Jailed for words

IssueJuly - August 2008
News by David Polden

On 6 June, after an 18-week trial, the operator of a website criticising animal testing company Sequani, was found guilty under section 145 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA), “interfering with the contractual relationships of a laboratory”.

For allegedly conspiring to organise protests at Sequani Limited and associated companies, Sean Kirtley was jailed for four and a half years followed by a five-year ASBO (anti-social behaviour order). The main “proof” against him was evidence that he had maintained the campaign website, and text messages.

SchNEWS, reporting the case, commented that there had actually been little criminality in the anti-Sequani campaign: “No arson, no assaults, no serious criminal damage, no demonstrations outside people’s homes. There were minor incidents… such as the supergluing of locks.”

SchNEWS quoted a “Stop Sequani” spokesperson as saying: “The case has serious repercussions for the freedom of publishing protest information on the net and the right to protest peacefully, particularly where commercial interests are concerned.”

“It is also extremely relevant in the light of upcoming “terror legislation” because it demonstrates mission creep – how the SOCPA law, enacted under the pretext of protecting the public from terrorists, is now being used to silence nonviolent protesters.”