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SHAC – „Harassment – Breach of Civil Injunction“
On the 2nd February 2012 during a careers fair at the Imperial College London a protest was held against one of the exhibitors; HLS (Huntingdon Life Sciences).
HLS is Europe’s largest contract animal testing facility and has been exposed for animal cruelty on many occasions. SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty) is an international protest group, campaigning to close the notorious lab. Since its inception, SHAC has persuaded hundreds of companies to stop dealing with HLs and come incredibly close to shutting them down. However, there are many vested interests keeping Huntingdon open, which led to them being saved by the British Government, through financial support and repeated attempts to stop the SHAC campaign. These attempts have seen the UK authorities placing police infiltrators within the campaign, using various surveillance tactics, raiding and arresting dozens of people and introducing new laws in order to hand out long prison sentences with little evidence of wrongdoing.
In 2007 HLS sought further legal protection, by obtaining a High Court Injunction to restrict the activities of protesters. Injunctions were originally written into law with the intention of protecting individuals from harassment, but are now routinely used to shield corporations through the control and suppression of protest groups. These injunctions are usually applied to anyone protesting for the same cause, regardless of their individual circumstances. With HLS this means that anyone who knows about the lab’s injunction and is protesting against their use of animals in experiments, is now considered a defendant in the Order. Individuals can be the subject of a High Court injunction as soon as they attend their first protest, regardless of the fact that the injunction may have been granted many years before they had any involvement. The evidence of harassment used in injunction applications does not need to be proven and neither is it necessary to be able to draw concrete connections between the people doing the alleged harassing and those named as defendants on the Order. Regardless of whether the evidence of crime is non-existent, dubious or infallible this is then used to stop the right to freedom of speech for lawful protesters, not the individuals
accused of committing the criminal acts. The simple fact is, if people are willing to break the law, they will not be stopped by another one being put in place – injunctions are being used as a means of targeting and penalising lawful protesters.
It is with this hope of convicting an otherwise lawful protest against HLS, that we see 2 people charged with breaching the HLS injunction for their protest at the Imperial College London.
The protest consisted of them holding placards, offering leaflets and informing the students about the animal experiments being conducted at Huntingdon Life Sciences. This lasted for a few minutes before the protesters willingly left after being asked to do so by security. You can view the protest video here: youtu.be/tXKVMU2jwoQ
5 months later on 3rd July 2012 a number of police officers arrived at the house of one of the protesters and demanded to search the property for her (without a warrant), before eventually leaving after discovering that she wasn’t there. They refused to explain to her housemate why they were there or provide any details for her to contact them.
Following unsuccessful attempts to contact the police to ask for information, the protester voluntarily attended a police station a few days later. She was subsequently arrested and held for around 10 hours. She was interviewed and eventually charged with two counts of „Harassment – breach of civil injunction“, one for each HLS staff member on the stall during the protest. Since then, the defendant has been on strict bail conditions including a residency order, restrictions on protest activities and a ban on association with the
second protester (who was out of the country at the time and unaware of the situation).
Shortly after the arrest of the first defendant a legal argument was put before the court, arguing that there was no case to answer because she hadn’t been served with the injunction and the prosecution had failed to produce a copy of it. However, it is extremely unusual for a case to be thrown out at this stage and so the case continued, with the defendant entering a plea of „not guilty“.
After learning that she was wanted, the second defendant returned to the UK to hand herself in and was arrested on 30th January 2013.
Determined to fight against this political prosecution, both defendants are due to attend court for another legal argument hearing on 3rd June 2013.
The trial is scheduled to last 4-5 days and warned for (to be held sometime during), the two weeks commencing 10th June 2013. It will be held in front of a jury in a West London Crown Court.
So far, minimal evidence has been disclosed from the prosecution and that which has is full of factual inaccuracies and seemingly, outright lies.
More info on the trial proceedings, prosecution and defence cases and sentencing will follow soon.