A DRUGS company at the centre of a campaign by animal rights activists has launched a legal fight to keep protestors away from its factories.
Battle ground: The GlaxoSmithKline factory in Barnard Castle, County Durham. If the company's legal action is successful, protestors at the plant will face restrictions
GlaxoSmithKline claims activists have waged a campaign of harassment and intimidation against employees, including attacking workers' vehicles and homes. Yesterday, the company applied for a High Court injunction restricting protests at 18 UK sites, including its plant in Barnard Castle, County Durham, where it employs more than 1,000 people.
Campaigners have been protesting against Glaxo's links with medical research group Huntingdon Life Sciences.
Earlier this month, the company was granted a temporary injunction, but is now asking for an extension of the order to restrict protests by the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac) group and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).
Yesterday, Glaxo's lawyers asked Judge Mr Justice Teare for exclusion zones to be created around company premises and to ban harassment of workers.
Paul Girolami, representing the company, said senior members of staff had been abused at home and that protests outside the company's bases had also turned sinister.
Shareholders in the North-East have been among those targeted by extremists and several worried investors called police after receiving offensive letters.
The proposed order bars campaigners from assaulting, harassing, molesting, threatening or otherwise interfering with workers or their families and from knowingly demonstrating within 50 yards of their homes.
Protests outside plants would be restricted to once every 28 days, between 10am and 4pm, with a maximum of 20 or 30 participants, depending on the site, and certain sound devices would also be banned.
Mr Girolami said: "The aim of such zones is to promote reasonable, legitimate protest, while avoiding the risk that protest could lead to the very harassment that it is the purpose of the order to prevent."
Greg Avery, representing the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) group, said no order should be made against his group, since it was already doing all it could to make sure its protests remained within the law.
Mr Justice Teare adjourned the case and set no date for its conclusion.