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NMP publishes report on community legal observing during the London Olympics

18 Dec

100_3613This is a guest post by Netpol member Newham Monitoring Project

The gloss and spectacle of mega sporting events can hide many potential threats to human rights and equality. Today, on International Migrants Day, we are reminded of one of the starkest examples of this: the pattern of exploitation of migrant workers that has cast a shadow over the preparations for global sports events in recent years. In September 2013, reports emerged of brutality and forced labour in Qatar, which is preparing for the World Cup in 2022. This is one of many instances of exploitation around such events that extend beyond the appalling denial of employment rights. These include the displacement of people from their homes (as witnessed in Rio’s favelas in the preparation for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Brazil), unfulfilled promises to create jobs and affordable housing, environmental damage and harassment of working class, black or migrant communities by security officials, enforcement officers and police.

During the 2012 Olympics, Newham Monitoring Project (NMP) set up a human rights observation project in an attempt to monitor, record and challenge any detrimental impact on or targeting of local communities in east London. Today we publish a report setting out in detail how one of the UK’s longest-established civil rights organisations deployed close to a hundred ‘community legal observers’ (CLOs) during last summer’s Olympics, what these volunteers witnessed and how the experience of monitoring street level policing during such a major event can help other organisations, both in the UK and abroad, to consider using community legal observers in the future.

‘Monitoring Olympics policing during the 2012 Security Games’ is available to download here [PDF, 1.1 Mb]

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UN criticises spycops, kettling and categorising protest as ‘domestic extremism’

25 Jan

human rightsmainakiai

UN Special Rapporteur on rights to freedom of assembly and association, Mr Maina Kiai, has delivered preliminary findings on the current state of UK protest and assembly. His full report will follow in the coming months. In researching his findings the Raporteur has consulted with a number of UK activist groups and NGOs, including Netpol, as well as visiting various state entities.

Initial findings of the Special Rapporteur included criticism of the use of embedded undercover officers such as Mark Kennedy to infiltrate groups engaged in direct action, and strongly condemn the recent decision by UK courts that targets of this practice should have their cases against the state heard in private. Continue reading

Netpol publish critical report into EDL policing

13 Jun

Leicester Mercury EDL March 12 06 2012Netpol has published a critical report into the policing of the EDL and Counter demonstrations of February 4th in Leicester. The report is a collation of the evidence and observations obtained by a team of community-based legal observers who spent the day monitoring the policing of both EDL and counter-demonstrations. The legal observers deployed were local volunteers trained by Netpol with support from The Race Equality Centre (TREC) and Highfields Centre.

The report criticises police handling of the demonstration, particularly the effort and resources the police and local authorities devoted to persuading the local community, particularly young people in the local community, not to attend counter demonstrations against the EDL. It also raises questions about the use of force, particularly the use of dog units against Muslim youth, and the restrictions on movement placed on the Muslim population, effectively making Leicester a ‘no-go’ area. Continue reading

February Policing Round-Up – Part One: Court and Policy updates

19 Mar

Domestic Extremism

A Judicial Review was brought by John Catt on February 9th to challenge the lawfulness his entry onto a ‘domestic extremism database’. , The veteran peace activist, who has no criminal convictions, and is often seen sketching on protests has 66 entries on a secretive database run by the National Domestic Extremism Unit(NDEU). The NDEU now operates as part of the Metropolitan Police’s counter terrorism command.
The majority of the entries concern his association with protests against the EDO factory in Brighton, which manufactures arms components, although an estimated 15% of the entries relate to other protests both in Brighton and around the UK.

The police also admitted to having retained, but recently deleted, John Catt’s photograph. Yet they continued to maintain justification for the retention of personal information about Mr Catt, including his appearance, his movements and details of his car.

HMIC recently criticised the units handling and retention of data in their report on undercover policing, finding, “the rationale for recording and retaining the intelligence was not strong enough”. This was dismissed by the Met in court as ‘not applicable’ to the current case.

