Debbie Vincent was released on licence on 13th April 2017 and, although restricted in her movements to Reading, is now able to receive visits from friends in more pleasant suroundings:
Date: April 30th 2017
I visited Debbie, recently ‘released’ on licence in Reading.
She is as strong and compassionate as ever, more concerned for the welfare of others at the Approved Premises where she is hostelled and the large number of homeless people in and around Reading.
She is maintaining her innocence of the politically motivated charges against her so is wading through endless legal presentations and appeals.
Despite having to sign in 4 times a day she is walking the Kennet & Avon canal, visiting bluebell woods and (having mended 2 bikes at the hostel) cycling along the nearby River Thames. She hopes to get involved with some nature-related voluntary work and soon to relocate back to her home base of Bristol – at the other end of the Kennet & Avon Canal.
Date: 1st May 2017
For more background on Debbie’s case see this ten year on retrospective from Red, Green & Black.
Date: 1 December 2016
Report on a friend’s visit to Debbie:
Today we went to visit animal liberation political prisoner Debbie Vincent. She has been in gaol for almost three years and is approaching the end of her custodial sentence which will arrive in April. As ever, it was a good visit and there was lots to talk about. She is still busying herself with work in the prison gardens and finds a lot of comfort and meaning being surrounded with this limited example of nature. On top of that she is attending an art class one morning a week, working with different mediums and it is lovely to see Debbie find a new outlet for her creativity.
She said that this year has gone fast for her. She is still struggling as usual against the prison bureaucracy and ideology that wishes to define her in fallacious and slanderous ways, but refuses to be broken. She has refused to attend ‘offender behaviour’ sessions as she believes they are not sincerely interested in exploring the reasons for her imprisonment, only wanting her to accept ‘guilt’ for being an animal liberationist. In fact, she said some of the staff are getting fed up with the intensity of her complaints and she told us about how on some of her paperwork there is even mention of when she complained about the prison breaking environmental regulatory laws!
Of course it is hard for her to maintain her principles in such an environmental, but it is evident she takes great strength from this. We talked somewhat about the general conditions in prison and she has noted a massive rise in prisoners arriving with mental health concerns, explaining that there is just not the appropriate services to help such people these days, so it is becoming more common that such people are merely resigned to prison. We talked briefly about rap music and then sometime later I asked her if she wanted anything from the small cafeteria – with a clever smile on her face she replied ‘a glass of water, world peace and early release!’
With it quickly approaching the time of year that traditionally has been about coming together with our loved ones and thinking about others I would urge people to drop Debbie a letter or card in the post. I know she sincerely appreciates the effort and tries to answer such communication. I can attest from personal experience how lovely it is to receive her letters in the posts.
Date: 1 September 2016:
We went to visit animal liberation political prisoner Debbie Vincent today. The visit was a lot of fun as she was on great form and there was lots of joking and laughing along side the serious talk. She is still working in the prison gardens, a job she has done for about eighteen months now, and the five or so hours a day spent outside this summer has really done wonders for her complexion. She has nearly finished her animal care course, goes to the gym five times a week, and has a backlog of books to read and letters to respond to. She told us that it takes around 3 weeks to reply to her mail.
Despite being rather relaxed with her daily regime, Debbie still suffers problems due to the explicitly political way she is treated by the wider institutions of the so-called Criminal Justice System. To give one recent example, Debbie recently asked for some suitable-for-vegans calcium supplements, and had a letter of support from the Vegan society. The CJS responded to this by claiming she was trying to intimidate the prison with threatening letters! For anyone who has dealt with agencies such as The Probation Trust before, would know that this sort of Kafkaesque approach is part and parcel of their workings, and a way they can ignore the legitimate demands of a prisoner whilst simultaneously acting punitively against them. But despite suffering from such unjust behavior, Debbie remains determine and strong, and continues to stand by her morals and beliefs. Instead of getting angry or falling into helplessness, she tries to use the system against itself. She told us: “I am always making complaints. I put in a complaint a week. Sometimes, I make complaints about complaints about complaints.”
Debbie has little more than six months left to serve in gaol. However, after that she will be released ‘on license.’ In some ways this will be harder for her than prison as she will no doubt have to reside in a hostel in a alien part of the country, be stopped from socialising with any of her friends, and be unable to involve herself in any activist or volunteer work. Along side this she will be under the constant threat of re-imprisonment merely on the suspicions of the probation service.
