Animal rights activist jailed for 10 years

An animal rights fanatic from Northampton has been jailed for 10 years over a "terror campaign" at Oxford University.

Mel Broughton, 48, who was described as an "ardent and determined" activist, planned and possibly carried out arson attacks on buildings belonging to the university.

Two improvised devices, constructed with fuel and a fuse made from sparklers, exploded at Queen's College sports pavilion in November 2006, causing almost 14,000 damage.

Two similar bombs were planted underneath a portable building at Templeton College in February 2007 but failed to go off.

Self-proclaimed activist Broughton, of Semilong Road, Northampton, was found guilty by a jury of one count of conspiracy to commit arson following a retrial at Oxford Crown Court.

Judge Patrick Eccles QC said Broughton was part of a "ruthless conspiracy" which struck fear into those connected with the building of the laboratory.

The court heard that Broughton was a single man who had "effectively dedicated his adult life to the cause of animal rights".

He was the leading figure of animal rights group Speak, which was set up in 2004 in protest at plans to build an animal testing research laboratory at Oxford.

The jury was told he had previously been convicted of conspiracy to cause an explosion likely to endanger life after police stopped a car he was travelling in and found a bomb in the boot in 1998.

The court also heard that a DNA sample found on a matchstick used as part of the fuse in one of the failed Templeton devices was found to be a match to Broughton.

When police arrested him at his home in December 2007, they discovered 14 packets of sparklers in an unused water tank in his bathroom.

They also found, underneath his carpet, a university employee's security pass and a notebook containing a list of those identified as targets for "direct action".

The court heard that the improvised devices were constructed of water bottles containing petrol and a "delayed-action fuse" made of ordinary sparklers.

A sequence of these sparklers were bound together with thread to bring into contact their active parts so, when ignited, it gave those planting the bombs time to escape.

Prosecutor Neil Moore had told the jury that acts of intimidation and violence were directed towards any companies who were even remotely connected to the project.

And he said the attacks on the Queen's College sports pavilion and the attempted attack on Templeton were both part of a "wider campaign" intended to bring to an end the construction of the laboratory in Oxford.

Despite the protests, the 20m Biomedical Sciences Building took its first delivery of mice in November last year.