Protester, 79, is spared jail term

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The Independent Online

A sympathiser saved a 79-year-old animal rights campaigner from prison yesterday after paying off the remains of a fine imposed for turning a hosepipe on a police officer during a demonstration against live exports.

Tilly Merritt, who became one of the best-known campaigners against the live animal trade in the Essex port of Brightlingsea, was about to leave for Holloway prison in north London when Lewis Hazel, 65, and also from Brightlingsea, stepped in.

Two months ago Mrs Merritt, a widow and great grandmother, who lives in Brightlingsea, was fined pounds 150 with pounds 102 costs and ordered to pay pounds 50 compensation for assaulting the policeman during the demonstration in the port last August.

An anonymous donor paid all but pounds 50 of the pounds 302 penalty, but at Colchester magistrates' court in Essex yesterday Mrs Merritt remained defiant about paying a penny herself.

She said she was not happy that someone else had paid most of it and as supporters in the public gallery shouted insults at Adrian Amos, the chairman of the magistrates, she added: "I would sooner go to prison."

Mr Amos told Mrs Merritt: "Regrettably, the court has to send you to prison for two days."

Mrs Merritt said after her release: "At first I was a bit uptight about being released, I was a bit disappointed. I was prepared to go to jail, I had my bag packed. But he meant well, he did not want to see me go to jail."