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01/07/2005

Government moves to tackle animal rights extremists

Tough new powers to tackle the activities of animal rights extremists aimed at companies and individuals involved in research with animals came into force today.

Under the new powers against campaigns involving violence and intimidation, it will be a criminal offence to target any scientist, research facility or company in the supply chain with a campaign of unlawful acts including criminal damage, trespass, blackmail and libel.

The penalties will be up to five years in prison and an unlimited fine.

The Government said that the measures deliver on the Prime Minister's pledge to crack down on the unacceptable behaviour of extremists that directly threatens vital, often life saving, development of new drugs and treatments.

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Alan Johnson, said: "Companies have the right to conduct legitimate business free from fear of being attacked. Our pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry is a global leader providing more than 22,000 jobs and worth more than £3.6 billion in the UK. It provides essential treatments and medicines that benefit all. These new measures will help safeguard and give confidence to investors and scientists in this cutting edge industry."

Commenting today the Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt, said: "Animal rights extremists put lives at risk by endangering vital research that tackles diseases like cancer, HIV/AIDS and Alzheimer's which affect millions of people in UK. We will not allow their campaign of intimidation to put these important medical advances at risk."

The Government department responsible for the licensing system in animal testing is the Home Office.

Home Office Minster, Paul Goggins, said that people have a "right to campaign lawfully against the use of animals in scientific research, but they do not have the right to engage in acts of intimidation or violence against individuals and firms working in this area".

"These new measures will help to stamp out the abhorrent campaigns of harassment and intimidation that a minority of extremists are engaged in and will protect those engaged in legitimate, lawful work. We will not allow animal rights extremists to threaten these people and the vital work they do," he said.

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act will see the establishment of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) on the abolition of the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the National Crime Squad.

(SP)

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