A group of 15 activists who were convicted under counter terrorism legislation for stopping a deportation flight have walked free from court.
Judge Christopher Morgan handed three of the 15 defendants, who had previous convictions for aggravated trespass at airports, suspended prison terms and the rest community sentences.
The defendants, who have become known as the Stansted 15, said they were “guilty of nothing more than intervening to prevent harm” to the migrants on board the plane.
Speaking at the end of their nine-week trial in December, the judge said alleged human rights abuses, immigration policy and issues of proportionality did not have “any relevance” to whether an offence had been committed.
The group were convicted of disrupting services at an aerodrome, contrary to the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990 – a law brought in as a direct result of the Lockerbie bombings in 1988.
In a statement the 15 said: “People seeking asylum in this country face worse than this: they are placed in destitution and their lives in limbo, by the Home Office’s brutal system every single day.
“We demand that these convictions are quashed, and that the government dismantles the vicious, barely legal, immigration system that destroys so many people’s lives.”
Their sentencing came as a new charter flight deporting dozens of people left for Jamaica.
Raj Chada, a partner from Hodge Jones and Allen who represented the defendants, said: “While we are relieved that none of our clients face a custodial sentence, today is still a sad day for justice.
“Our clients prevented individuals being illegally removed from the UK and should never have been charged under counterterrorism legislation.
“We maintain that this was an abuse of power by the attorney general and the Crown Prosecutions Service, and will continue to fight in the appeal courts to get these wrongful convictions overturned.”