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Activists face crackdown under Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.

Being raided, arrested, dragged through the legal system and having my property taken from me (including my photo album because it had a "hunt sabs" sticker on it and my notebook for my uni degree in criminology) just for campaigning seems over the top and has been pretty stressful. But it's not going to stop me from fighting for what I believe in and against what I disagree with. This isn't for ego, nor for fame, it's for the exploited and the vulnerable.” SOCPA 7 defendant - Emma

Seven people face lengthy jail sentences for peaceful protests outside animal laboratories. The seven, five women and two men, will stand trial under section 145 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) beginning on September 22nd 2014. The charge is the usual catch-all one of conspiracy. The company involved? Huntingdon Life Sciences.

SOCPA 145 makes it an offence to commit a “criminal or tortious (civil wrong) act is threatened or carried out to interfere with a contractual relationship between an animal research organisation and another company.” Tortious is the crucial word here as a tortious act is simply one that can be sued for under civil law e.g trespass. This has the effect of criminalising a wide range of activities that were previously not within the sphere of criminal law. Add a conspiracy charge to that and in effect you have made the offence of attending a demonstration where others may have engaged in “tortious” conduct into a criminal offence, punishable by up to five years inside! Of course with the wide range of anti-protest legislation dreamt up in the last twenty years a criminal offence shouldn't be hard for the cops to think of either.

One man, Sean Kirtley, who was involved in peaceful protest against animal laboratory Sequani, was sentenced to four and half years for the same offence in 2008. He served 16 months before his conviction was finally quashed.


Of course at the moment this only applies to companies engaged in animal research, but all it would take would be a tweak of the legislation, say to defend private companies involved in say “defence of the realm”, “energy extraction” or “vital infrastructure”, could see this experiment rolled out on anyone who raises their voice in a sustained campaign. Although, that way, with luck we might at least get the Guardian on side.

The cops have engaged their full creative energies to construct the case as a conspiracy, which makes it easier for a large group to be convicted without all the tiresome business of having to prove that they each did anything illegal. For a conspiracy they only have to show that there was an agreement that an offence should be committed. It doesn’t have to be the accused who were going to act themselves and it doesn’t need to be a detailed plan.


So to the case itself, the evidence is based on twenty three protests and two incidents of criminal damage. Some of the defendants were only at a couple of the protests and there is no evidence any of them were involved in the criminal damage. As with the SHAC blackmail trials, the prosecution is more interested in showing association with a movement than in proving that individuals committed specific crimes. This gives them the flavour of political show trials. There is a lot of intrusive evidence like recordings of phone calls but little evidence of the defendants having done anything normally considered illegal.

SchNEWS spoke to one of the defendants who told us about another important aspect to the case: “With anything else you would be arrested immediately if committing a crime. If the police were really interested in ‘protecting victims of crime’ they could have had a word at the time to tell people they were doing something illegal, but instead they’ve sat and waited for a year building up this case to repress people by trying to make it look like there’s lots of incidents and victims. Even if you agree with how the legal system works this isn’t how it is supposed to work.”

The 30th July has been announced as a day of solidarity with the SOCPA 7.There have already been solidarity actions internationally, with many recognising the impact this case could have on the right to protest for all.

Want to support the SOCPA 7? Head here (http://www.socpa7.org/) to find out how. To help a gofundme appeal head here


The cops at the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordinating Unit (NETCU) have at least hit one stumbling block in their attempts criminalise protest against vivisection. A major weapon in their arsenal has been injunctions taken out under the Protection from Harassment Act. These injunctions, although issued under civil law, create exclusion zones and turn all manner of activities into criminal acts. On 12th June, two defendants had the charges of breaching the civil injunction taken out by HLS dropped. They were on trial and had been on bail for over a year. Bail conditions were draconian with both being forced to reside at certain addresses and not take part in any protests. The judge dismissed the case after ruling that neither of them were named on the injunction. This is a major blow as injunctions typically only name a handful of people, leaving police relying on a broad definition of associates or persons unknown. For a full report www.shac.net

There are 2 comments on this story...
Added By: xvx - 19th July 2014 @ 11:31 AM
There is a fundraising page here -http://www.gofundme.com/socpa7 . We really need to raise alot of money to help the defendants commute to see lawyers and get to court when the case starts so please donate if you can and share the page around on social media. ta :-)
Added By: Jo Makepeace - 20th July 2014 @ 6:11 PM
Will add to the story ...thanks,

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