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Stansted 15 sentencing: activists avoid jail

SENTENCING: Some of the Stansted 15 outside Chelmsford Crown Court in Essex earlier today

NONE OF the Stansted 15 will be jailed over their protest which halted the departure of a deportation flight in March 2017, a court has ruled.

The group of activists who trespassed into Stansted airport and chained themselves together to stop an immigration removal flight from taking off in March 2017 were found guilty under the 1900 Aviation and Maritime Security Act on terror-related charges in December.

The plane had been scheduled to deport 60 people to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

The campaigners who were sentenced Chelmsford Crown Court this afternoon have been handed suspended sentences and community service sentences.

Edward Thaker and Alistair Tamlit both received nine month sentences, suspended for 18 months and were ordered to do 250 hours of unpaid work, Melanie Stickland was handed a nine month sentence, suspended for 18 months and ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work, and May Mackeith was given a community order for 12 months and 20 days rehabilitation activity requirement, Essex Live reported.

The 11 other protestors have received community orders for 12 months and 100 hours of community service.

Outside the court, protestors gathered to show their support and express their anger at the government's treatment of the activists and immigration detainees.

As a result of the group’s actions, 11 people have been able to appeal their removal from the UK and are still in the UK, Dexter Dias QC, the lead counsel for the group has said.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK's director, said: “The decision not to jail these brave human rights defenders is a relief, but not enough. They should never have faced this very serious terrorism-related charge in the first place.

SOLIDARITY: Supporters of the Stansted 15 protesting outside Chelmsford Crown Court in Essex ahead of the group's sentencing

“They remain convicted of an offence which simply doesn’t fit their actions and this trial could have a dangerous chilling effect on peaceful protest in this country.

“We hope the court of appeal will swiftly put an end to the distressing ordeal that the Stansted 15 have faced for nearly two years.”

Reacting to indications that the Stansted 15 would not face jail earlier today, the Green Party said: “Obviously this is a time to celebrate. But let's not forget the #Stansted15 should never have been in the dock in the first place. These activists are human rights defenders. The real criminals are the Home Office.”

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas echoed her party’s statement. She said: “Wonderful news - none of #Stansted15 are going to prison! This is a blow to #HostileEnvironment [and government’s] brutal charter deportation flights. But these heroes should never have been convicted under terror legislation. Their convictions must be quashed.”

David Lammy expressed his support for the 15 activists and called for end to the policies that prompted their action.

“You stood up for human rights but are being treated like terrorists. We need to end the Hostile Environment,” he said.

Prior to the sentencing, Liberty wrote to the court urging it to consider the “chilling effect any sentence will have on our fundamental rights”.

In the letter, it wrote: “It will come as no surprise to the court that Liberty supports and campaigns for the right to peaceful protest. Where protesters break the law but do not commit violent acts, we suggest that very particular care should be taken in order to ensure that their rights at common law and under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights are not breached.”

It added: “In view of the peaceful nature of this protest and the risk of the chilling effect of any sentence on the right to protest, Liberty urges the court to exercise leniency in this matter.”

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