Call for Security Review at Prestwick after Group Storms Plane

Anti-war demonstrators were able to breach airport security, board U.S. military aircraft


POLICE called for an urgent review of security at Prestwick Airport after anti-war demonstrators were able to board a US military aircraft yesterday to search for US weapons being transported to Israel.

Eight people were arrested in connection with the incident which is being seen as an embarrassing security breach at the Ayrshire airport.

Trident Ploughshares, the anti-nuclear campaign group, boasted about how members managed to cut through a chain link fence "like that used around tennis courts" and how it would have been easy to get on to passenger planes before they boarded a military aircraft.

A spokesman told the Herald: "They just went in and walked on, it was painfully simple. Surprisingly so."

Of those arrested yesterday, three are understood to have got on to the US aircraft. The group claim that one of the protesters was sitting in the pilot's seat reading a manual when he was arrested.

Members of the group also claimed to have got onto the runway on Saturday in preparation for yesterday's "inspection" without being arrested. On Sunday four people were arrested after demonstrators broke through security fencing and got onto the runway.

Strathclyde Police confirmed a further eight people were arrested at the airport yesterday morning and that a number of protesters had been on board a plane.

Two men and a woman were placed in custody after boarding the plane and a further five were arrested at the airport.

The incidents have raised concerns about the level of security at Prestwick and police have called for a full security review.

Assistant chief constable Ian Learmonth said last night: "Strathclyde Police has been working closely with the operator of Glasgow PrestwickAirport for some time on the issue of security at the site.

"These alleged breaches are of concern and further talks were held today between myself and representatives of the airport. We have asked that they undertake a full security review and we will support them by providing expert help.

"The outcome of a review of the policing of UK airports is due to be made public soon and we are awaiting that report to determine the policing requirements at Prestwick and where the cost of that would sit. In the meantime, the discussions with the airport operator are on-going."

John Scott, MSP forAyr, said: "This is a matter of the greatest concern for the safety of the airport."

Chris Ballance, the Greens' South Scotland MSP, added: "This incident highlights significant flaws in security at Prestwick. The fact that protesters can board a plane raises serious questions about the public safety threats posed by US bomb flights landing at Scottish airports."

Neil Richardson, a spokesman for PrestwickAirport, said: "Glasgow Prestwick Airport is investigating the incidents, as are the authorities, and additional security resources have been in place since we became aware of a similar incident on Sunday which led to four arrests.

"We are satisfied that our security measures are working effectively as these people were apprehended very quickly."

Police said that a man and three women were arrested at 12.45am on Sunday and four women and four men were arrested yesterday. They are due to appear in court today.

<<The Herald -- 08/09/06>>