Permanent injunction against anti-vivisection protestors

12 December 2012 by

harlan-investigationHarlan Laboratories UK L & Another v Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty and others [2012] EWHC 3408 (QB) – read judgment

The High Court has granted a medical testing laboratory a final injunction against anti-vivisectioners protesting outside their premises. 

Harlan laboratories breed animals for medical and clinical research purposes. The applicants’ harassment claim included assertions that the respondent anti-vivisection groups had verbally abused those entering and leaving its premises, blocked and surrounded vehicles entering and leaving the premises in a threatening manner and trespassed on Harlan’s property. They had also photographed Harlan’s employees and recorded their vehicle registration details. Interim injunctions had been granted restraining, inter alia, where and how often the respondents could demonstrate outside of Harlan’s premises.

The issues  in this application were whether the applicants were entitled to summary judgment on their harassment claim and whether the court should grant a permanent injunction pursuant to s.3(3) of the 1997 Protection Against Harassment Act. The applicants also applied for a permanent injunction under section 37 of the Senior Courts Act 1981.

The applications were granted.

The Court’s reasoning

In order to defeat an application for summary judgment, it is sufficient for the defendant to show some “prospect” (i.e. some chance) of success. That prospect must be “real” i.e. not false or fanciful. The proper disposal of an application does not involve the court conducting a mini-trial – if there are issues to be investigated, a full trial should be ordered. In this case, the court found that the respondents had no real prospect of defending the claim. There was overwhelming evidence of a course of conduct against individuals working for the applicant  or visiting Harlan’s premises which amounted to harassment within the meaning of 1997 Act. There was ample evidence that the purpose of the harassment was to pressurise Harlan and those associated with it to cease the lawful breeding and supply of animals to laboratories and to pressurise third party contractors (including a  specialist waste management company which disposed of the animals’ carcasses) to cease their lawful working relations with Harlan.

In considering the proportionality of granting the proposed permanent injunction, which was almost identical in its terms to the interim injunctions granted earlier in the proceedings, the court had to balance the protestors’ rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights  against the rights of those who were the targets of the protests. By virtue of Article 8, the State is under a positive obligation to protect the right of individuals to respect for their private and home life.  Intrusive interference with an employee’s journey to and from work (including photographing and recording of car registrations for the purpose of targeting such individuals in future protests) potentially breaches that right (Niemietz v Germany (1992) 16 EHRR 97X & Y v Netherlands (1986) 8 EHRR 235). The proposed restrictions on the protestors’ demonstrations at or in the vicinity of Harlan’s premises were proportionate to the legitimate aim of preventing crime and disorder and protecting the rights of employees and visitors. They allowed for protests opposite the premises and for protestors to offer leaflets to those entering or leaving the premises, which enabled the protest to be seen and heard by those entering or leaving the premises, whilst preventing protestors from blocking a car’s path and banging on the car while shouting at the occupant. The conditions placed on the demonstrations were reasonable: noise nuisance was controlled, photography was banned, as were balaclavas and masks, and numbers were limited to 25. By limiting the demonstrations to once a week for three hours, a balance was achieved between the protestors’ rights to protest and the rights of those who wished to travel to and from work without being subjected to a daily ordeal. Finally, in assessing proportionality, Lang J took into account the point that the protestors were at liberty to organise rallies and other protests at locations away from Harlan premises, as well as communicating their message very effectively to a “much wider audience” via the internet and the press.


The antics of  the extreme fringe of the animal rights movement sadly contaminate the efforts of the legitimate organisations to try to ameliorate the conditions of laboratory animals and reduce the replication of experiments. There is a glimmer of hope, but it does not come from any prospective change in the law. It is inevitable that one day advances in human cell growth technology will render this depressing industry otiose, wasteful and inefficient. This has has already happened in some areas of research: see this Scientific American report on plans to create 1,500 induced pluripotent stem cell lines from 500 patients to push forward drug discovery in areas such as diabetes, dementia and pain.

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  1. Andrew says:

    If I was in medical research I would long since have moved the enterprise to some country where animal “rights” are not taken seriously and attempts to close down legitimate businesses which create jobs attract the attention of the riot police rather than the lawyers.

    The point is that demonstrating is a participatory sport. You do it because it makes you feel good. The notion that you are doing it for the public good is part of the pleasure, but it is a delusion.

    It follows that one person’s right to go about his/her lawful business comes ahead of another’s right to stop it happening. Protest, yes; obstruction and disruption, no. That applies to the fool who spoilt the Boat Race and should have been applied to the hooligans who shouted in the Albert Hall when the IPO played there. If what you do would be wrong without a political motive, it’s wrong if you do it with one.

  2. Clive Sims says:

    I see no reason why photos & registration numbers should not be take, if they are traveling on the public highway. Harassment is in the eye of the individual & too broad an interpretation, such as this, stifles the right to legitimate protest.

  3. Can’t understand why we need these animals; surely we have enough human riff-raff and criminals who might volunteer, if given the right incentives; the results would certainly be more reliable.

  4. David Mead says:

    Interesting take on art 8 by Lang J at [67] – considerable scope for expansion?:

    In my judgment, intrusive interference with an employee’s journey to and from work (including photographing and recording of car registrations for the purpose of targeting such individuals in future protests) will potentially breach Article 8.

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