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Last Updated: Friday, 18 August 2006, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
Four convicted over animal theft
Four animal rights campaigners who stole birds, rodents and dogs from a breeder have been convicted of burglary at Chichester Crown Court.

They are Grace Quantock, 19, and Linus Harrison, 20 - both of Yateley - Sarah Whitehead, 49, from Chichester, and Helen Luff, 39, from Littlehampton.

The gang broke into the Old Fuel Depot in Merston, West Sussex, in July 2005.

Whitehead was given a suspended jail term. The other three were given community service orders.

About 300 birds, 40 rabbits, 50 rats and an undisclosed number of guinea pigs were stolen in the burglary.

The whole world had been taken away from me
Philip Porter

The court heard that Whitehead, a nurse, was informed by friends linked with the RSPCA in May last year that animals were being kept in poor conditions, with insufficient food and water.

She mistakenly thought the animal charity had not taken action surrounding the upkeep of the animals, when in fact it had.

The group's target was Philip Porter, who leased the premises at the Old Fuel Depot near Chichester and lived in a caravan on the site.

Mr Porter told the court that finding his animals missing had felt like "the whole world had been taken away from me".

'Poor conditions'

The four were convicted following a four-week trial in July.

Whitehead, of Thorncroft Road in Littlehampton, was given a nine-month jail term suspended for two years, and a 120-hour community order.

Luff, of Kingsham Avenue, Chichester, was given a 100-hour community order.

Harrison, of Pondcroft in Yately, Hampshire, was given a 60-hour community order. He was also found guilty of an additional charge of residential burglary for the theft of Mr Porter's dog from his caravan.

'Form of vigilantism'

Quantock, of the same address as Harrison, was handed a community order with a curfew.

Judge John Sessions told them the raid had "involved a form of vigilantism - all of those involved taking the law into their own hands rather than pursuing matters through appropriate authorities".

He added that the mitigating factors included the fact the animals were being kept in poor conditions which could have led to disease or death, and no gratuitous damage or offence was done.

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: "We hope this will act as a deterrent to activists who are tempted to take legitimate protests over the boundary into criminal activity."

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