TWO animal rights activists from Ringwood have been jailed for their part in a|devastating campaign against an animal testing laboratory.

Thomas Harris, 27, and Nicola Tapping, 29, both of Somerville Road in the town, were among five people sentenced at Winchester Crown Court on Monday.

Harris was given four years, while Tapping was handed 15 months and both were given five-year antisocial behaviour orders.

The group, which also included Sarah Whitehead, 53, Nicole Vosper, 22, and Jason Mullan, 32, made up Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac).

The five received between six years and 15 months in prison, while Alfie Fitzpatrick, 21, was given a 12-month sentence suspended for two years, as well as 100 hours of community work.

The court was told that the six waged a wide-ranging international conspiracy of intimidation against a host of supply companies to force the closure of Cambridge-based HLS, using Shac as a front. The campaign included realistic hoax bombs posted to the homes of staff and offices, criminal damage, threats of violence and abusive telephone calls.

Some company directors had leaflets distributed near their homes falsely telling neighbours they were convicted paedophiles and others had used tampons sent through the post saying the blood was HIV positive. Some had words like puppy killer, murderer and scum daubed on their houses, cars or on the roads nearby. The abuse would only stop when companies issued capitulation statements on the Shac website and cut links with the lab.

The total cost of damage and increased security costs was £12.6 million to around 40 companies targeted, the court heard.

The six were part of a larger conspiracy involving the founder members of Shac, Gregg and Natasha Avery and Heather Nicholson.

Whitehead, fromThorncroft Road, Littlehampton, West Sussex, Vosper, from Bay View Terrace, Newquay, and Harris admitted conspiracy to blackmail companies and suppliers linked to HLS between 2001 and 2008.

Mullan, from Holloway Road, London and Tapping and Fitzpatrick from Knowle Road, Solihull, West Midlands, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harm HLS from 2005 to 2008 under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 byinterfering with companies supplying them.