Published: 18:29, 06 February 2019
| Updated: 18:43, 06 February 2019
An anti-deportation activist has avoided jail for her part in the 'Stansted 15' protest.
Laura Clayson, 28, a former pupil at Faversham’s Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, is one of 15 people who formed a blockade around a Boeing 767 for 10 hours at Stansted Airport in March 2017.
The plane had been chartered by the Home Office to deport people held in UK detention centres to Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Ghana.
The 15 protestors - dubbed the Stansted 15 - were arrested under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act - a controversial use of terror-related law.
Following a nine-week trial, they were all convicted of intentional disruption of services and endangerment at an aerodrome.
Today, Ms Clayson, from Whitstable, appeared at Chelmsford Crown Court to receive her sentence, alongside her fellow defendants.
She was handed a 12-month community order, and was told she must carry out 100 hours of unpaid work.
Eleven other defendants received similar sentences, with one ordered to carry out 20 days of rehabilitation instead of unpaid work, due to ill health.
Three other defendants have been handed suspended prison sentences, and ordered to carry out unpaid work.
In a statement released before their sentencing today, the protestors said: "These terror convictions and the 10-week trial that led to them are an injustice that has profound implications for our lives.
"The convictions will drastically limit our ability to work, travel and take part in everyday life.
"Yet, people seeking asylum in this country face worse than this: they are placed in destitution and their lives in limbo, by the Home Office’s vicious system every single day.
“When a country uses draconian terror legislation against people for peaceful protest, snatches others from their homes in dawn raids, incarcerates them without time limit and forces them onto planes in the middle of the night, due to take them to places where their lives might be at risk, something is very seriously wrong.
"Every single one of us should be very worried about our democracy and our future.”
Raj Chada, Partner from Hodge Jones & Allen, who represented all 15 of the defendants said: “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.”