Who were the 'Stansted 15'?
In 2017 a group of protestors surrounded a plane which had been chartered by the Home Office to transport 57 people to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone. These protestors were later convicted under the Aviation and Maritime Security Act, and given suspended jail sentences and community orders. In January 2021, the Court of Appeal ruled that these protestors should never have been prosecuted under this law, and their convictions were overturned. The court’s ruling stated that the Stansted 15 should never have been prosecuted for such a serious offence under the 1990 Act, ‘because their conduct did not satisfy the various elements of the offence. There was, in truth, no case to answer.’
While this ruling refers specifically to the Aviation and Maritime Security Act and the unsuitability of its use to prosecute protestors, the success of the Stansted 15 in this appeal is another interesting development in the debate surrounding the use of certain laws to prosecute protestors, and echoes the success of Extinction Rebellion in its high-profile challenge to the lawfulness of the police ban on the group’s protests in London in 2019. In this case, the High Court ruled that the Metropolitan police’s ban under the Public Order Act was unlawful as the Extinction Rebellion protests could not be defined as a public assembly.
Chambers UK Bar's inclusion of protest law
In recognition of the fact that protest law is a rapidly growing area, Chambers introduced a new section in our most recent guide to cover barristers undertaking this work. Ranked juniors Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh from Matrix Chambers and Owen Greenhall from Garden Court Chambers acted for the Stansted 15 in their appeal, led by top criminal law silks Clare Montgomery QC from Matrix Chambers and Doughty Street Chambers’ Tim Moloney QC.
The full list of Chambers recommended sets and barristers for Protest Law can be found here.