Tommy Sheridan, the Scottish socialist leader, was cleared yesterday of causing a breach of the peace at a mass demonstration outside the home of Britain's

Trident nuclear submarine.

The 38-year-old Glasgow MSP had pleaded not guilty to the offence at a mass protest at Faslane naval base on the Clyde on October 22 last year.

During his 40-minute trial at Argyll and Bute District Court in Helensburgh he said he felt he had every right to participate in the demonstration, one which he said was described as ''peaceful and friendly'' by police officers and naval base staff afterwards.

Justice of the Peace John MacPhail dismissed the case, telling the court: ''I am not persuaded there is a sufficiency of evidence.''

Speaking after the verdict, Mr Sheridan said: ''What's vital now is the establishment of the right to peaceful protest as is clear in article 11 of the European Court of Human Rights, which has been incorporated into Scottish law.

''Those who regularly attend Faslane naval base to express their opposition to nuclear weapons quite simply have the legal right to do so.''

He added: ''This is the second not guilty verdict I've received and I'll return with others in April next year to again take part in peaceful protests against these weapons of mass


Mr Sheridan was found not guilty of a similar charge at the same court in October last year, a ruling that is being appealed against. He said it was time for police to stop carrying out mass arrests at peaceful demonstrations like the ones he said he was involved in.

He said yesterday's trial had ''struck a blow'' in favour of the right to peaceful protests, adding that anybody serving a jail sentence for a breach of the peace at a peaceful protest in Scotland should be freed as a result of this case.

Jane Tallents, spokeswoman for Trident Ploughshare, said she hoped Mr Sheridan's verdict would encourage more people to take part in demonstrations against nuclear weapons in the UK.