring a just peace with hope for all. We will continue to seek peace, and to take the consequences of doing so. We welcome the verdict today, but whatever the courts say, we will continue to oppose the evil of nuclear weapons."