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Sean Kirtley Released From Prison After Appeal Victory!

IMC Features | 22.09.2009 10:33 | Stop Sequani Animal Testing | SOCPA | Animal Liberation | Birmingham

The Final Nail In The SOCPA Coffin?

In May 2008, following an 18-week trial costing over £4.5 million, the operator of a website criticising animal testing, Sean Kirtley, was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for allegedly organising legal protests. He was found guilty under Section 145 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) for "interfering with the contractual relationships of a laboratory" by campaigning against Sequani Limited and its business associates. He was released this month after his appeal was successful.

Solidarity direct action included a Carnival Against Vivisection in September against Sequani and anonymous ALF activists painting a city centre, walls and bridges, liberating hundreds of chickens, redecorating a fur shop, vandalising a hunter's car and sabotaging vending machines (1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5).

Newswire: A letter from Sean Kirtley to Gagged! | "Free Sean" | GSK and Mars vending machines sabotaged | Sean Kirtley's Appeal Launched | ALF Chickin' Nickin' For Sean | Law-lord ruling to free Sean Kirtley? NETCU on the run | Felix Says "Free Sean Kirtley" | Sollidarity actions for Sean Kirtley | Serious Implications for Freedom of Speech as Activist Jailed for 4.5 years | NETCU and Judge Ross crucify civil liberties | Support Freedom of Speech - Support Sean! | Sequani Trial Update - One Remanded - Three not guilty so far... | Jury out to decide the fate of the Sequani Six (longest AR trial in history) | How to be a seriously organised animal rights criminal - Section 145 SOCPA. | The Sequani Six say thanks for the support

Previous feature: Police repression at Sequani demo | World Day for Animals in Laboratories March | Anti-vivisection campaigners convicted of blackmail | Solidarity For Political Prisoner Sean Kirtley | Carnival Against Vivisection | Sequani Besieged by Surprise Action

Links: Free Sean Kirtley | Sequani 6 | Stop Sequani Animal Testing | NETCU Watch

Indymedia UK topic pages: Stop Sequani Animal Testing | SOCPA

IMC Features


Finally free!

30.09.2009 16:21




Hide the following 10 comments

...but why was the appeal allowed?

22.09.2009 19:59

fucking great! but did the judgement really condem socpa?


We are all over the moon

24.09.2009 07:10

to see Sean one of the most honest, kindest and dedicated activists it has been my privelege to know out of prison. There are certain reporting restrictions still in place. I am sure in a few weeks much more info will be available. Activists went to Sequani the day after the ruling, the police were abundant. Two of us are on bail on ridiculous charges. I think it's time we had another big demo in Ledbury to make the point that the police have failed miserably to enforce SOCPA and keep their promise to Sequani to rid them of ANY protest. What do people think??

Lynn Sawyer

Any news on the retrial?

24.09.2009 15:31

Do you think they will have the arrogance to try again?


Agreed Lynn

24.09.2009 16:40

Another carnival-antispe-type protest would be great to have in my opinion. I think the Carnival Against Vivisection is the best new model for 'AR' mass-protest that has come out of the 21st century. For example let's be honest, the SHAC nationals are medicore recruiting tools and does very little to threaten HLS financially, similar to previous Sequani or current Wickham nationals. The new supporters recruited usually support the campaign anyway so does little more than preaching to the passively converted. Whereas the new smash edo/dsei based model that was used for CAV both recruits more militant/radical activists (from a broader spectrum) that are actually likely to join the campaign (than support) and has the effect of threatening Sequani's financial stability. This is what we need and want.

Who knows, maybe after a few more successful mass-demos in this manner SHAC nationals will be this way, not because the campaigns are so divided, but because the demos will be popular, well understand and welcome to the broader anti-vivisection movement (that is predominantly SHAC). It'll be a good way to test the water as it were.

Basically keep it as anti-authoritarian as it can go. Understandably Sean or someone else could (if willing) put their name down as organiser without a major threat of imprisonment, but it really isn't helping our movement. It keeps it passive, authoritarian and quite frankly boring.

Furthermore, why apply for permission for something you already have the right to do?

Another anti-socpa/vivisection demo would also be great for cross-movement solidarity.



25.09.2009 08:14

The problem with AR nationals is not whether they are arranged with the plod or not, it is the fact that no one is willing to get arrested anymore.

