In May 2007 Phil Pritchard & Toby Olditch, known as the B-52 Two, were acquitted of conspiracy to cause criminal damage. They had broken into RAF Fairford shortly before the invasion of Iraq with the aim of immobilising B-52 bombers to prevent them from bombing Iraq.
The two men were arrested inside the perimeter fences at RAF Fairford in the early morning of 18 March 2003, two days before the bombing of Iraq started. They carried with them tools to damage the planes, nuts and bolts to jam the aircrafts’ engines, pictures of ordinary Iraqi civilians and paint symbolizing blood and oil. They also carried warning signs for attaching to any damaged planes which would help alert aircrew to their action. The two men acted nonviolently in a way which would not result in harm to anyone, including the military personnel at Fairford. They intended to stay with the aircraft and tell the operators what they had done.
The jury at Bristol Crown Court accepted their defence that they were acting to prevent the US Airforce committing war crimes and causing damage to life and property in Iraq. The two argued that their action was reasonable because other means of protest had failed. They were acting to prevent a crime: potential war crimes against Iraqi civilians and to prevent criminal damage to Iraqi property.
The B-52 Two stated that they were nonviolent and accountable, attempting to prevent the deaths of innocent Iraqis in an illegal war. They were careful to ensure that no harm would come to anyone from their action. They maintained that war crimes were committed in the bombing as cluster bombs, which spread unexploded bomblets that kill and maim civilians (like mines) were used, as were ‘bunker busting’ bombs tipped with depleted uranium which broke into fragments, spreading radioactive toxins which are harmful to civilians. During the trial the prosecution accepted that even delaying the bombers would have prevented civilian casualties, as it would have allowed those fleeing cities more time to escape. In his summing up the judge explained the legal tests that must be met for the prosecution to succeed. A document ‘steps to verdict’ had been provided to assist the jury. Toby Olditch commented after the case that he and Pritchard were overjoyed, and thankful for the good sense of the jurors, for the wonderful support they had received, and for the commitment and expertise of their legal representatives. But hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people had still suffered as a result of the Government’s actions. It shouldn’t have come to the point that people had to take direct action to try to check the abuse of executive power. Phil Pritchard stated that he was delighted that the jury had returned a unanimous not-guilty verdict. Their action in trying to prevent illegal attacks on the people of Iraq in 2003 had been vindicated. He hoped that war of this kind never happened again.