Scientist wins right to keep address secret: Professor hounded by anti-vivisectionists wins court battle with journalist. Nicholas Schoon reports

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The Independent Online
A LEADING scientist who was sent a letter bomb won his High Court attempt yesterday to stop a tabloid newspaper medical writer from publishing his home address and telephone number.

Colin Blakemore, a professor at Oxford University who strongly defends vivisection, won damages of pounds 3,500 from Vernon Coleman, author of a problem page and column in the People. The journalist also agreed to pay costs of pounds 12,500.

Professor Blakemore, who heads the physiology department, received a letter bomb at his home containing half a pound of explosive and needles just before last Christmas. It was one of several sent to scientists by an animal rights group calling itself The Justice Department; two exploded injuring three people. His phone number is ex-directory and he wants his address kept secret.

He said: 'This is an enormous relief. Freedom of speech is a precious right but Dr Coleman and others have repeated, year after year, allegations about my research that have been considered and rejected by the Medical Research Council, the Home Office and leading medical experts. I've done everything in my power to answer criticism and to engage in public discussion on animal experimentation. I was obviously concerned that the distribution of my home address would have put my family in danger.' He has three teenage daughters and it was they who took the package from the postman on 23 December. Professor Blakemore called the police.

Dr Coleman has criticised Professor Blakemore's use and stance on vivisection several times during a seven-year period in which he has contributed to the Daily Star, the Sun and the People.

Recently, the journalist, who defended himself, wrote to the professor saying he would publish a pamphlet with his home address and telephone number to encourage the public to 'get in touch with you to discuss your work'.

Professor Blakemore has come in for particular abuse from anti- vivisection campaigners because some of his research involved sewing up the eyelids of kittens and severing their eye muscles. The vivisection was licensed by the Home Office and defended by the Medical Research Council, which funds his research. The MRC noted yesterday that all the surgery was essential to the research and was carried out under anaesthetic.

Last month, a High Court judge granted a temporary injunction preventing Dr Coleman from publishing the professor's home address or telephone number. At yesterday's hearing in chambers, the journalist also agreed not to threaten to do this, nor to publish anything about Professor Blakemore 'likely to increase any risk to (his) personal safety, his family or members of the physiology department'. He also promised to destroy his records of the address and telephone number and to give solicitors the names of anyone to whom he may have passed the information.