The Guardian view on the Stansted 15: a sledgehammer prosecution | Editorial
The activists who blocked a deportation flight from departing were charged under legislation introduced to counter terrorist threats. Their case sets a chilling precedent
The case of the 15 activists convicted on Monday over a non-violent protest which stopped a deportation flight from leaving Stansted airport should not only worry all those who care about the rights of those threatened with removal. It should alarm anyone who cares about the right to protest. The disproportionate charge will have a chilling effect. Amnesty has called this “a crushing blow for human rights in the UK”; Liberty said it was a “malicious attack” on the right to protest.
There is no dispute that the members of the End Deportation group cut through a fence and secured themselves around a plane chartered to remove undocumented immigrants to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone. The question was whether their reasons for doing so constituted a defence (the judge said not), and whether the charge was appropriate. The first issue is a matter of law. The second is also one of common sense. They were initially accused of aggravated trespass, the offence used in previous airport protest cases. The Crown Prosecution Service then upgraded this to “intentional disruption of services at an aerodrome” by means of “a device, substance or weapon”.
Source: Guardian Transport