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Animal rights group threatens to sue police

David Matth on Friday 8th June 2007

Animal rights group Speak has threatened to take legal action against Thames Valley Police after a judge ruled last week that they had been unlawfully prevented from demonstrating by officers.

Mel Broughton, co-founder of Speak, attacked police for keeping officers who had been criticised during the trial on duty, and accused the University of attempting to silence anyone who who spoke out against animal testing.

Broughton complained that police officers, who had been condemned by the judge for acting in an unprofessional manner last year towards Speak, had been present at a demonstration last Saturday.

He explained that he had no confidence in the Independent Police Complains Commission (IPCC) and did not believe that the police would take action against their own officers. "I don’t think they’re [Thames Valley Police] going to do anything. We’re going to take our own action through the courts. I don’t think we’ll get anywhere through the IPCC, they’re clearly not interested."

Broughton also claims that the University is attempting to use the courts to limit Speak protests after a 2006 injunction to prevent Speak protesters using megaphones at demonstrations.

The Speak website stated, "It was noted that at least one of the police officers, whose evidence was described as ‘inconceivable’ and who was considered by the judge to be an ‘unreliable witness,’ was on duty, showing that TVP obviously want to continue policing these demonstrations in the way they have always done, with officers who want to wage a dirty war against protesters and who are prepared to lie about it in court. So much for balanced policing."

A spokesperson for Thames Valley Police confirmed that officers who had been involved in the trial were still on duty and that an internal review of the judgment was taking place.

A spokesperson for the University said, "The University of Oxford is committed to the principle of free speech and appreciates that everyone has the right to express their views and participate in lawful and peaceful protests. At the same time, people must be able to go about their everyday business in Oxford’s city centre without feeling intimidated or harassed by protesters."
He stated that the University had not been criticised by the judge during the trial. "It’s an operational matter for the police. It’s not something that we need to comment on. There was no suggestion by the judge of any dodgy dealings."

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