Tom Harris and Nicci Tapping
Front page of: http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/gosport
ANIMAL rights protesters arrested last week have today criticised police for detaining them, claiming they have done nothing wrong.
The pair were arrested in Alver Road, Gosport, on Friday for the second time in nine months, but told The News they have never acted illegally.
Police knocked down the front door of Tom Harris, 24, and Nicci Tapping, 26, on Friday morning and about a dozen officers raided the house.
The pair were handcuffed and arrested on suspicion of blackmail, interfering with businesses and criminal damage.
The arrests were part of Operation Achilles, a major police operation across the south targeting suspected animal rights extremists.
Mr Harris said: 'We arrange all our protests with the police and make sure we get permission for street collections.
'Everything is legally water-tight. It's all above board, we haven't done anything wrong.
'The police kept asking us if we attended protests and carried out leaftleting.
'What they were asking us about was all legal, they didn't ask us about anything criminal.
'We are trying to do the right thing and we are trying to do it the right way and they should be trying to help us do that, not trying to stop us exercising our democratic rights.'
The pair are full-time volunteers for the Southern Animal Rights Coalition – a group set up to campaign against animal abuse across the southern region.
They were arrested at 9am on Friday morning as part of Operation Achilles and on Sunday were bailed until March, pending further questioning.
As part of the same operation a woman aged 50 was arrested in Thorncroft Road, Littlehampton. She was also bailed.
The arrests follow the biggest ever police swoop on animal rights protesters in May last year, in which the pair were also arrested.
When previously released on bail Miss Tapping told The News that she had never carried out any unlawful activity.
'I was scared – I haven't done anything wrong,' she said.
The police refused to reveal details of the of the case, but spokeswoman Lucy Dibden said: 'The arrests were made legally and in proportion in relation to the evidence we have in Operation Achilles.
'We do uphold the right to lawful protest.
'It would be inappropriate to comment any further, because they are on bail.'
24 January 2008 9:18 AM