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Heathrow runway protesters given suspended jail terms

Published 24/02/2016

Emergency service workers reach an activist dressed as a teddy bear after demonstrators occupied the north runway at Heathrow Airport
Emergency service workers reach an activist dressed as a teddy bear after demonstrators occupied the north runway at Heathrow Airport

The 13 climate change activists who cancelled 25 flights and triggered vast financial costs and disruption to thousands of passengers at Heathrow Airport have each received a suspended six weeks prison term.

Distict judge Deborah Wright, sentencing at London's Willesden Magistrates' Court, said the sentences over the runway protest will be suspended for 12 months.

The protesters - dubbed the Heathrow 13 - were found guilty of aggravated trespass and entering a security-restricted area of an aerodrome in July 2015.

They were ordered not to go within 500 metres of any terminal at Heathrow Airport or to go within five metres of the perimeter fence.

A ll of them must carry out 120 hours unpaid work apart from protesters Graham Thompson, Danielle Paffard and Roberto Basto who each have previous convictions and will have to carry out 180 hours.

The protesters sentenced are Danielle Paffard, 28, of Blenheim Grove, Peckham, south-east London, Rebecca Sanderson, 28, of Newton Road, Machynlleth, Powys; Richard Hawkins, 33, and Kara Moses, 32, both of Heoly Doll, Machynlleth, Powys; Ella Gilbert, 23, of Magdalen Street, Norwich; Melanie Strickland, 33, of Borwick Avenue, Waltham Forest, north-east London; Graham Thompson, 42, of Durlston Road, Hackney, north-east London; Sheila Menon, 44, of Pellerin Road, Hackney; Cameron Kaye, 23, Edward Thacker, 26, Alistair Tamlit, 27, and Sam Sender, 23, all of Kenwood Close, Sipson, West Drayton, west London; Robert Basto, 67, of Blackborough Road, Reigate, Surrey.

The judge told the defendants, who were packed into the dock, that the crimes they carried out had been "carefully orchestrated and timed to a date that was to your convenience".

The judge said they had timed their Heathrow protest on July 13 2015 to around 3.45am, shortly before the first aeroplane was due to land.

The protesters chained themselves to railings at the UK's largest airport as part of the long-running Plane Stupid campaign to end airport expansion.

The group cut a hole in a fence and made their way on to the north runway .

Having managed to get in to the restricted "airside" area of Heathrow Airport, they erected a tripod and then chained themselves to some fencing on the runway. It took six hours before the last of the activists were removed.

The sentence was for aggravated trespass and no penalty was applied for entering a restricted aerodrome.

The judge told the protesters it was their "clear intention" to cause as much disruption to the flights scheduled that day as they could, and that their crimes could have had as many as 92,000 victims.

She said: "A total of 92,000 passengers who travel into and out of Heathrow had their travel disrupted that day.

"Each and every one of the people who had their travel disrupted was a victim. For some, it was a short delay.

"However, people fly for various reasons - not just for holidays, but to visit sick and dying relatives."

She told Basto, who was the oldest of the group, that he travels a lot for his work, and remarked: "I cannot resist assuming that you may get there using air travel."

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