A lawyer representing activists who stopped a deportation flight leaving Stansted airport has urged the government to draw a line under the case.
His comments came after members of the group known as the Stansted 15 had their conviction of ‘endangering safety at a public airport’, a terror-related violation, quashed by the Court of Appeal on January 29th.
Raj Chada, Head of Criminal Defence at Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors, said, ‘Even now, the State does not concede that they will not take this matter further and they will drop any remaining charges. These defendants have been through enough.
‘We should focus on the inhuman migrant policies that this Government continues to pursue, rather the continued criminalisation of protest.’
During the trial, the defendants claimed they were ‘guilty of nothing more than intervening to prevent harm’ to migrants on board the plane.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, agreed and overturned all 15 protestors’ convictions, saying they ‘should not have been prosecuted for the extremely serious offence because their conduct did not satisfy the various elements of the offence. There was, in truth, no case to answer.’
Raj Chada said afterwards, ‘It should be a matter of great shame to the CPS and the Attorney General, that terror-related legislation was used against peaceful protestors.’
Mike Schwarz, a Partner in the Criminal Defence team at Hodge Jones & Allen also said, ‘What is of particular concern, in this case, is that the 15 had credible evidence that there were individuals on that flight, whose testimony the defendants had received, who were at risk of death and serious injury if returned to West Africa.
‘One deportee, a lesbian woman, feared that she would be killed immediately upon her return. The flawed charter flight system for forcible removals, exacerbated by a broken and chaotic immigration process, systematically and unlawfully deports people from the UK.
‘On top of all this, we now see the Government pursuing and prosecuting its own citizens when they seek, as a last resort, to prevent such horrendous acts.’
Back in 2017, the defendants managed to cut through the perimeter fence of Stansted airport and then used pipes to lock themselves together around an aircraft.
The Boeing 767 was chartered by the Home Office in order to remove 60 people to several countries in Africa.
The trial heard the defendants believed the deportees would be at risk of death, persecution and torture if they were removed from the UK.
The protesters were convicted in December 2018. United Nations human rights experts raised concerns about the case and advised the British government against using security-related laws against protesters and critics.
Amnesty International said the Court of Appeal ruling was a ‘good day for justice.’
May MacKeith, a member of the Stansted 15, responded to the Court of Appeal’s ruling on behalf of the group. She said, ‘It is painful for it to be finally acknowledged that the past four years’ of prosecution should never have happened.
‘But for many people caught up in the UK immigration system the ordeal lasts much, much longer. In the middle of a global pandemic, the government is still locking people up in detention centres and brutally forcing people onto secret night flights, often to places they don’t know.’
[Header Image: Immigration News]