Member of the Stansted 15: 'It's a scary moment in the history of our right to protest'

Stansted Airport

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A member of the Stansted 15 has claimed terror-related charges brought against the group were a "shock" and a "scary moment" for protesters across the country.

May MacKeith was one of a group dubbed the 'Stansted 15' who prevented a Home Office-chartered deportation plane from taking off by chaining themselves around the aircraft.

They have now been convicted of intentional disruption of services at an aerodrome, contrary to section 1 (2) (b) of the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990, which can carry a life sentence.

"It's a scary moment in the history of our right to protest," Ms MacKeith told talkRADIO's Matthew Wright.



The group had originally been charged with Aggravated Trespass for the stunt, which was later increased to the aviation security offence.

"Four months after we'd originally been charged, our charges were changed and much, much stronger charges were brought against us which are unprecedented in the use of that against protesters in the UK," Ms MacKeith added.

"The danger that was being faced was not by the airport, but the people who were on that flight and due to be deported to countries where people feared for their lives."

Ms MacKeith said the group had expected to be arrested, but felt they "had to act".

"We're just a few people who are part of the many standing together to stop people being snatched from our communities and forced out of the country by these really brutal flights," she said.


'Very strange'

Amnesty International campaigner, Tim Gee, told talkRADIO it was "very strange" that the charge had been changed.

"There are comparable cases, mostly from environmental protesters, who have been charged under Aggravated Trespass. We don't know for sure the reason that it was changed, however, if this charge was changed in order to discourage or even to stifle other people taking peaceful action for human rights in the UK, that's very worrying indeed," he said.

"Democratic countries need human rights defenders and we don't think that they should be stifled in this way."