Charges dropped against animal rights campaigners

From Arkangel
Five anti-vivisection activists charged with disorderly conduct after a protest in Blackpool had all charges dropped by The Crown Prosecution Service yesterday.
The five had been arrested at a protest outside the Vodafone shop in Church Street, Blackpool, nearly a year ago on 25th March 2006 and were charged with displaying insulting pictures under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986

(this states that “a person is guilty of an offence if he (a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or (b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby”).

The protest had been held to draw attention to Vodafone’s financial support of Oxford University, the focus of a long campaign opposing their construction of a new animal-experimentation laboratory. The ‘criminal’ activities in which the defendants had been engaged involved holding a banner, handing out leaflets and displaying graphic posters showing primate experiments of a type similar to those already carried out at Oxford. When the protesters continued their protest after police had told them the pictures were offensive and were causing distress, they were arrested.

The decision to drop these charges follows the acquittal at Blackpool Magistrates’ Court last month of two other campaigners, Dr K Richardson and Mr Cain, who were arrested a year ago at a similar protest outside Vodafone and charged with an identical offence. 20 identical arrests under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 took place between March and July 2006 in Blackpool and Preston during protests outside Vodafone shops. The other 15 cases have either already been dropped, or the defendants were acquitted in court.

28-yr old Dr Joanne Moodie, one of the campaigners whose charges were dropped today, said: “Most animal experiments are funded through taxpayers’ money. The public has a right to know what the Government is doing with their money, and the police and the Crown Prosecution Service should stop interfering with this democratic process. This prosecution has been a complete waste of police and court time, and we have had this hanging over us for a year.”

Dr. Moodie added that protesters refused to be intimidated by heavy-handed policing methods, and that they would continue to protest and to inform the public that animal experiments are not only cruel, but hold back medical progress by giving misleading results.

The five activists are getting legal advice on taking legal action against the police for breaching their rights under the Human Rights Act, which states that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers”.

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