By Maisie Marston
In March 2017, protesters cut through Stansted airport’s perimeter fence in order to stop a jet filled with people from UK detention centres to be repatriated in Africa.
The protesters, dubbed the ‘Stansted 15’, locked themselves together underneath the wing of the plane, causing the runway to be closed for over an hour. As a consequence, 19 inbound flights had to be diverted and there was a loss of more than £1m to undisclosed parties.
One of the protestors was Dr Emma Hughes; an ex-staff member from Cardiff University’s school of Journalism, Media and Culture. Writing in The Guardian, Hughes said that the group had been “treated like terrorists”.
Despite the group having carried out a peaceful protest, they were convicted of the serious terror-related offence ‘endangering safety at aerodromes’.
During the trial there was the possibility of a life imprisonment, but Judge Christopher Morgan accepted that the group’s “intentions were to demonstrate” so many of the protesters are to serve community service, with three given suspended sentences.
They have already launched an appeal against the ruling which has been supported by Amnesty International. The organisation believes that the decision to charge them in this way instead of as aggravated trespass is a “crushing blow to human rights in the UK”.
Cardiff University lecturers and academic colleagues have also come together to condemn the decision, saying that the law used is “grossly disproportionate and a real threat to every citizen’s right to protest”.
Since the event, 11 of the passengers on-board the flight have won their appeals to stay in the UK, and the process the government uses has been deemed illegal by the Supreme Court.