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PROTESTORS WALK FREE AFTER DEFEATING HLS INJUNCTION
Friday, 14th June
Sixteen months after the protest took place and after a year of strict bail conditions, the two defendants are very relieved to have the case thrown out, following two days of legal argument in court.
As explained in a statement from the defendants' solicitors (12.06.2013):
"The case against two animal rights activists (E and L) was brought to an end today following a ruling by His Honour Judge Pontius at the Old Bailey. Both defendants were charged with breaching an injunction obtained in the High Court by HLS under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. It was alleged that they interfered with employees of HLS by attending a university careers fair, standing by the HLS stall and making it known what their views of the activities of HLS were so that students around the stall could hear. A video of the short demonstration was placed on YouTube (youtu.be/tXKVMU2jwoQ).
E and L were not named in the injunction which was taken out in 2007 against SHAC. It was accepted that they both fell within the definition of a "protestor" and as such were restrained within the terms of the injunction from certain prohibited conduct. It was not accepted that the conduct concerned in this case fell foul of the injunction but this was irrelevant for the purposes of the argument.
It was successfully argued that the injunction could not be enforced against either party as they were not "defendants" in the civil injunction proceedings. In order to proceed in the criminal court, permission was required from the High Court to enforce the injunction against both parties. At the time of obtaining the injunction HLS had sought to persuade the judge to dispense with the requirement for permission under Rule 19.6(4) of the Civil Procedure Rules. This was refused by the judge at that time and it should have been known to the prosecuting authorities that this would therefore be an issue that required resolution before proceeding against two individuals in the criminal courts.
The case was therefore concluded following legal argument by the Crown offering no evidence and not guilty verdicts being entered. The case will be important for anyone who is charged with breaching a similar injunction.
E was represented by Tim Greene, a solicitor advocate from Birds Solicitors, who led the argument. L was represented by Paul Morgan, also a solicitor advocate with Birds. The litigation for both defendants was undertaken by Steven Bird.
From the start, the prosecution appears to have been politically motivated. The case was taken up by the police, even though they hadn't received a complaint from the alleged victims. Despite the fact the protest lasted no more than 5 minutes, the prosecution stated that they wanted 6-9 months imprisonment upon conviction and with a last minute change, the trial was moved to the Old Bailey, the UK's most notorious court where major criminal cases are heard. Many individuals at the court were amazed and confused to learn why the 2 protestors were there, with one member of staff exclaiming "is this case for real?" and stating that she was "disgusted" and "embarrassed" about the situation.
During the hearing it was admitted that the prosecution was being pursued in order to test the law. The police wanted to see how far the injunction could be used to secure convictions and higher sentences for protestors. It's a victory for human rights that the Judgement was made requiring permission from the High Court to prosecute unnamed individuals as defendants in an injunction.
It's recommended that the outcome of this case is shared, so any future attempts at similar prosecutions will be challenged.
In a climate of increasing targeting and repression of UK animal rights activists, this has set an important precedent and will no doubt prevent a number of inappropriate and disproportionate prosecutions.
For more info and to get involved with the campaign against UK animal rights repression, email: firstname.lastname@example.org