From what I remember the carnival in Ledbury wasn't much different from any other AR National, except there was a much smaller turn out. There was no real attempt to storm the site or shut the lab down.

Hopefully I will be proved wrong tomorrow - a small breeder ripe for the taking, but something tells me there will be no mass trespass, no one running across the fields with bunnies in their hands and just a lot of people eating Veggies and obeying whatever ludicrous s14 is in place.

I would love nothing more than to see an EDO type national in the AR arena, but that won't happen until people start to realise this IS worth getting nicked for. And now Sean has successfully fought SOCPA what excuse is there?


Oh dear

25.09.2009 13:50

Re demos. Well let us just do our best. People do not have to wear ballys, scale razor wire (although there isn't any at the rabbit arm btw) and run into the sunset bunny under each arm into the sunset to be effective. Nor do we have to fret about numbers, we just turn up, that in itself is effective. Those who have the capacity for more robust action would maybe be best placed to go when there is not a huge police presence. But good luck to all activists whatever you do.

Lynn Sawyer

Agreed with Peter

25.09.2009 23:41

Although I don't think its a case of having direct action that's worth being nicked for, but direct action that is worth the RISK of getting nicked for (like EDO demos etc). I think we forget that the animal liberaiton mass movement is getting more and more passive, thus boring, and there are a lot more animal liberationists instead involving themselves in human/earth liberation causes because of this very reason. This isn't a bad thing, vegans involving themselves in other causes, but it is when its to excluse themselves from the 'same-old' ALM. Bring back the militancy in the streets, the riots outside the breeders, then we'd get the thousands that EDO demos get!


Re militancy

27.09.2009 08:47

I do agree that a demo which turns into something more lively is better than a demo which doesn't depending on what happens. One hundred people rushing the police lines all getting arrested,then bailed away or remanded for assault when they are clearly outnumbered=bad. One hundred people making an intelligent tactical assessment and charging past ill thought out police lines, getting out lots of ferrets and rabbits...etc....etc=marvellous. My point was that quite a few people are not able to or do not wish to break the law, e.g those on licence, those caring or relatives etc. Individuals and groups need to make a judgement call on what they are able to do and what they are not. But really I agree that we are in a bit of a rut when it comes to using civil disobedience, blockades, liberations and other methods of routing the enemy.

Lynn Sawyer

A note from Sean Kirtley

15.10.2009 22:32

Dear friends,

Well thanks to Lord Justice Hooper on September 17th at the court of appeal I made it out of the prison system, not without time.

The final nail that was hammered into the prosecutions ‘argument’ was when they could not name anybody that I was supposed to have conspired with, so my conviction was quashed there and then, at that point I was in disbelief so I bugged the screw who was sat next to me for absolute confirmation, he did a good job too there and then but of course my mind was still fixed on returning to the horrible shithole HMP Brixton so I saved the elation until I heard it from my barrister.

I got out of the court building after all the formalities of being released were complete, free train ticket in my grubby hand, left two bin bags of belongings behind at the court and asked them to be trashed, duvet, magazines etc I didn’t want to bring the stench of prison home with me, fuck that.

After thanking the legal team (Bindmans llp) it was straight to the pub across the road from the courts with a friend for a swift half before jumping into a taxi to Paddington station and the long ride back to where I belong.

The train couldn’t go fast enough for me. Once again listening to the incesant chat on mobile phones, stupid ring tones and people having conversation with people who weren’t on the train .. the usual impersonal bollocks that is the “technological age”, crap.

Ghostly Conspiracies

I did often ponder in those small hours in my various cell’s in various prison’s who I may have conspired with, Jesus? the holy ghost? Superman? all the mythical and religious figures came to mind, I settled on Jesus, we must have done a good job “together” to be in this predicament.

Myself and my now realised co-conspirator just got on with the sometimes dreary prison industrial estate existance but had plenty, and I’m mean plenty of laughs along the way with fellow inmates. I was never alone inside, not for a moment, someone was looking after me from day one right until the bitter end, of which I’m eternally grateful.

Lessons Learnt

All in all I had seventeen padmates, yes seventeen over the sixteen months of my stay at HMP! These lads ranged from from a manic schizophrenic rastafarian who showed me the ropes early on to young ‘uns with attention deficit disorders to lads on suicide watch (I was’nt allowed a razor in the cell!) even a vegetarian who later went vegan for four and a half months whilst we were sharing a cell.

