Novartis AG (NOVN) won a court order restricting animal-rights demonstrations at its U.K. facilities or against any of its employees after lawyers for the drugmaker said they feared it may be targeted.
A unit of the drugmaker, which already has an injunction against members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, a U.K. activist group, won the extension today of restrictions to cover anyone protesting animal research.
The pharmaceutical company needed protection following the conviction of a SHAC activist for blackmail last month, one of its lawyers, Tim Lawson-Cruttenden, told the court. Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis “may be at risk for any backlash that occurs after the sentence,” he said.
The order bars harassment or intimidation of Novartis employees, including abusive or threatening posts on websites or social media. The order also restricts demonstrations to six people or fewer, in designated protest zones, with no amplified sounds, and forbids costumes, face-coverings or “blood-splattered costumes.” Anyone breaching the injunction can be arrested.
GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK), Invesco Ltd. (IVZ) and Eli Lilly (LLY) are among at least 18 companies that have won injunctions from British courts against SHAC, which campaigns against scientific experimentation on animals by Huntingdon Life Sciences Ltd. SHAC “considers” that Novartis has a commercial relationship with HLS, according to the drugmaker’s court papers.
“A persons-unknown injunction, while lawful, raises concerns because it’s so widely cast,” said Paul Ridge, a lawyer who advises on human-rights issues and isn’t involved in the Novartis case. “The difficulty for the court is you only hear one side of the story” because protesters aren’t always represented.
Several SHAC members have been imprisoned and Novartis, in court documents from today’s hearing, said the organization was “quasi-terrorist in nature.” SHAC’s website encourages activists to phone or e-mail companies that do business with Huntingdon Life Sciences.
An e-mail to Novartis’s press office wasn’t immediately answered. Representatives for SHAC weren’t at the court hearing and an e-mail to the group didn’t get an immediate response.
Lawson-Cruttenden said Novartis had tried to negotiate with SHAC to set up designated protest zones and the organization hadn’t acknowledged or accepted the invitation. An order would help lawful protests by setting out what was permitted, he told the court.
The order is a temporary measure and there should be a trial to determine whether it should remain in place, Judge Stephen Phillips said.
The case is: Novartis Pharmaceuticals U.K. Ltd & Anr v. Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty, High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, HQ14X01341
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