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‘Stansted 15’ activists will NOT be jailed, judge says 

The ‘Stansted 15’ who chained themselves together to block a plane deporting people from Britain punched the air as they walked free today – and pledged to appeal their convictions.

The militant protesters who laid across Stansted’s Tarmac were convicted last year using an aviation law passed after the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 when a jury agreed their actions to stop the Boeing 767 could have caused catastrophe.

The ‘Stansted 15’ cut through metal fencing and then held themselves together by using piping to create ‘lock boxes’ filled with expanding building foam to stop a deportation flight taking off for Africa in March 2017.

The disruption cost Stansted £1million in delays – money they have no hope of getting back.

Four of the group have previous convictions for aggravated trespass and have been convicted for similar offences after causing similar chaos airports including Stansted and Heathrow.

But Judge Christopher Morgan, at Chelmsford Crown Court, said he was not going to implement immediate terms of imprisonment.

He gave three defendants  suspended jail terms and the 12 others were given community orders – but the judge refused to give them lesser conditional discharges.

Outside court hundreds of supporters, who spent the say dancing and singing protests songs while clutching banners and placards, mobbed the freed group who raised their fists in celebration.

May McKeith, a member of the so-called ‘Stansted 15’ raises a fist as she leaves Chelmsford Crown Court after learning she will not be jailed – she was given a suspended sentence instead

The gang of activists emerged with their fists raised as huge crowds of supporters swamped them today

The gang of activists emerged with their fists raised as huge crowds of supporters swamped them today

Two of the protesters hold hands as they make their way through the huge crowds outside the court

Two of the protesters hold hands as they make their way through the huge crowds outside the court

One free woman laughs as it emerged that all 15 in the dock will appeal their convictions

One free woman laughs as it emerged that all 15 in the dock will appeal their convictions

14 of the Stansted 15 pose on the steps outside Chelmsford Crown Court today where they will walk free after a judge refused to jail them

14 of the Stansted 15 pose on the steps outside Chelmsford Crown Court today where they will walk free after a judge refused to jail them

There celebrations today among the activists who insist they were saving lives not breaking the law by blocking the Home Office chartered 767 jet in March 2017 

There celebrations today among the activists who insist they were saving lives not breaking the law by blocking the Home Office chartered 767 jet in March 2017 

The activists insist they were not breaking the law when they stopped the jet - but a jury disagreed after a nine-week trial

The activists insist they were not breaking the law when they stopped the jet – but a jury disagreed after a nine-week trial

The protesters all smiled as they posed for pictures as they chained themselves together on in March 2017

The protesters all smiled as they posed for pictures as they chained themselves together on in March 2017

The Boeing 767 was grounded and the 60 people on board were removed. Several were eventually not deported

The Boeing 767 was grounded and the 60 people on board were removed. Several were eventually not deported

Edward Thaker and Alistair Tamlit were given nine months in prison suspended for 18 months plus 250 hours of unpaid work. Melanie Stickland  had the same suspended sentence with 100 hours of unpaid work.

May Mackeith was sentenced with a community order for 12 months plus a 20 days Rehabilitation Activity Requirement

The remaining 11 have received a community order for 12 months and unpaid work of 100 hours. All 15 are appealing against their conviction. 

Lawyers for the activists said this law was passed in response to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

Judge Christopher Morgan, sentencing at the same court on Wednesday, told the defendants: ‘In normal circumstances only a normal custodial sentence would have been justified in this case, but in your case I accept that your intentions were to demonstrate.’

He stressed they were still convicted of a ‘serious offence’ and while their intentions reduced their culpability the ‘harm in this case is great’.

‘You took objects onto that airport,’ said Judge Morgan. ‘You had no way of knowing if all had been recovered.’

He said that ‘even a small breach of regulations, the leaving of foreign object debris on a runway can have catastrophic effects’.

By way of example, he said that in 2000 a small piece of metal that fell from one plane ’caused the destruction of a Concorde’ at a Paris airport.

He added that the activists moved a tripod near to the wing of a Boeing 767, where its fuel tank is located.

‘That plane had been fuelled and the consequences of metal striking and going through that wing could have resulted in a catastrophic fire,’ he said.  

Protesters in pink dance and sing in the street outside court where the Stansted 15 were allowed to walk free

Protesters in pink dance and sing in the street outside court where the Stansted 15 were allowed to walk free

Supporters blocked the road outside Chelmsford Crown Court, singing songs and giving speeches

Supporters blocked the road outside Chelmsford Crown Court, singing songs and giving speeches

Campaigners say that Britain should stop deporting anybody and claim that 11 people on the grounded plane have since won the right to stay in the UK

Campaigners say that Britain should stop deporting anybody and claim that 11 people on the grounded plane have since won the right to stay in the UK

The 15 protesters cut through Stansted Airport's perimeter fence and locked themselves together around a chartered deportation plane using pipes and expanding foam

Fifteen protesters have been found guilty of an aviation security offence following a nine-week trial

The 15 protesters cut through Stansted Airport’s perimeter fence and locked themselves together around a chartered deportation plane using pipes and expanding foam

Hundreds of supporters spent the day outside the courthouse with speeches given and banners unfurled cheered as the news emerged.

The activists were cheered as they arrived at court and posed on the steps before entering. 

They had cut through the airport’s perimeter fence and locked themselves together around a Boeing 767 jet chartered by the Home Office to transport people from UK detention centres for repatriation to Africa.

The so-called Stansted 15 were convicted in December 2018 following a nine-week trial at Chelmsford Crown Court. 

Edward Thacker, Melanie Evans, Alistair Tamlit were convicted on January 25, 2016 and given a year-long suspended sentence on February 24, 2016 for aggravated trespass at Heathrow on July 13 2015.

May Mackeith was convicted for trespass at Stansted Airport in 2008. She pleaded guilty to the offence and received a community order. 

The defendants were found guilty of the intentional disruption of services at an aerodrome, contrary to section 1 (2) (b) of the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990.

Lawyers for the activists said this law was passed in response to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

In a statement released after their conviction, the defendants said they were ‘guilty of nothing more than intervening to prevent harm’. 

Raj Chada, partner at Hodge Jones & Allen, which represents the activists, described their conviction as a ‘travesty of justice that needs correcting in the appeal courts’. 

The Stansted 15 are: Helen Brewer, 29, Lyndsay Burtonshaw, 28, Nathan Clack, 30, Laura Clayson, 28, Melanie Evans, 35, Joseph McGahan, 35, Benjamin Smoke, 27, Jyotsna Ram, 33, Nicholas Sigsworth, 29, Melanie Strickland, 35, Alistair Tamlit, 30, Edward Thacker, 29, Emma Hughes, 38, May McKeith, 33, and Ruth Potts, 44.

Twelve of the defendants’ given addresses are in north London, Burtonshaw’s is in Brighton, Potts’s is in Bristol and McGahan’s is in Reading.

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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