A pregnant Epsom activist facing possible prison time after she stopped a deportation flight from taking off at Stansted last year said she is “in shock” and “reeling”.

Emma Hughes, a 38-year-old charity worker who is due to deliver in nine days, has been found guilty of breaching counter terrorism legislation and could face up to life in prison.

Hughes said her trial, which has lasted 10 weeks and been hanging over her since 2017, has overshadowed the last month of her pregnancy.

She said: “My mum has been up in court quite a lot. My partner faces not just me going to jail but his first child as well. It’s very scary for everyone’s families as well as us.”

Hughes was part of a group of 15 protesters, often referred to as 'The Stansted 15', who locked themselves around the wing and nose wheel of a Boeing 767 with pipes and foam to stop it from leaving Stansted Airport.

The plane chartered by the Home Office was due to repatriate asylum seekers to Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Nigeria in March 2017.

The group has been accused of putting the safety of the airport and passengers at risk, a charge denied by all 15 defendants.

The activist had previously protested outside airports and coaches and attempted contacting lawyers and MPs but found none of these approaches to be successful.

Hughes said the group decided to physically stop the plane from taking off during a meeting two days before the Boeing was due to depart after they had run out of options to stop it. 

She said the Stansted 15 were moved by the story of a Nigerian asylum seeker facing persecution in her home country for being gay - and even potential death at the hand of her ex-husband.

Hughes said: “It was that moment on the Sunday after hearing that story that we actually discussed it.

“We knew that we could stop it safely, and it was the only thing we could do to stop this plane from leaving.”

Hughes, who grew up on Church Street and whose mum and sister still live in Epsom, said she was comforted by the fact that she had helped 11 people remain in the UK.

Among them, one man praised the Stansted 15, saying: “Without their actions I would have missed my daughter’s birth, and faced the utter injustice of being deported from this country with having my now successful appeal heard.”

He added: “My message to them today is to fight on. Their cause is just, and history will absolve you of the guilt that the system has marked you with.”