The Stansted 15 have spent their Christmas break awaiting sentence, having been found guilty under terrorist¬related legislation carrying a maximum life sentence.
On 28 March 2016, activists locked themselves onto the front wheel of a Boeing 767 that the Home Office had secretly chartered to forcibly deport 60 refugees and migrants to Nigeria and Ghana. They included a woman whose husband had threatened to kill her because of her sexuality and two people who have since been identified as victims of trafficking.
The action stopped the flight and allowed some of the migrants time for their applications to be heard. Eleven of those who were to be deported have now won the right to legally reside in the UK.
The activists used their time in court to put the UK border regime on trial, arguing that it is forcible deportation that is putting lives at risk, not 15 people armed with lock-on tubes and gaffer tape. The legality of the flight was questionable as the Home Office were deporting victims of trafficking against the advice of the court and denying people their right of appeal under the “deport first, appeal later” policy which the Supreme Court has since ruled illegal.
Pre-trial, the group were dealt a blow when the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright, granted permission to prosecute under anti¬terrorist related legislation introduced in the wake of the Lockerbie bombing. After a ten week trial, and following advice from presiding judge Christopher Morgan to ignore all evidence that the defendants had acted to stop human rights abuses, the jury reached a guilty verdict on 10 December. Amnesty International has called the verdict a “crushing blow for human rights in the UK”.
Sentencing will take place in early February, with a plan for a solidarity demonstration outside the courtroom.