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

Laura Clayson, formerly on Lancaster University
Laura Clayson, formerly on Lancaster University
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Former Lancaster student Laura Clayson now faces life in prison after taking part in an anti-deportation protest.

Laura, 28, who was President of Lancaster University Student Union up to 2015, was part of a group of 15 people who tried to block a flight containing failed asylum seekers from taking off at Stanstead Airport.

READ MORE Former Lancaster student found guilty of terror offences faces life in prison
The reason she and her co-defendants are facing such a long potential sentence is because of the act she was charged under.

All 15 were charged with intentional disruption of services at an aerodrome under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act.

The Act was passed in response to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and is a terrorism offence.

The Pan Am flight exploded in mid air and crashed into the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 11 people on the ground, as well as all 243 passengers and 16 crew.

Dr Graeme Hayes, reader in political sociology at Aston University, was one of a team of academics who observed the trial throughout.

The only previous use of the 1990 law he and colleagues were able to find was in 2002 when a pilot was jailed for three years after flying his helicopter straight at a control tower.

“This is a law that’s been brought in concerning international terrorism,” he said.

“But for the last 10 weeks [of the trial], we’ve heard what amounts to an extended discussion of health and safety, in which the prosecution has not said at any point what the consequences of their actions might have been.”