The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCAP), as amended by the Terrorism Act 2006, makes trespassing on certain areas of land a criminal offence. A number of critical Ministry of Defence (MOD) sites are covered by this legislation either because they have been specifically designated in the interests of national security, or because they are automatically protected by virtue of being nuclear sites licensed by the Health and Safety Executive.
Each one of the sites listed above is protected by armed security forces against terrorist threat. Each of the sites has seen persistent activity by protestors who by trespassing place themselves at risk of being mistaken as terrorists. It is difficult for security forces protecting MOD sites to make the difference between trespasser and potential terrorist. This requires a split second judgement call, perhaps at times of limited visibility, and puts both the trespasser and member of the security force at risk. By trespassing at these critical sites protestors divert the attention of the security forces from their primary task, which temporarily increases the vulnerability of those sites to terrorist activity. The protection of these sites under SOCAP will, by allowing the security forces to concentrate on their primary task, afford them increased security.
The area at each site where the offence of criminal trespass applies will be marked with signs. Whilst making trespassing a criminal offence will deter protestors from entering key MOD sites, it will not prevent them from protesting at those sites. Criminal trespass will in fact ensure that protests are conducted outside of the site, thus reducing the risk to both protestors and security forces and preventing the activities of protestors being exploited by terrorists. Making trespassing a criminal offence will therefore protect the general public’s democratic right to protest by ensuring that any such protests are conducted in a safe and controlled environment.
It is the intention that all of the sites protected under SOCAP will also be covered by Military Lands Byelaws which provide a lower level of protection against unauthorised trespass and unacceptable activities at military establishments. Byelaws regulate not only access to MOD land, but also the different range of activities that can take place on it. They are flexible and enable the Ministry of Defence to use its land for military purposes safely and without undue interference from the public, and allow the public to have access to the land when it is not being used for a military purpose. The maximum penalty for a byelaw offence is currently a £500 fine. Byelaws thus offer only a limited deterrent, whereas criminal trespass attracts a higher level of fine, (up to £5000) and enables the court to award a custodial sentence of up to 51 weeks (up to one year in Scotland). The Military Lands Byelaws and the SOCAP powers, although capable of being used independently, are mutually supportive and together provide a layered form of legal protection for the Ministry of Defence.
The MOD sites above have been protected. Clicking on a site name will link to a map which is provided only for the purpose of easily identifying the protected area (indicated by a pink wash). The line shown on the map is not necessarily indicative of the actual line of the outer perimeter.