Former Union President found guilty of ‘endangering’ Stansted airport

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Photo: Lucy Lamb

Former Student’s Union President Laura Clayson has today been found guilty of disrupting a
deportation flight and has been convicted of an aviation offence. Along with 14 other
activists, Clayson, who was LUSU president from 2014-2015, faces years in prison for
violating the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act.

The guilty verdict was delivered today, Monday 10 the December 2018, in Chelmsford Crown Court after a 9-week trial which began on the 1 st October. Protestors supporting the Stansted 15 gathered in masses outside of the court throughout the trial, displaying signs with messages of support such as ‘Solidarity is not a crime’ and ‘No human is illegal’.

Collectively known as the ‘Stansted 15’ the court was told that the protestors entered the
runway area, erected a blockade and locked themselves onto the wing of a plane which was
carrying asylum seekers being deported from the UK. The group also displayed a banner
which read ‘Mass deportations kill. Stop charter flights’ and wore clothing with the slogan
‘No-one is illegal.’ The deportation flight was to take asylum seekers and refugees to Ghana
and Nigeria in March 2017.

Clayson, 28, was elected President of the Students’ Union following a campaign centred
around creating a ‘more unified campus community’. Speaking to SCAN in 2014, prior to her election, she discussed how she wanted to improve the Union’s environmental impact and embrace diversity on campus, saying that she would be would be the ‘sixth self-defining woman president in [the Union’s] history’.

Before verdicts were released, Judge Christopher Morgan said that alleged human rights
abuses, immigration policy and issues of proportionality did not have ‘any relevance’ to
whether any offence was committed.

Deputy chief crown prosecutor for the East of England Judith Reed stated that the group
caused ‘significant disruption’ to the airport and said, ‘These people placed themselves, the
flight crew, airport personnel and police at serious risk of injury or even death due to their
actions on the airfield. The CPS worked with the police to build a strong case which reflected the criminality of the defendant’s actions, regardless of their motivation.’
11 of the people due to be deported on the flight have since been allowed to stay in the UK, which the 15 used in court to justify their actions. One of these men said that he would have missed the birth of his daughter had he been deported, and stated, ‘There is no doubt in my mind that these 15 brave people are heroes, not criminals.’

Responding to the verdict in a statement the Stansted 15 said: “We are guilty of nothing
more than intervening to prevent harm. The real crime is the government’s cowardly,
inhumane and barely legal deportation flights and the unprecedented use of terror law to
crack down on peaceful protest. We must challenge this shocking use of draconian
legislation, and continue to demand an immediate end to these secretive deportation
charter flights and a full independent public inquiry into the government’s ‘hostile
environment’.”

“Justice will not be done until we are exonerated and the Home Office is held to account for the danger it puts people in every single day. It endangers people in
dawn raids on their homes, at detention centres and on these brutal flights. The system is
out of control. It is unfair, unjust and unlawful and it must be stopped.”
The Stansted 15 will be sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court at a later date.