Stansted 15: group who chained themselves in front of a plane at Stansted Airport found guilty of aviation security offence

The group breached Stansted Airport's security fence. Picture: MARK DAVISON

The group breached Stansted Airport's security fence. Picture: MARK DAVISON - Credit: Archant

A group of people who breached Stansted Airport’s security fence before chaining themselves together in front of a plane were convicted today (December 10).

Following a ten week trial at Chelmsford Crown Court, nine women and six men were found guilty of an aviation security offence. They are due to be sentenced on the same court on Monday, February 4.

On March 28, 2017, 15 people arrived outside the airport in hire cars and used bolt cutters to breach the security fence.

The group gained access to a restricted area airside before, in protest, they locked their arms in tubing to obstruct a plane’s wheel.

As reported in The Independent, The plane had been chartered by the Home Office to remove 60 people to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone, and was stationary.

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Essex Police attended and asked the protestors to unchain themselves but they refused and officers were forced to cut them out of tubing before arresting them.

As a direct result of this protest the flight was cancelled and a number of other flights also had to be cancelled.

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The runway was closed and other flights had to be diverted to other airports.

Superintendent Nick Morris, Stansted Airport’s commander, said: “The actions of the people involved were dangerous and caused significant disruption to the airport and passengers.

“When they breached the airport’s perimeter, there intentions were unknown and this resulted in the runway being closed.

“Their actions disrupted many flights, which had a financial impact on airlines and forced hundreds of passengers to make other arrangements to land at other airports.

“Breaching one the UK’s busiest airports is dangerous and has consequences and today’s convictions shows that.

“We work closely with the airport operator and partner, Manchester Airport Group, to continually improve security at the airport. Post the incident additional joint security measures have been implemented to further safeguard the airport perimeter.”

Following the conviction, the group told The Independent: “We are guilty of nothing more than intervening to prevent harm.”

Amnesty International UK, who have supported the group throughout the trial, has launched a solidarity campaign with the 15.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s Director, said: “This is a crushing blow for human rights in the UK.

“The terrorism-related charge against these individuals was always a case of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

“It’s deeply disturbing that peaceful protesters who caused disruption but at no time caused harm to anyone, should now be facing a possible lengthy prison sentence.

“This whole case will send a shiver down the spine of anyone who cares about the right to protest in our country.

“Around the world, human rights defenders are coming under increasing attack. The UK should not be bringing such severe charges against those who seek to peacefully stand up for human rights.”

The people convicted today are:

Emma Hughes, 38, of Vicarage Road, Leytonstone;

Melanie Evans, 35, of Vicarage Road, Leytonstone

Melanie Stickland, 35, of Borwick Avenue, Walthamstow

Lyndsay Burtonshaw, 28, of no fixed address, London

May Mackeith, 33, of Clementina Road, Leytonstone

Laura Clayson, 28, Lords Close, Greenwich

Helen Brewer, 28, of Markfield Road, Hackney

Ruth Potts, 44, of Ashton Gate Terrace, Bristol

Jyotsna Ram, 33, of Stanhope Gardens, Haringey

Nicholas Sigsworth, 29, of Clementia Road, Leytonstone

Alistair Tamlit, 30, of no fixed address, London

Benjamin Smoke, 27, of Rowley Gardens, Haringey

Edward Thacker, 29, of Markfield Road, Hackney

Nathan Clack, 30, of Lords Close, Lambeth

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