‘We are not terrorists’: Stansted 15 to appeal

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‘We are not terrorists’: Stansted 15 to appeal

End deportations: Support the Stansted 15

The nine women and six men charged under counter-terrorism legislation after having stopped a deportation flight from taking off are to appeal their conviction. The so called Stansted 15 were convicted of endangering the safety of an aerodrome when they cut through the perimeter fence and locked themselves together around the plane. They were tried and convicted under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act – an offence which carries life imprisonment as its maximum sentence.

The guilty verdict has been condemned by human rights and civil activist groups labelling the verdict as disproportionate. Amnesty International has described it as a ‘crushing blow to justice’ with the group’s lawyer, Raj Chada, calling it a ‘travesty of justice’. ‘It is inexplicable how these protestors were charged with this legislation, and even more so that they were found guilty,’ Chada, a solicitor at the London law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, said. ‘It is our strongly held belief that charging them with this offence was an abuse of power by the Attorney General and the CPS. It is only right and fitting that this wrongful conviction is overturned.’

The fact that an act of peaceful protest was translated as a terror related action was simply unjust, according to the protestors. Following the nine-week trial, the activists, aged 27 to 44, claimed that they were ‘guilty of nothing more than intervening to prevent harm’. The plane carried 60 passengers from Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone and had been chartered by the Home Office to deport them. How their actions led to prosecution under counter-terror laws remains unclear.

The judge, Christopher Morgan, has been the target of much of the criticism following the verdict for several reasons. The fact that he did not allow for the jury to hear evidence advanced by the defendants that they acted to stop human rights abuses – amounting to the legal defence of necessity – was regarded as unfair. The defence had tried to get the jury dismissed asserting that the judge gave them biased directions before they went off to deliberate.

It was also argued that the judge failed to order disclosure of material which the Attorney General used as a basis for signing off on the terrorism-related charges. This material was not properly reviewed, despite prosecution pursuing the charges. The arguments are made in the 100 page appeal document submitted to the Court of Appeal.

Helen Brewer, who is one of the 15 who were convicted, said that they were appealing their convictions ‘because justice has not been done’. ‘Justice will only be done when we are acquitted of a crime that is completely disproportionate to an act of peaceful protest and when the Home Office is held to account for the danger it puts people in every single day – people who have sought asylum in this country fleeing harm and persecution in the very places the government deports them to,’ Brewer said. ‘Those are the real crimes – the use of brutal, inhumane and barely legal deportation flights, and the unprecedented use of terror law against peaceful protesters who acted to prevent harm.’


The Stansted 15 are:

  • Alistair Tamlit, 30;
  • Benjamin Smoke, 27;
  • Edward Thacker, 29;
  • Emma Hughes, 38;
  • Helen Brewer, 28,
  • Joseph McGahan, 35;
  • Jyotsna Ram, 33;
  • Laura Clayson, 28;
  • Lyndsay Burtonshaw, 28;
  • May McKeith, 33;
  • Melanie Evans, 35;
  • Melanie Strickland, 35;
  • Nathan Clack, 30;
  • Nicholas Sigsworth, 29;
  • Ruth Potts, 44