Hutchinson v Newbury Magistrates Court: QBD 9 Oct 2000

The appellant’s conviction for criminal damage to a fence at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston was upheld by the Crown Court; and she appealed by way of case stated to the Divisional Court, maintaining that she had acted in order to halt the production of Trident nuclear warheads at Aldermaston. The threat or use of nuclear weapons was contrary to customary international law as reflected in the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice in the Case Concerning the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons (1996) 110 ILR 161.
Held: No clear rule was established. Had one been found: ‘It is agreed that a rule of international customary law, if it is sufficiently agreed in international law to be such, is translated automatically into English domestic law. The question however is how it should be characterised once it arrives here? Mr Mercer contended, after some hesitation, that the rule that he had formulated was in English law a rule of substantive criminal law, making conduct by the Crown or British Government in contravention of it a criminal act. That is a very striking submission in view of the context of the rule in its terms. I say nothing in passing as to the susceptibility of the Crown to criminal process. It is also in my view impossible to reconcile that contention with the debate Pinochet No 3 which concluded, illuminatingly subject to the specific dissent on this point by Lord Millet, that although state torture had long been an international crime in the highest sense . . . and therefore a crime universally in whatever territory it occurred, it was only with the passing of section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1998 that the English Criminal Courts acquired jurisdiction over ‘international’, that is to say extra-territorial, torture. . . . the unlawfulness of the United Kingdom Governments conduct that is established in English Law by the transformation of the rule of International Law is unlawfulness of a more elusive nature than is to be found in the substantive criminal law. What exactly that nature is was never satisfactorily explained to us, despite the courts efforts to seek elucidation.’
Buxton LJ
[2000] EWHC QB 61, (2000) ILR 499
Criminal Justice Act 1998 198
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedJones and Milling, Olditch and Pritchard, and Richards v Gloucestershire Crown Prosecution Service CACD 21-Jul-2004
The court considered the extent to which the defendants in the proceedings can rely on their beliefs as to the unlawfulness of the United Kingdom’s actions in preparing for, declaring, and waging war in Iraq in 2003 in a defence to a charge of . .
CitedRegina v Jones (Margaret), Regina v Milling and others HL 29-Mar-2006
Domestic Offence requires Domestic Defence
Each defendant sought to raise by way of defence of their otherwise criminal actions, the fact that they were attempting to prevent the commission by the government of the crime of waging an aggressive war in Iraq, and that their acts were . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 04 March 2021; Ref: scu.135705