Heathrow 13 get suspended, 6 week, prison sentences with community service and fines

The Heathrow 13 sentencing took place at Willesden Magistrates court, with the defendants fully expecting that all, or most, of them would be given custodial sentences.  A crowd of about 300 cheered the Heathrow 13 as they arrived, and remained outside – with speeches and music – all day. By lunch time, mitigations had been discussed for all the defendants, and they emerged for lunch. Finally at about 4pm, the news filtered out to the crowd that all 13 had 6 weeks prison sentences, suspended for one year. The term could have been 13 weeks, but was reduced to 6 weeks as they had properly considered safety and were all of good character. In addition, ten have to do 120 hours of community service, and 3 (those with previous convictions) have to do 180 hours. There will also be fines, ranging from £500 to £1,000. It was learned that an email had been sent to the court, that morning, from Sir David King – past chief scientist to the UK government – saying that the defendants should not be imprisoned, as their concerns about carbon emissions are justified. Delighted have their freedom, the activists say the campaign against any new runway will continue. One commented that what was intended as a deterrent to climate direct action seems to had the opposite effect.


They occupied the end of Heathrow’s northern runway on 13th July 2015, and were all convicted in January of aggravated trespass and entering a security restricted area of an aerodrome.

Six minute video, from the Guardian of the Heathrow13 talking about their relief not to be imprisoned, and the reasons why they took their action.

Some photos:

crowd scene

Part of the crowd waiting, listening to speeches, while the defendants were inside court.

Rob and Kara with banner

Kara and Rob, before going into court

Danni with banner and umbrella

Danni in the lunch break – still thinking she would probably be going to prison

TAG stronger together banner

Teddington Action Group (TAG) placard – showing logos of many of the groups united in fighting a Heathrow 3rd runway

The crowd waiting

More waiting – the press had to wait till well after 4pm, after arriving at 9am …..

Relief and joy after sentencing

Some of the 13 climate change activists celebrate outside Willesden magistrates’ court PA

Sheila making a statement

Sheila, making a statement after the sentencing, on the importance of not allowing the extra carbon emissions that a new runway would generate. She said “People power will stop a 3rd runway again” 

Afterwards with banner

The Heathrow 13 after emerging from court, with suspended (6 week) prison sentences. The banner behind them reads:  We’ll be back.

Heathrow 13: climate change protesters avoid jail

24.2.2016 (Guardian – by Guardian staff and agencies)

Activists found guilty of aggravated trespass and entering restricted area of an aerodrome given suspended sentences

Hundreds of supporters came out in solidarity to support the Heathrow 13, who were sentenced at Willesden magistrates court.
Hundreds of supporters came out in solidarity to support the Heathrow 13, who were sentenced at Willesden magistrates court. Photograph: Natasha Quarmby/Rex Shutterstock These could have been farewells with friends and family for many weeks …..


Six women and seven men have avoided jail for trespassing at Heathrow, following a protest against the possible expansion of the airport.

The activists, dubbed the Heathrow 13, were given sentences of six weeks suspended for 12 months, meaning they would not have to go to prison immediately.

They had been found guilty in January of aggravated trespass and entering a security-restricted area of an aerodrome. They had been warned by district judge Deborah Wright to expect a custodial sentence.

During the trial at Willesden magistrates court in north-west London, the defendants had argued that their actions were reasonable, proportionate and necessary to prevent death and serious injury via air pollution and climate change, saying that 31 people a year die prematurely around Heathrow due to its pollution, and thousands die due to the effects of climate change.

They had also been backed by John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, and Caroline Lucas, the Green party MP – who both said jailing the group would be a mistake.

Sentencing the 13 on Wednesday, Wright said: “It was very clear your stated intention was to cause as much disruption as possible. You have achieved your aim.” She said the protest led to 25 flights being cancelled and that “each and every one of those people who had their journeys disrupted was a victim of your actions”.

Judge Wright said she was impressed by the defendants’ good character and commitment. However, she said “the fact that you are principled and have strong views about public interest doesn’t mean you can break the law”.

