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6 February 2019, 15:36 | Updated: 7 February 2019, 07:36
Fifteen protesters who blocked the take-off of a deportation flight from Stansted Airport have been spared immediate prison sentences for an aviation offence.
Back in March 2017, the so-called 'Stansted 15' cut through the airport's perimeter fence and locked themselves together around a plane that was transporting people from UK detention centres for repatriation to Africa.
Each defendant denied the single charge against them but all were convicted in December 2018 following a nine-week trial at Chelmsford Crown Court.
Prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC told jurors at the trial that the activists put the "safety of the airport in a likelihood of danger".
The offence all defendants were convicted of is the intentional disruption of services at an aerodrome, contrary to section 1 (2) (b) of the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990.
In a statement released after their conviction, the defendants said they were "guilty of nothing more than intervening to prevent harm".
Today, three defendants have been given suspended jail terms and twelve handed community orders.
Heart spoke to one of them, May MacKeith outside court earlier who said:
"I'm relieved that none of us are going to be going to prison, but I guess in a way, that it's just brought more sharply into focus the experience of so many people who are currently in detention indefinitely in the UK and face this really brutal regime of detention and deportation.
Whilst I'm relieved, my thoughts are with the people who were deported to Jamaica this morning on a charter flight which shouldn't have been taking off and yeah, we'll see how the movement grows.
It's had a significant impact on our lives, this has been a 2 year long process so of course there are some limitations, but at the same time I'd say that the number of people willing to stand together, and stand up, against the government's really brutal and secretive charter deportation flights and also the hostile environment, has really grown."
Raj Chada, Partner from Hodge Jones & Allen, who represented all 15 of the defendants, said after the hearing:
"While we are relieved that none of our clients face a custodial sentence, today is still a sad day for justice.
Our clients prevented individuals being illegally removed from the UK and should never have been charged under counter terrorism legislation.
We maintain that this was an abuse of power by the Attorney General and the CPS and will continue to fight in the appeal courts to get these wrongful convictions overturned."