Judgement is still awaited.

Facebook riot cases

Another man has been cleared of encouraging rioting or looting via Facebook during the August’s riots. A jury took just 90 minutes to agree that Christopher Milligan’s post did not amount to ‘intentionally encouraging or assisting rioting’.

Milligan is the fourth man to have been acquitted by a jury for writing on Facebook. His fate differs markedly from that of Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, who were jailed last year for making very similar comments. Both men had pleaded guilty to encouraging crime in their home towns, although there were no outbreaks of disorder in either location.

Dale Farm – Production Order

Essex police obtained a production order, after a fiercely contested case at Chelmsford Crown Court, forcing journalists present at the Dale Farm eviction to hand over to un-broadcast footage. Judge Gratwick ignored serious concerns put forward by journalists, and found a ‘clear and compelling case for disclosure’.

The police are demanding all footage taken by the BBC, Sky, ITV, Channel 4 as well as freelance filmmaker, Jason Parkinson. The NUJ has stated its intention to appeal the decision to the High Court.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “This is an attack on press freedom and turns photographers, videographers and journalists into potential targets. Journalists are not there to carry out investigatory work for the police.”

John Domokos, video producer for Guardian.co.uk said: “We are very concerned about this production order as we believe it will not only seriously jeopardise his safety and ability to cover future events of this nature, but also affect the safety and impartiality of all video journalists.” Continue reading

Four Days in August

14 Mar

The report into the policing of the August riots, ‘Four Days in August’ released today, shows that the Met has, once again, failed to take the opportunity to critically evaluate the way in which it polices inner-city communities. There is no assessment of use of ‘section 60’ stop and searches and other policing tactics that have created mistrust and resentment of the police among young people. Instead, the emphasis is on the need for ‘robust’ policing, militarisation and ever-more invasive surveillance.

They key points of this report, we believe, are these:

1. The role of stop and search: The report fails to properly address the crucial issue of stop and search. Where it is mentioned, the language used in the report reinforces the view that many campaigners have frequently put forward – that stop and search is being used to criminalise young people. At one point it states that those arrested in relation to the riots were ‘generally known to police in one way or another such as through previous offending, gang involvement or a history of being stopped and searched’. The language used clearly indicates that having a ‘history of being stopped and searched’, is seen by the Met as evidence of criminality in the same way as previous offending. Nowhere in the report is there any awareness that, for many young people, stop and search is a regular and unavoidable part of life in inner city estates. Nor does it accept the possibility that being subject to repeated stop and search could itself have been a significant motivation for involvement in disorder.

2. The need for more ‘robust policing: This report indicates there has been a watershed in police attitudes to public order events, and a decisive move towards more ‘robust’ and aggressive policing. It states that public concerns of ‘a heavy handed approach by officers’ in the aftermath of the G20 protest affected ‘the mindset of police officers’ and ‘the confidence of some officers engaged in public order scenarios’. It goes on to stress the importance of making sure staff feel ‘that they will be supported’ in relation to their actions in public order scenarios.

3. Militarisation: As has been well reported, the capacity to deploy plastic bullets and water cannon has been increased, the use of tasers in public order situations has been mooted, as well as the use of CS gas. We consider that the justification for this is unclear, particularly as one of the key reasons for not deploying plastic bullets in August was the ‘speed and agility’ of the rioters, rendering the use of these weapons unfeasible. Continue reading

HMIC review of police “domestic extremism” intelligence-gathering units

3 Feb

Further analysis of the HMIC report on ‘domestic extremism’ from Matt Salusbury.

A review of national police units which provide intelligence on criminality associated with protest was published at a minute past midnight today (2 February 2012) by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC ).

This started life as a review of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPIOU) a police ‘domestic extremism’ unit that spies on protesters, and in which undercover cop Mark Kennedy (aka Mark Stone) was deployed. The review, led by Bernard Hogan-Howe, now Met commissioner, was about to be published in October when it was postponed after the revelation that another NPIOU asset, Jim Boyling, had apparently been allowed by his handlers to mislead the courts.

