A group of protestors, known as the Stansted 15, have avoided immediate jail time after sentencing at Chelmsford Crown Court. Three of them, Edward Thacker, Alistair Tamlit and Melanie Strickland, were given nine-month suspended jail sentences. The other twelve, were handed community orders at Chelmsford with eleven of them being ordered to do unpaid work.
The group are set to appeal these sentences.
The sentencing took place on February 6 after a two-day delay. Judge Christopher Morgan QC declined to hand down immediate jail sentences on the grounds that the 15 “didn’t have a grievous intent”.
All 15 were convicted on 10 December 2018 under section 1 (2) (b) of the Aviation and Maritime Security Act (1990) after staging a protest at Stansted airport. They chained themselves together in the way of a flight chartered by the Home Office for deportations to African nations.
Among the defendants was Lyndsay Burtonshaw, 28, from Brighton. At the time of the protest, Burtonshaw was a research associate at The University of Sussex. A Lancaster University Alumnus, Laura Clayson, 28, was also among the 15 sentenced.
The group were represented by Kirsty Brimelow QC who also represented fracking protestors who had their sentences quashed last year. Sussex University staff started a petition for the fracking sentences to be quashed and it soon gained international attention.
Groups such as the Green Party and Amnesty International have criticised the conviction of the 15 and ‘Stop Deportations’ have shown disagreement with the sentences handed to them.
A large crowd of protestors stood outside Chelmsford Crown Court during the sentencing and a road was closed in preparation for the protest. The so-called Stansted 15 were dressed in bright pink at Stansted and protest organisers asked attendees to wear pink outside Chelmsford Court in solidarity.
A protest against the convictions was also held in central Brighton on December 11 2018, with Lyndsay Burtonshaw in attendance.
Sarah Mcintosh, Postgraduate Education Officer at Sussex Students’ Union said: “ I stand with Sussex alumnus, Lyndsay Burtonshaw and the rest of the Stansted 15 and hope that this ridiculous charge is overturned”.
She told The Badger: “I reaffirm my solidarity with the Stansted 15 and more importantly, with the people on the plane that they stopped from taking off”.
Dominic West, 24, Neuroscience with Cognitive Science student at Sussex said: “On the whole, I think the ruling was reasonable. They committed crimes and knew they were doing so at the time. Even those who support their actions should be able to admit that they should be prepared to face the consequences of their actions. We can’t get into a situation where the law is completely ignored just because we agree with the political motivations of an offender…
“I do think they maybe should have been given some short custodial sentences, but nothing more than a few months…” West added.
The sentencing took place on the same day as the first chartered deportation flight to Jamaica after the Windrush Scandal.
The Home Office has stated that all of those on board had committed serious crimes. Several were spared deportation at the last minute.