BREAKING: The Stansted 15 avoid prison. But the real criminals still roam free in the Home Office.

Stansted 15
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On 6 February, the ‘Stansted 15‘ appeared in court for sentencing after they were found guilty of a terrorism-related offence. They responded to a “call for help” and faced up to life imprisonment. But instead, the judge accepted the intent behind the 15’s actions. He sentenced all but one of the defendants to a 12-month community order and imposed nine-month suspended sentences on the three defendants who had previously taken similar action.

This was the reaction outside the court when supporters received news that no one was going to jail:

The 15 locked themselves together to prevent a chartered deportation flight taking off from London Stansted Airport. The flight was taking people to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone. At least 11 of the people due to be deported that day are still in the UK.

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And on the same day as the sentencing, the real criminals in the Home Office were deporting 35 people to Jamaica.

The real criminals

As the defendants were preparing themselves for the possibility of prison, another charter flight has faced criticism. Many of those deported on today’s flight have been in the UK since they were children and have indefinite leave to remain. Some will leave behind children in the UK. Despite the Home Office claiming they are serious criminals, many only have convictions for minor offences.

As news of the sentences came in, those being deported were already in the air:

Labour MP David Lammy slammed the deportations in the House of Commons:

Why do you say these children should live without their parents?

Why do you say [to] the families of black British people who have been killed by your department’s incompetence that this is acceptable?…

Why is it that still, in this country, black lives matter less?

And as rapper and conscious poet Potent Whisper makes clear in his video in support of the Stansted 15, it’s the Home Office that is the real criminal for implementing its hostile environment:

Solidarity

Huge numbers of people turned out in solidarity with the 15:

Expressions of solidarity also came from Green MP Caroline Lucas and Momentum:

Meanwhile, as the defendants themselves were packing for the possibility of prison, their thoughts were with the people on today’s deportation flight:

Appeal

The 15 are also appealing their conviction. Lawyer Raj Chada, who represents 13 of the activists, called the convictions “a travesty of justice” and said:

It is our strongly held belief that charging them with this offence was an abuse of power by the attorney general and the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service]. It is only right and fitting that this wrongful conviction is overturned.

Despite the outcome, the case is far from over. The defendants will keep fighting. Not only against a charge designed to repress protest, but against the hostile environment, deportation flights, and the real criminals in the Home Office.

Featured image via screengrab

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