By Jake Whittall
Lawyers acting for animal rights group SPEAK have alleged that the University is accusing them of organising "a terrorist conspiracy."
The law firm Hickman and Rose are representing SPEAK in preparation for their forthcoming court case, in which they plan to fight Oxford University injunctions against them.
The injunctions date back to November 2004 and impose restrictions on SPEAK protests against the construction of a new animal testing laboratory on South Parks Road. An additional injunction was obtained in 2006 after SPEAK published the address of a University contractor on its website. A full trial next year will decide whether the injunctions will be permanent.
Lawyers for the group have posted an appeal on SPEAK’s website calling for "supporters of all varieties" to come forward in order to gather evidence against the University.
"We strongly refute their allegation that SPEAK is a terrorist conspiracy against the University," a spokesperson said. "Any restrictions should be proportioned and justified, and Mel Broughton and SPEAK should be allowed their lawful right to protest."
The University responded, saying, "We have not and would not describe or accuse SPEAK of being a terrorist organization or organizing a terrorist conspiracy."
SPEAK protest against the University’s controversial animal testing laboratory, currently being constructed in central Oxford. The interim injunctions limit the scope of action of the group, banning SPEAK from protesting within 100 yards of the construction site and forbidding intimidation and harassment of students, alumni, staff and contractors of the University.
Mel Broughton, founder of SPEAK, accused the University of attempting to bully the group into silence. "We’ve said it’s a worrying development all along as it is a serious encroachment on people’s human rights," he said. "The injunctions cast the net very wide, so anyone who comes to Oxford to protest is immediately under its jurisdiction.
"It's wide ranging and means if you turn up to protest you are tied into this injunction that potentially incriminates them if they fall foul of it. The intention of it was to frighten people away from protesting."Broughton claimed SPEAK are not deterred by the University and would continue to protest. "They are using the tactics of a bully, but I’ve got words for them. It's not going to work. SPEAK members are now more determined than ever."