‘Prison a small price to pay’ in eco battle
Plane Stupid trespassers to expect jail sentence
A PLANE Stupid protester who was convicted of trespassing on Heathrow Airport’s north runway has told the Gazette that ‘jail is a small price to pay for fighting climate change’.
Danielle Paffard was one of a group of 13 campaigners who caused 25 flight cancellations after cutting a hole in a fence and chaining themselves to railings at Heathrow on July 13, 2015.
The defendants – seven men and six women – included four from Sipson and West Drayton and were convicted at Willesden Magistrates’ Court on Monday.
A district judge warned them to expect jail sentences for their actions.
Speaking afterwards, Ms Paffard said she was ‘disappointed’ at the verdict but stands by her actions.
She said: “It’s another sign that the legal system isn’t able to properly deal with the risks posed by all of us by climate change and air pollution.
“When we’ve got hundreds of thousands of people all around the world dying of climate change and air pollution, it’s shocking how much the government has failed and how much we need more ordinary people to be standing up for themselves on this issue and I think that’s what we did.”
The 28-year-old added she would be thinking of those who had died or lost their homes to climate change from her prison cell.
During their three-day trial the defendants said they carried out the preplanned action to ‘save lives’, using the defence of necessity.
Police were called at around 3.45am on July 13, 2015 to reports of suspicious activity at a Heathrow perimeter fence.
They found the fence cut and several boltcutters discarded at the scene and then uncovered the 13 protesters at the eastern end of the north runway.
They had built a tripod out of scaffolding poles and surrounded themselves with 6ft-high metal fencing.
The protesters had then locked themselves onto the structure or in pairs with arm locks filled with expanding quick set foam.
The runway was finally cleared and back in use six hours later – at 10am that morning.
John McDonnell, the Hayes & Harlington MP and shadow chancellor, was prevented by the court from taking the stand on behalf of the protestors, but he said in a statement: “My experience in politics over the past 40 years has shown me that these campaigning methods can be extremely successful in bringing the public’s attention to an issue and in influencing government decisions.
“Although the specific direct action can at times cause some short-term inconvenience, by highlighting a threat like climate change, it can have a longer term and more significant effect on averting the impact of a greater risk.”
He added: “There continues to be extremely high levels of concern expressed by local residents at the threat of a third runway. Local people living in the Heathrow villages are naturally distressed that their homes will be demolished or rendered unliveable as a result of air pollution and increased noise.
“This will impact upon 4,000 homes, accommodating about 10,000 local residents.”
Reacting to the verdict, Rob Gray, director of the proexpansion Back Heathrow campaign said: “Plane Stupid do not represent the majority of local residents who want to see a bigger, better Heathrow, or the millions of people who simply want to use the airport uninterrupted and unmolested.
“The self-indulgent actions that contributed to the guilty verdict were undemocratic and – put simply – plain stupid.”
Sentencing takes place on February 24 at the same court.
n ‘ANGER’: Residents opposed to the building of a large recycling facility at the junction of Tavistock Road and Yiewsley High Street, Yiewsley
n ‘DISAPPOINTED’: Protesters outside Willesden Magistrates’ Court where 13 campaigners were convicted