Heathrow 13 greeted with cheers out­side mag­is­trates court

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS -

CHEER­ING erupted in court as 13 Plane Stupid Heathrow ac­tivists who blocked a run­way as part of a protest last year were spared jail.

The seven men and six women, who be­came known as the ‘Heathrow 13’, were sen­tenced to six weeks’ im­pris­on­ment but Willes­den Mag­is­trates’ Court de­cided it would be sus­pended for a year, plus com­mu­nity ser­vice.

Mem­bers of the protest group cut a hole in a Heathrow Air­port fence and chained them­selves to rail­ings on the north run­way on July 13 last year.

It is said that 25 sched­uled flights were can­celled as a re­sult of their ac­tions, but de­fen­dants pleaded not guilty on Au­gust 19 2015.

The ac­tivists were found to be guilty in Jan­uary and had been warned to ex­pect jail.

In­stead they will carry out 120 hours of com­mu­nity ser­vice, ex­cept Robert Bris­toe, Danielle Paf­fard and Gra­ham Thomp­son who will do 180 hours.

The de­fen­dants have also been banned from go­ing within 500m of Heathrow ter­mi­nal build­ings and 5m of the perime­ter fence.

Hu­man rights bar­ris­ter Kirsty Brimelow QC, of Doughty Street Cham­bers, was present on be­half of de­fen­dants Re­becca San­der­son, Richard Hawkins, Sheila Menon and Ed­ward Thacker, all of pre­vi­ous good char­ac­ter and no pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions.

She told court: “This was di­rect ac­tion. A peace­ful, political protest, ex­er­cis­ing civil dis­obe­di­ence of con­scious grounds.

“This case is not one which passes the cus­tody thresh­old.”

Ask­ing for con­di­tional dis­charges, Ms Brimelow said the last time a cus­to­dial sen­tence was given for ag­gra­vated tres­pass in the UK was in 1932, when there was a mass tres­pass of the Moors in Lan­cashire.

She added: “They gen­uinely be­lieved they were act­ing in the pub­lic in­ter­est. They are com­mit­ted to re­duc­ing car­bon emis­sions.”

Michael Turner QC spoke for Bris­toe, Cameron Kaye, Sam Sender and Alis­tair Tam­lit.

He asked District Judge Deborah Wright for sus­pended sen­tences, cou­pled with com­mu­nity or­ders.

He said: “A prison sen­tence would not be a de­ter­rent but would be the op­po­site, adding fuel to the fire and pub­lic­ity.”

Mr Bris­toe has two pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions re­lat­ing to frack­ing protests, in­clud­ing be­ing made to pay a £250 fine for ag­gra­vated tres­pass at the Black­pool Tower.

Ella Gil­bert was of good char­ac­ter apart from one cau­tion, while Paf­fard had two pre­vi­ous ag­gra­vated tres­pass con­vic­tions and Thomp­son four.

Most of the Heathrow 13 had glow­ing char­ac­ter ref­er­ences de­tail­ing their com­mit­ments to their causes, in­clud­ing praise from Green Party leader Natalie Ben­nett for lawyer and de­fen­dant Me­lanie Strick­land.

District Judge Wright con­sid­ered the sen­tences on an in­di­vid­ual ba­sis, say­ing she had ‘a lot to con­sider’.

A rally was held out­side with Hayes & Har­ling­ton MP John McDonnell and Green Party MP Caro­line Lu­cas show­ing their sup­port for the ac­tivists.

n PAS­SION­ATE: Plane Stupid Heathrow pro­test­ers emerge vic­to­ri­ous from Willes­den Mag­is­trates’ Court af­ter they re­ceived sus­pended sen­tences

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