Missiles challenge shot down

Posted: 10th July 2012

Alarmed residents have lost their High Court battle to prevent surface-to-air missiles being stationed on the roof of a 17-storey residential tower block during the Olympic Games.

A judge ruled that residents at the Fred Wigg Tower, in Leytonstone, east London, did not have an arguable case, despite their concerns that the missile base above their heads could make them the focus of a terrorist attack.

SamThe Ministry of Defence (MoD), security service and police argued that there is ‘no credible threat’ and that the siting of the missiles is both 'legitimate and proportionate'. The block is one of six sites in the capital where missiles, including rapier and high-velocity systems, will be deployed to protect games venues.

The Fred Wigg residents applied for permission to seek judicial review, protesting that the missiles would be a 'disproportionate interference' with their human rights and that they were not consulted fairly and properly over the siting of the ground-based air defence system.

Their lawyers argued that those who wanted to move out should be relocated to hotels by the MoD for the duration of the games or that a gantry should be erected away from the block to take the missile system.

But their challenge was rejected by Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, who said: 'The law and the facts militate against the claim for judicial review. In my judgment the MoD’s voluntary engagement with the community and residents in this matter were immaculate'.

The judge said residents had expressed ‘shock, anxiety and worry’ over the prospect of missiles being stationed at the tower. However, they had been under 'something of a misapprehension' about the nature of the equipment to be deployed and the risks that deployment would entail.

The MoD has described the ground-based air defence systems as 'just one part of a comprehensive, multi-layered air security plan' which would provide 'both reassurance and a powerful deterrent' during the games.

Rejecting the residents' case, the judge said: 'In the result, the claimants are refused permission to apply for judicial review on the grounds that a) their grounds are unarguable in law and in fact and b) the proceedings were not brought promptly.'

He said of the missiles emplacement: 'It is clearly necessary to protect the Olympic Park from potential terrorist attack both from the air and the ground. Previous Olympics have similarly been protected, particularly since 9/11. The 2012 Olympics are potentially a major target.'

He ruled that the various grounds relied on by the residents were 'unarguable', including a complaint that the Secretary of State was in breach of his duty to consult the residents.

'The first duty of Government is to defend the realm and to protect national security, including by protecting the public from terrorist attack.' Military deployments were 'necessary from time to time in a democratic society'.

The judge added that it was 'manifestly obvious' that the missiles' deployment 'is necessary at the current time to protect the Olympics'. The circumstances were 'unprecedented' and the deployment 'is for the legitimate purpose of national security and public safety'.