Page last updated at 14:44 GMT, Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Animal activist 'behind bombings'

Queen's College
The prosecution said the attacks were part of a "wider terrorist campaign"

An animal rights fanatic waged a "terrorist campaign" against Oxford University's efforts to build a research laboratory, a court has heard.

Jurors at the city's crown court were told how Mel Broughton, 48, planned and possibly carried out two petrol-bomb arson attacks on university buildings.

The bombs caused damage put at 14,000 when they exploded at Queen's College sports pavilion in November 2006.

Mr Broughton, of Northampton, denies charges of conspiracy to commit arson.

He has also pleaded not guilty to an alternative charge of possessing articles with intent to destroy property and keeping an explosive substance with intent.

Jurors heard how two similar bombs were planted at Templeton College in February 2007 but failed to go off.

The court heard that Mr Broughton was a single man who had "dedicated his adult life to the issue of animal rights".

The arson attack on The Queen's College sports pavilion and the attempted attack on Templeton are both part of this wider terrorist campaign
Prosecutor John Price

He was said to be the leading figure of animal rights group SPEAK, which was set up four years ago.

Mr Broughton has previously been convicted of conspiracy to cause an explosion likely to endanger life after police found a bomb in the boot of his car in 1998, jurors heard.

They were also told that a DNA sample found on a match used as part of the fuse in one of the failed Templeton devices was found to be from Mr Broughton.

When police arrested him at his home in Semilong Road in December last year they discovered 14 packets of sparklers and a battery connector in an unused water tank in his bathroom, the court heard.

'Protracted protests'

Officers also discovered under his carpet a university employee's security pass and a notebook containing a list of those identified as targets for "direct action".

John Price, prosecuting, said Mr Broughton had conspired with at least one other person to carry out the attacks.

It was the prosecution's view that he did not have the sparklers at home "for a future children's firework party" as he had claimed, Mr Price said.

Jurors were told the SPEAK campaign had previously protested against a laboratory planned at Cambridge, but that was abandoned.

The group then turned its attention to Oxford when their project was announced soon afterwards.

Mr Price said there had been "protracted and determined protests" as part of the campaign.

Empty buildings

But it also featured, "by some a violent and very frightening campaign that can only properly be described as a terrorist campaign".

"Acts of intimidation and violence were directed towards persons and institutions such as companies perceived as being in any way connected to the project.

"The arson attack on The Queen's College sports pavilion and the attempted attack on Templeton are both part of this wider terrorist campaign intended to bring to an end, if it could, the construction of the laboratory in Oxford."

The prosecution said the attacks had been aimed at damaging property rather than endangering people, as both were carried out at night when the buildings were empty.

But he added they were "very dangerous and undoubtedly very serious criminal acts".

The case continues.

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