[The Judge did not ask for compensation despite what she called “enormous losses” to Heathrow Airport.  In considering sentence, judge would have given 13 weeks but reduced to 6 weeks due to the Heathrow 13’s consideration of safety, in their protest, and their good character. The Judge listed, one by one, the defendants and their traits and principles – including their academic degrees and their charity work.

All Heathrow13 are banned from coming within 500 metres of Heathrow terminal buildings and 5 meters of perimeter fence – for ?? one year.

The Judge gave the number of victims affected as 92,000 – including those affected by flight cancellations and delays, though the actual number was difficult to establish, as by early afternoon on 13th July 2015, it was very windy. Therefore some flight delays were due to wind, not the occupation].

A loud cheer went up as the defendants left the dock. Outside the court, one of them, Danielle Paffard, said: “I’m so relieved. It’s a triumph for democracy, a triumph for the movement.”

She said that while the sentence meant she was banned from Heathrow for a year, others would continue protesting against the third runway.

Activists led by Dannielle Paffard (centre) outside Willesden magistrates court earlier on Wednesday.
Activists led by Dannielle Paffard (centre) outside Willesden magistrates court earlier on Wednesday. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

“As a result of today’s sentencing there will be plenty more people prepared to go out and cut the perimeter fence,” she added.

The families of the 13, aged 22 to 67, watched proceedings from the public gallery following emotional scenes as their loved ones prepared themselves for a jail sentence.

Speaking earlier in the day, the families made clear their anger at the prospect of prison terms. David Thacker, whose son Edward is one of the 13, said: “I’m feeling very proud of both Edward and the wonderful people who made this stand. But I’m angry at the possibility of a custodial sentence.”

Demonstrators against the proposed third runway at Heathrow airport hold banners at Willesden magistrates court in London.
Demonstrators against the proposed third runway at Heathrow airport hold banners at Willesden magistrates court in London. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP


Kirsty Brimelow QC, of Doughty Chambers, who represented four of the defendants, described all 13 as professional, qualified individuals who were “not fanciful or frivolous”, but instead “people who have real conscience who care about the planet and the human beings on the planet”.

Brimelow said all 13 had acted in the public interest and felt that all other avenues of protest had been exhausted. She said there was no evidence anyone was endangered by the protest, that the activists had taken steps to alert the police and had caused “minimal effect” on the airport.

Brimelow said that Britain’s history of political protest was long and honourable. “We’ve come a long way since the suffragettes and those people would be locked up and treated appallingly,” she said.

She said the last time someone was sent to prison for environmental protest was over the Kinder Scout mass trespass in 1932.  [ Kinder Scout mass trespass Wikipedia ]

Brimelow objected to the prosecutor’s application for compensation from Heathrow airport for “considerable expense and damages”. It was accepted 25 flights had to be cancelled but, she said, there was no reliable evidence of a figure.

In a statement on Tuesday 23rd February, the Heathrow 13 said: “Clearly, none of us would choose to go to jail, but this shouldn’t be singled out as the main ‘injustice’.Climate change is the real injustice, with the majority of the world’s population, those in the global south, being the ones who continue to be most affected.

“The science is clear … There can be no new runways in the UK if we are to take climate change seriously.”


[Many commented that though the Heathrow 13 have to carry out community work, they could be considered by some to already be doing that – in their efforts to prevent damage to the global climate, that would have highly negative impacts on all of us.]

Personal letter from David King, advisor to the climate change commission, supporting the action, has been shared with the


and part of an article by Danni Paffard

Heathrow 13: I’m terrified at the thought of prison, but have no regret

24.2.2016 (Guardian blog)

While I’m terrified at the thought of prison, I stand by the actions that we took. A third runway at Heathrow would produce as much emissions as the whole of Kenya, make a mockery of any pledges made at the UN climate talks in Paris last December, and David Cameron’s own election promise of “no ifs, no buts … no third runway”.

While our actions in occupying a runway may seem radical, looking at the implications of a new runway at Heathrow, it’s clear who the radicals really are.

If the government commits to build a new runway, it knowingly signs up to breaking its own “legally binding” climate change commitments on emissions reductions and attempts to tackle the defining global threat facing humanity.

