‘Prison a small price to pay’ in eco bat­tle

Plane Stupid tres­passers to ex­pect jail sen­tence

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS -

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

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