A former Lancaster University student who faces life in prison after blocking a deportation flight from Stansted Airport says the Home Office should be held to account for their actions.
Laura Clayson, 28, former President of Lancaster University Student Union (LUSU), is awaiting sentencing later today (February 6) along with 14 other people after helping to block a deportation flight to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone in 2017.
The ‘Stansted 15’ protesters, as they are now known, were found guilty of breaching terror laws.
The charge of ‘intentional disruption of services at an aerodrome, contrary to section 1 (2) (b) of the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990’, carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Lawyers for the activists said this law was passed in response to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.
Laura said that if any of the protestors are jailed “it will be a travesty of justice”.
Lancaster MP Cat Smith has previously said that the verdict is a “sad day for human rights”
Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party, yesterday described the Stansted 15 as “heroes”, and the government’s so-called hostile environment towards refugees and migrants as “inhumane and inexcusable”.
Laura, who was President of LUSU up to 2015, said: “Whatever the outcome of sentencing today - and any appeal in the future - we know that the action we took was necessary.
“Nearly two years on, 11 people remain in the UK as a result of it, three of whom now have leave to remain.
“The Home Office need to be held to account about this: why were these people given a ticket for that flight in the first place and how many others like them have been forcibly and violently sent away on these brutal and inhumane flights?
“If any of us go to prison it will be a travesty of justice, but at least we’ll know when we are likely to be released.
“This isn’t the case for the 3,000 folk being held in immigration centres across the UK right now - the only place in Europe to detain people indefinitely.
“It also isn’t the case for those due to be on the deportation flight the government plans to send to Jamaica perhaps as soon as this week - potentially even today.
“This will be the first flight since the Windrush Scandal and is taking place before the inquiry has even ended.
“We must ask ourselves what access to justice these folks have had, if any.
“People forced onto these secretive night flights form part of our communities, families and friendship circles.
“The hostile environment is tearing these apart. The majority of those deported on a flight to Jamaica in 2016 grew up here, went to school here, had families here, worked here.
“The hostile environment and these flights which are part of it need to end immediately.
“The Home Office has a lot to answer for, and it should have been them on trial, not us.”
“We are truly sorry for the inconvenience our action caused. That was not our intention. We took this action in a remote part of Stansted airport and only intended to disrupt the deportation charter flight we believed was sending people to places where they were in danger. This included a Nigerian lesbian whose ex-husband had said he would kill her upon her arrival and a 21-year old asylum seeker who feared for his life. His grandfather and brother had been killed during fighting over the land.”
Ms Clayson, along with 14 other activists, was charged with intentional disruption of services at an aerodrome under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act, a law passed in response to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.
It has only been used once before in 28 years.
The court heard the protesters secured themselves around the nose wheel and wing of the Boeing 767, with pipes and foam, having cut a hole in the perimeter fence.
They had all pleaded not guilty, but a jury at Chelmsford Crown Court returned a guilty verdict and they now face up to life imprisonment.
“This Government’s ‘hostile environment’ towards refugees and migrants is inhumane and its inexcusable. When these fifteen heroes took action, they acted with courage and with compassion. They should not be facing life behind bars.
Sentencing is due later today.