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The activists who blocked a deportation flight on Stansted Airport in 2017 had their convictions quashed today in the Court of Appeal.
The appeal judgement states that ‘The appellants should not have been prosecuted for the extremely serious offence under section 1(2)(b) of the 1990 Act because their conduct did not satisfy the various elements of the offence. There was, in truth, no case to answer’.
In March 2017, 15 activists performed a direct action at Stansted Airport, blocking a Titan Airways aircraft hired by the UK government for the purpose of deporting people.
During the original trial in 2018, 15 activists from End Deportations group admitted that they had trespassed in order to perform a lock-on around a plane chartered by the Home Office to deport 60 people to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone.
Initially, the activists were charged with aggravated trespass, which later was changed to “endangering safety at aerodromes”: a serious terror charge. The activists denied this charge and said they took the non-violent action in order to prevent a breach of human rights. However, the judge in the trial instructed the jury not to consider an argument of necessity defence – where defendants admit breaking the law in order to prevent a greater harm – and asked the jury to instead focus on the direct action endangering the safety of the airport staff and the disruption of international air travel.
The 15 activists were subsequently convicted, but luckily avoided prison sentences. Instead, twelve defendants were handed 100 hours of community service each (with victim surcharge of £85), while three others, who had a prior history of similar kind of activism, got nine-month prison sentences, suspended for 18 months (with surcharges of £115) and community service. Total surcharges for the group was £1,365. This verdict is now quashed.
UPDATE: The Stansted 15 have released a statement on their convictions being quashed via Twitter, which you can read below: