Two animal rights activists who clashed with police at an Oxford University protest, yesterday lost their High Court battle for disciplinary action to be taken against officers they say were caught calling them names on tape.

Mel Broughton, of Semilong Road, Northampton, and Joanna Robertson, of Shaftesbury Road, Reading, were arrested following a sit-down protest staged by activists in June 2006 against the building of the university’s animal testing laboratory.

They were both acquitted of public order charges, but, during the trial at Bicester Magistrates' Court, evidence emerged of officers calling them names and saying how much they wanted to prosecute them.

Broughton and Ms Robertson complained to Thames Valley Police, and the Independent Police Complaints Commision, which agreed no disciplinary action should be taken.

Barrister, Leslie Thomas, for the pair, yesterday urged Mr Justice Calvert Smith to give them permission to mount a full judicial review challenge to the IPCC’s decision, arguing officers had breached their code of conduct.

Refusing the request, Mr Justice Calvert-Smith said that, although the comments heard on the tape may have been “unsuitable”, they were clearly “jocular”, rather than “malicious”.

Broughton, 48, was jailed in February for 10 years for conspiracy to commit arson following a fire bomb campaign against the university.