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London 2012: Olympic missile tenants in terrorist fear

  • 9 July 2012
  • From the section London
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A protester with a banner outside the Royal Courts of Justice
Residents want an injunction preventing the siting of the missiles

Council tenants have argued a plan to place surface-to-air missiles on their tower block during the Olympics could make them a terrorism target.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) rejected the claim, saying missile deployment as part of security measures for the Games was legitimate and proportionate.

Residents of Fred Wigg Tower in Leytonstone, east London, have applied for permission for a judicial review at the High Court.

A judgement is expected on Tuesday.

Top-level decision

The residents' barrister, Marc Willers, said their block could become the "focus of a terrorist attack" to make an "evil statement".

Mr Willers told Mr Justice Haddon-Cave: "It is the unprecedented siting of a military base or missile site in peace time on English soil that brings us to this court."

Of the residents, he said: "They have a fully justified fear that installation or deployment of the missile system on the roof of the Fred Wigg Tower gives rise to the additional risk that the tower itself may become the focus of a terrorist attack.

"That fear is not just genuine and legitimate but justified given the nature of the forthcoming occasion - the Olympic Games - and given the nature of the deployment and the current threat level, which is said to be substantial."

Mr Willers filed documents to the court calling for the residents to be moved out of their homes and compensated during the Olympics if the missiles are set up.

He suggested building a tower or gantry on Wanstead Flats to house the missiles.

Mr Willers also warned that part of the missile falls away when fired, claiming it could drop on to a passer-by or set a building on fire.

The MoD plans to deploy either Rapier or High Velocity missiles at six sites as part of security measures for the London Games.

David Forsdick, appearing on behalf of the MoD, said the decision over where to position the missiles was taken at the "highest levels after rigorous scrutiny".

He said it was signed off by the prime minister, deputy prime minister, home secretary and defence secretary in "defence of the realm".

He rejected the allegation that the block could become a focus of terrorism.

He told the court: "The MoD, intelligence agencies and the Metropolitan Police do not consider there is any credible threat to the Fred Wigg Tower from terrorism."

He said that view was supported by a witness statement from Dr Campbell McCafferty, head of UK counter-terrorism at the MoD.

The judge hearing the application said the case was "urgent" and hopes to give a judgment on Tuesday.

Mr Willers said it was now probably too late for a full consultation process to be ordered.

The residents want an injunction preventing the siting of the missiles until their legal challenge is heard.

About 100 sites were considered as locations for ground missiles

The defence secretary is accused by the local residents' association of breaching Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

These protect an individual's right to a private life and peaceful enjoyment of their home.

But Mr Forsdick said the missile deployment was "legitimate and proportionate", and the MoD was not legally obliged to relocate residents or offer them compensation.

The missiles, including Rapier and High Velocity systems, will be in place from mid-July, the MoD confirmed last week.

The sites and types of systems set to be deployed are:

  • Lexington Building, Fairfield Road, Bow, Tower Hamlets - High Velocity Missiles
  • Fred Wigg Tower, Montague Road Estate, Leytonstone, Waltham Forest - High Velocity Missiles
  • Blackheath Common, Blackheath, Lewisham/Greenwich - Rapier missiles
  • William Girling Reservoir, Lea Valley Reservoir Chain, Enfield - Rapier missiles
  • Oxleas Meadow, Shooters Hill, Greenwich/Woolwich - Rapier missiles
  • Barn Hill, Netherhouse Farm, Epping Forest - Rapier missiles

Plans also include the use of the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, which will be moored on the River Thames.

Map showing the locations of the six sites that will have surface-to-air missiles

RAF Typhoon jets will be stationed at RAF Northolt, and Puma helicopters at a Territorial Army centre in Ilford, east London. The aircraft, which arrived back at the base on Monday, could be scrambled at short notice.

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