Aberdeen airport protesters’ appeal fails

The pair stormed the airport in an effort to prevent its expansion (Picture by Gregory Deryckère)

TWO climate change protestors who caused disruption to flights at a Scottish airport have failed in a bid to have their convictions overturned.

Matilda Gifford and Daniel Glass were two of nine members of the protest group Plane Stupid convicted of breach of the peace offences at Aberdeen Airport in March 2009.

A jury found them all guilty after they stormed the airport in an effort to stop any expansion, claiming it would raise carbon emissions.

But Gifford and Glass lodged an appeal against both their conviction and sentence claiming a miscarriage of justice.

Lawyers acting on their behalf said the sheriff who dealt with their case failed to provide any reasons for repelling a submission of no case to answer.

They also said the failure to dismiss the no case to answer submission was an “error in law” by the sheriff.


This “contention” was “based upon the fact that the protestors could not be seen by members of the public”, said Lord Reed at the Court of Appeal in Edinburgh.

But Lord Reed said there was “ample evidence of disturbance to the public peace. The fact that the persons whose conduct caused that disturbance were not visible to the general public is of no consequence.”

Gifford and Glass also maintained that there was “insufficient evidence” that the conduct was likely to threaten disturbance to the community and that it was a “peaceful protest”, said Lord Reed.

Their lawyers said any “annoyance and frustration felt by passengers had been the result of what they were told by airport staff”, according to the court ruling.

But Lord Reed, who dealt with the appeal alongside Lord Carloway and Lord Wheatley, said: “We reject this submission. We have summarised the evidence. It included evidence that, amongst other consequences of the appellants’ behaviour, some passengers shouted at airport staff and others were reduced to tears. The disruption of flights, including the delay of an air ambulance required to collect a critically ill baby, and potential disruption of helicopter search and rescue operations, was plainly liable to threaten public safety and cause serious disturbance to the community, as indeed it did.”


The campaigners had also argued that the sheriff failed to give “adequate directions” to the jury, a claim also dismissed by the appeal judges.

The judges also considered whether the convictions “violated” human rights conventions.

The “answer to that question depends upon whether the undoubted interference with the appellants’ rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly was justifiable”, said Lord Reed.

“It clearly was, if the appellants were found to have committed a breach of the peace as libelled in the charge against them.”

Gifford and Glass, both in their twenties, were found guilty, along with seven other protesters, of climbing onto the roof of the terminal building and putting up a banner.

They also erected fencing on an aircraft taxiway, secured themselves to the fencing and to a railing on the roof. They refused to leave when requested, causing the airport to close and preventing aircraft from taking off or landing.

In a judgement published on the Scottish Court website today the three judges dealing with the case refused both the conviction and sentence appeals.

A handful of 350 flights scheduled for the day were affected.

Flights to Heathrow, Paris and Amsterdam were among those delayed.

The group eventually ended their action after police said the protest had delayed a private air ambulance taking off.

The airport shutdown cost nearly £150,000.

The pair, both 27, were fined £600 each.