Fifteen activists who blocked a controversial Home Office charter deportation flight should never have been charged with terrorism offences, judges have ruled, as their convictions were overturned by the Court of Appeal.
In March 2017 the 15 activists broke into Stansted airport’s “airside” area and chained themselves together around a passenger aeroplane that was set to deport 60 people to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone, in an attempt to stop the flight.
In December 2018 they were convicted for endangering the safety of an aerodrome – a terror-related offence. In February 2019 the activists were given suspended sentences or community service, as a judge said that they were motivated by “genuine reasons”.
Human rights campaigners argued that the charges, which carried the threat of a life in prison for the activists, were draconian.
Judges ruled today that the 15 “should not have been prosecuted for the extremely serious offence, because their conduct did not satisfy the various elements of the offence,” adding, “There was in truth, no case to answer.”
May MacKeith, a member of the Stansted 15, said: “It is painful for it to be finally acknowledged that the past four years’ of prosecution should never have happened. But for many people caught up in the UK immigration system the ordeal lasts much, much longer. In the middle of a global pandemic the government is still locking people in detention centres and brutally forcing people onto secret night flights, often to places they don’t know.
“The nightmare of this bogus charge, a ten-week trial and the threat of prison has dominated our lives for four years. Despite the draconian response we know our actions were justified.
“Eleven people, including survivors of trafficking, who would have been deported that night are still in the UK. Mothers, fathers, colleagues, friends and family members are rebuilding lives the government attempted to destroy.”