The HLS injunction story – a not so brief account

Article featured on the Arkangel website

Huntingdon Life Sciences – a company that will basically undertake contract testing on animals for anyone willing to pay for their services – has faced opposition from animal rights campaigners since as far back as 1978. By April 2003, they and anyone connected with them had been the subject of a particularly intensive animal rights campaign, which had piled on the pressure for four years with hundreds of protests and actions.

HLS had been exposed several times for its employees’ routine cruelty to the animals that were used, abused and killed in their vivisection laboratories. Of these exposes, the most famous undercover investigation was that by Zoe Broughton, which resulted in 1999 with the broadcasting by Channel 4 of her story in “It’s a Dog’s Life”. The subsequent uproar rekindled a new campaigning fervour against Huntingdon, and several groups were established with Huntingdon as their sole focus. Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) was one of those groups. The following few years saw intense campaigning across the spectrum of the animal rights and animal liberation movements.

It is fair to say that Huntingdon Life Sciences took a hammering, to the point that the government had to step in to save the company. As well as providing them with material support in the form of a bank account and insurance, there were moves to change the law in order to crack down on the effectiveness of animal rights tactics. However, the criminal law was not moving fast enough for the company, which – as a result of animal rights activities – were being forced off the stock market.

Into this gap stepped Arthur Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden, a solicitor-advocate based in Greys Inn, London. He had helped draft the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 [PHA], a law originally meant to deal with stalkers, but the lucrative business was not to be found in protecting vulnerable women; in fact, it was to be found in helping multinationals fight off protestors. Lawson-Cruttenden approached the Government, Police and Huntingdon with the proposal that protest be declared harassment. By thus cleverly misappropriating the law, the police would then gain powers by dint of civil injunctions applied under the auspices of the act, to arrest whoever broke the terms of said injunctions.

And so it was that – despite attempts to give the idea short shrift – the courts found in favour of Huntingdon in April 2003, with the PHA used to stop legitimate protest by citing illegal activity as justification. Attacks on homes and cars of Huntingdon’s employees were deemed sufficient excuse to restrict and silence protest outside Huntingdon’s two sites in the UK. Above ground, legal activists were being penalised because of the actions and activities (for the most part already illegal) undertaken covertly by unknown individuals.

The terms of the injunction

1. banned home demos outright (these were later made illegal in the criminal law);
2. forbade trespass on Huntingdon’s land or in a wide exclusion zone around their premises
3. restricted demonstrations at their sites to once a week for six hours maximum and no drums, megaphones, etc at all
4. forbade access through the exclusion zone except on or from protests.
5. protests at each site were restricted to once a week for a maximum of six hours, to particular designated areas with numbers limited to 25 people.

This differed from other civil injunctions in that the penalties and risks had changed. The police now had the power to arrest for breach of the injunction and that alone could carry a maximum of five years, regardless of the crime or its status. For example, the penalty far outstripped the penalty for trespass, formerly a purely civil offence.

There were other draconian features: the injunction applied to whomever HLS decided they were going to serve it, regardless of the actions of those individuals. An additional feature was that costs were not necessarily restricted to the named individual defendants, but potentially enforceable against anyone deemed to be a protestor. SHAC was declared representative of everyone who wanted to protest, regardless of whether there was any common interest between other protestors and SHAC.

Eventually, the law changed considerably, rendering many of these things illegal anyway, and the police became keener to use their powers under existing public order legislation as the cries of the pharmaceuticals and other power industries reached the upper echelons of government. It should be noted that no one was ever convicted of breach of the injunctions, and there were relatively few arrests. However, Huntingdon and Lawson-Cruttenden had got their way: a draconian order that created a chill effect on protest against Huntingdon itself.

Fortunately, by that stage the campaigns against Huntingdon were moving away from the company itself to secondary and tertiary targets: the suppliers and customers who kept the company in business. These were proving to be more inventive and effective, keeping the activists one step ahead in the game. However, Lawson-Cruttenden, selling his wares to other targets of animal rights activists was embarking on his own shenanigans in the court. An injunction that covered so many people and restricted their human rights was always going to be contentious and thus there was a duty to deal with it quickly. However, having achieved what they set out to do, Lawson-Crutttenden began a series of tactics that would see the case being stretched out so it took four years to come to trial, not the six to nine months envisaged originally.

One of the main delaying tactics was to change the goal posts, constantly re-pleading the case, often poorly, making it difficult to know what was being defended. This alone cost at least a year. This was deliberate, and was used right up to the last minute as a way of hampering proceedings, and also putting an extra burden on the people defending the case.

