(104)  The legality of nuclear weapons (3)

On 30 March 2001 the High Court of Justiciary issued its ruling in Lord Advocate’s Reference No 1 of 2000.  This concerned the 1999 decision of Sheriff Gimblett of Greenock that persons charged with malicious mischief against a barge, moored in Loch Goil and used in connection with the Trident nuclear programme, could be acquitted on the grounds that Trident was illegal in international law (see Nos 68 and 85 below). The sheriff’s ruling was overturned, the court saying that the deployment of Trident missiles as a nuclear deterrent was not illegal as a matter of international law.  (Compare the comment by S C Neff in (2000) 4 Edin LR 74.)  The opinion is also notable for its discussion of the criminal law defences of necessity and justification following the case of Moss v Howdle 1997 SCCR 215 (analysed by M Christie, (1997) 1 Edin LR 479). The opinion can be read on the Scottish courts website, http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk.