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  1. ITV Report

Woman jailed over blackmail plot

Debbie Vincent Photo: Metropolitan Police

A former soldier who underwent a sex change has been jailed for six years for her part in a conspiracy to blackmail an animal testing company through a campaign of terror which involved the use of improvised explosive devices and the desecration of graves.

Debbie Vincent was found guilty last month of being involved in the Europe-wide conspiracy by the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac) group against Cambridge-based Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS).

Michael Bowes QC, prosecuting, told the jury during her trial that the protests, which targeted suppliers and customers of HLS, included falsely accusing staff members of being paedophiles, sending incendiary devices and hoax bombs, posting sanitary towels claimed to be infected with Aids, and causing criminal damage to people's homes and cars.

He said the aim of the campaign was to put HLS out of business through cutting off its suppliers by creating a "climate of fear".

The cost to companies linked to HLS through damage from arson attacks and other criminal damage as well as from extra security was more than £1 million, he said.

One target of the activists had the grave of his mother dug up and the urn containing her ashes stolen and never returned.

Sentencing the 52-year-old, who acted as the public spokeswoman for Shac, Judge Keith Cutler said: "It is difficult for a judge to calculate the repugnance felt by society to such appalling acts.

"Nothing at all could justify such attacks."

He added: "You express no shred of remorse or condemnation for the incidents of extreme terror and desecration which have been caused.

"There is not an inkling of understanding the distress those actions must have caused."

Judge Cutler also imposed a five-year anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) on Vincent to commence on her release from prison.

A group of supporters and animal rights protesters held a small demonstration outside the court building during the course of the hearing.