Posts Tagged ‘Serious Organised Crime and Police Act’

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 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 SIX: “Dedicated, thoughtful and whatever”

The women begin their first day as convicted serious organised criminals by protesting outside another US Base, this time Fylingdales.  The ironic contrast between verdict and sentence raises questions among fellow campaigners as to the outcome for future arrests under this legislation.  By making trespass onto military bases an ‘act of terrorism’ yet punishing those found guilty with, what is effectively, a slap on the wrist, the message to the peace movement isn’t entirely clear.   Indeed with a growing number of campaigners deliberately seeking to challenge the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, in conjunction with the costs of lengthy court cases, one wonders what the new legislation has achieved; besides uniting protesters young and old to make a stand against their Government.


Find out more about Tansy and Lavinia’s act of protest and the outcome of their own terrorism trial. 

To find out more about Fylingdales please visit the official RAF site

To find out more about Yorkshire CND and their campaigns against Fylingdales please click here

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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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After years of campaigning along with countless arrests, court cases and prison stays, Helen surprises everyone when she reveals her nerves over this particular trial.  With friends and fellow campaigners striving for a way to make the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act inoperable, the responsibility of setting a legal precedent begins to take its toll.  But do they expect too much from her?

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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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Anne Lee is the ‘wise owl’ behind the scenes of those Disarming Grandmothers!  Often in the background, researching and preparing cases, she too has dedicated her life to opposing Menwith Hill Spy Base.  Helen and Sylvia often tap into Anne’s knowledge and together they come up with new ways to present their case and bring their campaign into the public domain.  These three Yorkshire grandmothers represent the brains, the humour and the soul of the peace movement and together they are truly disarming.



Watch Episode 2 & 3 in the Opening Trilogy to find out more about the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, Helen and Sylvia’s act of protest and Menwith Hill Spy Base. 

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Helen and Sylvia’s trial has been adjourned and a hearing takes place to decide what elements of their defence are legitimate to be used in their trial.  But the women and the press appear misled, as the difference between a formal direction and an informal request, means that perhaps nothing, after all, has been decided.  381 days after their arrest it seems the women are no closer to bringing the real issues into a British Court.


Read intial news reports:


Telegraph and Argus

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Almost a year since their arrest, Helen and Sylvia’s trial for terrorism begins.  The consequences of a conviction could result in 51 weeks in prison and/or a £5,000 fine, however, it seems when facing potential incarceration there is always time for a little light relief first!

Their defence argument centres on the legitimacy of choosing the sites which are to be designated under Section 128 of The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA).  By designating sites of nuclear and/or military interest under the act – sites which are likely to attract anti-nuclear, anti-war and environmental campaigners, they argue that freedom of speech and the right of protest is being severely threatened.

In relation to the designation of U.S Spy Base Menwith Hill under the act, they raise the question of whether a British law can and should be used to protect American interests.  With the Judge taking an interest in the designation of sites under SOCPA and how these decisions arise, it seems that these two grandmothers from Yorkshire may be onto something; the question is, are they up to it?


Have a look at press coverage from their trial: from The Telegraph and Argus and BBC Look North – Day 1 & Day 2.

For a greater understanding of their initial act of protest which led to the charge, watch “A terrorist but not a violent terrorist” in the opening trilogy.

To find out what has happened in court previously, please watch “We don’t seem to understand it”.

Read Liberty’s statement on the importance of protest on the news page.


“Peace Protest Grans on Trial” and “Judge Warns US Spy Base Grans” reproduced courtesy of the Telegraph & Argus, Bradford www.telegraphandargus.co.uk

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