Sentences have been confirmed for the activists who halted a major deportation flight out of Stansted.
Twelve defendants have been handed 100 hours of community service each today (victim surcharge of £85), while the other three, who had a prior history of similar activism, got nine month sentences, suspended for 18 months (surcharges of £115) and community service. Total surcharges for the group will be £1,365.
Hundreds of supporters of the 15 headed to Chelmsford Crown Court for sentencing on the case, which has become notorious for using terror legislation to secure a conviction. Judge Christopher Morgan’s decision sparked large protests in December when he handed down the charges and ominously said that for three defendants with previous convictions “all options are open”.
In fact the crime of “endangering the safety of an aerodrome”, an offence under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act, while having a technical upper limit of life in prison, was tempered by the knowledge that any absurdly high sentencing would likely be overturned on appeal.
The 15 were originally arrested on 28th March 2017, after they drove a minibus up to the edges of Stansted Airport, cut a hole through the fence and locked themselves to a Titan Airways plane which had been secretly chartered by the Home Office to deport 60 people through to Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
Initially charged with nothing more than aggravated trespass, it was clear that the State felt it needed to make an example of the 15 activists and the charge was bumped. It has since emerged that the incident caused a panic across government, with airports refusing to offer further services and the Home Office resorting to using military planes instead.
Eleven of the passengers have since been granted leave to live in Britain and the case itself became a major headache for the government, with pink-themed protests and widespread media coverage of the intimidatory sentencing tactics being used.
Picture: A Titan Airways Boeing 767, similar to the one grounded by the Stansted 15, by Oliver Holzbauer