The actions of the Stansted 15 exposed the brutality of secretive charter flights.
Activists who locked themselves to a plane to prevent it deporting people to West Africa have been given community orders and suspended sentences.
The protest took place in 2017. Most of those on board the plane were being deported following failed immigration cases, though some had not yet received a final decision. Two have since been given leave to appeal, which the activists say justifies their actions.
The conviction of the activists in December for endangering the safety of an airport was criticised by human rights campaigners as being excessive.
However, the sentencing judge Christopher Morgan QC, said that although such action would “ordinarily result in custodial sentences”, they “didn’t have a grievous intent as some may do who commit this type of crime”.
In an article for the Guardian, protester Emma Hughes wrote: “We are a group of peaceful protesters, but the state has convicted us of a terror-related offence. This was done without any transparency by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), and neither the CPS nor the attorney general have explained this decision.
“This is why we have already lodged our appeal. Amnesty International has described our convictions as ‘a crushing blow for human rights’, and we cannot just accept that and walk away.”
Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party, welcomed the ruling. “The actions of the Stansted 15 exposed the brutality of secretive charter flights.
“We need root and branch reform of our immigration system with an end to the use of charter flights for deportations immediately,” he said.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We only return those with no legal right to remain in the UK, including foreign national offenders and failed asylum seekers.
“We expect people to leave the country voluntarily but, where they do not, the Home Office will seek to enforce their departure.”
A flight deporting 29 Jamaicans left the UK yesterday. Crimes committed by the individuals include murder, rape and serious violence, and had a total combined sentence of over 150 years imprisonment, according to the Home Office. None were British citizens or members of the Windrush generation, it added.
Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.