Home Office Guilty of Harm, Not Us: Stansted 15 Respond to Guilty Verdict
‘Out of control’ Home Office should have been in the dock, not us: The Stansted 15 protesters, who stopped a government deportation flight from taking off in March last year, have been found guilty of breaching terror laws. After 9 weeks the jury found all fifteen defendants guilty of intentional disruption of services and endangerment at an aerodrome under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act – a controversial use of terror-related law. The Stansted 15 were accused by the government of putting the safety of the airport and passengers at risk, a charge rejected by all 15 defendants. The trial followed a peaceful action which stopped a chartered deportation flight from taking off in March 2017. Sentencing will take place on February 4th.
Responding to the verdict in a statement the Stansted 15 said: “We are guilty of nothing more than intervening to prevent harm. The real crime is the government’s cowardly, inhumane and barely legal deportation flights and the unprecedented use of terror law to crack down on peaceful protest. We must challenge this shocking use of draconian legislation, and continue to demand an immediate end to these secretive deportation charter flights and a full independent public inquiry into the government’s ‘hostile environment’.”
“Justice will not be done until we are exonerated and the Home Office is held to account for the danger it puts people in every single day. It endangers people in dawn raids on their homes, at detention centres and on these brutal flights. The system is out of control. It is unfair, unjust and unlawful and it must be stopped.”
Melanie Strickland, one of the defendants, said: “To be found guilty of a terror-related charge for a peaceful protest is devastating for us, and profoundly disturbing for democracy in this country. It’s the Home Office’s brutal, secretive and barely legal practice of mass deportation flights that is putting people in danger, and their ‘hostile environment’ policy that is hurting vulnerable people from our communities. It’s the Home Office that should have been in the dock, not us.”
A man who was set to be deported on the flight but has since been granted a right to remain in the UK said: “The Stansted 15 have been found guilty of breaching a barely used terror law. Though the jury were convinced that their actions breached this legislation, there’s no doubt in my mind that these 15 brave people are heroes, not criminals. For me a crime is doing something that is evil, shameful or just wrong – and it’s clear that it is the actions of the Home Office tick all of these boxes – and the Stansted 15 were trying to stop the real crime being committed. ‘As the Stansted 15 face their own purgatory – awaiting sentences in the following weeks – I will be praying that they are shown leniency. Without their actions I would have missed my daughter’s birth, and faced the utter injustice of being deported from this country with having my now successful appeal heard. My message to them today is to fight on. Their cause is just, and history will absolve you of the guilt that the system has marked you with.’
Raj Chada, Partner from Hodge Jones & Allen, who represented all 15 of the defendants said: “We are deeply disappointed by today’s verdicts. In our view it is inconceivable that our clients were charged under counter terrorism legislation for what was a just protest against deporting asylum seekers. Hodge Jones & Allen previously represented 13 defendants who protested at Heathrow in similar circumstances to the 15 at Stansted, yet they were not charged with this draconian legislation. We believe this was an abuse of power by the Attorney General and the CPS as they should never have been charged with these offences. The fact is that the actions of these protestors resulted in two people who were about to be wrongfully deported remaining in the UK.”
Asylum Research Consultancy (ARC) COI Update Vol. 184
This document provides an update of UK Country Guidance case law, UK Home Office publications and developments in refugee producing countries (focusing on those which generate the most asylum seekers in the UK) between 27 November and 10 December 2018.
Download the full report, https://is.gd/hEdBPF
Stansted 15 Convictions A ‘Crushing Blow For Human Rights In UK’
Two of the activists convicted of terrorism offences for blocking the takeoff of an immigration removal charter flight at Stansted airport have spoken of their shock at the verdicts, describing the outcome as an “unprecedented crackdown on the right to protest”.
In a prosecution that has been condemned by human rights groups, Alistair Tamlit and Benjamin Smoke and the other members of the so-called Stansted 15 were convicted on Monday of endangering the safety of the airport in March 2017.
The court had heard how they used lock-on devices to secure themselves around a Titan Airways Boeing 767 chartered by the Home Office, as the aircraft waited on the asphalt at the airport in Essex to remove undocumented immigrants to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone.
After nearly three days of deliberations, following a nine-week trial, a jury at Chelmsford crown court found the defendants, all members of campaign group End Deportations, guilty of intentional disruption of services at an aerodrome. They were found guilty under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act, a law passed in response to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing..
The verdict – described by Amnesty International as a “crushing blow for human rights in the UK” – came after the judge, Christopher Morgan, told the jury to disregard all evidence put forward by the defendants to support the defence that they acted to stop human rights abuses, instructing jurors to only consider whether there was a “real and material” risk to the airport.
In legal arguments made without the jury present, which can now be reported, defence barristers had called for the jury to be discharged after Morgan gave a summing up which they said amounted to a direction to convict. The judge had suggested the defendants’ entry to a restricted area could be considered inherently risky.
In interviews with the Guardian, Tamlit and Smoke described their dismay at the news but insisted that their actions had been justified by the “brutal” and “racist” deportation policy which they were protesting against.
“We were charged with endangering life but we took the actions at Stansted to try to protect life. That point needs to keep on being put into the spotlight,” said Smoke. “As a result of what we did 11 people who were on that flight are still in the UK appealing against their removals. That’s something for us to hold on to.”
The group will be sentenced at a later date, are hoping that they will be given non-custodial sentences, though the offences carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Their legal team has started preparing an appeal.
Damien Gayle and Diane Taylor, Guardian, https://is.gd/0yrsGp
Immigration (Time Limit on Detention)
05 December 2018 Volume 650
?Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab)
I beg to move, that leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision for a maximum period of detention under the Immigration Act 1971 of 28 days; and for connected purposes.
I realise that I have chosen to introduce my first ten-minute rule Bill in a very quiet week in Parliament, but I hope that colleagues from across the House will indulge me as I speak about a campaign that I am very passionate about and which is close to my heart. I am proud to be an MP for a constituency that has a proud history of welcoming immigrants. My constituency has a long history of welcoming economic migrants from Ireland and refugees fleeing political persecution in Nazi Germany. At this moment in time, my constituency has 22,000 European Union nationals, who form the very fabric of our community. I am proud that both the councils in my constituency recently welcomed refugees from Syria and Somalia. My mother came here as a political asylum seeker in the 1970s and settled in the very constituency I am now proud to represent here in Westminster.
I am sure Members from all parties will agree that we are proud of the fact that Britain is a safe haven for people who cannot go back to their country of origin. The practice in our country of indefinitely detaining people, however, blights the nation, and we should all be ashamed of it. We are the only country in the EU—and one of only a few in the world—that indefinitely detains people. Immigration officers go around in the middle of the night capturing people and putting them in prison-like cells. Many Members from all parties will have visited these detention centres and will know the conditions in which these people are kept.
Question put and agreed to.
That Tulip Siddiq, Mr David Davis, Mr Dominic Grieve, Dame Caroline Spelman, Mr Andrew Mitchell, Paul Blomfield, Lisa Nandy, Layla Moran, Rushanara Ali, Christine Jardine, Mr David Lammy and Stella Creasy present the Bill.
Tulip Siddiq accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 25 January 2019, and to be printed (Bill 302).