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Litton and the Criminal Code

Peter Rosenthal — June 1984

On April 26, 1984, a Crown attorney withdrew a charge of making an explosive substance against the president of the Toronto firm Litton Systems Canada, manufacturers of the guidance system for the cruise missile, On May 5 inspectors at Metropolitan Toronto Police Division 23 rejected the demand by fifty demonstrators that the police investigate the legality of Litton’s production of guidance systems for cruise missiles.

Peter Rosenthal, a professor of mathematics at the University of Toronto, who has represented many of the protestors against Litton in their various trials, sets out the background of these events in the following article.

TORONTO – For several years persons who have committed civil disobedience at the Litton plant have raised the issue of Litton’s criminality as a defense to their own charges. That is, they have argued that their actions were justified on the grounds that they were an attempt to stop Litton from committing a much more serious offense.

No judge has acquitted a demonstrator on these grounds, although no judge of Crown attorney has indicated why such a defense does not apply.

(In the U.S. the situation is quite different. The Plowshares Eight recently, won a new trial on the grounds that their justification defense had not been given a reasonable hearing at their original trial.)

Several judges have suggested, however, that it might be appropriate to charge Litton with an offense under section 79 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Section 79 of the Criminal Code of Canada states that it is an offense if one “makes or ~

substance with intent thereby… to enable another person to endanger life.

Section 2 of the Code says that “explosive substance” includes “anything, or any part thereof, used or intended to be used … or to aid or to aid in causing an explosion in or with an explosive substance.”

Clearly, in my view and in the view ‘of other peace activists, a guidance system for a nuclear armed cruise missile is an explosive substance within the meaning of the Criminal Code, and it can certainly be argued that cruise missiles enable the U.S. military to endanger life. Therefore it seems that Litton and its senior executives should be charged with, and convicted of, violating the criminal law.

Although it is possible that Litton has some special exemption from the provisions. of this law, no such authorisation has been revealed, in spite of extensive investigations.

On October 25, ’1982, a charge was laid against Litton under Section 79, but the Justice of the Peace who received it said he would not proceed further.

When asked why, this justice of the peace said that he required further evidence to proceed. When asked what evidence might help he said; “Bring me a guidance system.” When asked for a more serious response, he said he would get back to us. We’re still waiting.

In 1983 another attempt was made to lay a charge. This time the justice of the peace refused to accept the charge on the grounds that the informant “did not hold a bona fide belief that Litton was violating the law.

On March 30, 1984 two members of the Women’s Action Collective laid an information (ie. laid a charge) in front of Justice of the Peace Bernard Gottlieb. Gottlieb also said that he wanted more evidence, but he agreed to hold a hearing in August to give the informants an opportunity to present further evidence and argument.

On April 26, assistant Crown attorney Norman Matusiak conducted an extraordinary procedure. Without ‘telling the informant, he brought the information on which the March 30 charge was based in front of a Judge and withdrew the charge. He said he was withdrawing the charge because “the only device manufactured at Litton Systems Canada is an inertial guidance system of the same type used in 747s, DC-10s…and many other general aircraft.”

This statement of Matusiak’s is patently false. As is well known, the essence of the cruise missile, the thing that makes it special, it the LN-35 manufactured by Litton. According to .Litton’s own brochures (which the informant would have been happy to supply to the Court), this part “brings the missile into terminal on-target attack” and “issues warheads arming command.”

Matusiak claimed that he was unaware of Justice of the Peace Gottlieb’s intention to hold further hearings when he withdrew, the charge. Lawyers are considering what should be done in response to Matusiak’s unprecedented manoeuvre, but it doesn’t really matter. A charge that is withdrawn can be re-laid at any time. (Should Litton ever be tried and acquitted they could not be re-charged.)

On May 5, 1984 the Women’s Action Collective and the Cruise Missile Conversion Project organized a demonstration at Police Division 23, the division responsible for Litton., to demand that the police investigate the legality of Litton’s production of guidance systems.

Such an action would be normal police procedure when anyone reports an alleged crime. Normal procedure was not followed in this case, however. The police said that they needed “evidence that Litton built parts for cruise missiles.” .

The police know, as we all do, that Litton produces such parts. They could easily obtain compelling evidence. The standard procedure would be for them to get a search warrant, enter Litton’s premises, and seize some guidance systems. They could then call expert witnesses to identify the seized parts as parts of the cruise missile, and to prove the offensive nature of the missile.

Instead of doing this, the police said with winks and smiles, “we need proof that Litton makes such parts.” The demonstrators’ spokespeople then produced a photocopy of a Litton brochure, to which the police replied “we would need the original.” (The police were later informed that the original could be produced by somebody present, to which they responded that they did not want to discuss the matter any further.)

It appears that the police, the Crown attorneys, and the Justices of the Peace are toying with the protestors. It seems clear that the authorities will not stop production of the parts for cruise missiles unless we force them to, hot by clever legal arguments but by public pressure. Nonetheless it may be sensible to continue to press for charges against Litton as part of the campaign to build such pressure.