Protesters against vivisection condemned the suspension of the sentence for violating the injunctions

Protesters against vivisection condemned the suspension of the sentence for violating the injunctions

Two anti-vivisection protesters avoided jail after admitting violating a High Court order restricting demonstrations at a site where animals are raised for medical research.

Michael Maher, 48, and Sammi Laidlaw, 35, were sentenced to suspended prison terms by a judge at London’s Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday.

MBR Acres Limited, a company that raises animals for research, accused the couple of entering an exclusion zone at its site in Wyton, Cambridgeshire, in violation of a judge’s order, during anti-vivisection demonstrations in November 2021 and May of this year.

Maher, of Dorchester, Dorset, and Laidlaw, a real estate agent from Southend, Essex, who are part of the Camp Beagle protest group, have admitted to unintended violations, including entering the area and approaching or l obstruction to exiting vehicles.

Judge Nicklin sentenced Maher to a three-month prison sentence with an 18-month suspended sentence and sentenced Laidlaw to 28 days, also suspended for 18 months.

Concluding that their violations were not unintentional and had caused damage, he warned the two that “the future is in your hands” and urged them not to violate the injunction again or “the overwhelming probability will be that the court will send you to jail. “.

In May, a third protester, 52-year-old Victoria Asplin, a caregiver from Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, was not sanctioned for similar violations of the court order, with the judge rating her case as less serious and included an unintended violation.

“Moderate your protest in order to respect the rules,” the judge told all three defendants.

On Tuesday, in a separate ruling, the judge criticized MBR Acres for his “wholly frivolous” offer that “borders on harassment” to outrage a court case against a lawyer who allegedly violated the injunction by entering the exclusion zone and obstructing a vehicle.

Gillian McGivern, whose law firm acted for protesters arrested at the Wyton site, was initially accused by the company of being a protester herself and covered under the terms of the injunction representing “unknown people”.

But Ms. McGivern insisted she was unaware of the injunction and had visited the site to better understand the legal issues.

Judge Nicklin concluded that “the alleged violations were either trivial or entirely technical”.

“Aside from a technical violation, it is difficult to identify any civil wrongdoing committed by Ms. McGivern,” he said.

He added: “This was not the kind of conduct the injunction was ever intended to capture.

“The court does not grant injunctions to litigating parties to be used as a weapon against those who are perceived as opponents.”

The judge said he would issue an order requiring MBR Acres to obtain permission from the court before they can file further outrage claims against anyone allegedly falling into the “unknown person” category.

At the sentencing hearing, Caroline Bolton, representing MBR Acres, stated in written arguments that the “flagrant” violations of the three protesters were “unbridled disobedience to the injunction order”.

“The defendants were not prevented from exercising their right to protest and they did not need to violate the injunction order to exercise that right,” he said.

Addressing the judge on Tuesday, the protesters, who are among a number of activists against whom MBR Acres has taken legal action, apologized for their actions.

Maher said in court he had a “very short fuse”, adding that he was protesting an alleged “evil business that sends puppies to labs so they can be poisoned to death.”

Laidlaw said in court: “The others and I are trying so hard to deal with what we believe to be an illegal business.”

In the ruling, Judge Nicklin said the injunction was to prevent “unpleasant confrontations” and “flare up” between demonstrators and employees at the Wyton site.

He added that it aimed to “maintain the balance between the rights of protesters to protest and the rights of employees to come and go freely”.

The judge had previously been told that pop star Will Young had been involved in an off-site demonstration in Wyton in November.

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