By a Correspondent
Guardian – 5 March 1983
Pilot Brian Bateson was acquitted of breaching flying regulations yesterday when he produced an aerial photograph which proved that CND had exaggerated the numbers at an anti-nuclear demonstration. Mr Bateson, aged 42, a flying instructor flew in circles over Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament members outside an American communications base at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire.
He was towing a banner saying: "CND – COMMUNISTS, NEUTRALISTS, DEFEATISTS", magistrates at Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire were told yesterday. When he landed at Blackpool, Mr Bateson was told that he was to be prosecuted for infringing Civil Aviation Authority rules which made it an offence to fly near an open assembly of more than 1,000 people. He denied the charge.
CND organisers told the magistrates that 4,000 people had turned out to demonstrate at the base near Harrogate. One of the organisers, Mr Robert Wilkinson, said that Mr Bateson had flown in a provocative manner at a height of 60 feet, scaring the crowd.
But the charge was dismissed when Mr Bateson produced the photograph taken by his passenger, Dr Julian Lewis, the Research Director of The Coalition for Peace Through Security. It showed that only between 600 and 800 people had been at the rally.
Dr Lewis, the prospective Tory candidate for Swansea West, told the court:
"By no stretch of the imagination were there 1,000 people at that meeting. Exaggerating crowd figures is a notorious feature at the so-called peace movement rallies."
Mr Bateson said that he had assessed the situation as he approached the gathering and realised that there were not 1,000 people there, so he would not be breaking any aviation regulations