North Animal Rights Activist Cleared by Jury; but Four Are Convicted over Campaign

Article excerpt

Byline: Sam Wood

AN animal rights activist from the North East who was accused of blackmailing companies that supplied Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) was yesterday cleared by a jury.

Trevor Holmes, 51, of Newcastle, was found not guilty at Winchester Crown Court.

He was charged along with four others, all of whom were convicted.

Gerrah Selby, 20, Daniel Wadham, 21, Gavin Medd-Hall, 45, Heather Nicholson, 41, and Mr Holmes, were alleged to have orchestrated the campaign which ran between 2001 and 2007.

All five denied conspiracy to blackmail.

The hierarchy of the group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac) used threats such as claiming that managers of the companies were paedophiles, hoax bomb parcels, criminal damage and threatening telephone calls to force them to cut links with the animal testing company.

The aim was to target suppliers or any company with a secondary link with Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), based in Cambridge. Mr Holmes was alleged to be a senior member of Shac who took part in criminal damage in the UK, the court heard.

One of the jurors refused to be seen in court while the verdict was announced after 33 hours and 48 minutes of deliberation.

Selby, Wadham and Medd-Hall were released on conditional bail, while Nicholson was remanded in custody until sentencing on January 19.

The maximum sentence for the offence is 14 years' imprisonment.

Three other people - Gregg Avery, Natasha Avery and Daniel Amos - previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to blackmail.

One of the features of intimidation included sending used sanitary towels in the post, saying they were contaminated with the Aids virus, and personal campaigns against the management of companies including daubing roads outside their homes with words like "Puppy Killer". …