If you haven’t written to Debbie in the past, I would encourage you to do so now. This extra effort in prisoner solidarity towards the end of her imprisonment would be a good way of building her strength and confidence in the run up of her release. Her strength and principles really have been an inspiration to us through the last few years, and we look forward to the day we can welcome her back to the glorious struggle for animal liberation.
October 8th, 2015:
Today friends had a visit with Debbie. She is now half way through her prison sentence and at a gaol with relatively high standards. She is still working in the morning and afternoons in the gardens, and has been deemed suitable to become a ‘listener.’ Listeners are trained to assist other inmates who might be experiencing personal difficulties. Unfortunately she will not be able to start this until the new year.
In her spare time, Debbie has just started a correspondence course in animal care. This means that she has less time to answer letters and sends her apologies in this regard. She said she has a backlog of ‘about thirty’ letters to reply to so if you are expecting one she will get around to it in time. But she really does appreciate receiving letters, cards and other totems of support so please continue writing. She is also receiving letters held from her by the over officious screws at the last nick she was in.
All in all it was a good visit, and Debbie seemed really relaxed and positive. She even requested a book by a Black Panther as she liked the women’s attitude! Debbie is also continuing to challenge the prison and criminal justice system’s handling of the case and treatment of herself. I feel really proud to
know Debbie as a person, as over the last few years she has suffered some truly difficult times and hardships and has faced them with dignity and courage, becoming a principled and exemplary political prisoner.
— Veggies Catering Ⓥ (@veggiesnottm) October 8, 2015
We have long known that (parts of) the media can not be trusted to give fair and balanced reporting. It is clear that (some aspects of) the legal system sing to the tune of governments that are themselves working more for corporate interests than for the electorate.
This could not be more clear than in the case of Debbie Vincent.
17th April 2014: In a travesty of ‘justice’ Debbie was today sentenced to 6 years with a further 5 years Asbo, severely restricting her right and ability to campaign in any way for the concerns that she has supported for so many years. But she is resilient and her spirit of true justice will not be crushed.
We have known Debbie Vincent for over 20 years. She is a consistently kind and peaceful individual, with a commitment to making the world a better place for all, regardless of their species. She has dedicated a large part of her life to volunteering her time, knowledge and friendship to many grassroots projects all over the UK.
Her support for the work of Veggies, in particular in setting up networks for mutual support between those working for humans, other animals and the environment, was fundamental in establishing our role in the vegan outreach movement.
Her practical work, far beyond that expected of any volunteer, helped in the evolution of the Rainbow Centre into The Sumac Centre, which is now a base for a wide range of community projects in Nottingham and beyond. Debbie Vincent is a unique and special person and deserves all the support than can be offered to her.
Debbie received a six year custodial sentence plus a five year ASBO which will limit her rights to demonstrate to commence upon her release from prison.
Before handing down the sentence Judge Cutler said: “I come to a conclusion you are a lady of very good character. Indeed, if it wasn’t for your complete obsession with your cause and an inability to accept its limits within law, there was so much good you have been able to do for other people you have met in your life and for all the animal welfare work you have done.”
‘If you don’t fight, you’ve already lost’: Animal rights activist facing six years in jail remains defiant.
This Corporate Watch article, published April 17, 2014 continues…
The sentence should serve as a wake up call to anti-capitalists of the need to offer solidarity to those who have been singled out for repression because of their involvement in effective resistance to corporate power.
Corporate Watch spoke to Debbie prior to the sentencing. She said: “What is scary in this world is oppression and injustice, when people hurt people, animals and nature. What is beautiful in this world is resistance, when people say ‘enough is enough’ and act. Oppression and injustice are everywhere, but so is resistance. Because some people know that if you fight you might lose, but if you don’t fight, you’ve already lost.”
Debbie regards the use of undercover officers against her as a “sting operation”. She said she believed that Adams was “clearly part of National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit”, formerly the National Domestic Extremism Unit, “who are just a re-branding of the Special Demonstration Squad and National Public Order Intelligence Unit” and that “there is now a 25 year history of unaccountable practice by a secretive and unaccountable police unit”.
Specialised political police units aim to criminalise and imprison activists and neutralise political movements that pose a challenge to corporate power or other aspects of the current system.
When [Corporate Watch] asked Debbie if she would need any particular support from people if she got a custodial sentence, she replied: “Practically, I’m not sure what my needs will be in prison, it will depend to a degree to where I go. I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to cope, but being isolated from nature and friends will be the worst part. I will try to make the best of the bad situation, it’s all a bit daunting and new. The whole charge and court case are still amazingly surreal.”
