Animal rights activist jailed after threatening scientist

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The Independent Online

An animal rights extremist has been jailed for threatening a laboratory executive moments after avoiding a prison sentence for planning to liberate hundreds of mice. Judge Richard Price told Keith Mann, 38, at Portsmouth Crown Court that he would only serve a community punishment order of 230 hours to prevent him becoming a martyr.

An animal rights extremist has been jailed for threatening a laboratory executive moments after avoiding a prison sentence for planning to liberate hundreds of mice. Judge Richard Price told Keith Mann, 38, at Portsmouth Crown Court that he would only serve a community punishment order of 230 hours to prevent him becoming a martyr.

But as he walked out of court, Mann - once described as a "ruthless fanatic" by a judge - leant over Chris Bishop, technical director of Wickham Laboratories, and warned him: "Your travel has only just started, you will need to look under your bed."

The judge immediately reconvened the court and held a short trial, after which he jailed Mann for six months for contempt of court. The judge said: "I will not have people leaving my court saying that sort of thing." He added: "I do not want to make him a martyr, he's just made himself one."

Jail will not be a new experience for Mann, a leading member of the Animal Liberation Front (AFL). He served a long prison sentence for carrying out a terrorist-style sabotage campaign against the meat industry during the early 1990s. He was jailed in 1994 for 14 years, later reduced on appeal to 11 years, for 21 offences including arson, possessing explosives and escaping from custody. In his latest court appearance yesterday, he admitted masterminding a break-in at Wickham Laboratories, Hampshire. During the raid on the night of 13 December 2003, 695 mice and documents were stolen.

At first Judge Price decided not to jail Mann, telling him: "I am not going to send you to prison because I know in your eyes and in the eyes of others I would turn you into a martyr. A martyr you are not, a damn nuisance you are."

Speaking after the case, Mr Bishop said: "I am extremely concerned about Mann's comment made to me, which was completely out of order, and threatening behaviour like that shouldn't be allowed to go on inside or outside court."

Earlier, Mann, of Poole, Dorset, claimed that he organised the laboratory raid to prevent what he believed was an unlawful act taking place.

The trial was told that the mice taken during the burglary were being used as part of tests using botulinum toxin (used in Botox) for a product called Dysport. But the trial heard that Wickham Laboratories had a government licence to carry out the tests for Dysport, which is used in Britain to prevent muscle spasms.

A second man, Melvyn Glintenkamp, 42, of New Milton, Hampshire, was also found guilty of conspiracy to burgle. A total of 671 mice, along with their cages, were discovered a few weeks after the burglary in a caravan at Glintenkamp's home.

Mann has acted as a spokesman for the ALF and in the past he has won the support of celebrities such as the playwright and animal campaigner Carla Lane, and the 1960s model Celia Hammond, former wife of the rock star Jeff Beck.

Judge Sir Stephen Mitchell sentenced Mann at the Old Bailey in December 1994 to 14 years. He described Mann as "dangerous and fanatical" and said that he used tactics that "bore all the hallmarks of terrorism".

The charges against Mann, who was described by police as a ringleader of the ALF, related to a series of fire attacks on meat lorries, including three parked at a slaughterhouse in Royton, Oldham.

He was also sentenced for escaping from custody after he managed to escape from Stretford police station by scaling a 10ft wall.