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First trials for London arms fair protestors end with conviction

Judgment in the first of two trials in a series of court cases involving demonstrations against the DSEI arms fair was delivered today (12 January 2018) at Stratford Magistrates Court with 5 of the 6 protestors found guilty of Obstruction of a Highway.

More than 100 people were arrested in September 2017 outside the Excel Centre in east London, during the DSEI (Defence & Security Equipment International) arms fair, which takes place every two years. Likely the largest event in the world, the fair attracts international arms dealers from countries including Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and UAE.

Opponents to the arms fair have pointed out that exhibitors have previously been found to be promoting unlawful weapons, specifically in 2007, 2011 and 2013. These breaches were discovered by external bodies such as Amnesty International and other NGOs. Since 2015, DSEI has banned such organisations from the fair.

Opponents also point out that some of the world’s most repressive regimes buy weapons at DSEI. Saudi Arabia, for example, is accused of committing breaches of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity in Yemen, with the aid of weapons purchased from UK companies. Arms sales to Saudi Arabia have increased by nearly 500 per cent since the start of the war in Yemen, with more than £4.6bn worth of arms sold within the first two years of bombings.

In 2016, the Joint Select Committee on Arms Export Control recommended all sales of UK weapons to Saudi Arabia should be suspended until an independent inquiry into alleged breaches of international law in Yemen has been completed.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said in the past that he is “opposed to London being used as a market place for the trade of weapons to those countries that contribute to human rights abuses”.

Charges against most of the protestors against the 2017 fair were dropped, but the remaining 46 activists face trial throughout January and February. The first two groups were tried this week.

Raj Chada, a criminal defence lawyer at London law firm Hodge Jones & Allen who defended the protestors in court said:

“These protestors are seeking to highlight that the DSEI arms fair continues to be held in London, with the Government’s complicity. They support the Mayor that London’s comments that London should not be the market place for regimes that contribute to human rights abuses.

“The demonstrators were exercising their right to freedom of speech and assembly by means of a ‘sustained, ethical, pacified protest’ to highlight the far-reaching and devastating impact of the arms trade.”

Freya Colvin, another lawyer at the firm, said:

“The demonstrators were exercising their right to freedom of speech and assembly by means of a ‘sustained, ethical, pacified protest’ to highlight the far-reaching and devastating impact of the arms trade.”

Judgment in the second trial is expected at 3pm today.


For further information, please contact Nicola Pearson at Black Letter Communications on 020 3567 1208 or at

Notes for Editors

Hodge Jones and Allen

  • Hodge Jones and Allen is one of the UK’s most progressive law firms, renowned for doing things differently and fighting injustice. Its managing partner is Patrick Allen, recently awarded a lifetime achievement award by Solicitors Journal.
  • For 40 years’ the firm has been at the centre of many of the UK’s landmark legal cases that have changed the lives and rights of many people.
  • The firm’s team of specialists have been operating across: Personal Injury, Medical Negligence, Industrial Disease, Civil Liberties, Criminal Defence, Court of Protection, Dispute Resolution, Employment, Family Law, Military Claims, Serious Fraud, Social Housing, Wills & Probate and Property Disputes.
  • In 2016, the firm launched Hearing their voices – a campaign to raise awareness and build conversations around the issues and the injustices we might all face.