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Animal rights activists jailed over harassment of centre

Vigilante animal rights activists posted ‘AIDS-infected’ sanitary towels, sent death threats and falsely accused scientists of paedophilia in a 10-year campaign of harassment on a research centre. 

Swiss-born Sven Van Hasselt, 31, and his British wife Natasha Simpkins, 30, were part of an extremist animal rights group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC).

They launched a 10-year campaign of harassment against research company Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) which stretched across Europe – starting when they were both teenagers.

Sustained campaigns of harassment and intimidation were waged by some of the activists, including making false allegations of paedophilia, the delivery of incendiary devices, hoax bomb threats, and criminal damage to property including sports cars.

Natasha Simpkins

Swiss-born Sven Van Hasselt, 31, and his British wife Natasha Simpkins, 30, were part of an extremist animal rights group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC)

They launched a 10-year campaign of harassment against research company Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) which stretched across Europe - starting when they were both teenagers

They launched a 10-year campaign of harassment against research company Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) which stretched across Europe – starting when they were both teenagers

Abusive letters and death threats were also sent, along with threats of actual physical assault, aggravated trespass, posting items allegedly contaminated with the AIDS virus, and the blocking of email and telephone systems.

The blackmail spanned from November 2001 and August 2011, and was focused on the Cambridge-based international research company which had been the target of animal rights extremism for many years, including attacks on its premises and staff.

Over the years the harassment and violence began to increasingly target companies and people associated with HLS – either as customers or suppliers.

Information about the companies and individuals were obtained under false pretences and then published on the SHAC website, making them a target for further harassment.

SHAC activists told workers their details would stay on the website until the suppliers provided written confirmation it would sever all associations with HLS.

Dutch national from Amsterdam, Van Hasselt was personally involved in setting fire bombs which destroyed sports cars and other vehicles belonging to employees of companies linked to HLS.

The campaign also included the desecration of a grave and theft of an urn belonging to the mother of one employee.

The Met’s Counter Terrorism Command launched an investigation and three people were suspected of being involved in the blackmail, which including Dusseldorf, in Germany, a Swiss supplier called Novartis and Holland, in which 5,000 mink were set loose from a farm.

At Winchester Crown Court yesterday, Van Hasselt was jailed for five years and Simpkins was handed a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years

At Winchester Crown Court yesterday, Van Hasselt was jailed for five years and Simpkins was handed a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years

Arrests were made in July, 2012, with Debbie Vincent from Croydon, south London, convicted of conspiracy to blackmail in April 2014, receiving a six-year prison sentence.

Former soldier Vincent, formerly known as Peter Rogers, underwent a sex-change operation in 1992 and went on to become the mastermind behind the extremist campaign.

A further seven SHAC members, who were based in Hampshire, were jailed for a total of 50 years in 2009.

Both Simpkins and Van Hasselt, who recently lived in Bournemouth, Dorset, were arrested by Dutch Police in Amsterdam in July 2012 and were eventually extradited to the UK from the Netherlands.

The pair were arrested at Heathrow in February last year and were both charged with conspiracy to blackmail, to which both pleaded guilty.

Commander Dean Haydon, from the Met's Counter Terrorism Command said the campaign went far beyond a lawful protest

Commander Dean Haydon, from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command said the campaign went far beyond a lawful protest

At Winchester Crown Court yesterday, Van Hasselt was jailed for five years and Simpkins was handed a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years.

Commander Dean Haydon, from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command said the campaign went far beyond a lawful protest.

He said: ‘The actions of both Simpkins and Van Hasselt, as well as Vincent who was convicted in 2014, were a clear breach of the law and these sentences reflect the seriousness of their illegal activity.

‘The tactics they used in attempting to prevent companies from going about their legitimate business were extremely damaging to those targeted and went far beyond lawful campaigning.

‘The Met remains committed to upholding the right to lawful protest. However we will not hesitate to pursue and prosecute those who are intent on committing criminal activity of this nature.

‘Whilst the attacks against these companies and their employees occurred in Europe, this case demonstrates that the Met is committed to protecting the public and disrupting criminal activity.

‘I’d like to thank the companies involved, the Dutch police and our other partners for their invaluable support and cooperation during this complex investigation.’

 



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk



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