TWENTY-ONE people have been charged with illegally collecting thousands of pounds for animal rights "charities" - many with links to activist terrorism.

All of the suspects collected money at London's best-known shopping districts, including Oxford Street, Sloane Square and Knightsbridge.

Two stalls frequently run in Oxford Street alone made about £80,000 a year, police said.

However, the street collectors are accused of not having a license to do this, a Met police spokesman said. "This means that the money they collect is not subject to any audit, and is therefore untraceable and not accountable."

Many of the stalls carried flyers of Stop Huntingdon Against Cruelty (SHAC), a militant group that targets anyone with ties to the Cambridge animal-testing research company Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS).

SHAC members are suspected to be behind a baseball bat attack that left HLS boss Brian Cass within an inch of his life, a package of lethal explosives sent to scientist Heather Saunders, and countless cases of stalking and threats in Britain and America.

The street collectors allegedly lured unsuspecting animal lovers to their stalls with "petitions" that are often never sent anywhere. Officers have found such petitions at the suspects' houses on "numerous occasions", the Met spokesman added.

"Those collecting the money have been seen to just put the money straight in their pocket.

"Police believe that this money can easily be used to fund criminality or the lifestyle of full time extreme activists."

The 21 arrests in London include:

  • Rebecca Garrity, 19, of Seaton in Devon, and Alice Barton of Clapton in east London, pleaded guilty to illegally collecting money in Sloane Square.
  • Daniel Amos of Swindon, Wiltshire, and Selby Gerrah of Yately, Hampshire, admitted collecting without a license in Oxford Street.
  • Emma Speed of Leigh on Sea, Essex, Fran Cornwall of Milton Keynes and Pauline Broughton of Northampton have been charged with another illegal collection in Oxford Street. They are due at Westminster magistrates' court on 26 April.
  • Terence Russell and Kim Webster, both of Carshalton in Surrey, will appear in court on 11 April over a collection in Wimbledon.

Similar collections took place in Barnet, Sutton and Croydon, police said.

Detective Chief Inspector Tim Yarrow said lawful collectors would each wear a name tag. They will clearly display a license from the relevant authority and the charity they are promoting.

If they collect more than £100, they must submit their accounts for audit.

"Therefore members of the public giving money to organisations collecting without a license ... will have no certain knowledge of how that money is then spent," DCI Yarrow added.

"They may well be funding criminal activity".

In London, the Met's Charities Office can tell people the relevant authority for a street collection license.