Animal rights activist jailed for six years for Huntington Life Sciences plot

Debbie Vincent found guilty of involvement in European-wide campaign to terrorise animal testing firm and its suppliers

Animal rights activists outside court Debbie VincentA former soldier has been jailed for six years for her part in a conspiracy to blackmail an animal testing company through a campaign of terror involving improvised explosive devices and the desecration of graves.

Debbie Vincent was found guilty last month at Winchester crown court of being part of a European-wide plot by the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac) group against Cambridge-based Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS).

Michael Bowes QC, prosecuting, told the jury during her trial that the protests, which targeted suppliers and customers of HLS, included falsely accusing staff members of being paedophiles, sending incendiary devices and hoax bombs, posting sanitary towels claimed to be infected with Aids, and causing criminal damage to people’s homes and cars.

He said the aim of the campaign was to put HLS out of business through cutting off its suppliers by creating a “climate of fear”.

The cost to companies linked to HLS through damage from arson attacks and other criminal damage as well as from extra security was more than £1m, he said.

Debbie Vincent acted as spokeswoman for Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. Photograph: Metropolitan police/PA

Debbie Vincent acted as spokeswoman for Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. Photograph: Metropolitan police/PA

One target had the grave of his mother dug up and the urn containing her ashes stolen and never returned.

Sentencing the 52-year-old, who acted as the public spokeswoman for Shac, Judge Keith Cutler said: “It is difficult for a judge to calculate the repugnance felt by society to such appalling acts. Nothing at all could justify such attacks.

“You express no shred of remorse or condemnation for the incidents of extreme terror and desecration which have been caused. There is not an inkling of understanding the distress those actions must have caused.”

The judge also imposed a five-year anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) on Vincent to begin on her release from prison.

A group of supporters and animal rights protesters held a small demonstration outside the court building during the course of the hearing.