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Heathrow 13 avoid jail after mass campaign

Hundreds of supporters gathered outside Willesden magistrates court yesterday as environment activists dubbed the Heathrow 13 avoided jail for trespassing at the airport.

Report by Paul Feldman; photos Peter Arkell

Heathrow 13 supporters

After a massive campaign, which saw 50,000 people sign a petition and support from Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and shadow chancellor John McDonnell, the judge Deborah Wright passed suspended sentences. In January, she had warned the 13 to expect custodial sentences when they were convicted of entering a security-restricted area during a protest against the possible expansion of the airport.

During the trial the 13 had argued that their actions were reasonable, proportionate and necessary to prevent death and serious injury via air pollution and climate change.

Heathrow 13
Heathrow 13 leaving court

Sentencing the 13, Wright said she was impressed by the defendants’ good character and commitment. However, she said “the fact that you are principled and have strong views about public interest doesn’t mean you can break the law”.

A loud cheer went up as the defendants left the dock. Outside the court, one of them, Danielle Paffard, said: “I’m so relieved. It’s a triumph for democracy, a triumph for the movement.”  

Danielle Paffard
Danielle Paffard
 
Kirsty Brimelow QC, who represented four of the defendants, described all 13 as professional, qualified individuals who were “not fanciful or frivolous”, but instead “people who have real conscience who care about the planet and the human beings on the planet”.
 
Brimelow said that Britain’s history of political protest was long and honourable. “We’ve come a long way since the suffragettes and those people would be locked up and treated appallingly,” she said. She said the last time someone was sent to prison for environmental protest was over the Kinder Scout mass trespass in 1932.

25 February 2016

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