Another lad I met also took the vegan option after some enlightening conversations.

Prison is a dirty nasty ghetto which creates a mad atmosphere where everyone alleviates the boredom by taking the piss out of each other, playfighting, gambling, wheelin and dealin in whatever you can get your hands on etc, it’s like a huge social club where when you just let go and don’t get easily offended and accept others the time really does fly by.

This attitude helped me where it came to missing my loved ones. Some good friends were made along the way that I’ll never forget.

Two things I did nurture and develop in prison were tolerance and patience which I know will be with me for the rest of my days. You have to tolerate so many kinds of different people, their attitudes and ways, and you have to be so patient knowing that you’re in for a while plus the system is so deliberately slow in there.

The slightest ‘request’ takes days, weeks, sometimes months! So I did’nt ask for much at all unless it was an emergency which usually constituted a lack of toilet roll in the middle of the night!

Vegan Prisoner Support

To be a vegan in prison is tough at first but the place to be if you want to lose weight (I lost 1 1/4 stones) some prisons being well versed in vegan catering others obviously had a lack of vegan guests so had limited knowledge.

This situation is where the Vegan Prisoners Support Group really kick in and help educate the kitchen staff and governers as to what are the essential components of the vegan diet and do everything in their power to make sure you get what you need.

Here the VPSG truly are a mighty force backing you all the way, helping out whenever any difficulty arises regarding vegan issues. As well as the support from the VPSG there is of course The Vegan Society who also play an important role looking after your wellbeing whilst inside.

The Vegan Society would regularly send VEG 1 multivatimins which I’d pick up from reception where there would usually be a stand off between different screws on whether I was allowed them or not! Never the less I always came away with these ‘boosters’ and always had a good stash of them in my cell.

There’s so many people with heavy colds or flu in prison it’s hard for the average person to avoid falling ill, these ailments are like a constant pandemic on the inside, thankfully I avoided being constantly ill and put that down to my VEG 1 supplement!

In the early days before I started to recieve the supplement I did have one heavy dose of killer flu which lasted about a month and contracted a couple of styes around the eyes which are usually related to being run down which stood to good reason given my predicament.

When I arrived in HMP Stafford there was a couple of vegans I made contact with (fake ones at that only after the weekly vegan pack that could be exchanged for tobacco etc).

I recieved my first ‘vegan pack’ almost straight away and was horrified to see that included was only five small Alpro soya milks for the entire week! This is how it always had been in Stafford I learnt.

Seeing my health was on the line and that of any other real vegans in the prison I passed a message on to the VPSG who immediately took action and informed the prison that the recommended weekly amount is fourteen small Alpro soya milks.

The following week every pack had fourteen soya milks included, even the fake vegans could’nt believe their luck! That’s how it stayed in Stafford and still to this day (I imagine!!) ..the VPSG had changed things for the better.

The Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group also played a great part in ensuring that my stay at HMP was as comfortable as possible, enough said. They deserve a medal too!

It’s raining letters, cards, postcards and love!

Recieving visits was always the best and I had plenty of them throughout. All of my co-defendants from the conspiracy trial regularly visited, plus other faces from the Animal Liberation Movement and of course from my family which I cherished. I always held my head up high and buzzed for days on end after these visits. Visits in prison are the business no doubt about it and play a great part in a prisoners mental wellbeing.

The amount of correspondence I recieved in the three nicks I spent time at was phenominal, uplifting and essential! Some screws hated it as they delivered letter after letter under the cell door virtually on a daily basis. Poor bastards (not!).

“You’re very popular for a “convicted” criminal Kirtley” one sneered (little did he know where I’d be sitting now!) others just took the piss. The screws took the piss a but then again so did we which evened things out.

So I spent virtually all of my free time replying to every letter that I recieved. Luckily all my cell mates were happy that I could chat shit and write at the same time bless’ em! Thank you from the heart to everyone who wrote and even to those who thought about writing (but did’nt have the minerals – you know who you are! haha).

My personal account was always full of cash too thanks to constant generous donations from supporters.