Another tactic was to produce huge volumes of material that was simply irrelevant. Of course he was simply billing his clients for the privilege of wasting money. Initially, the defendants paid attention to the material he was producing, but it was soon learnt that most of it was simply a waste of time. Lawson-Cruttenden likes to swamp the court with large amounts of material, usually sensational but often of little material connection to the matters at hand. He would attempt to drop outrageous claims into the argument, which were unsubstantiated and unrelated. He treated the global animal rights movement as a single organisation under the control of SHAC in order to mislead.

Materials were served at the last minute or in court so the defendants often had the minimum amount of time to actually prepare and deal with issues, using their lack of knowledge of the intricacies of the system against them. This unprofessional approach was an abuse of the court.

At other times, having an injunction in place, they simply ignored the fact they were meant to be leading it to trial; in one hearing the defendants had to bring it back to court for which they were awarded costs.

Lawson-Cruttenden holds himself out as a market leader in this style of injunctions, and charges up to £500 per hour for his services alone. Yet it was clear from his actions that his knowledge of the law was poor, much to the amazement of those defending it. He would constantly put forward spurious legal arguments that sapped defendants’ time and were blatantly false. Documents were served at the wrong time; there is a whole list of poor case management skills and worse still his ability to draft documents important to the case has time and time again been shown to be flawed. It is rare for a judge to criticise; it is something they go out of the way to avoid if anything, yet they were forced time and time again to complain about the quality of his work. One judge called his Particulars of Claim – the central document on which any civil case is based – a “dog’s breakfast”.

Embarrassingly for him, he has been ordered on several occasions to get professional counsel in to write up his documents and argue the case for him as he has made such a fool of himself. In the Oxford University and Harrods injunctions, he was fired from both cases – and this from a ‘market leader’ and one of the first solicitor-advocates in the country.

By 2006, even the judiciary were becoming worried about the delays in the case. Lawson-Cruttenden had achieved in getting draconian injunctions for his clients’ and was happy to let things coast along. There were now close to 20 injunctions awaiting the outcome of the HLS trial and there was no sign of that happening. The delay and subsequent backlog was embarrassing for the court and they did not like it. About this time it became clear that there was something afoot behind closed doors as the easy ride he had been getting in the courts began to get tougher. Trial was going to happen whether he liked it or not.

One thing that HLS and Lawson-Cruttenden had not anticipated was that animal rights activists would actually contest the case. It was not the prevalent attitude at the time, and in the early days it had seemed that defendants would follow the usual line. When people started coming forward and moving things of their accord it put the solicitors on the back foot, creating more work for them and putting a stop on some of their more outrageous tactics designed to cower activism and fish for more information on SHAC. Another aspect was that HLS and Lawson-Cruttenden were using the case to attempt to investigate SHAC and expose its supporters so they could go after them for costs and essentially ruin the campaign. This was fought all the way and ultimately they were unsuccessful, partly because of Lawson-Cruttenden’s incompetence and partly because people were prepared to defend their rights. Malpractice by Lawson-Cruttenden, it seems, was fast becoming something of a by-word, but we’ll get to that a little later…

In October 2006, SHAC offered to settle, allowing for an injunction to remain in place, but with megaphones allowed back. HLS refused and it seemed that a four week trial starting on 5th March, 2007 was inevitable. Up until the very end, Lawson-Cruttenden kept up his disruptive tricks. He served a whopping 36-lever arch of files for the case alone, amounting to over 8500 pages. In the final judgement, it was noted that this was excessive by at least 30 files, an unprecedented comment, but one that echoed earlier concerns by previous judges at the amount of material being unnecessarily presented.

In the few weeks before the trial, Justice Holland, who was to be the trial judge, took over and instituted a new regime with regards to case management. Having previously criticised the work of Lawson-Cruttenden, he brought a firm hand and was not prepared to allow the case to stray from the path or be delayed any further. He dismissed Lawson-Cruttenden’s time-wasting applications as being irrelevant. He established early on that there was going to be an order and the essential matters were the points of difference in the order as it would be handed down.

Justice Holland was not a stranger to these proceedings and had his own ideas of what constituted lawful protest and what served as a reasonable restriction of the right to protest. The trial was curtailed to a week and much of the material prepared by HLS and Lawson-Cruttenden simply fell to one side, especially their accounts of protest from the period 1999 to 2003 by which the hoped to keep draconian terms in place. Justice Holland was also alert to legal anomalies regarding representation orders and terms in the order that should not be there.

