Animal Rights Activist Admits Bank Attacks

An animal rights activist has pleaded guilty to helping attack Barclays Bank branches because of the company's then links to the animal testing lab, Huntingdon Life Sciences.

Thomas Harris admitted he was involved in attacks in Hampshire on four branches of the bank.

The 27-year-old is a prominent member of the group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac), and is already serving a four-year jail term for conspiracy to blackmail companies linked to Cambridge-based HLS in an attempt to close it down.

Harris of Somerville Road, Ringwood, Hampshire, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit criminal damage between September and November 2008 on the eve of his trial at Winchester Crown Court.

Two others, Christopher Potter, 20, and Maria Neal, 19, both from Seggs Lane, Alcester, Warwickshire, pleaded guilty to the same charge at an earlier hearing.

The maximum sentence for the offence is 10 years in prison.

Harris's girlfriend and another prominent member of Shac, Nicola Tapping, 29, who is also serving a prison sentence for earlier offences linked to Shac, had a charge of conspiracy to commit criminal damage ordered to lie on file by the judge, Keith Cutler.

The trio planned and carried out the attack on Barclays, leaving graffiti such as "murderer'' daubed on doors. They then damaged a car of someone they mistakenly thought had links to a company supplying HLS.

A FedEx van was also damaged by the extremists.

The three will be sentenced at Winchester Crown Court on January 13.

Barclays said today it no longer has links to HLS but did through its asset management business when the attacks took place.

The hearing is the latest in a series of prosecutions of people linked to Shac.

In October last year, six activists, including Harris and Tapping, were sentenced for their part in attempts to close HLS down.

Other members of Shac, including the founder members Gregg Avery, Natasha Avery and Heather Nicholson, were given lengthy jail terms in January 2009 for blackmailing companies linked to HLS.