Plane Stupid runway protesters facing jail

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

Protesters assemble outside Willesden Magistrates Court, ahead of the sentencing today - Credit: Archant

Two climate change activists from Hackney are facing “almost inevitable” jail sentences this morning, for their part in a peaceful protest against expansion at Heathrow Airport.

Sheila Menon photographed at Hackney Downs. Photo Kristian Buus

Sheila Menon photographed at Hackney Downs. Photo Kristian Buus - Credit: Kristian Buus

Around 300 people are currently assembled outside Willesden Magistrates’ Court in support of Sheila Menon, 44, and Graham Thompson, 42, and 11 other activists from the environmental activist group Plane Stupid, who occupied Heathrow Airport’s north runway last July.

They cut a hole in a fence before attaching themselves to railings in a protest which grounded flights and caused widespread delays for passengers.

The demo was staged after a long-awaited report recommended a new runway should be built at Heathrow, rather than Gatwick.

The group pleaded not guilty at a hearing last month, arguing their actions were intended to prevent death or serous illness to people from air pollution and climate change.

Graham Thompson photographed in Angel, London.Photo Kristian Buus

Graham Thompson photographed in Angel, London.Photo Kristian Buus - Credit: Kristian Buus

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However, district judge Deborah Wright (who sat alone) said the cost of the disruption at Heathrow was “absolutely astronomical”, and warned them custodial sentences are “almost inevitable”.

Film maker Sheila Menon, from Pellerin Road, Dalston, said in court: “All across London, people are affected by poor air quality and Heathrow airport is already in breach of EU pollution limits. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary people are paying a hefty price with their health and their lives, for the convenience of a wealthy minority of frequent binge flyers.”

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Mr Thompson, from Durlston Road, Upper Clapton who works in the Greenpeace UK press office, added: “Heathrow and the successive governments they have lobbied can’t be trusted either to listen to the scientific evidence on climate change or to keep their pollution within legal limits.

“We will all be affected by Heathrow’s carbon emissions, many of us already are.

“If the authorities won’t obey their own regulations, the public will have to stand up and make them.”

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