Animal rights campaigners admit blackmail


A GROUP of animal rights campaigners face jail after admitting blackmailing firms and suppliers in a bid to bring down a controversial testing laboratory.

Thomas Harris, 27, from Clarence Road, Gosport, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to blackmail companies and suppliers linked to Huntington Life Sciences between 2001 and 2008.

His partner Nicola Tapping, 29, of the same address, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harm the Cambridge-based firm from 2005 to 2008 under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 by interfering with firms supplying them.

Jason Mullan, 32, from Holloway Road, London, and Alfie Fitzpatrick, 20, from Knowle Road, Solihull, West Midlands, pleaded guilty to the same charge as Tapping at Winchester Crown Court.

The four, who were members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, admitted the charges on the eve of their trial.

Tapping and Harris are also members of Southern Animal Rights Coalition, which is aligned with Stop Wickham Animal Testing.

Two other members of Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty – Sarah Whitehead, 53, from Thorncroft Road, Littlehampton, West Sussex, and Nicole Vosper, 22, from Bay View Terrace, Newquay, Cornwall, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to blackmail at an earlier hearing.

The six campaigners for animal rights waged an international campaign of intimidation against a host of companies in an attempt to force the closure of Huntington Life Sciences.

Staff working for the supply firms were targeted with abusive telephone calls and criminal damage to their homes.

Threats of violence were also used to force companies to cut links with Huntington Life Sciences.

The Recorder of Winchester, Judge Keith Cutler, yesterday adjourned the case for pre-sentence reports.

A two-day sentencing hearing will take place at Winchester Crown Court on October 21.

The maximum jail term for conspiracy to blackmail is 14 years.

The penalty for conspiracy under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 is a maximum of five years.