Thirteen climate activists from the campaigning organisation Plane Stupid, who shut down a runway at Heathrow Airport in July 2015, have been found guilty of aggravated trespass. They have been told that it is “almost inevitable” that they will be given prison sentences.
The Heathrow 13 will be sentenced on 24 February. In her statement, the judge stated that the thirteen were all people of integrity, who had been acting out of genuine, moral convictions, but she justified her ruling on the basis that they had cost Heathrow an “astronomical” amount as a result of 25 cancelled flights and heightened security since the action.
The thirteen argued that the pressing threat of climate change and air pollution had made their actions necessary. A statement they released following their conviction read: “the legal system does not yet recognise that climate defence is not an offence. When the democratic and legislative processes have failed, it takes the actions of ordinary people to change them”.
The protestors face three months in prison under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. The law was brought in during a period when the media were whipping up public outrage at illegal raves. Over recent years the charge of aggravated trespass has been increasingly used to arrest and convict protestors. This is said to be the first time that protesters convicted of aggravated trespass will have been given prison sentences. This ruling represents new precedent in the criminalisation of protest and confirmation of the fact that our criminal justice system serves to protect the profits of big business, over ordinary people in the overwhelming majority. The labour movement must mobilise to defend the Heathrow 13!