Intentionally Overcharged?: R v Thacker & Ors [2021] EWCA Crim 97

AuthorBeatrice Krebs
DOI10.1177/00220183211008679
Published date01 June 2021
Date01 June 2021
Subject MatterCase Notes
Case Note
Intentionally Overcharged?
R v Thacker & Ors [2021] EWCA Crim 97
Keywords
Endangering safety at aerodromes, intention, protests, statutory interpretation
This was an appeal by a group of act ivists who had been convicted of th e offence of ‘intentional
disruption of services at an aerodrome’ contrary to s 1(2)(b) of the Aviation and Maritime Security Act
1990 (‘the 1990 Act’). The 15 appellants had breached a security perimeter fence at Stansted Airport in
order to prevent a flight from taking off that had been chartered by the Home Office to deport 60
individuals to West Africa. They had erected makeshift tripods built from scaffolding poles and, with
the help of builders’ foam, ‘locked on’ to one another around the base of one of the tripods and around
the nose wheel of the plane. In response to the appellants’ conduct, the single runway was closed for a
significant period. Twenty-three planes had to be diverted to other airports, and a number of take-offs
were delayed.
The appellants had initially been arrested for several summary offences but were subsequently
indicted and convicted under s 1(2)(b) of the 1990 Act which makes it an offence
for any person by means of any device, substance or weapon unlawfully and intentionally to disrupt the
services of such an aerodrome, in such a way as to endanger or be likely to endanger the safe operation of the
aerodrome or the safety of persons at the aerodrome.
They advanced five grounds of appeal: firstly, that the trial judge had misinterpreted s 1(2)(b) of the
1990 Act in the light of its international and domestic law context and erred in his analysis of the offence
elements. The offence concerned serious violence of a terrorist nature, not the much lower level of risks
generated by the appellants’ actions. Secondly, that the judge should ha ve ordered disclosure (of
background material relating to the Attorney-General’s consent to the prosecution as well as Home
Office material concerning the immigration status of those threatened with removal) and stayed the
prosecution on the basis that the Attorney-General’s consent had been wrongly given. Thirdly, that
the judge should not have withdrawn from the jury the defences of preventing crime under s 3 of the
Criminal Law Act 1967 and necessity/duress of circumstances. Fourthly, that the judge’s summing-up
lacked balance in that he had commented on aspects of risk of harm arising from the appellants’ action
that went beyond the arguments advanced or evidence relied upon by the Crown. And fifthly, that the
judge ought to have directed the jury not to draw adverse inferences from the appellants’ no comment
interviews.
Held, allowing the appeal on the first ground and quashing all of the appellants’ convictions, that
the appellants should not have been prosecuted for the extremely serious offence under s 1(2)(b) of the
1990 Act because their conduct did not satisfy the offence elements. There was, in truth, no case to
answer. The Court acknowledged that the various summary offences with which the appellants were
originally charged, if proved, might well not have reflected the gravity of their actions. That, however,
did not allow the use of an offence which aimed at conduct of a different nature (at [113]).
The Journal of Criminal Law
2021, Vol. 85(3) 232–235
ªThe Author(s) 2021
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DOI: 10.1177/00220183211008679
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