The Heathrow 13 were today sentenced to six weeks suspended for 12 months for aggravated trespass at Heathrow Airport in July 2015.
Speaking after their suspended sentences were individually handed down at a packed Willesden Magistrates’ Court, Raj Chada, partner and criminal defence lawyer at Hodge Jones & Allen who defended four of the 13, Melanie Strickland, Sam Sender, Sheila Menon and Robert Basto, said:
“While relieved not to have received custodial sentences, my four clients stand by their actions and regard air pollution from Heathrow as a clear and present danger to human health. Having learned of scientific evidence that a third of aviation-attributable early deaths occur in Greater London each year and in particular, 31 people die early each year within a 20-mile radius of Heathrow Airport due to aircraft emissions, my clients felt compelled to act.
“Despite breaching European Union regulations aimed at reducing aviation emissions, no action has been taken against Heathrow. Further, we produced expert evidence at trial to show that 48% of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK come from Heathrow and that aircraft emissions had a more serious effect on the environment than other sectors.
“Melanie, Sam, Sheila and Robert, along with their fellow protestors were protesting a matter of life and death. The impact of air pollution is a ticking time bomb. My colleague Jocelyn Cockburn is already investigating the possibility of bringing civil claims against the UK government for its failure to tackle this public health emergency. She believes the government is contravening its duty to protect the right to life under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”
The defendants were taking direct action against the ongoing effect of emissions at Heathrow Airport and occupied the airport’s north runway on 13 July 2015 causing up to 25 flights to be cancelled. Following a trial at Willesden Magistrates’ Court in January, all defendants were found guilty.
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Notes for Editors
1. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell was prevented from giving evidence during the trial.
2. Writer and environmental commentator George Monbiot wrote about the case in The Guardian.
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