Posts Tagged ‘Menwith Hill’

EPISODE THIRTY ONE: “The Illusive Fugitive”

The guilty verdict stands and Helen and Sylvia continue their lives as convicted criminals under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.  When their peace camp is evicted it certainly seems like the end of a chapter but with Sylvia quickly re-offending, the pages ahead are all too familiar and as Helen dodges the bailiffs for unpaid court costs, the future isn’t necessarily bright but instead rebellious as these two veteran peace campaigners continue to work for peace in the only way they know how.


Click here to find out more about Sylvia’s action which led to a new arrest under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act


This is the last episode of Disarming Grandmothers and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Helen and Sylvia for trusting a filmmaker to come into their lives and for showing me a slice of British protest life that I never knew existed.  As a result of Disarming Grandmothers I am years older but hopefully also years wiser!  I strongly doubt that I have enriched your life as much as you’ve enriched mine, so thank you both.

I’d also like to thank those behind the scenes, from Steven Keevil for his unfaltering belief in the project and to all the supporters, family and friends who have donated their time and expertise, photographs and music, re-tweeted, facebooked and blogged the episodes, as well as leaving thoughtful comments on the site.

And finally, if you have taken something away from this series that has in some small way added to your life, I hope that you too will spread the word of these inspiring and extraordinary women who were once tried for terrorism whilst fighting for peace and became two very well known disarming grandmothers, who I can only hope will never fully retire.

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EPISODE THIRTY: “A big fall”

Helen continues with her appeal and is dismayed when her expert witnesses are unable to defend her argument that the interception of communications, carried out by Menwith Hill, is an illegal act.  Helen’s argument, throughout this case, has been that the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act provides a layer of protection to America’s global surveillance outside of war time, which is in breach of our human rights.  But with a lack of approved evidence to back up her claim, it seems that this veteran peace campaigner has finally been defeated.  As Helen and Sylvia leave court for the last time, emotions run high.  Realistically, the enormity of the task at hand was always going to be just out of reach, however, Helen and Sylvia’s courage and determination to try to change a global inequality and an oppressive law, is remarkable; it is undoubtedly the human spirit which held the hidden successes during this trial for justice.

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EPISODE TWENTY NINE: “Nothing to do with safety or security”

Sylvia and Betty attend a Yorkshire CND ‘Breaking the Links’ demonstration outside Menwith Hill.  The women soon discover that they are denied the opportunity to walk freely around the perimeter of the base and finding themselves ‘caged in’ and under close surveillance by the police, tensions rise.  This small group of elderly campaigners is soon outnumbered by the police; a disproportional response which is estimated, by those on the ground, to be 3:1.  Police intimidation during peaceful protest could have severe consequences for society and the future of democracy.  The concern is that if people are deterred from protesting with simply their voice and a placard, will they find new ways to be heard which could warrant such over zealous policing?

Further Information

Read CND’s evidence to the inquiry on human rights issues arising from policing and protest here.

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EPISODE TWENTY EIGHT: “A little landmark”

Helen returns to the British Courts to try to overturn her conviction as a Serious Organised Criminal.  This time, however, there is a key person missing as Sylvia steps aside for fear that another trial would take it’s toll both on her as an individual and her friendship with Helen.  Now a solo activist against the state, Helen begins her new trial optimistic that the Judge shares her concern about the interception of communications.  But with press interest dwindling and the women easily baffled by court proceedings, is it too little too late?

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EPISODE TWENTY FIVE: “Are you the famous Terrorist Granny?”

Helen and Sylvia’s court battle comes to a conclusion… well in the magistrate’s court at least.  With their expert witness being denied the opportunity to provide evidence about Menwith Hill and Helen surprisingly being off her game, the pair leave convicted under Section 128 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.  The punishment for being a serious organised criminal proves negligible with the pair receiving £50 costs and a 3 month conditional discharge.  Hungrier than ever for their chance to air the issues in a public court, Helen quickly talks of an appeal, but is their friendship up to the test?

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EPISODE TWENTY THREE: “Criminally insane… Ordinary People”

A new day brings a new protest at Menwith Hill.  Sylvia and Betty, another close friend and ally, greet the morning traffic into the Spy Base with banners of peace whilst standing strong against an antagonist policeman.  Back at the camp personal tensions run high between Helen and Sylvia, as thoughts turn to the lack of involvement in the peace movement.  Feeling the weight of peace firmly on their shoulders, perhaps it is not surprising that the women aren’t always smiling?

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The prosecution decline the judge’s informal request to provide information about Menwith Hill and details about the designation of sites under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.  With the burden of proof falling heavy on Helen and Sylvia, it is up to these two Yorkshire grandmothers to find expert witnesses to speak on their behalf.  With the prosecution and defence failing to reach deadlines, the women begin to question whether their trial for terrorism will ever be over and if their evidence will be allowed to be heard.


Find out more about Menwith Hill by watching episode 3 in the Opening Trilogy

Find out what happened last time Helen and Sylvia were in court – watch episode 16

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