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Animal research organisation law

Comment 9th July 2010

"S.145 & S.146 SOCPA makes it an offence to interfere with a contractual relationship of an animal research organisation.

 

These are the core reasons I propose these sections be scrapped:

 

1. The law singles out one class of victim as deserving special protection over another. It singles out a class of protester as deserving particular penalties over others and wrongly politicises the criminal justice system.

 

EG: If a person trespasses on company X due to it's links to animal research they can be sent to prison for up to five years. If hours later another person trespasses at the same company for it's links to climate change they would not go to prison or have broken this law.

 

2. Part of this law makes it an offence to commit actions which are already unlawful.

 

EG: A person committing a serious act of criminal damage can be charged with s.145 SOCPA and face up to five years in prison, instead of up to ten years if prosecuted for criminal damage. However for a less serious crime such as a public order offence a person can face prison instead of facing a financial penalty.

 

3. This law turns civil and tortuous acts into criminal offences.

 

EG: Torts are normally civil wrongs and what is and is not a tort is much less clearly defined than what is a crime – it is not easy to assess whether a statement is defamatory or not. This means that it will be much harder for members of the public protesting to gauge in advance what conduct will or will not be a criminal offence.

 

4. This law allows the Secretary of State to extend the class of protected organisations, and so create new criminal offences, without any Parliamentary debate.

 

EG: This law at a moments notice could be extended to cover environmental, anti war, anti poverty, anti GM, human rights campaigners and there would be nothing anyone could do to challenge it or open up a debate on the issue.

 

Why it's important:

 

The current law politicises the criminal justice system.

 

A law which criminalises actions which are already criminal is unnecessary.

 

We should not criminalize civil offences for one class of business when other companies can deal with these issues using civil remedies.

 

I believe that this law can be safely scrapped because animal research organisations are already protected by law like any other class of business facing protests by public order legislation.

 

All companies should be treated the same, and have the same protection under law when faced with protest and all protesters should be judged in court by the actions they carry out, not the type of business they carry them out at."

 

I attended a protest in Hereford in 2007 and an Inspector from West Mercia police said they do not use that law any more in policing as they have found it unworkable and unnecessary and found that public order legislation was far more effective in controlling protest. There may be other police forces who feel the same, and I do not think many prosecutions have been brought either.

Why does this matter?

"S.145 & S.146 SOCPA makes it an offence to interfere with a contractual relationship of an animal research organisation.

 

These are the core reasons I propose these sections be scrapped:

 

1. The law singles out one class of victim as deserving special protection over another. It singles out a class of protester as deserving particular penalties over others and wrongly politicises the criminal justice system.

 

EG: If a person trespasses on company X due to it's links to animal research they can be sent to prison for up to five years. If hours later another person trespasses at the same company for it's links to climate change they would not go to prison or have broken this law.

 

2. Part of this law makes it an offence to commit actions which are already unlawful.

 

EG: A person committing a serious act of criminal damage can be charged with s.145 SOCPA and face up to five years in prison, instead of up to ten years if prosecuted for criminal damage. However for a less serious crime such as a public order offence a person can face prison instead of facing a financial penalty.

 

3. This law turns civil and tortuous acts into criminal offences.

 

EG: Torts are normally civil wrongs and what is and is not a tort is much less clearly defined than what is a crime – it is not easy to assess whether a statement is defamatory or not. This means that it will be much harder for members of the public protesting to gauge in advance what conduct will or will not be a criminal offence.

 

4. This law allows the Secretary of State to extend the class of protected organisations, and so create new criminal offences, without any Parliamentary debate.

 

EG: This law at a moments notice could be extended to cover environmental, anti war, anti poverty, anti GM, human rights campaigners and there would be nothing anyone could do to challenge it or open up a debate on the issue.

 

Why it's important:

 

The current law politicises the criminal justice system.

 

A law which criminalises actions which are already criminal is unnecessary.

 

We should not criminalize civil offences for one class of business when other companies can deal with these issues using civil remedies.

 

I believe that this law can be safely scrapped because animal research organisations are already protected by law like any other class of business facing protests by public order legislation.

 

All companies should be treated the same, and have the same protection under law when faced with protest and all protesters should be judged in court by the actions they carry out, not the type of business they carry them out at."

 

I attended a protest in Hereford in 2007 and an Inspector from West Mercia police said they do not use that law any more in policing as they have found it unworkable and unnecessary and found that public order legislation was far more effective in controlling protest. There may be other police forces who feel the same, and I do not think many prosecutions have been brought either.

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