The 15 people who were potentially facing life sentences for disrupting a deportation plane have been sentenced.

At Chelmsford Crown Court today the group of human rights activists known as the Stansted 15 were told by judge Christopher Morgan they would not receive life in prison - the maximum sentence for endangering the safety of an aerodrome.

In his sentencing remarks the judge highlighted that although a custodial sentence was not an option in this case, it is the standard for these types of cases given the harm the actions might have caused.

He added that while he accepted the group were seeking to demonstrate in support of their cause, they had come "perilously close" to causing a catastrophe.

Judge Morgan said: "In normal circumstances only a normal custodial sentence would have been justified in this case, but in your case I accept that your intentions were to demonstrate."

"There is no doubt that you understood that there were safety implications.

"You put at risk the safe operations of the airport and the persons who were there on the night."

A number of the group are from Waltham Forest including: Nicholas Sigsworth, of Clementia Road, Leytonstone; Emma Hughes, 38, of Vicarage Road, Leytonstone; Melanie Evans , 35, of Vicarage Road, Leytonstone; Melanie Strickland , 35, of Borwick Avenue, Walthamstow; May Mackeith , 33, of Clementina Road, Leytonstone.

Ms Strickland was sentenced to nine months imprisonment suspended for 18 months and 100 hours of unpaid work.

Mr Thacker and Mr Tamlit were sentenced to nine months of imprisonment suspended for 18 months with 250 hours of unpaid work.

May MacKeith was sentenced similarly to the remaining 11, but was given 20 days of Rehabilitation Activity Requirement and a 12 month community order because of personal and financial hardships she suffers.

All other defendants were sentenced to a 12-month community order and 100 hours of unpaid work.

Miss Evans represented herself in court and presented her own evidence for leniency with sentencing.

After the sentence was outlined by Judge Morgan she expressed her relief that none of the group would face time in jail.

She said: "I am enormously relieved that none of our group are going to jail. But I remain deeply concerned with the charge in this case.

"It started as a trespass charge that would have been punishable with a fine and then it was escalated to a terror-related charge which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

"There appear to be some discrepancies in the law in regards to our actions. The Judge referred the endangerment of our actions but ours was a peaceful protest, we acted for the rights of vulnerable people in a fundamentally safe manner."

She also added that the experience had given her a greater understanding of the experiences of asylum seekers.

She said: "Through this entire experience and all the difficulties we have endured, we all have a deeper empathy for what asylum seekers are forced to experience.

"But whereas we can celebrate good news in that we won't be facing time in jail, asylum seeks are detained indefinitely and unable to join their families which is where they belong."

Ms MacKeith said: "I am relieved that none of us are going to jail. But I want to highlight that while we've had a reprieve there are many out there that are facing serious hardship such as those that were deported to Jamaica today."

Supporters amassed outside the court for the entire day, they

Hundreds of supporters of the Stansted 15 gathered outside the court from 8.30am.

They blocked the road and chanted “Stansted 15, we are with you" as the group entered the court house.

Chair of Walthamstow Migrant Action Group Douglas Saltmarshe said: "We in this country have a long tradition that respects the right of civil disobedience and peaceful protest. By drawing attention to the system of covert expulsion, the Stansted 15 have illustrated the government’s reckless disregard of the Refugee Convention and its failure to deal with immigration humanely and in accord with due process.

"Although Walthamstow Migrants Action Group are relieved no custodial sentence has been given to this group of stalwart individuals, that the government has been willing to apply anti-terror legislation against peaceful protest is a matter of grave concern and a sinister harbinger for our future.

"Walthamstow Migrants Action Group therefore stands in solidarity with the Stansted 15. We thank them for all that they  have gone through in alerting us about what is being done in our name."