Netpol on the use of plain clothes police on demonstrations

The Independent – The moment protesters found a plain clothes cop in their midst. Kevin Rawlinson

Val Swain, of the Network for Police Monitoring, said: “Unlike uniformed police officers, those in plain clothes wear no identifying numbers, and cannot be held to account. The use of plain clothes police can cause an unpleasant level of distrust among demonstrators, even those who are law-abiding. Nobody wants to go on a demonstration where you are not sure whether the person next to you could be recording what you say for the police file. That is not the sort of society we want to live in.

“In addition, we have no information about the remit of plain-clothes police officers at demonstrations. What is the extent of their role?

“This is an invasive policing tactic that has no regard for civil liberties. Those engaged in protest already feel under siege from aggressive and disproportionate policing.”

Netpol on the use of undercover policing;

Ryan Gallagher on Spies and their Masters

But according to campaign group The Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol), the HMIC review has failed to address fundamental issues.

“On the basis of this report, undercover police officers can continue to target a range of political and protest groups,” says Val Swain, spokesperson for Netpol. “The report is not even able to deliver an agreed definition of the term ‘domestic extremism’, meaning there are still no real limits on how the targets of undercover policing are decided upon.”

Swain points to the case of an 87-year-old artist, John Catt, who launched a legal challenge against police in 2011 after he was branded a domestic extremist and put under surveillance during a number of anti-arms trade demonstrations.

“Mr Catt had no criminal record, and spent his time at protests sketching, but the police have been adamant in asserting their right to hold details of his vehicle, his family, his appearance and his movements… There is no justification for the invasive surveillance of this kind of political activity, either through undercover officers or other means.

“The domestic extremism unit lacks any real accountability or transparency, and ultimately lacks any credibility. It is a shadowy unit that has been allowed to set its own rules for spying on legitimate political activity and dissent, and has no place within British society, or British policing.”

Netpol on police corruption

Red Pepper: Unfair cops – its not about ‘bad apples’

Cosy cliques building up among powerful individuals and institutions are a recipe for corrupt practices, as the phone hacking scandal has shown. Yet there is no watchdog that can effectively oversee the mechanics of what is going on in our police forces.

Police forces are usually keen to form good relationships with the press. They happily provide tip-offs and titbits of stories, but in return often expect the media to reflect a police perspective of events. Coverage of political events, such as demonstrations and rallies, frequently reflect a police viewpoint. Depending on circumstances, there is a thin line between an effective working relationship and an unhealthy ability to influence the media’s portrayal of events.

Netpol on the policing of EDL demonstrations (Leicester)

The Observer – Mark Townsend

Fresh claims of politically motivated policing also surfaced in a report alleging that officers prevented Muslims from attending counter-demonstrations against an English Defence League rally. Leicestershire Constabulary stopped members of the Muslim community protesting against the EDL during a high-profile march last October, according to the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol). It said that the force attempted to dissuade Muslims, through mosques and schools, from protesting against the EDL demonstration at an authorised protest by Unite Against Fascism on the same day, and issued leaflets advising that young people could be picked up and held in “safe areas”.

Val Swain of Netpol said: “This is a strategy that we have seen up and down the country, and it appears to have been sanctioned at the highest levels. It is not for the police to decide which sectors of society are allowed to protest and which are not.”

Iain Channing, University of Plymouth – Freedom of Expression from the ‘Age of Extremes’ to the ‘Age of Terror’: Reflections on public order law and the legal responses to political and religious extremism in 1930’s Britain and the post 9/11 era.

In its report of the policing of the demonstration, the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) emphasized that the EDL had broken through police cordons before and this was anticipated by the local community.

The benefit of banning processions was also questioned by Netpol as this led to a shuttle bus service being provided to transport EDL members from their prearranged meeting point to the rally site.

Children were also warned that under s46 Children Act 1989 the police would have the power to take any young person into police protection who were at risk of „significant harm? due to lack of parental care. As this is a provision that aims to keep children safe from exploitation and abuse, Netpol reported that this was the first time they were aware of it being used in the context of political protest.



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: