Two grandmothers carrying a claw hammer and wire cutters in a bag walked into an American military spy base in front of armed guards.

Keighley peace campaigners Helen John, 69, and Sylvia Boyes, 63, were wearing sandwich boards carrying anti-nuclear weapon messages when they ducked around the barrier at RAF Menwith Hill between Skipton and Harrogate.

They carried out the invasion on the first day that the new Anti-Terrorism Act - the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act - came into force on April 1 last year, district judge Martin Walker was told.

Both women appeared on the first day of a trial at Harrogate Magistrates' Court todayto deny the charges that they entered a designated site - Menwith Hill - as trespassers contrary to the Act.

Throughout the first day of the hearing, both John, of Wimborne Drive, and Boyes, of Wren Street, were warned by the judge not to use the trial as a soapbox for their political views when giving evidence.

The court heard PC Ian Harrell, a Ministry of Defence police officer, armed with a sub-machine gun and a Browning pistol, had arrested both women within minutes of them walking past the barrier.

The sandwich boards they were wearing declared: This land is not yours to put boundaries around', Close US bases everywhere' and Say no to Star Wars'.

PC Harrell said that he told them both that they were trespassing under the new Act and they were committing a criminal offence.

"They refused to leave and intoned that they had full knowledge of the legislation," he said.

Both women were taken to Harrogate police station where they were interviewed and searched and the claw hammer and wire cutters were discovered in their bags. On interview, Boyes said her intention had been to get inside the base and the claw hammer was in case it was necessary to widen any fencing.

It was absolutely not to use as a weapon, she stressed.

She said she intended to act in breach of the new law, which she claimed was specifically designed to target peace campaigners - "those people," she said, "who act directly but without violence and who are trying to stop the seemingly non-stoppable move to a world ruled by one power - the USA."

PC Harrell said that, in her interview, John said her intention of entering the base was to challenge the Act, which she did not recognise, and was "bad law" and commit as much criminal damage as possible.

The wire cutters she carried were intended to cut cables.

"I don't recognise the base and I would like to go back in again and damage it as much as possible," she told PC Harrell.

In a later statement, she said the Act was a blow to civil liberties and human rights and not designed to protect the civilian population from acts of terrorism but to protect the American war-fighting capability.

Giving evidence in court, Mrs Boyes said she could not recall seeing any signs at Menwith Hill that the Act was in force.

And she questioned whether two women walking into the base through the security defences could be viewed as committing an act of organised crime or terrorism. The trial is continuing.