Tag Archives: intelligence

Secret Diary of an Olympic Domestic Extremist

5 Feb

This post is by Netpol member Kevin Blowe of Newham Monitoring Project

Domestic-ExtremistAfter reports in June last year that Newham Monitoring Project, the east London community group I’ve been part of for over 20 years, was spied on during the 1990s by undercover Metropolitan police officers, I’ve wanted to find out if information about me is held on secret police databases. The Guardian reported estimates of up to 9000 people classified by police as potential ‘domestic extremists’ and so to find out if I’m one of them, I submitted a ‘subject access request’ under data protection legislation.

The Met were supposed to comply within 40 days but it has taken over six months and the intervention of the Information Commissioner’s Office to finally receive a response. If the details provided are complete, they confirm that the National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU), part of the Met’s SO15 Counter Terrorism Command, began logging my activities in April 2011 because I spoke at Netpol’s ‘Stand Up To Surveillance’ conference – ironically, an event debating the rise of unaccountable police intelligence gathering on protests and local communities.

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Anger at police kettle of student activists

30 Jan

birm student kettle 2

Students have spoken out at their anger and frustration at being kettled, filmed and questioned at the end of a demonstration at Birmingham University last night.

There had been a national meeting, followed by a march and an occupation of Birmingham University’s Great Hall. As the students left the occupation, they were met by lines of police. They were then held in a kettle, in cold and wet conditions, for up to four hours.

One student told us she had struggled to cope with the cold and wet and the lack of toilet facilities,

“It felt like forever, I needed the toilet and it was so horrible and uncomfortable and cold. When I finally got out my friends had to hold me up I was so cold and drained. I felt really helpless and wanted to cry.

My friend was in tears – this was the first demo she’d been on. She doesn’t want to go on another one ever again. The police terrify her now.

They kept us like that to keep our morale down, to absolutely smash our morale. I just feel really bitter and angry”

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Your rights and section 50 Police Reform Act

3 May

dboad 1If you are stop and searched or to held in a kettle, you DO NOT have to give police your name and address. The police will often ask for your details in these situations, but you DO NOT have to provide them.

However, under section 50 of the Police Reform Act the police DO have powers to take your name and address (but not date of birth) IF they reasonably believe you have engaged in anti-social behaviour. Anti-social behaviour (ASB)is defined as doing something likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to others.

Section 50 powers are sometimes used by the police as a routine or blanket means of obtaining names and addresses, especially during stop and searches. But if the police do not have a genuine and reasonable belief that the person they are dealing with has been involved with ASB, the use of this power would be unlawful.

If you are told to give your details under ‘section 50’:

  • Clarify that they are using s50 Police Reform Act. If possible, record them saying this. In some circumstances the police have subsequently denied using s50 powers, claiming that people gave their details voluntarily.
  • Ask them to tell you exactly what they believe you have done that constitutes anti-social behaviour. They must have a reasonable belief that you did something likely to cause ‘harassment, alarm or distress’.
  • If possible film what they do, or record what they say on your mobile phone.
  • It is not enough for the police to say they believe you are ‘going to’ engage in anti-social behaviour. Section 50 powers do not apply to possible future actions – only if a person ‘has been acting, or is acting in an anti-social manner’.

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Protest treated as anti-social behaviour

1 May

dboad 1

Powers given to the police to deal with anti-social behaviour are increasingly being used to gather information on participants in political protest.

Section 50 of the Police Reform Act gives police the power to demand personal details, if the officer reasonably believes that the individual has been involved in anti-social behaviour. Over the years the police have interpreted a wide variety of protest activity as ‘anti-social behaviour’ in order to obtain the names and addresses of those taking part. This has included sit-down protests, handing out leaflets and spontaneous demonstrations.

Failure to provide personal details when questioned under s50 is a criminal offence for which an individual may be arrested and prosecuted. It is hardly surprising that most people choose to provide their names and addresses, rather than face arrest, even if they do not believe they have been acting anti-socially. These powers provide an easy mechanism for the police to gather intelligence data.

Netpol observers have reported that the police are using allegations of anti-social behaviour as a blanket means of obtaining protester details, coercing people who decide not to provide that information voluntarily. Continue reading

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

The Intelligence Role of Police Liaison Officers

7 Sep

Police Liaison Officers (PLOs) have become a regular part of the policing of political protest up and down the country, ostensibly to promote ‘dialogue and communication’. Jason Parkinson, in a film made for the Guardian, has questioned the extent to which the PLO’s are also using their role to intimidate, harass, and gather intelligence on political activists.

Netpol has been monitoring the use of Police Liaison Officers in Sussex and London. We have concerns, based on our observations, that PLOs are taking on some of the intelligence gathering tasks that were previously done by the now widely distrusted ‘Forward Intelligence Teams’ (FIT). Continue reading

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