Police Make Substantial Payout For Wrongful Arrests

16/12/09

By Matthew Squires

A group of animal rights campaigners is to receive substantial payouts after taking legal action against Lancashire Police. The action, brought by five protesters, followed arrests made during demonstrations outside Vodafone shops in Preston and Blackpool in 2006. The protesters – Dr Keith Richardson, Dr Joanne Moodie, Dr Elisa Aaltola, Dean Cain and Krystyna Warzecha – were arrested for alleged public order offences because images on their placards of monkeys being experimented on were considered offensive. The protests were intended to highlight financial ties alleged between the phone giant and a biomedical research laboratory at Oxford University. The legal action concerned arrests at five protests between March 11 and July 26, 2006.

The campaigners brought a civil action against Lancashire Constabulary for false imprisonment and under the Human Rights Act 1998, claiming their rights to freedom of expression and the right to public assembly had been breached. Lancashire Police has now accepted that the protests were legitimate. The group will receive an undisclosed sum in an out-of-court settlement. They were arrested under section five of the Public Order Act 1986 because of graphic images of animal experiments.
Police said at the time the pictures were "likely to be insulting, threatening and abusive to members of the public". campaigner Dr Keith Richardson, 38, accused police of acting as "censors".

He said: "We wanted to show the truth of animal experiments to the public; this kind of research is legal and funded with public money and the public should be informed about it."The reaction of the police to the images was a case of shooting the messenger. On one protest, five police vehicles, including a riot van, attended when there were just three of us." Dr Richardson, Dr Moodie and Dr Aaltola were living in Lancaster at the time of the protests. Drs Richardson and Moodie are now based in Southampton while Dr Aaltola is currently based in Manchester. Mr Cain is from Ulverston and Ms Warzecha is from Blackpool.

Dr Richardson and Mr Cain, were prosecuted but found not guilty after a three-day trial at Blackpool Magistrates' Court in February 2007. A statement issued by Lancashire Police said: "The Chief Constable, having reviewed matters, agrees that the images shown by the claimants in the course of protests were not themselves insulting, threatening or abusive.

"The claimants actions in protesting were a legitimate exercise of their rights under articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights."

http://www.lep.co.uk/news/Police-pay-out-over-monkey.5913692.jp

 

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