The human rights activist and former Epsom resident who helped stop a deportation flight last year will not face jail time.

Emma Hughes grew up in Epsom and was one of 15 activists who helped block a charter flight at Heathrow airport in March 2017.

All 15 protestors received convictions many considered excessive late last year after being found to have endangered the safety of the airport, a serious charge related to counter-terrorism legislation.

The sentencing hearing took place at Chelmsford crown court earlier today (Wednesday February 6).

Judge Christopher Morgan who presided over the hearing indicated that he would not pursue jail time for any of 'Stansted 15' as the group were dubbed by supporters following their convictions last year.

12 of the activists, including Hughes, received community service sentences, while three others were given suspended prison sentences.

Judge Morgan said that, even regarding the three defendants to have previously given suspended sentences for similar activism — Alistair Tamlit, Mel Strickland and Edward Thacker — their actions did not warrant immediate jail time.

Judge Morgan said: "In relation to the three defendants – Thacker, Tamlit and Strickland – their culpability is higher that than the others because of the previous conviction," Morgan said. "It passes the custody threshold, but in my judgment is doesn't pass the threshold for immediate custody."

A crowd of human rights supporters who protested outside the court during the hearing erupted in celebration on learning of the decision.

Meanwhile, human rights groups praised the judge's decision to not recommend immediate custodial sentences for any of the group, but united in reiterating their condemnation of their convictions, which were passed in December.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s Director, said: "The decision not to jail these brave human rights defenders is a relief, but not enough. They should never have faced this very serious terrorism-related charge in the first place.

"They remain convicted of an offence which simply doesn't fit their actions and their trial could have a dangerous chilling effect on peaceful protest in this country."

In March 2017, the activists successfully blocked flight chartered by the Home Office that was due to deport 60 people from UK detention centres back to Ghana and Nigeria despite concerns for their safety if they returned to the West African countries.

Emma Hughes is a charity worker who recently gave birth to a son, Fen.

In December last year before learning of her sentence, she told the Surrey Comet that the trial and subsequent conviction, which she might have faced up to life imprisonment, had severely impacted her pregnancy.

Hughes said: "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."