MAGISTRATES allowed an animal rights protester to walk free following allegations she launched an email harassment campaign against chemical company bosses.

Linda Furness, 54, of Margate, Kent, appeared at Fleetwood Magistrates Court charged with harassing management at F2 Chemicals in Preston, on Monday, April 5.

It was claimed that she emailed 16 protest messages to the firm - a subsidiary of AG Fluropolymers, based on the Hillhouse site, Thornton - over a three month period.

Mrs Furness was protesting against the company's alleged links with the controversial Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) laboratory in Essex which is know to conduct chemical experiments on animals including rats and Beagle dogs.

She was arrested by two Fleetwood CID officers at her home and was called to make the journey to the port - a distance of more than 300 miles - to face the court.

But, after appearing before magistrates, her case was acquitted due to the lapse of a six-month deadline between the date of the charge and the hearing.

Mrs Furness, who was supported by demonstrators from the Fleetwood Animal Rights Alliance, said: "My protest was entirely reasonable, polite and I did not harass anyone.

"All I did was point out the horrendous atrocities being committed against defenceless animals at the HLS laboratory and urge them to reconsider their participation in this.

"The emails were not in any way threatening or rude and I only contacted the company 16 times because I never received any reply or acknowledgment from them.

"The first I heard of it was when the police turned up on my door to arrest me and search my home.

"It's incredible that I've been arrested for highlighting cruelty to animals, but also that I had to come more than 300 miles to face a court hearing.

"This is not democracy."

A spokesman for AG Fluropolymers declined to comment on the case but insisted the company has no link to the HLS laboratory.