Camden Green Party chief to stand trial for ‘sitting down in front of a tank’

Tom Franklin, Camden Green Party

Tom Franklin, Camden Green Party - Credit: Archant

The chairman of Camden’s Green Party branch has denied sitting down in front of a tank on its way to an arms fair.

Tom Franklin, 57, pleaded not guilty to a charge of wilfully obstructing the free passage of the machine to the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) fair at the ExCel Centre in September.

Franklin, of Elsworthy Road in Primrose Hill, is accused along with three other protestors of sitting down in the middle of the road in front of a delivery truck transporting the tank.

In front of a packed and colourful public gallery all pleaded not guilty, except Richmond resident Alistair Wedderburn who pleaded guilty in “legal but not emotional” terms to the offence.

A protest by supporters of the defendants took place outside the court on Bow Road before the hearing.

Lawyers for the protestors admit they did block the road, but will seek to justify their actions by exploring whether or not the arms being sold at the fair breached UK laws.

In a statement issued after his arrest in September of this year Franklin claimed he was taking part in a peaceful protest and denied any wrongdoing.

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The statement said: “We were kept hand-cuffed for over an hour, detained at Leyton Police Station and prevented from returning to the conference or any other protest.

“The DSEI is selling death and misery, and as we can see in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and many other places the weapons sold at the fair are used to kill thousands, and create millions of refugees.

“The authorities are complicit in enabling this by preventing us from protesting against it.”

The DSEI attracts more than 30,000 visitors and over 1,500 companies from across the world showcasing their products every two years at the ExCel.

Franklin will appear, along with the others who pleaded not guilty, at a two-day trial at Stratford Magistrates Court starting on February 3 next week.

District Judge Paul Clark also requested that all defendants attend a pre-trial review at Thames Magistrates on November 11.

Wedderburn, 28, of Rothesay Avenue, Richmond, was given a conditional discharge and ordered to pay £150 criminal courts charge, £85 prosecution costs and a £15 victim surcharge.