if | 29.06.2002 14:29
Saturday June 29, 2002
Criminal charges against Britain's most dogged peace campaigner who was accused of illegally entering a secret US base have been dropped because the Americans did not want embarrassing evidence to emerge.
Lindis Percy, a 60-year-old health visitor, was held in custody for 11 days in March after spending over an hour inside RAF Croughton, near Northampton. Despite its official name, it is a US air force base used for receiving and transmitting communications from US aircraft, including nuclear bombers. Over 300 US personnel are located at the base, according to the Ministry of Defence.
After she was arrested by MoD police, Ms Percy was charged with aggravated trespass. Her case was due to be heard at Northampton magistrates court this week.
She said yesterday she was furious about the decision. She wanted to seize the opportunity to question US witnesses about activities at the base where a new radome "golf ball" - satellite ground relay station - is being built. She said she also wanted to expose security lapses there.
She said she entered the base to undertake "research". She had no intention of committing any damage.
The crown prosecution service says the charges were dropped because US personnel refused to assert that Ms Percy had caused alarm or distress.
The case raises serious questions about the relations between US personnel and the MoD police at what are nominally RAF, but in reality American, bases in Britain.
The US and the MoD are in creasingly embarrassed by the activities of Ms Percy. She is prevented by injunctions from entering five US bases here, including the large eavesdropping station at Menwith Hill, near Harrogate, North Yorkshire, which will be used in the Bush "son of star wars" missile defence programme.
She is threatened by the MoD with bankruptcy proceedings for failing to pay legal costs of nearly £50,000.