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, Malvern, was sentenced to 54 months in fail on one count of interfering with contractual relationships of an animal research organisation.

He was also given a five year Crasbo which will commence 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."

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 Bimingham 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 trail started on January 7 and over 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.

Another protestor, 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 Midlands 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 that Kirtley planned to lodge an appeal.