'History will vindicate us, even though this jury did not' - Former Lancaster University student who faces life imprisonment speaks out after being found guilty of breaching terror laws

A former Lancaster University student who faces life imprisonment after being found guilty of breaching terror laws said that 'history will vindicate us, even though this jury did not'.

Thursday, 13th December 2018, 8:37 am
Updated Thursday, 13th December 2018, 9:50 am
Laura Clayson

Laura Clayson, 28, who was president of Lancaster University Student Union up to 2015, went on trial with 14 other people after helping to block a deportation flight to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

The Stansted 15 protesters, who stopped the government deportation flight from taking off in March last year, have been found guilty of breaching terror laws.

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Lancaster student on terror charges - why does she face life in prison?

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Laura Clayson

Lancaster MP Cat Smith said the verdict is a sad day for human rights.

Ms Clayson, along with 14 other activists, was charged with intentional disruption of services at an aerodrome under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act, a law passed in response to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. It has only been used once before in 28 years.

The court heard the protesters secured themselves around the nose wheel and wing of the Boeing 767, with pipes and foam, having cut a hole in the perimeter fence.

They had all pleaded not guilty, but a jury at Chelmsford Crown Court returned a guilty verdict and they now face up to life imprisonment.

Sentencing is due to take place in early February.

Ms Clayson said: “We are guilty of nothing more than intervening to prevent harm. Our action was planned and carried out in a safe way and it is disgustingly ironic that we have been convicted of endangering when it was the Home Office, not us, who were endangering people on that night.

“And they put people in danger every single day, through indefinite incarceration, violently forcing them onto planes and sending them to places where they face serious injury, or even death.

“Eleven of the people due to be on that flight are still at home in Britain as a result of this action: at least two of them are victims of trafficking and two have been given leave to remain, which shows that they should never have been on the flight in the first place.

These people represent the stories of the thousands of others who have been wrongfully deported.

“It is unfair, unjust and unlawful and must be changed. And history will vindicate us even though this jury did not.”

Lancaster MP Cat Smith said: “This verdict is a sad day for human rights, when non-violent protestors are prosecuted for defending the Refugee Convention, and are treated like terrorists.”

She said a Labour government would review the statute book to better guarantee the right to peaceful dissent.

She added: “I was pleased to be able to offer Laura Clayson a personal reference as part of her defence in the trial and I’m personally very sad to learn of the judgement.”