THE STANSTED 15, a group of nonviolent activists, have had their appeal against being convicted under counter terrorism legislation upheld.

Lyndsay Burtonshaw, a Quaker from Brighton, was among those who took action in March 2017 by peacefully blockading a stationary Boeing 767 plane, chartered by the Home Office to deport 57 individuals from Stansted Airport to Ghana, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. Among the passengers to be deported was a victim of human trafficking and others faced potential death, torture and detention.

Of the passengers, the Stansted 15 issued a joint statement via their legal team commenting, “These people are friends, family members, neighbours, mums and dads of young children. Eleven people who would have been deported that night are still in the UK now, building lives the government attempted to destroy.”

Three months after receiving an initial charge of “aggravated trespass”, the Crown Prosecution Service changed this to a far more serious, terror related offence. Raj Chada, Head of Criminal Defence Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors and a member of the Stansted 15 legal team warned in a statement to the press, “There will be a chilling effect on the noble tradition in the UK, of dissent and direct action, if terror related offences are used against peaceful protestors. Most importantly, there were people who were due to be deported that night, but who the courts now accept have a right to stay. That would not have happened but for the actions of the Stansted 15″

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain said, “We are delighted by today’s verdict. Lyndsay Burtonshaw works on nonviolence and injustice for Quakers in Britain but was acting in their personal capacity. Quakers are guided by our book of discipline, Quaker faith & practice to respect the laws of the state but to let their first loyalty be to God’s purposes. The guidance says this, ‘If you are impelled by strong conviction to break the law, search your conscience deeply. Ask your meeting for prayerful support which will give you strength as a right way becomes clear'”.

As one of the fifteen, Lyndsay Burtonshaw’s arrest was recorded in the Quakers’ Court and Prison Register. This is a historic list of Quakers who have broken the law, because of their personal commitment to their faith. Throughout the original trial, Lyndsay Burtonshaw and the Stansted 15, were supported by Chelmsford Quakers who provided practical and spiritual support.

Quakers in Britain are committed to listening to those at the sharp end of the UK’s immigration system and note the words of one of the people due to be deported on the flight at Stansted (reported in The Guardian), “The Stansted 15 were trying to stop the real crime being committed. Without their actions I would have faced the utter injustice of being deported from this country without having my (now successful) appeal heard.”

Many Quakers will support the promptings of love and truth that led to the Stansted 15 undertaking nonviolent action and will continue to put their faith into action through challenging the UK’s hostile immigration system.

The Stansted 15 are: Helen Brewer, Lyndsay Burtonshaw, Nathan Clack, Laura Clayson, Mel Evans, Joseph McGahan, Benjamin Smoke, Jyotsna Ram, Nicholas Sigsworth, Alistair Tamlit, Edward Thacker, Emma Hughes, May McKeith, Ruth Potts and Melanie Stickland.

* Source: Quakers in Britain