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This is not terrorism

A bunch of lefty protesters are on trial at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Care ye not? You should. I have been banging on a lot about the degradation of norms of justice and law that had once seemed securely established. One particular aspect of these protesters’ trial is a disgrace. See if you can spot what it is:

Activists accused of blocking Stansted flight go on trial over terror charge

Fifteen activists who locked themselves together around an immigration removal charter flight to prevent its departure from Stansted and displayed a banner proclaiming “mass deportations kill” have gone on trial charged with a terrorist offence.

Jurors at Chelmsford crown court heard how the members of the campaign group End Deportations used lock-on devices to secure themselves around the Boeing 767, chartered by the Home Office, as it waited on the tarmac at the Essex airport to remove undocumented migrants to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

The activists have said they acted to prevent human rights abuses from taking place and have received high-profile political backing. However, they are accused of putting the safety of the airport and passengers at risk and causing serious disruption to international air travel. If convicted, they could face potential life imprisonment.

Oh, poot, I forgot to hide spoilers. Never mind. You’d have guessed it anyway. Come to think of it, the title of this post was a bit of a clue.

Protesters who mess around with airport security do not immediately gain my sympathy. Not only do they screw over blameless travellers, many of whom will have had to scrimp and save for their holiday, the prosecuting counsel made a decent point when he said,

“In order to deal with this incursion, a number of armed officers already at Stansted had to down-arm, thus reducing the capacity of police to carry out their duties at the terminal,” he said. “Had another major incident occurred at the terminal at the same time, the police resources able to respond to it would have been reduced.”

But to pretend that to give an (imaginary) terrorist attack that might have happened that day (but didn’t) an infinitesimally higher (but still purely theoretical) chance to succeed is terrorism … that is indecent.

Anyone else remember the expulsion of Walter Wolfgang from the Labour party conference in 2005? They chucked him out for heckling Jack Straw. Then it sunk in that he was old and emerged that he had come to this country as a Jewish refugee from Hitler, and Labour fell over themselves in their haste to apologise. I said at the time that I saw no reason why they should apologise for ejecting a heckler. The thing they needed to apologise for was far more serious than that:

Buried in the story and not, at first, attracting much comment was one thing that left me flabbergasted. For this Tony Blair and his entire government should get down on their knees and humbly beg forgiveness, swearing at the same time not to rest until the harm they have allowed to flourish is undone:

Police later used powers under the Terrorism Act to prevent Mr Wolfgang’s re-entry, but he was not arrested.

There was a wee fuss about the role of anti-terror powers against Wolfgang at the time, but the point about the blatant abuse of powers that we had been assured would only be used against dangerous fanatics out to commit mass murder was lost amid all the other issues. Because this tactic was not challenged strongly when it was first tried, it became widespread. We have reached a point where half of councils use anti-terror laws to spy on ‘bin crimes’. I don’t recall that possiblity being mentioned in the Parliamentary debates about the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

Now this bloated definition of terrorism threatens life imprisonment to people who are not terrorists.

16 comments to This is not terrorism

  • pete

    Lefties want big government.

    They shouldn’t complain when they get it.

  • Kevin B

    Obviously I’m not as pure as you, Natalie so I would declare the group End Deportations a terrorist group and using anti-terrorism powers I would go after their financers. And if that happened to hoover up Mr Soros’s billions, well that would be a nice little bonus.

    (In fact I would declare Antifa and it’s offshoots terrorist organisations as well and go after their money men.)

  • Robert

    They should not be tried for terrorism offences, but I would hope they can be successfully sued by all the travellers who were delayed or inconvenienced.

  • Dr Evil

    They are not terrorists but the police should have shot them in the legs anyway instead of down arming. That would certainly have deterred other scum intent on preventing the removal of illegal immigrants from this country. I have zero sympathy for idiots such as this bunch.

  • Runcie Balspune

    I’m finding it difficult to establish where the “terror charge” comes from, the article says they were charged with intentional disruption of services at an aerodrome under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act.

    I don’t necessarily support any of this legislation, but it is known that the various Acts that are aimed at anti-terrorism (RIPA et al) also cover non-terrorist activities as well, even just social disorder, so whilst the Acts are used it does not imply the crime was terrorism, although the charge of using them for authoritarian crackdowns on minor crime is an issue.

  • From the Guardian article (last paragraph):

    [The defendants] are charged with intentional disruption of services at an aerodrome under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act, …

    The relevant Act (Part 1: Endangering Safety at Aerodromes) can be found here. Clauses 1(b), 2(b) and 5 look to me to be the most relevant.

    From what is described, they (15 of them, all named in the Guardian) look to me to have intentionally disrupted services at an aerodrome; they have used devices (double-layered pipes filled with expanding foam; scaffolding) to cause the disruption. Who thinks they will have much luck with the not guilty pleas?

    I’m very much doubt they will get the maximum punishment of life imprisonment (Cause 5). However, if found guilty, should not the punishment be sufficiently severe to materially discourage similar acts by others in the future. Doubtless several of those found guilty will get (with the usual bias) suspended sentences. The court will doubtless look to identify the ring leaders and punish them somewhat more severely.

    It will be interesting to see if there is any jury nullification. It will be interesting to see if anyone gets a prison sentence of longer than 2 years. I’d expect no on both of those.

