Direct action under threat from new Bill to beat extremism

Civil-rights group Liberty has warned that Government proposals to target anti-vivisectionists with a law against "economic sabotage" would almost certainly have a knock-on effect for legitimate charities engaged in direct action.

Tony Blair promised to introduce the new law to tackle anti-vivisection extremists targeting companies through their suppliers or investors. This follows warnings from research companies such as Glaxosmithkline that extremists are driving jobs from the UK. The measures were expected to be included in the Serious Crime Bill in the Queen's Speech.

Gareth Cross, Liberty's policy adviser, said: "It would be difficult to phrase new legislation in a way that would not also penalise perfectly legitimate groups. It's debatable that an extension of criminal legislation would be justified as there are already laws to deal with attacks on companies' property or their suppliers."

But Dr Simon Festing, director at medical research defence group RDS, said: "We don't want to stop legitimate economic boycotts or whistle-blowers. But smaller companies that deliver supplies to medical research groups need extra protection."

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