The Stansted 15 were convicted under terrorism offences and faced possible life imprisonment after blocking a government deportation flight.
They were eventually spared jail, but 3 of the members have suspended sentences. 11 of the passengers due for deportation on the flight they stopped are still in the UK, and so far 4 have been given legal status to remain.
The protestors, all members of the End Deportations protest group – “a campaign to stop the brutal, secretive and barely legal practice of deporting large groups of people using charter flights” – cut through a perimeter fence at Stansted Airport and chained themselves around a plane due to transport people to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone in March 2017.
The subsequent change of legal status of a number of the passengers on that flight reinforces the group’s belief that this was a wrongful and potentially illegal deportation.
The Stansted 15 were found guilty of under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act – a terror related act passed in response to the Lockerbie bombing in 1988. The jury were told to disregard any evidence put forward by the defence that they were acting to prevent human rights abuses, and to only consider if there had been risk to the airport.
The group faced a maximum sentence of life imprisonment with the surprising decision to charge them under terrorism offences; previous incidents of direct action at airports has seen defendants charged only with aggravated trespass.