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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 March, 2005, 13:22 GMT
Activists 'no-go' zone rejected
Darley Oaks Farm in Newchurch, Staffordshire.
Protesters have targeted Darley Oaks Farm in Staffordshire
A judge has refused to impose a 27 square mile (75 sq km) "no-go" zone against animal rights activists.

The owners of Darley Oaks Farm in Newchurch, Staffs, and their neighbours wanted the zone after a long-term campaign against guinea pig breeding.

Mr Justice Owen, sitting at the High Court in London, turned down their bid.

But he said protesters had conducted a "guerrilla campaign of terrorism" and said a zone may be imposed if orders to regulate protests were breached.

'Balanced approach'

He has continued an earlier injunction granted to protect the family-owned guinea pig farm, its workers and suppliers.

Science Minister Lord Sainsbury said he was glad the farm would be protected and legitimate peaceful protest allowed.

He added: "It is sensible that the judge has reserved the right to extend this protection to others in the community if they are targeted by animal extremists.

"This balanced approach is the right way forward for a society that rejects extremist behaviour."

Staffordshire Police said the injunction was against 13 named individuals and four organizations - Save Newchurch Guinea Pigs Campaign; Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty ('SHAC'); SPEAK Campaign and the Animal Liberation Front ('ALF').

A spokesperson added: "The injunction will continue to allow us to deal with these unlawful elements more effectively whilst still allowing legal legitimate protest."

Seven parishes

Lawyers acting for the farm's owners - brothers Christopher and John Hall - as well as their families, friends, employees and tenants, had brought the case under the Protection from Harassment Act.

They were backed by local parish councillor Peter Clamp who argued he had the right to represent people living in his parish of Newborough and the nearby parishes of Yoxall, Barton-under-Needwood, Hanbury, Tatenhill, Draycott and Hoar Cross, all west of Burton upon Trent.

Lawyers had urged Mr Justice Owen to impose the exclusion zone around seven parishes whose 3,830 households were, they said, at risk from the activities of protesters.

Solicitor advocate Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden told the judge: "Everyone wants lawful protest to occur under controlled terms, but they want unlawful protest to stop."

Mr Lawson-Cruttenden, alleging a terror campaign, cited the theft of the body of Christopher Hall's late mother-in-law from her Yoxall churchyard grave.

The judge also heard evidence of firebomb attacks, smear campaigns, and the cutting of electricity and phone lines.

Some of the campaigners agreed to their protests outside the farm entrance being limited in time, frequency and the number of demonstrators, but they successfully contested Mr Clamp's right to act as the voice of the local people.

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