A MALVERN man has been sentenced to four-and-half years in prison for his part in animal rights protests against the Ledbury company Sequani.

Sean Martin Kirtley, aged 42, of Orford Way, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail on one count of interfering with contractual relationships of an animal research organisation.

He was also given a five-year criminal anti-social behaviour order (CRASBO), which will begin on his release from prison.

Speaking after sentencing, Detective Dave Williams, of West Mercia Constabulary, said: “Kirtley is a dedicated animal rights activist who devoted a significant part of his life to leading an organised, systematic and sustained campaign to target Sequani Ltd, with the ultimate aim of closing the company down. We will do all in our power to ensure that businesses are able to carry out their lawful activities and do not have to suffer at the hands of such extremists.”

Police say the campaign, which involved other activists, included “protests and demonstrations, harassment and intimidation of staff at Sequani and its partners and neighbouring premises, criminal damage, assault, annoying communications and letter writing campaigns”.

Kirtley was found guilty by a jury at Birmingham Crown Court on Wednesday, May 14, and was sentenced at Coventry Crown Court on Friday, May 30.

Reporting restrictions were only lifted last week.

The trial started on January 7 and more than 120 witnesses were called.

Pauline Burgess, of Richmond Road, Malvern Link, was charged with conspiracy to interfere with contractual relationships so as to harm an animal research organisation. The jury could not agree a verdict and she was discharged.

But the judge bound her over to keep the peace for two years or face a £1,000 fine.

David Daniel Griffiths, aged 39, of Bridge Street, Worcester, pleaded guilty to two charges of interfering with the contractual relationships of an animal research organisation.

He received a 30-week jail sentence, suspended for two years, and must also complete 100 hours of community service.

A Sequani spokesman said: “We welcome the verdict following Operation Tornado by West Mercia Constabulary, which will help to protect our staff and suppliers and others in the industry targeted by extremists.”

Chris Dowdeswell, of Western Animal Rights Network, said that the outcome had serious implications for civil rights.

He said: “Kirtley will now be incarcerated for far longer than most dangerous criminals. Child abusers, rapists and violent criminals are often given lower sentences.”

He said Kirtley planned to lodge an appeal.