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Arms Trade Campaigners who protested a notorious arms fair convicted of aggravated trespass

FOUR protesters who obstructed the road to a notorious arms fair that hosted authoritarian regimes and exhibited illegal weapons were convicted today.

Gary McDonald, 28, Chloe McKirdle, 21, Iain Oliver, 37, and Matthew Watling, 43, were found guilty of aggravated trespass at Stratford magistrates’ court.

They were each fined £200 and ordered to pay £500 prosecution costs.

The quartet attached themselves with lock boxes on Seagull Lane, near the Excel Centre, during the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition last September.

Prosecutor Michael Oatley described DSEI as "one of the largest defence and security shows in the world," which attracted "approximately 30,000 visitors."

But he said the road was also used by "people travelling to other business premises" as well as residential properties.

He added that "there is no evidence that any specific crime has been committed" at DSEI.

Darryl Hutcheon, defending Mr Oliver and Mr McDonald, said the defendants "were not disrupting purely legal activities."

He said there were "illegal kinds of weapons … advertised and sold at the arms fair," as well as weapons which could be used "in violation of international humanitarian law, particularly in Yemen."

He read to the court from a September 2016 select committee report on the use of UK‑manufactured arms in Yemen, which found a 30-fold increase in arms sales to Saudi Arabia after the start of the conflict in Yemen in March 2015.

That showed a "very clear link" between the start of the conflict and increased sales, said Mr Hutcheon.

The court also heard from Lucie Kinchen of Campaign Against Arms Trade, who said: "Between 2005 and 2013, the goods that were on sale at DSEI included illegal torture equipment, including electric shock batons and leg irons as well as cluster munitions, all of which are illegal under UK law."

She added that all breaches of UK law that had been discovered at previous events by "external observers," who had been excluded from attending since 2013.

Simon Natas, defending Ms McKirdle and Mr Watling, said the combination of criminal breaches at previous fairs and the absence of independent observers gave rise to the "irresistible inference" that criminal offences occurred in 2017.

But district judge Jane McIvor said there was "no evidence of criminal offences taking place" and found the four, all of Scotland’s Faslane Peace Camp, guilty of aggravated trespass.

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