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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 September, 2004, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
Protest 'no-go' zone called for
Protestors have been accused of harassing contractors
University chiefs have asked a judge to impose a 35m "no harassment" zone around their buildings as protection against animal rights activists.

Legal representatives for Oxford University claimed work on its new research laboratory site was stopped in July because of intimidation.

On Tuesday, a High Court judge granted the university a temporary "holding" injunction against harassment.

The hearing was adjourned to give the defendants time to prepare their case.

'Out of control'

Mr Justice Simon was told that Oxford University was not seeking to curb peaceful protest.

It has offered to provide a demonstration area immediately opposite the laboratory site in South Parks Road.

Solicitor-advocate Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden, representing the university, said the proposed injunction, although "draconian", sought to establish the correct balance between two opposing interests.

The injunction is against 10 named protestors and groups.

Mr Lawson-Cruttenden said it was being sought at short notice because of concerns raised by an animal rights gathering in Kent 10 days ago.

The university feared it would be a target because some of its work at the new laboratory would involve experimentation on animals.

The injunction being sought would not interfere with peaceful freedom of speech or freedom of association, he said, although limits should be imposed on the use of shouting and musical instruments to distract people from their laboratory work.

Police notice

But animal rights campaigners have criticised the legal move as "undemocratic".

Animal rights group Speak has said it will carry out a campaign of civil disobedience but would not use intimidation.

Under the university's plans, demonstrations in the area opposite the laboratory would be restricted to 25 protestors and limited to four hours.

Demonstrators would have to give police 24 hours' notice.

The hearing has been adjourned until 5 October.

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