I can just say the support from ‘the outside’ was incredible, so please, please pick up a pen and paper today and continue to support our comrades that are still ‘behind enemy lines’. You don’t know what a letter means until you’ve been in the prison environment, each letter gives that momentary burst of elation just when it’s needed and that’s exactly what we want our incarcerated brothers and sisters to feel every day.

Our non-human family behind enemy lines

Every few days in prison I’d sit silent in my cell and connect with those holed up inside the cells of laboratories, those imprisoned on factory farms, in zoos, circuses, fish farms, fur farms, you know the score. I’d look around me, see all my provisions, the coloured tv in the corner, the food in the cupboard, my bunk with it’s blankets, see my cell mate doing whatever and it just did’nt compare in the slightest to the hell that our non-human family suffer.

The ever present image and a haunting feeling of the nazi concentration camps was always present in my mind in regards to mass non-human animal incarceration and torture, which was a far cry from the situation I was in.

So at any point where I felt myself even beginning to feel sorry about my circumstances I’d knock it on the head and just say to myself “get fucking real”.

That never really stopped the occasional real tear from falling usually late at night when I was alone when I did contemplate ‘the non-human prisons’ and the torture of existance within these hell holes.

Human prison just does’nt even begin to compare…

Back on ‘the out

So I hoped I may have helped in some little way in explaining how I personally viewed prison and indeed how I learnt to cope day by day.

Since being out in the larger world again I’ve been spending loads of time with my partner, family, canine friend and human friends. Eating so much real vegan food it’s stupid. I’m going through about a loaf of wholegrain bread a day! and of course drinking my fair share of my fave beverage .. water (ok ok Special Brew! but not half as much as I consumed before the trial – that was just pre-trial nerves!)

There won’t be any compo coming my way as ‘fresh evidence’ wasn’t used to overturn my conviction so their purses remain stiched shut, no real surprise there. It rests in the hands of the court of appeal right now as to whether or not I can claim my pre-trial expenses back.

The campaign against Sequani vivisection labs continues to grow and get stronger, infact the authorities have made it so much stronger it seems by banging me up! New faces are now joining the campaign against animal torture on the Bromyard road in Ledbury. Things are looking up.

Thank you for your time in reading this and for your support, sincerly.

Love, Solidarity, Anarchy and Total Liberation!

Sean Kirtley

Free Sean Kirtley
- Homepage:

Corporate Watch on Sean Kirtley's Release

16.10.2009 20:41


Animal rights activist Sean Kirtley, who had been caught up in the UK's war against anti-corporate dissent, has been released after 16 months in prison. As reported by Corporate Watch over the last year, he had been convicted under Section 145 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA 145), a new law designed to control the burgeoning animal rights movement. SOCPA 145 makes it illegal to "interfere with the contractual relations" of an animal testing organisation. The legislation was drafted to combat the increasingly effective tactic of targeting the network of companies buying or selling goods or services to companies involved in the vivisection industry.

On 17th September, the Court of Appeal quashed Sean's conviction on the grounds that he could not have been involved in a conspiracy because all of his co-defendants had been acquitted, that is, there was no one with whom he could have conspired. The trial judge, a keen supporter of bloodsports, had misdirected the jury in such a way that they would not have been aware that they could not legally convict Kirtley.


Prior to SOCPA 145 being brought onto the statute book, several corporations were consulted about how the government could legislate to protect them from public dissent. The CEO of Sequani laboratories in Ledbury, Herefordshire, was one of those consulted. During Kirtley's trial, it emerged that Sequani's CEO had been invited to meet with the Home Office in London prior to the drafting of the act. There was no suggestion, however, that the government had attempted to consult the public on the matter of the new law.

Preparing the ground

For 25 years demonstrations had been taking place at Sequani laboratories in Ledbury against the testing of drugs and medical devices on animals. By 2006, a new campaign against suppliers of Sequani had been launched and 19 companies had pulled out of dealing with the company in the wake of protests across the West Midlands. Following the introduction of SOCPA, police from different forces around the country began to turn up to Sequani demonstrations in increasing numbers. Several defendants in the subsequent trial spoke of a close relationship between these police officers and Sequani employees and management – often they were seen to drink tea and make jokes with the company staff and bosses.

