Fifteen protesters who blocked the take-off of a deportation flight from Stansted Airport are to be sentenced after they were convicted of an aviation security offence.

The activists cut through the airport's perimeter fence and locked themselves together around a Boeing 767 jet chartered by the Home Office to transport people from UK detention centres for repatriation to Africa.

It happened in March 2017 and the so-called Stansted 15 were convicted in December 2018 following a nine-week trial at Chelmsford Crown Court.

The defendants were found guilty of the intentional disruption of services at an aerodrome, contrary to section 1 (2) (b) of the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

  • Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire 

Lawyers for the activists said this law was passed in response to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

In a statement released after their conviction, the defendants said they were "guilty of nothing more than intervening to prevent harm".

They are appealing against their conviction.

Raj Chada, partner at Hodge Jones & Allen, which represents the activists, described their conviction as a "travesty of justice that needs correcting in the appeal courts".

He said the defendants, aged between 27 and 44, face up to life imprisonment when they are sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

  • Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire 

They are: Helen Brewer, 29, Lyndsay Burtonshaw, 28, Nathan Clack, 30, Laura Clayson, 28, Melanie Evans, 35, Joseph McGahan, 35, Benjamin Smoke, 27, Jyotsna Ram, 33, Nicholas Sigsworth, 29, Melanie Strickland, 35, Alistair Tamlit, 30, Edward Thacker, 29, Emma Hughes, 38, May McKeith, 33, and Ruth Potts, 44.

Twelve of the defendants' given addresses are in north London, Burtonshaw's is in Brighton, Potts's is in Bristol and McGahan's is in Reading.