The case against two animal rights activists (E and L) was brought to an end today following a ruling by His Honour Judge Pontius at the Old Bailey. Both defendants were charged with breaching an injunction obtained in the High Court by HLS under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. It was alleged that they interfered with employees of HLS by attending a university careers fair, standing by the HLS stall and making it known what their views of the activities of HLS were so that students around the stall could hear. A video of the short demonstration was placed on YouTube.
E and L were not named in the injunction which was taken out in 2007 against SHAC. It was accepted that they both fell within the definition of a “protestor” and as such were restrained within the terms of the injunction from certain prohibited conduct. It was not accepted that the conduct concerned in this case fell foul of the injunction but this was irrelevant for the purposes of the argument.
It was successfully argued that the injunction could not be enforced against either party as they were not “defendants” in the civil injunction proceedings. In order to proceed in the criminal court, permission was required from the High Court to enforce the injunction against both parties. At the time of obtaining the injunction HLS had sought to persuade the judge to dispense with the requirement for permission under Rule 19.6(4) of the Civil Procedure Rules. This was refused by the judge at that time and it should have been known to the prosecuting authorities that this would therefore be an issue that required resolution before proceeding against two individuals in the criminal courts.
The case was therefore concluded following legal argument by the Crown offering no evidence and not guilty verdicts being entered. The case will be important for anyone who is charged with breaching a similar injunction.
E was represented by Tim Greene, a solicitor advocate from Birds Solicitors, who led the argument. L was represented by Paul Morgan, also a solicitor advocate with Birds. The litigation for both defendants was undertaken by Steven Bird.