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Animal Campaigners Win Important Freedom of Speech Victory
Posted 24 December 2009
Five animal rights campaigners - including an Animal Aid School Speaker - have won an important victory under the Human Rights Act 1998, following a series of arrests by Lancashire Police in 2006. The placards that the protestors carried - depicting monkeys in vivisection experiments - were deemed by the police to be ‘threatening, abusive or insulting’ under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986.
The protesters - Dr Keith Richardson, Dr Joanne Moodie, Dr Elisa Aaltola, Dean Cain and Krystyna Warzecha - brought a civil action against Lancashire Constabulary for false imprisonment. They furthermore claimed that their rights to freedom of expression and the right to public assembly had been breached under the Human Rights Act.
Their complaints were upheld and the five campaigners are to be awarded an undisclosed sum in an out-of-court settlement.
In a press statement, campaigner and research scientist Dr Richardson, said: ‘We wanted to show the truth of animal experiments to the public - this kind of research is legal and is funded with public money and the public should be informed about it. The reaction of the police to the images was a case of shooting the messenger. The police were acting as censors, unlawfully preventing us from expressing our views, and from informing people about the realities of animal experimentation. As a scientist, I feel it is essential that the British public are made aware that animal testing is scientifically, and ethically, flawed. I will not be bullied into silence by the Government, animal research companies, or by the police.’
Lancashire Police has now conceded that the protests were legitimate, and issued an official statement, as follows: ‘The Chief Constable, having reviewed matters, agrees that the images shown by the claimants in the course of protests were not themselves insulting, threatening or abusive. The claimants actions in protesting were a legitimate exercise of their rights under articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.’