Trial progressed from the 5th to the 9th March, 2007 with Tuesday 6th being a visit to the two premises of Huntingdon to take into account factors of geography and weather in relation to protest. From the point of view of the Defendants it was a good move as it allowed them to get around the hyperbole of Lawson-Cruttenden and his barrister and gave the judge an accurate view of the nature of protests at the sites.

Huntingdon fought bitterly to stop the use of megaphones, full stop. Witnesses were brought forward by HLS claiming that the sound of even one megaphone was enough to frighten them and bring on nightmares and anxiety attacks. They shed crocodile tears, but their evidence was inconsistent. For instance, they claimed they could hear a single megaphone two miles away yet not in their own workplace, and so on. The Defendants conceded on other noise-making equipment and produced their own order with definitions of protestors and so on, largely based on Holland’s own order in the Oxford University injunction case. The Defendants won the point and a megaphone was to be permitted at the weekly demo between 12noon and 1pm. HLS continued to fight this to the very end, but the judge was having none of it.

It was more than we’d gone in with, and seems a small point, but it was a significant victory. After four years of silence, limited noise was back at the demos against Huntingdon. The injunctions were as much about silencing lawful protests as stopping illegal activity, and this abuse of the Stalker’s Act was being fought to protect the right to protest.

Overall, we came out feeling we’d done better than we’d expected. Lawson-Cruttenden and HLS had failed to railroad the judge and by being reasonable, we had won various concessions. Other points of victory were:

1. to get a demonstration of unlimited numbers at each site with megaphones to be permitted inside the exclusion zone.
2. the definition of protestor restricted to those campaigning in concert with SHAC to stop experimentation on live animals at Huntingdon Life Sciences
3. A car allowed at both sites, so making life easier for protestors to get there and also somewhere to shelter in bad weather.
4. The number of people at the Alconbury site increased from 25 to 30 people.
5. The right to republish and respond to HLS’s comments which named their staff is now permitted.

Though it seems paltry compared to unfettered demonstration, it has moral and psychological victory for protestors. Their right to protest at all was protected and HLS failed to effectively muzzle them. Lawson-Cruttenden overstretched himself and promised too much; in our final analysis, Justice Holland reigned him in. We could have done a lot worse, frankly. Furthermore, over-zealous police officers will be prevented from being arbitrary when it comes to imposing conditions under s.14 regarding protest – a high court judge has spoken having heard the evidence!

On a legal point, the judge noted that though orders could be binding on a large number of people, they could not be enforced. The full implications of this are yet to be discovered, but the removal of the enforcement clause from the order protects people not specifically named as defendants from being chased for costs.

Collusion with the police

While it is generally accepted that there has always been collusion between the police and HLS, during the course of the trial, it became very clear just how deep it went. PC 57 Ken Smith of Cambridge Constabulary was a familiar figure to protestors whom he thoroughly disliked. Despite having responsibility for policing protest outside the Alconbury site, he has gone on to become head of security at Huntingdon itself. Perhaps that goes some way to explaining how in HLS’s logs of protestors, security guards were able to provide the full names of many of the protestors.

However, Mr Smith did not play a role in the injunctions; that limelight was stolen by Inspector Stephen Pearl, formerly of Cambridge Constabulary and now heading up the National Extremist Tactical Coordination Unit, dedicated to fighting (however ineptly) animal rights campaigns around the country. (See http://www.vivisection.info/netcu_watch for more on them). From the beginning, Pearl was working closely with Lawson-Cruttenden in providing information to the lawyers to help them build their case.

In various bills for costs, Lawson-Cruttenden states he was drafting Pearl’s witness statements. These statements were crucial for HLS’s case, as the judiciary is very fond of the police’s ‘impartial’ position in preventing crime and disorder and protecting peoples health, safety & rights. Pearl’s obvious collusion was an attempt to manipulate the judiciary in its basest form.

However, more serious was the amount of information flowing between Lawson-Cruttenden and the police, in particular Pearl. At their request, Lawson-Cruttenden was being given entire prosecution files in case (in particular the Operation Arletty files), containing information with innumerable personal details of activists and of SHAC. It was information that would normally be restricted. The police are bound by disclosure laws, and they were blatantly ignoring them. But both parties were clearly colluding in this.

