A group of 15 protestors who were convicted under counter terrorism legislation after preventing a deportation flight leaving Stansted Airport have launched an appeal against their conviction.
The activists, who have become known as the Stansted 15, were convicted of endangering safety an aerodrome under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act – a law passed in response to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.
Following the trial they said that they were “guilty of nothing more than intervening to prevent harm”.
Listen to 15 Stanstead peaceful protestors who tried to stop deportation of people facing danger on return to their home. Now, under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act they face up to life imprisonment.
Lawyers acting for all 15 yesterday (Monday, January 7) lodged the appeal at Court of Appeal in London.
Raj Chada, Partner at Hodge Jones & Allen, who represents the activists, said: “The conviction of the Stansted 15 was a travesty of justice that needs correcting in the appeal courts. It is inexplicable how these protestors were charged with this legislation, and even more so that they were found guilty.
“It is our strongly held belief that charging them with this offence was an abuse of power by the Attorney General and the CPS. It is only right and fitting that this wrongful conviction is overturned.”
The 15, aged between 27 and 44, face up to life imprisonment when they are sentenced in week commencing February 4, 2019.
Helen Brewer, who is one of the 15 who were convicted, said: “We are appealing our convictions because justice has not been done. Justice will only be done when we are acquitted of a crime that is completely disproportionate to an act of peaceful protest and when the Home Office is held to account for the danger it puts people in every single day – people who have sought asylum in this country fleeing harm and persecution in the very places the government deports them to.
“Those are the real crimes – the use of brutal, inhumane and barely legal deportation flights, and the unprecedented use of terror law against peaceful protesters who acted to prevent harm.”
The others who were convicted are Lyndsay Burtonshaw, Nathan Clack, Laura Clayson, Melanie Evans, Joseph McGahan, Benjamin Smoke, Jyotsna Ram, Nicholas Sigsworth, Melanie Strickland, Alistair Tamlit, Edward Thacker, Emma Hughes, May McKeith and Ruth Potts, 44.
The group’s conviction followed a peaceful action which stopped a chartered deportation flight from taking off on 28 March, 2017.
The activists cut through the perimeter fence of Stansted Airport, in Essex, and used pipes to lock themselves together surrounding a plane.
The Boeing 767 had been chartered by the Home Office to remove 60 people to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone, and was stationary on the airport’s apron.
A pilot who saw the activists approaching closed the plane’s doors before calling security, and the ensuing police operation caused flights to be diverted to other airports.
Prosecutors said airport security and police spent hours removing the defendants before they were arrested, and that thousands of air passengers had their journeys delayed.
Eleven people on the flight are still in the UK with two having been given right to remain.