The six defendants in the second SHAC trial were hammered with vicious sentences this week. The harshest sentence was the six years handed down to 53 year old Sarah Whitehead. Sentences for the other defendants Tom Harris. Nicole Vosper, Jason Mullan, Nicola Tapping and Alfie Fitzpatrick ranged from a two year suspended sentence for the youngest, Alfie, to three and a half years for Nicole Vosper. All the defendants also copped lengthy ASBOs, which will prevent them from any further participation in animal rights activism.
On the Newswire:
All six were charged with 'conspiracy to interfere with the contractual relations of an animal research organisation' under the SOCPA legislation, a law brought in by New Labour to specifically target the animal rights movement. They were arrested in a massive series of raids in 2007.
A lot of shit has been talked about this trial and the defendants in the mainstream media. Most of the press has been happy to reprint the NETCU line that the defendants were personally involved in planting bombs and conducting violence against individuals. The Mail has claimed that SHAC and the ALF are one and the same thing. The BBC carried an article entitled 'Under Siege' that claimed that the six individuals sentenced were personally responsible for vandalism at his home over a period of seven years.
In fact the nature of the conspiracy charge means that the prosecution did not have to prove anything, except that the defendants knew one another and were part of the SHAC campaign against HLS and that at least part of this campaign involved illegal activity. These 'catch-all' conspiracy cases are being used to attack a militant and successful movement against UK corporate interests. The last SHAC trial (see < a href="http://www.schnews.org.uk/archive/news6632.php">SchNEWS 663) saw activists receive up to 11 year sentences on similar conspiracy charges.
NETCU were of course gloating about the verdict, saying, “We are very satisfied with the outcome today. In 2004 a major police investigation was launched into the criminal activities linked to SHAC……Specialist support was also provided by the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the City of London Police’s Economic Crime Unit” then adding laughably "The police service remains committed to facilitating the peaceful protest of the majority”
Of course in real life the police have never neglected their role as defenders of power against truth. It is unlikely that the 'major police investigation' ended after the 2007 raids. Long term police infiltrator PC Mark Stone attended animal rights events as recently as September 2010.
Has this stopped SHAC? Hardly. During the sentencing, which took three days, demonstrations took place simultaneously in London and at the gates of the two HLS sites as well as their beagle suppliers at Harlan Huntingdon and their rabbit breeders at Highgate Lincolnshire. There was even a brief foray into Cambridgeshire Police HQ looking for the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordinating Unit's (NETCU) office.
Also in SchNEWS 745: First Cuts Not the Deepest - Protests begin in Britain against the proposed massive Tory cuts. | EDL: Down the Rabbi Hole - EDL team up with 'the surfing rabbi' in unlikely anti-Muslim coalition for London demo | Somerset Sabs Attacked - South West fox hunt saboteurs attacked by pro-hunt mob. | Cuts Both Ways - Planned eviction of Essex gypsies in doubt due to police funding cuts. | Naples: Load Of Rubbish - Protest in Italy break out against new waste dump near Mount Vesuvius. | Snogfest Vs Nazi Nonce - The holy homophobe Pope Benedict to be targetted by Queer Kissing Flashmob | The US ITT Parade - American anti-arms activists target US operations of ITT | And Finally - Cherie Blair fails to get asking price for Tony's autograph on Ebay.