50 Years for 'Urban Terrorists'; Ringleaders: Greg and Natasha Avery Got Nine Years Each

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Kelly

A JUDGE branded seven animal rights extremists 'urban terrorists' yesterday as he jailed them for a total of 50 years for a ruthless campaign of intimidation.

Mr Justice Butterfield said the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty activists made life a 'living hell' for thousands of men, women and children by subjecting them to a 'relentless, sustained and merciless persecution'.

He also called for the law to be changed to allow tougher sentences for blackmailers, after warning the ringleaders of the network were likely to return to extremism once they were freed.

The plotters - a mix of veteran animal rights protesters and their young middleclass disciples seduced by the 'excitement and glamour' of the group - were jailed for between four and 11 years.

The group aimed to intimidate firms into ending dealings with Cambridgeshirebased Huntingdon Life Science, which carries out animal testing for medical research, Winchester Crown Court heard.

They targeted workers at firms supplying HLS by sending letters to neighbours claiming they were paedophiles. claiming they were paedophiles.

They also sent hoax bombs and items that claimed to be contaminated with Aids to homes. And at night-time they would pour paint stripper on cars and daub walls with words such as 'murderer' and 'puppy killer'.

The plot was funded with [pounds sterling]1million raised from innocent donations on high-street stalls. Mr Justice Butterfield said: 'You cloaked your activities in what was a hypocritical sham pretence that Shac was a vehicle for legitimate lawful protest. It was nothing of the sort.

'I expect that you will be seen by some as martyrs. But you are not going to prison for your beliefs, you are going to prison because each of you has committed a very serious offence. …