Plane Stupid activists escape jail term

PUBLISHED: 17:19 24 February 2016 | UPDATED: 17:19 24 February 2016

Graham Thompson photographed in Angel, London.Photo Kristian Buus

Graham Thompson photographed in Angel, London.Photo Kristian Buus

The 13 climate change activists who cancelled 25 flights and triggered vast financial costs and disruption to thousands of passengers at Heathrow Airport have each received a suspended six weeks prison term.

Sheila Menon photographed at Hackney Downs. Photo Kristian BuusSheila Menon photographed at Hackney Downs. Photo Kristian Buus

Distict judge Deborah Wright, sentencing at London’s Willesden Magistrates’ Court, said the sentences over the runway protest will be suspended for 12 months.

The protesters - dubbed the Heathrow 13 – who include two people from Hackney, Sheila Menon, 44, of Pellerin Road, Dalston, and Graham Thompson, 42, of Durlston Road, Upper Clapton, were found guilty last month of aggravated trespass and entering a security-restricted area of an aerodrome in July 2015.

They were ordered not to go within 500 metres of any terminal at Heathrow Airport or to go within five metres of the perimeter fence.

All of them must carry out 120 hours unpaid work apart from protesters Graham Thompson, Danielle Paffard, 28, of Blenheim Grove, Peckham, and Roberto Basto, 67, of Blackborough Road, Reigate, Surrey who each have previous convictions and will have to carry out 180 hours.

Protesters assemble outside Willesden Magistrate’s Court, ahead of the sentencing todayProtesters assemble outside Willesden Magistrate’s Court, ahead of the sentencing today

Kirsty Brimelow QC, representing four of the defendants, referred back to the Suffragettes and said the 13 had carried out an act of civil disobedience because they believed they were “acting in the public interest” and felt that “all other avenues had been exhausted” in the fight to cut carbon emissions.

She told the court: “We have come a long way since the days of the Suffragettes, since those people would have been locked up and treated appallingly.”

The judge told the defendants, who were packed into the dock, that the crimes they carried out had been “carefully orchestrated and timed to a date that was to your convenience”.

The judge said they had timed their Heathrow protest on July 13 2015 to around 3.45am, shortly before the first aeroplane was due to land.

The protesters chained themselves to railings at the UK’s largest airport as part of the long-running Plane Stupid campaign to end airport expansion, cutting a hole in a fence before they made their way to the north runway .

Having managed to get in to the restricted “airside” area of Heathrow Airport, they erected a tripod and chained themselves to some fencing on the runway.

It took six hours before the last of the activists were removed.

The sentence was for aggravated trespass and no penalty was applied for entering a restricted aerodrome.

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