For six months, the police filmed the protesters' every move (the prosecution submitted dozens of DVDs in evidence against the defendants). Officers from the Met and their Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT), Staffordshire Police, West Mercia Police and the Environmental Protest Unit, now the Public Order Protest Unit, a specialist police department set up during the campaign against Darley Oaks farm to deal with targeted animal rights campaigns were, all part of this operation. The whole affair was overseen by the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU), which enthused unashamedly on its website after Sean was convicted (for more on NETCU, see this Corporate Watch article and Netcu Watch).

During those six months, police obtained the names and addresses of the people attending protests by monitoring what vehicles were parked near protests, manufacturing minor public order and driving offences and using Section 50 of the Police Reform Act to request details. Section 50 is another new piece of legislation which gives police the power to arrest people for not giving their name and address if they are suspected of committing anti-social behaviour. Helpfully, NETCU's handbook on public order policing, often seen tucked into the pockets of protest police, gives a step-by-step guide to using this legislation against protesters.

The protests that were the subject of the trial consisted of a Halloween demonstration, at which protesters dressed up as witches and vampires; noise demos outside the premises of companies doing business with Sequani and regular pickets at the Sequani premises, at which demonstrators would shout their disgust at the workers leaving the lab. During some of the protests, a recurring fax was also sent to the targeted business blocking fax and phonelines.

Operation Tornado

Sean and several others were arrested at their homes during a police operation, dubbed Tornado. Twelve people were charged with 'conspiracy to interfere with the contractual relations of an animal testing organisation' in relation to a number of demonstrations against Sequani. Sean's co-defendants were acquitted, but Sean was found guilty after the prosecution claimed he was the 'organiser' of the campaign against Sequani. The prosecution pointed to telephone network analysis which they said showed that Sean had telephoned other defendants about (lawful) demonstrations. They also alleged that he was the webmaster of the Stop Sequani Animal Torture (SSAT) website. The case was examined in detail in Corporate Watch's Newsletter issue 43.

Much of the evidence related to abusive language being used on demonstrations. However, the hours and hours of footage did not show Sean swearing once, although a police witness was adamant that he did. The prosecution also argued that, because Sean had heard other people swearing at the demonstrations and had not distanced himself from them by leaving the protest, he must have been in agreement with their actions. This argument, essentially guilt by association, is increasingly being used, notably at the 2008 trial of the SHAC 7 (see here and here). They also repeatedly played a video clip of Sean peacefully crossing the road outside Sequani, arguing that he was obstructing the cars of staff trying to leave.

Thus, the prosecution claimed Sean was the leader of the campaign against Sequani, despite the defendants' explaining that they did not believe in hierarchy and that no one told anyone else what to do.

After his release Sean told Corporate Watch the trial "was like a pantomime; it seemed very, very wrong. It shouldn't have been happening."

Sean had been sentenced to four and a half years in prison, essentially for his involvement in lawful demonstrations and for updating a website that was being regularly checked by solicitors before anything was posted on it. His conviction was one of the most worrying developments in the current state crackdown on anti-corporate dissent and the animal rights movement. The idea that SOCPA 145 could outlaw otherwise lawful anti-corporate campaigning potentially has serious ramifications for people's ability to expose and challenge corporate power.


Despite the police's attempts to repress it, the campaign against Sequani is still going strong. After the trial, demonstrators, incensed at the state's attempts at stifling dissent, flocked to Sequani. In December 2008, hundreds of activists converged on Sequani at a 'Carnival Against Vivisection'. Regular demonstrations have been held, often up to twice a week, and the campaign is planning another Halloween demonstration in the coming weeks.

Litany of SOCPA failures

Sean's successful appeal was just one of many failed attempts at prosecutions under SOCPA. Sean's co-defendant, who pleaded guilty to avoid prison, has had one of his SOCPA convictions overturned. Earlier this year, the SOCPA trial of Vikki Waterhouse-Taylor, another animal rights campaigner, also collapsed (see this Corporate Watch article for more details).

These SOCPA failures also mirror the frustrated attempts to prosecute protesters who have taken part in unauthorised demonstrations outside the parliament. Public anger, and media outcry, at sections 132-138 of SOCPA have lead to parliament announcing that parts of the legislation will be repealed and the Metropolitan Police appear not to have made arrests under the legislation for some time.

For more info see:
Stop Sequani Animal Torture -
Info about NETCU -
Info on resisting FIT -

Corporate Watch
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