    I’m not sure what is the basis of Natalie’s complaint about using terrorism law; perhaps it’s that the 1990 Act arose shortly after (and doubtless from) the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. However, the Act covers many things that are not terrorism, including the offences relevant to this case; there is no mention of motivation in the Act – beyond intention. This 1990 Act doubtless extends, revises or replaces similar offences under similarly named acts going back to at least the 1965 Airports Authorities Act (though I cannot find a copy of that original act to see what is in it).

    This is an entirely different issue from that of Walter Wolfgang – where the police were IMHO stupid and wrong.

    Overall, I’m for laws and enforcement to protect us against significant interference with critical public infrastructure.

    Best regards

  • JohnK

    I have never heard of this term “down armed”. I can only assume it means that because armed police thought they were dealing with unarmed social justice warriors (bad luck if they weren’t), then they had to disarm too. An odd policy, as most countries have police forces which are always armed, whoever they are dealing with. Perhaps the police did not trust themselves around guns? Who knows?

    I do recall that back in the 1970s we had something called the “Prevention of Terrorism Act”. NuLabor replaced this with the “Terrorism Act”. I did wonder at the time why they had dropped the “prevention” bit, and perhaps now we know. “Terrorism” is just too useful for authoritarian governments (as if there is any other sort). If it were ever to be defeated, they would have to re-invent it, to justify all those lovely laws.

  • Sam Duncan

    “under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act.”

    On a lighter note, something about an Act drafted in 1990 using the word “aerodrome” pleases me.

  • And if that happened to hoover up Mr Soros’s billions, well that would be a nice little bonus.

    What could possibly go wrong with that? 🙄

    The whole point of this article is that laws get used ever more broadly until they become enabling acts from which no one is safe.

  • Tim the Coder

    Well I take the point about misuse of law, and so on.
    Airports and aircraft are sensitive areas for terrorism, not the least because they bring large numbers of people and large amounts of kerosene into close and fragile proximity.
    Terrorism is based on what is intended by the perpetrator, and the only way to determine that for sure is to let it happen. Oops.
    So these people were certainly inviting being treated as potential terrorists, up to and including being shot.
    That on this particular occasion, they did not intend mass carnage, is really rather irrelevant: how were the police to know?
    Treat it weakly, and next time the ones wearing the ‘no deportation’ slogans will be the real death cult nutters. Too late then.
    Given that real terrorist threats exist, there must be a limit to ther indulgence of self-righteous fools.
    At the least, bill them for the waste of police time, charge them with endangering everyone by their antics, and bill them for the disruption cost to thousands of airport users and business.
    Bankrupt them and their backers.
    Or indulge them, and give cover to the really evil.

  • staghounds

    These were well educated, politically active, communication-savvy white people chaining themselves together!

    You all fail to comprehend just how terrifying the loss of a couple of votes or having to explain embarrassing video to the Home Secretary are.

  • James Hargrave

    Sam Duncan. Absolutely. But 1990 was before the onset of the worst of modern madness.

  • History records a certain Adolf assuring the Reichstag in 1933 that occasions for his having to use the powers given him by the enabling act would be few. 🙂

    Emotionally, I sympathise with some in this thread who take a ‘they have it coming’ attitude; doubtless many of the passengers whose travel was disrupted by this would agree. But I think Natalie and Perry are right to note that on that path lies danger. And danger of more than one kind. Nigel Sedgwick (October 4, 2018 at 3:28 pm) is probably correct that these threats of life imprisonment will turn into some very-far-from-that sentences (especially given the SJW credentials of the protestors). Just as a politician saying something is ‘unacceptable’ means ‘get used to it’, so these dire threats may prepare us for a future in which more and more crimes are either terrorism or hate crimes – but that only means that those crimes that are neither get even less punished than now.

  • Paul Marks

    When “law” just means the commands of the state (Thomas Hobbes – his definition of law), when there are no PRINCIPLES of law, then anything can be “terrorism”.

    Ask Mrs May – she will explain it to you, whilst doing another dance.

    Wearing a blue tie? “Terrorism – LIFE IMPRISONMENT”.

    “But wearing a blue tie is not terrorism” – words mean whatever the rulers want to mean and “law” is just whatever the rulers command (there is no natural law and rights AGAINST the state are “nonsense” says Jeremy Bentham). Again ask Mrs May – watch her smile and scamper about, and listen to the gibbering cheers.

  • Tim the Coder

    Man enters primary school playground, runs around the children waving 3-foot long sword screaming slogans.
    He means no harm to the children, he intends to scare no one.
    He is merely seeking publicity for his cause: the abnormally high mortality of cerulean parrots, perhaps.

    How are the police to respond?

    He is NOT a terrorist, just like the airport protesters. He means no harm.

    But no one can know for sure, he looks like a terrorist, acts like a terrorist, Quack.

    In the original airport story my thought was that all is not lost: the police did NOT go in mob-handed on the assumption of massive force: they appear to have behaved responsibly and appropriately for the actual situation. The worry is that they are conditioned to do so and could not react if the protesters had turned out to have a second, far more violent agenda.
    That seems just as worrying as over-reaching laws does it not? A police that turns out incapable? Because they are trained to expect only noisy and spoiled SJW?
    If you look and act like a terrorist, is the scope of an anti-terrorist law not relevant?

  • Quentin

    I’m sorry, but I’m not seeing how they are being charged with terrorism offences. They

    are charged with intentional disruption of services at an aerodrome under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act,

    That seems entirely reasonable. That that offence might be part of an anti-terrorism Act is another matter.