MANSFIELD: Vicar ‘vindicated’ over drone protest

A Mansfield vicar has been convicted of criminal damage for his part in an anti-drone protest at a Lincolnshire airbase in July.

The Rev Keith Hebden, based at St Mark’s, was one of six protesters who broke into RAF Waddington by cutting through the perimeter fence.

But district Judge John Stobart described the six as ‘dutiful people’, and said it was ‘only with a very heavy heart’ that he had to find them guilty.

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The protesters argued that the use of armed drones, which operate from the base, is a breach of international law and accused the British Government of war crimes, when they appeared before Lincoln Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

The group spent over half an hour walking around the base distributing leaflets and taking photographs as well as planting a ‘peace garden’ before civilian police were called out to arrest them.

Their actions led to the base, home to 13 Squadron which operates the drones, as well as a squadron of AWACS spy plans, being placed on lock down.

District Judge Stobart said: “The defendants are dutiful people who, no doubt through caring for humanity and other people, have formed the view that the use by the British Government and the American Government of drone missiles is the continuation of crimes against humanity because of their remoteness.”

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But the judge said he would welcome the six making appeals against their convictions to give greater clarity on the law.

The defendants were given a six-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £10 compensation to the RAF, and £90 in costs and charges.

Speaking after the hearing, the Rev Hebden told Chad: “I’m absolutely delighted by the result.

“It’s not the best possible news, but it’s wonderful news all the same and I feel completely vindicated.”

Pictured: Rev Hebden taking part in a protest at an arms fair in London.