NPIOU has since been subsumed into the Met’s SO15 directorate whose brief includes ‘counter-terror,’ and ‘domestic extremism’ has rather worryingly become closely associated with ‘terrorism’ in the strange world-view of the cops. Continue reading

HMIC report into domestic extremism – disgusting and farcical

2 Feb

Courtesy of Netpol partner, Fitwatch.

Well, we always knew HMIC’s ludicrously named ‘review of national police units which provide intelligence on criminality associated with protest’ was going to be a farce, and we haven’t been disappointed.

The 48 page report published today fails to address any of the concerns addressed by activists, and whilst claiming to recommend tightening of the term ‘domestic extremism’, conflates anti gm crop actions with right wing nail bombers, and invents another non existent subjective term ‘serious criminality’.

‘Serious criminality’ is, in the context of the report, defined as things which “include[s] serious disruption to the life of the community arising from criminal activity”. Protesters are used to seeing the very broad circumstances in which the police impose Section 12 and 14 conditions on protests on the basis of “disruption to the community”. These have ranged from sit down blockades at Aldermaston, recent conditions on student marches, to chanting slogans at arms dealers outside a hotel. ‘Serious criminality’ is a ridiculous phrase which includes as much inbuilt ambiguity as ‘domestic extremist’ Continue reading

HMIC report into undercover policing delayed

20 Oct

The publication of the long awaited HMIC investigation report into the function of the domestic extremism units, and the work of undercover police officer, Mark Kennedy, has once again been delayed after new evidence printed in the Guardian exposed undercover operative Jim Boyling had been authorised to give false evidence in court to protect his identity.

The report, originally due to be published in the summer, is expected to criticise a failure of supervision of Mark Kennedy, but stop short of recommending changes to the oversight and authorisation of undercover work.

Netpol believes the review is unlikely to go far enough in criticising the National Public Order Intelligence Unit and other domestic extremism units. The very narrow remit adopted by the HMIC has meant that key issues relating to the way undercover policing has been used against political groups have not even been considered.

The NPOIU, through covert and other means, monitored and interfered with the lawful activities of political groups, and with the private lives of individuals. Yet Bernard Hogan-Howe, when he met with protest groups in May last year, refused to consider the impact of this form of policing either on political freedoms, or on the human rights of individuals who had been affected. These, he said, were outside the remit of the review.

This review therefore seems unlikely to criticise the justification and proportionality of using covert methods of surveillance against political activists and campaigners. Apart from the ethical and human rights issues, there are clear cost implications. Continue reading

New Netpol report condemns excessive use of force by police on March 26th

19 Aug

Image of anti-cuts protestors on the student demo. Police in riot gear are also visible. The students have placards with slogans such as 'stop education cuts' and 'f**k fees'Student demonstrators arrested at last years protests have been convicted without sufficient evidence, and have been subjected to disproportionate sentences according to legal support activists.

Samuel Pepper Sharp, age 24 from Scarborough, was last week found guilty of aggravated trespass at the Millbank Tower on November 10th 2010. Students had occupied the Conservative headquarters in protest at the increase in student fees. Samuel was convicted despite an absence of evidence that he had done anything other than simply being in the building. Mere trespass is not, under UK law, a criminal offence.

The judgement, given by District Judge Snow in Westminster magistrates court, suggested there was an assumption of ‘collective guilt’ rather than a decision based on Samuel’s own actions. In fact, the only substantive evidence against Samuel was a witness statement from his arresting officer, which stated he was arrested in the reception area of 30 Millbank.

Some protestors have said they were carried into the foyer that day by the force of the large crowd surging forward, and that police then prevented them from leaving the building for reasons of ‘health and safety’, as police struggled to contain the demonstration around Millbank.

Taherali Gulamhussein, from the Network for Police Monitoring, stated that the convictions were a “watering down of the requirement to prove guilt beyond all reasonable doubt”. Continue reading

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