TWO peace activists who broke into a BAE Systems base to damage Typhoon fighter jets destined for Saudi Arabia were found not guilty of criminal damage yesterday.
The Rev Daniel Woodhouse, a Methodist minister from Leeds, and Sam Walton, a Quaker from London, broke into BAE’s site at Walton in Lancashire on January 29. They were stopped before they could damage the aircraft but caused damage when they broke in.
At Burnley magistrates’ court, they argued that their intention was to save innocent lives and prevent war crimes by physically disabling the warplanes.
The jets are being used by Saudi-led forces in attacks on Yemen. More than 10,000 Yemeni people have died, primarily in bombing raids, since Saudi Arabia intervened in 2015 in a civil war between Houthi rebels and the forces of ousted president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Britain has licensed the sale of £3.8 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the bombing began.
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.
“I heard about their belief of BAE’s role in the supply of aircraft to Saudi Arabia, 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.
“I find the defendants not guilty.”
In a joint statement, the defendants said after the case: “The only thing we regret is that we were not able to finish the job.”