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DSEI Arms Fair Protest: Nine Acquitted On All Charges On Free Speech Grounds

The decision comes after a four-day trial at Stratford Magistrates’ Court concluded that any conviction would be a disproportionate interference with the clients’ human rights

A four-day trial has come to an end at Stratford Magistrates’ Court whereby nine individuals, known as the DSEI 9, who were arrested for protesting at the Defence and Security Equipment International Arms Fair (DSEI) at ExCel London in September 2021, were acquitted on all counts.

The court found that the protest caused ‘very limited disruption’ with a missile system and an armoured vehicle being delayed for two hours at most. The court acquitted the defendants on the ground that they were exercising their rights to free speech and free assembly under articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, with the court ruling that any conviction in these circumstances would be a disproportionate interference with the clients human rights.

The protestors known as the DSEI 9 consisted of Meredith Dickinson, Yvette Hannon, Lizzy Haughton, Francis Henderson, Joshua Instone, William James, Emily Robinson, James Uzzell & Luke Whiting and were all acquitted on grounds of human rights.

The DSEI Arms Fair, which is backed by the Ministry of Defence, has come under consistent scrutiny in past years with London mayor Sadiq Khan telling the organisers of the fair to “reconsider” where the event is held in the coming years. Claiming the fair was “insulting” to those who had escaped violence and made London their home.

When reacting to the court’s verdict, the DSEI 9 said: “This verdict is a victory for everyone who has resisted the abhorrent global arms trade, and for those engaging in peaceful protest against injustice. The evils of the arms industry continue, and we will always seek to act in solidarity with those suffering under the atrocities it enables. The reality is that corporations and governments should be on trial, not peaceful protesters. Join us in resisting the arms industry.”

Aneka Thirurajah, solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen, defending the DSEI 9 said: “We are delighted that our clients have been vindicated. Rather than prosecute peaceful protestors at DSEI, as they have tried and failed for the last decade, the state should concentrate on ensuring that the arms fair does not return to London. This arms fair has no place in our city. London has always taken the lead in expressing dissent and fighting injustice. Our clients have followed a long and honourable tradition from the suffragettes to the anti-apartheid movement.”