AN ANIMAL rights activist involved in notorious protests against a former guinea pig farm near Burton is to stand trial after refusing to pay her television licence in protest at a BBC programme about the affair.Janet Tomlinson claims the Crimewatch Solved show, broadcast in August 2006, contained ‘factual inaccuracies’ about the campaign against Darley Oaks Farm, in Newchurch, which shot to national prominence after the body of Gladys Hammond, mother-in-law of one of the farm’s owners, was stolen from her grave.
Tomlinson, of Shobnall Close, Burton, who was arrested and questioned about the exhumation before being released without charge, refused to buy a new TV licence until the BBC retracted claims made in the programme and apologised.
In an appearance at Burton Magistrates’ Court, a defiant Tomlinson said she would be using her argument against the BBC as the basis for a not guilty plea to a charge of using a television without a licence.
Speaking after the hearing, she told the Mail: “I think it’s disgusting. I want the BBC to admit they lied.
“They should not expect me to pay for a programme which deliberately maligns innocent people.
“I know I’m probably going to get fined but at least it will come out.
“I’m a fighter and if I know I’m right about something I’ll continue to fight to prove my point. I’m making a moral stand.”
Tomlinson said the infamy she earned after being questioned about the exhumation continued to dog her.
She said: “It affects me every time it’s mentioned because to this day, everyone in Burton knows I was arrested for the grave robbery.
“I’ve had paint-stripper poured on my car, my garage door superglued, had threatening letters and been abused in the street, in supermarkets and restaurants. It’s terrible. If my mother had still been alive it would have killed her.”
Tomlinson claimed the programme unfairly led viewers to believe protestors were responsible for the exhumation of Mrs Hammond’s body, although she said there was ‘no evidence’ of this.
She also said the programme had unfairly alleged the protestors who continued to demonstrate after the exhumation were ‘hardcore’ and ‘in the main involved in criminality’.
However, the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom threw out the complaint, finding the programme had not been unfair to Tomlinson as she had not been featured in the programme, nor was she linked with criminality or the exhumation.
The protestors eventually claimed victory in September 2005 when the farm’s owners, John and Christopher Hall, announced they were closing their guinea pig breeding business.
However, four activists, Jon Ablewhite, John Smith, Kerry Whitburn and Jospehine Mayo, were jailed the following year for their ‘campaign of terror’ against the Hall family.
Ofcom pointed out that it was Smith who had told police where to find Mrs Hammond’s body.
Tomlinson will return to court for trial on Monday, January 10.