A LITTLEHAMPTON animal rights activist could be facing prison.
Sarah Whitehead, 53, of Thorncroft Road, will be sentenced on October 21, after admitting to being part of a conspiracy to blackmail organisations linked to the controversial Huntington Life Sciences (HLS) between November 2001 and March 2008.
She, along with four others, were arrested in May 2007 as part of Operation Achilles, a major investigation into animal rights extremism that involved officers from four police forces, and another man was arrested in March 2008.
"Way beyond peaceful protest"
DCI Andy Robbins, of Kent Police, who led the investigation said: "We are pleased that the defendants have accepted that their actions went way beyond what could reasonably be considered peaceful protest.
"Since this investigation began in 2007, there has been a sustained reduction in criminal activity linked to animal rights extremism. We hope to send a clear message that harassment and intimidation has no place in peaceful protest, and will result in prosecution."
The six were part of the campaign group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, which targeted organisations they believed had links with HLS.
Criminal damage and intimidation
Although the campaigned includes some elements of peaceful protest, the defendants were also involved in more sinister tactics involving criminal damage, intimidation and threats against employees at both their work places and home addresses.
DCI Robbins added: "We want to make it clear that the actions of these few people in no way reflect the peaceful campaigns that are carried out by the majority of animal rights campaigners in the UK.
"Everyone is entitled to express their views and the police will continue to facilitate peaceful protest – but we won't accept a minority of people taking the law into their own hands in an attempt to further their cause."
Alastair Nisbet, of the Crown Prosecution Service Wessex Complex Casework Unit, added that every citizen had the right to lawfully and
peacefully protest against activities they did not agree with.
"These convictions reflect the robust way in which those who break the law in pursuit of protest will be prosecuted," he said.
Whitehead pleaded guilty, along with Nicole Vosper, 22, from Newquay, to conspiracy to blackmail, which carries a maximum 14 year prison sentence, earlier this year.
At Winchester Crown Court on Tuesday, September 7, Thomas Harris, 27 from Gosport, admitted conspiracy blackmail, and Nicola Tapping, 29 from Gosport, Jason Mullan, 32 from London and Alfie Fitzpatrick, 22 from Solihull, each pleaded guilty to interfering with contractual relationships as to harm an animal research organisation.