Flying is a modern-day miracle, but it is a luxury that comes at a price and we need to be honest about that. In the UK,70% of the flights are taken by just 15% of the population. We’re not saying that ordinary people can’t enjoy travel; we’re saying it’s more likely that the only effect a third runway will have on ordinary people is making the air they breathe dirtier.

And it’s not just about air pollution either: increased CO2 emissions will make extreme weather events more common, like the terrible floods that damaged so many people’s communities in the north of England over Christmas. The third runway is costly, unnecessary and harmful to all of us.

A short time behind bars is nothing compared to the life sentence of climate change for people around the world, and generations to come. So as I hunt for appropriate clothes and sufficient reading material, mentally prepare for life without the internet and figure out what to do with advice like “don’t be alarmed by screaming in the night”, I feel no regret for the action I took.

While we’re on the wrong side of the law on this one, I am sure that we’ll end up on the right side of history.





Talking to the crowd after they emerged from the court, Kara Moses said:
“It seemed like they were trying to create a deterrent but it seemed to have the opposite effect.  We’re now out and we’re free and we’re out here to fight along side you, so together we can all do this and build this movement even stronger.”


‘Heathrow 13’ climate change protesters avoid jail

24.2.2016 (BBC)

Supporters of the 13 convicted protesters were outside court in north LondonImage Supporters of the 13 convicted protesters were outside court in north London

Thirteen climate change protesters whose demonstration at Heathrow caused 25 flights to be cancelled have been handed six-week suspended sentences.

The activists have been banned from Heathrow and will have to do unpaid community work. The ten with no previous convictions have to do 120 hours, and Danni Paffard, Graham Thomson and Rob Basto have to do 180 hours.

The barrister representing four of the activists earlier said the group had acted on “deeply-held beliefs”.

They were found guilty last month of aggravated trespass and entering a security-restricted area.

During the trial the court heard the protesters’ actions caused “astronomical” costs and disruption.

All the defendants must carry out 120 hours unpaid work, apart from protesters Graham Thompson, Danielle Paffard and Roberto Basto, who have previous convictions and will carry out 180 hours.

A Heathrow spokesman said: “When individuals illegally enter the airport, they cause disruption to thousands of passengers going about their business and when their actions extend airside they endanger lives.

“Heathrow supports the right to peaceful protest, but we will always prioritise the safe and smooth running of our airport.”

The demonstration took place last July when the defendants from the direct action group Plane Stupid cut through a fence at Heathrow Airport and chained themselves together on a runway.

They were told when they were found guilty they could expect to receive jail sentences.

Arguing against a prison sentence Kirsty Brimelow QC, speaking for four of the defendants, told Willesden Magistrates Court they believed they had been “acting in the public interest” and highlighted what she called a “hard-fought for” tradition of civil disobedience.

She said: “We have come a long way since the days of the suffragettes, since those people would have been locked up and treated appallingly.”

District Judge Deborah Wright said her understanding was that “immense” costs had been caused by the protest.

Prosecutor Robert Short said prosecution costs had reached about £14,000.

The defendants:

  • Rebecca Sanderson, 28, from Newton Road, Machynlleth, Powys
  • Richard Hawkins, 32 and Kara Moses, 32, both from Heol y Doll, Machynlleth, Powys
  • Ella Gilbert, 23, from Magdalen Street, Norwich
  • Melanie Strickland, 32, from Borwick Avenue, Waltham Forest
  • Danielle Paffard, 28, from Blenheim Grove, Peckham
  • Graham Thompson, 42, from Durlston Road, Hackney
  • Sheila Menon, 44, from Pellerin Road, Hackney
  • Cameron Kaye, 23, from Kenwood Close, Sipson, West Drayton
  • Edward Thacker, 26, from Kenwood Close, Sipson, West Drayton
  • Alistair Tamlit, 27, from Kenwood Close, Sipson, West Drayton
  • Sam Sender, 23, from Kenwood Close, Sipson, West Drayton
  • Robert Basto, 67, from Blackborough Road, Reigate, Surrey