Pro-Palestine protesters sentenced for Newcastle roof protest at Israeli owned factory

The Newcastle-based factory was targeted in May.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Pro-Palestine protesters caused £160,000 worth of damage when they climbed onto the roof of an Israeli-owned weapons factory, smashed windows and sprayed it with red paint.

Jay Foster, Craig Smith and Ishaq Aslam, travelled to Newcastle the day before the 24-hour demonstration at the Pearson Engineering site in the city, which is owned by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

The hearing was heard at Newcastle Crown Court. The hearing was heard at Newcastle Crown Court.
The hearing was heard at Newcastle Crown Court.
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The men, two from Scotland, stayed in a Holiday Inn before targeting the factory on May 15, aiming to shut it down and spark conversations about the Israeli-owned business.

Foster, 24, and Smith, 39, mounted the building, covered it in red paint and smashed eight windows.

The court heard £157,116 worth of damage was caused through the protest. The disruption also halted production and staff had to be sent home, costing the company another £121,000.

Around 40 Northumbria Police officers, with back up from the Merseyside force, were deployed, for the "significant policing operation".

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Emma Dowling, prosecuting, told the court: "They remained on the roof for 24 hours before they were removed by specialist officers.

"Red paint was sprayed indiscriminately on the roof and chimney.

"Eight large windows were smashed by Mr Foster using a scaffolding bar.

"All defendants are supporters of Palestine action.

"What is clear is that within five or six hours of being on the roof it had been extensively graffitied."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The court heard the pair ignored police when they attempted to talk them down from the roof.

After they had been brought down, police found a sledge hammer, a smaller hammer, red paint, rucksacks, tins of paint, various food stuffs and a change of clothes.

52-year-old Aslam did not climb the roof but was caught on CCTV with the pair at the hotel.

He also engaged with protesters outside of the factory and supported Smith and Foster by waving a flag.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Aslam was arrested 1.15am in the morning on May 16 while carrying protest leaflets in his car.

Ms Dowling told the court they had "taken as much as they could carry to cause impact," adding, "They did intend to cause high damage and that this was planned, highly planned.

"There was certainly a recklessness."

Aslam, of Langside Road, Glasgow, Scotland, who has two previous convictions for four offences including carrying a knife in 2018, was found guilty of damaging property after an eight day trial.

Foster, of Fairfax Crescent, Halifax, West Yorkshire, who has no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to criminal damage.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Smith, of Leyden Street, Glasgow who has 18 previous convictions for 37 offences in Scotland including theft, breach of the peace, vandalism and attempted house breaking, also pleaded guilty to the same offence.

Judge Sarah Mallett told the men: "I do accept your belief went to the heart of your intentions."

Judge Mallett said all three are "intelligent individuals" and questioned why they did not attend a public protest in the city a day earlier to engage in debate.

The judge added: "The primary purpose, not only purpose, was to take action that would close the factory and cause financial loss to the Israeli government."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Judge Mallett said the right to protest is "central to our core values" but that the central aim of this offending was loss and damage.

The judge said Aslam played a "leading role" in what happened that day and sentenced him to 14 months behind bars.

Smith and Foster were each sentenced to 11 months, suspended for two years, with rehabilitation requirements and unpaid work.

All three were given two-year restraining orders to keep them away from the factory.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Elaena Papamichael, for Aslam, had invited the judge to impose a community order for her client.

She said: "Obviously there is some planning. There is no evidence of high planning before the 14th May, the plans developed and evolved throughout the day.

"An inference that there was an intention to shut the factory is not an inference that there was intent to cause very serious damage.

"It maybe that it's an intention to cause serious damage but not very serious damage.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"He has a staunch anti-violence approach. He is extremely pro-peace."

Katie Spence, for Smith, said that the intention was to "make a stir" but that the planning was "not particularly sophisticated".

She added: "Mr Smith had been with his partner for 12 years when she sadly died very unexpectedly of cancer four years ago."

Mr Aarif Abraham, for Foster, echoed the other defending barristers, adding: "This is not a case of very serious damage.

"Mr Foster was acutely motivated by concern and care of others.

"This was an opportunistic exercise."