Natasha Simpkins and husband Sven Van Hasselt were sentenced at Winchester Crown Court on Wednesday 24 January. Both decided to plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit blackmail against the notorious vivisection laboratory, Huntingdon Life Sciences – now rebranded as Envigo.
Sven received a sentence of five years and was sent to HMP Winchester (address below). Natasha received a suspended sentence of two years and is the first animal rights activist convicted of this offence not to go to prison. The Facebook page of their support group says she:”will have conditions and if she breaks them, she will have to go inside. This was a very unexpected result and we are happy to know that tonight she will not be in a prison cell.”
It is highly likely that Sven and Natasha will be the last activists sentenced in the name of SHAC. Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty was formed in 1999 with the sole objective of closing down Europe’s largest contract testing laboratory and came within a hairsbreadth of doing that two years later.
Thirteen members of SHAC were jailed in 2009 and 2010 for conspiracy to blackmail HLS or harming a contractural relationship between HLS and its suppliers. They received sentences of up to 11 years. Afterwards the group continued for another five years with Debbie Vincent as its organiser, until she too was charged with conspiracy to blackmail along with Sven and Natasha in July 2012. Debbie was sentenced to six years and released on probation last year.
SHAC itself closed down in August 2014, saying:
With the onslaught of government repression against animal rights activists in the UK, it’s time to reassess our methods, obstacles and opponent’s weaknesses, to build up our solidarity network for activists and to start healing the affects of repression.
Although we’re announcing the closure of the SHAC campaign, it will always be an important part of our history and a reminder of the ingenuity and power of the animal rights movement. SHAC will continue to inspire activists around the world to join the struggle against animal testing and take on those who profit from abuse and exploitation.
It’s our knowledge and ability to develop and focus our tactics in the most effective ways, which will continue to make us a threat to the animal exploitation industries. With the fires of liberation and justice burning in our hearts, we look to the future.
Please write to Sven. It is important for prisoners to receive letters that enable them to stay in touch with the outside world. Remember that letters are using read by prison staff before being passed on to prisoners.
Sven van Hasselt A3021ED, HMP Winchester, Romsey Road, Winchester SO22 5DF.