“Keep on campaigning against all oppression and capitalist domination. Don’t be afraid to speak out and never apologise for trying to make a difference.” – Debbie Vincent
Read the entire Corporate Watch article
Debbie was quoted by Bite Back magazine:
Prior to sentencing, Debbie said: “What is scary in this world is oppression and injustice, when people hurt people, animals and nature. What is beautiful in this world is resistance, when people say ‘enough is enough’ and act. Oppression and injustice are everywhere, but so is resistance. Because some people know that if you fight you might lose, but if you don’t fight, you’ve already lost.”
“Thanks for all the solidarity and support. Keep on fighting to make this crazy world a better place for all. Love and liberation – Debbie xx”
Her email footer includes these quotes:
“You measure democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists.” – Abbie Hoffman
“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” – George Orwell”
There are many more endorsements of her valuable work in the animal rescue community and in support of animal rights, at the Blackmail3 support website.
— Veggies Catering (@veggiesnottm) April 17, 2014
Support All The Defendants
We also remember that others in the same case, Natasha and Sven in Amsterdam, need your support.
So far their extradition to the UK has been suspended pending their Dutch appeal. Whilst the arrests, raid and case has not been easy, Sven says “I will keep my head up, stay positive and look after my loved ones.”
In an article based on an interview with Debbie, The Guardian reports:
Animal rights campaigner convicted of HLS conspiracy
Debbie Vincent says she has been made a scapegoat and criticises the Metropolitan police’s use of an undercover officer.
An animal rights campaigner convicted of taking part in a conspiracy to blackmail the research company Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) told the Guardian she is a “scapegoat” targeted because detectives cannot catch the “real culprits” who have terrorised the company and its suppliers.
Debbie Vincent, who faces up to 14 years in prison when she is sentenced next month, insisted she is a lawful and peaceful campaigner who had been found guilty of “nebulous” charges that are increasingly being used to clamp down on legitimate protest against vivisection.
In her only interview since her conviction, Vincent also criticised the way the Metropolitan police counter-terrorism command, SO15, planted an undercover police officer in meetings she had with healthcare company Novartis over its relationship with Cambridgeshire-based HLS.
Vincent freely admits she carried out work for Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac), which has long fought to close down the HLS animal testing laboratories. But she maintains she had never taken part in acts of terror. She said: “I have been persecuted by the police. I am a public, lawful campaigner. I am being scapegoated because the police have not been able to catch or identify many of the real culprits.”
During her trial at Winchester crown court the prosecution gave a string of examples of crimes carried out against HLS suppliers and customers on continental Europe, ranging from sending incendiary devices to falsely accusing staff of being paedophiles and even digging up the urn of the mother of a senior executive at Novartis. It claimed one of Shac’s main tactics was to publish the names of possible targets, laying them open to illegal acts of intimidation and violence by extremists.
The prosecution accepted that Vincent, 52, had not herself committed direct action offences, but the jury clearly believed she was part of a wider conspiracy that enabled crimes to take place. Vincent denied the suggestion that she was a leader of Shac, arguing her work there was just part of her campaigning. For years she has travelled around the UK taking part in demonstrations and helping out at animal rescue shelters and other charities. Vincent said: “I do strongly believe that all I did was be involved in lawful campaigning against HLS.”
She said the use of conspiracy laws was having a “chilling effect” on campaigning. It meant, she claimed, that legitimate protesters could be convicted just because they had links to those who carried out attacks.
She said: “A conspiracy is nebulous and hard to grasp. The issues go further than me and could affect countless campaigners and protesters across the UK.”
Vincent, who is based in Bristol, is angry at what she sees as a smear campaign by rightwing media, who she believes used her sexuality against her.
But the depictions of Vincent in the court and in the media do not tally with the woman who emerges in dozens of letters from people who have provided references to her legal team. Farmers, vets, bosses of animal shelters and leaders of community projects spoke of a gentle, peaceful woman who was kind to both animals and humans. One read: “I have never known her act without honest or integrity and believe her motive for all she does are in the interest of justice and the greater good.”
…Vincent told the Guardian: “In some ways I’m really not surprised I was found guilty as I don’t believe anyone can get justice when faced with a political conspiracy charge and the huge resources of the state and multinationals against me. I will always have hope and will continue to try to make the world a better place to all.”
Somewhere up in Doggy Heaven, Rocky Dogs are watching over you…
First Published on: Apr 17, 2014