Animal rights activist jailed for year longer

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THE ringleader of an animal rights group has been given an extra year behind bars.

Thomas Harris, 27, originally from Gosport, admitted his part in the conspiracy to cause criminal damage in a series of attacks on branches of Barclays banks in Hampshire, including Bishop's Waltham and Park Gate.

Over a five-week period in September and October 2008, four branches were daubed with slogans including 'killers', 'murderers' and 'scum'.

The bank was targeted for its role in being involved with animal testing lab, Huntingdon Life Sciences based in Cambridgeshire.

Two others Christopher Potter, 20, and Maria Neal, 21, both from Seggs Lane, Alcester, Warwickshire, also admitted conspiracy to commit criminal damage.

Harris, who moved to Ringwood, Hampshire, is a prominent member of the group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac), and is already serving a four-year jail term for conspiracy to blackmail companies linked to HLS in an attempt to close it down.

Judge Keith Cutler at Winchester Crown Court today ordered him to serve a further year in jail.

Potter and Neal were both given suspended prison sentences and each ordered to do 120 hours unpaid work.

Detective Chief inspector Andy Robbins said: 'We welcome the sentence passed today and hope that it draws a line under the campaign of criminality and intimidation carried out by members of SHAC.

'These were carefully planned criminal offences carried out during the cover of darkness against organisations carrying out perfectly lawful business.

'They vast majority of animal rights campaigners conduct their campaigns peacefully and the police service will always strive to facilitate this.

'However, as we have seen today, where an individual uses crimes to further their cause, we will investigate and are committed to bringing offenders to justice.'

Alistair Nisbet, head of CPS Wessex, complex casework unit, added: 'These defendants were not legitimate animal welfare protesters but criminals with no respect for the property of others.

'They damaged the car of a person who they had mistakenly believed was working for a pharmaceutical company, several banks in the Hampshire area and a courier van.

'While these individual incidents may not seem especially serious, they were a continuation of the wave of criminal activities started by the discredited organisation, SHAC, whose sole aim was to shut down HLS by any means necessary regardless of the law.

'These defendants intended to intimidate those who were going about their lawful business because they personally objected to the victims supplying goods and services to HLS or using their services.'

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