This was not restricted to the Huntingdon case but also was demonstrated in the case of EDO MBM vs Axworthy, when in another injunction under the Protection from Harassment Act against anti-arms trade protestors, Lawson-Cruttenden attempted to go behind the law and the court to obtain details of people’s criminal convictions and other materials. Lawson-Cruttenden has attempted various tactics to get around his legal obligations, including giving “undertakings under s.35 of the Data Protection Act” to the police – there is no such power in that law.

The most flagrant breach of the law was when he obtained from Pearl the details of 52 protestors and attempted to get a court order for the police to release their convictions to him – if we had not already been kicking up a fuss about the propriety of releasing details at whim he would not have sought an order at all – despite having the details from Pearl in his office. This was frowned upon by Justice Cox who told him to contact the 52 for their permission to release the details. This of course was refused, but Lawson-Cruttenden went behind Justice Cox’s order to get the public certificates of conviction using the information supplied by Pearl and right up to the last minute was trying to get the convictions admitted as evidence (even though there was no clear relationship between the various incidents and the campaigns against HLS). There is no way around it – this is a breach of a court order and Lawson-Cruttenden needs to be censured for it.

Rizwan Majid, a junior solicitor in Lawson-Cruttenden’s firm made statements as to why the 52 people were of interest to HLS, including information on certain individuals that could only have come from the police and nowhere else. His response was that he’d forgotten! He now appears to have left the employ of Lawson-Cruttenden somewhat conveniently for both.

When activist Jan Lawrence was sent to prison for ALF activity, Lawson-Cruttenden attempted to seize her property as there was a default injunction against the ALF and he claimed she was a member. Again, he was inappropriate in his attempts to do this, and also had material wrongfully disclosed by the police. He was seen off.

The other case of significance is that of Don Currie. Named on the injunction from the very beginning, Lawson-Cruttenden used the SHAC address for service on him of the papers, despite having his home address prior to the beginning of the case. After he was sent to prison, where he was not able to defend himself properly, HLS went after his house as there was a default order against him and thus he was liable for costs even though he had never engaged in defending the case or been properly served. At a subsequent hearing to defend his house and thus the home of his children, further impropriety by the solicitors was revealed. Rizwan Majid, no doubt on behalf of his company, pretty much perjured himself in a signed witness statement, stating they did not know Don’s address when all the evidence was to the contrary.

It has been a long story, and it is soon over as only the hearing determining costs remain. HLS through their solicitor Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden have abused the courts and misused the law in a desperate multi-pronged attack on SHAC. They have tried to scare people off from protesting, seize property, conducted fishing exercises on SHAC, unlawfully received material from the police and encouraged such, attempted to browbeat activists into submission by overloading them with unnecessary work and the fear of costs. It is a catalogue of unlawful and dubious activity to crush activism. This from a man who maintains he’s really on our side (yeah – you also did cases for the British Field Sport Society).

Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden has made a fortune from the companies he has been billing for these injunctions, but they have failed. Companies who have taken out injunctions such as BOC pulled out from HLS anyway. Other companies such as Harrods and EDO have found them to be millstones around their neck. He may be rich, but he has overplayed his hands and activists are able to fight back against his devious ways. At the end of the day, Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden, and it is entirely in his hands, is happy to take money from animal experimenting industries, from polluters such as nPower and arms manufacturers such as EDO MBM, in order to suppress legitimate protest.

However, the last laugh is proving to be on the protestors, something no-one expected.

UPDATE 3 April, 2007

Yesterday saw the hearing dealing with the costs of the case take place. Sitting again before Justice Holland, he ruled that SHAC could be made to pay the costs of the case in the first instance. He was then asked to consider the issue of whether should they made to carry that burden.

For the first year of the injunction (up to May 2004) he found that HLS were entitled to their costs. However, for the remaining period he found for SHAC. The basis for this decision was that on 16th October, 2006, the option for a final settlement had been put forward by SHAC, including some of the points which were found later in their favour in the final judgement and order. Justice Holland found that HLS had not acted in the right spirit by seeking to deal with the terms of the order.

This seems like a minor point given that huge costs are still heading SHAC’s way, but it was a censoring of the conduct of Huntingdon and Lawson-Cruttenden. Justice Holland took the sting out of their actions once again. It is quite telling that given all the press interest over the original injunctions, HLS have not bothered to press release the story this time. It is not hard to see that they have come out of this injunction looking embarrassed. Even the QC they hired to fight the case won’t be touching them again.

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