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Last Updated: Friday, 26 May 2006, 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK
Oxford lab injunction tightened
The use of a megaphone at the weekly demo is to be banned
Oxford University has been granted an extension to its existing injunction against animal rights activists.

An exclusion zone around the site of a biomedical research centre being built in the city is to be enlarged - but not by as much as the university had hoped.

The High Court also widened an order to protect staff, students and contractors from harassment by some protesters.

Demonstrators, who are allowed near the site on Thursday afternoons, have said they will abide by the ruling.

The original injunction permitted a weekly protest, but banned activities within a designated exclusion zone.

The judge agreed to "moderately" increase the exclusion zone. He also banned the Thursday protesters from using a megaphone.

A request by the university to lower the number of Thursday protesters from 50 to 12 was rejected.

A number of individuals and several named groups were, however, told they should not demonstrate or picket close to the home of any protected person or try to identify a vehicle in the zone.

Mr Justice Holland said balancing the lawful activities of the university and the rights of the protesters was a "difficult task", particularly because a section of the anti-vivisection lobby was prepared to resort to criminal means.

Activities limited

Dr Julie Maxton, Oxford's registrar, said the court ruling provided a "welcome measure" of protection.

"We fully recognise the rights of some individuals and groups to express their views within the framework of the law," she said.

People's right to protest is being diminished
Tim Phillips, NAVS

"The judgement protects that right by making it clear it cannot be used as a cloak for unlawful activity and behaviour."

Groups have recently begun to campaign in favour of animal testing and earlier this month Prime Minister Tony Blair added his name to a pro-vivisection petition.

One of the animal rights groups against the centre, Speak, which opposes violent protest, contends the injunction is "too broad".

But founding member Robert Cogswell welcomed the judge's refusal to cede to all the university's requests.

Tim Phillips, from the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS), said: "People's right to protest is being diminished.

"It's especially a concern when someone as powerful as Oxford University, with their influence on government with their wealth and so forth, is able to say how and when people can protest."

He said some people wrongly assumed the protesters were against medical research.

Criminal damage

Construction of the laboratory in South Parks Road was halted in July 2004 when contractors pulled out after a campaign led by Speak.

Oxford University said since work on the 20m centre resumed in November last year, threats and criminal damage have increased.

Its counsel, Charles Flint QC, told the court that existing boundaries allowed protesters to observe contractors at university sites and applied for further restrictions.

He claimed there was "clear evidence" several known activists were determined to identify and threaten contractors.

Earlier this month, a steel contractor decided to withdraw from the building project because of concern it would become a target.

The ruling extends the exclusion zone on to South Parks Road to St Cross Road and further along Mansfield Road.

See Oxford University's reaction to the ruling

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25 Feb 06 |  Oxfordshire
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30 Nov 05 |  Science/Nature
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19 Jul 04 |  Science/Nature

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