Tag Archives: surveillance

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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Jason Bishop – new allegations of undercover policing of protest

25 Jul

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Netpol has been asked to publish the following statement on behalf of former friends of an activist known as Jason Bishop, who they now believe to have been an undercover police officer.
Netpol have published this statement as we feel it adds important information to the debate about undercover police officers.
This is the latest in a long line of disclosures relating to the infiltration of protest groups by specialist units of the Metropolitan police including the Special Demonstration Squad and later, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.

After a detailed investigation by former friends and activists, there is now no doubt that the activist known to many people as Jason Bishop was an undercover cop working for the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS). Jason lived in Kilburn, with a flatmate we haven’t been able to trace who was involved in animal rights activism. He drove a landrover, and allegedly made his money from pirated dvds and software. Continue reading

Political surveillance cannot be justified – Netpol statement on Police Spying.

12 Jul

Recent revelations about undercover policing have shown that a number of legal and political campaigns and organisations, including the Newham Monitoring Group, a partner organisation in Netpol, have been subject to covert surveillance operations.

While the police are keen to dismiss criticism as being merely an historic issue, applying to a bygone era, Netpol sees no reason to believe that things have improved in recent years. The covert policing of dissent still lacks any effective internal accountability mechanism or means of independent/public scrutiny. Continue reading

Statement on covert police surveillance of Newham Monitoring Project

25 Jun

Press release from Newham Monitoring Project (NMP) – one of the members of Netpol.

It is alarming that a Metropolitan police undercover surveillance unit, the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), targeted Newham Monitoring Project (NMP) and serves as a reminder of the levels of corruption and misuse of power within the police that we have tirelessly campaigned against for years.

Our work supporting victims of police misconduct, racist violence and assisting the grieving relatives and friends of black people who died in police custody has contributed significantly to greater police accountability, transparency and racial equality in the UK. The police have actively sought to stop, disrupt or discredit this work and the people who support it.

Attempts to mitigate against negative publicity using unethical policing methods are indisinguishable from the sanctioning of a cover-up. Continue reading

Undercover oversight

21 Jun

Reposted with thanks from Bristling Badger

Damien Green has announced new proposals for regulating undercover policing

Damien Green has announced new proposals for regulating undercover policing

As the undercover policing scandal rolls on – with the tenacious Guardian journalists about to publish their book and have the accompanying documentary screened by Channel 4 on Monday – the government has announced tighter rules for future operations.

“All long-term undercover policing operations will be independently authorised”

Well that sounds reassuring. But which outside body will be scrutinising the police’s desires?

“the Office for Surveillance Commissioners (OSC) will be notified at the start of all undercover police deployments – and must approve any lasting beyond 12 months.”

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Police powers finally kettled by High Court

18 Jun

FIT cop big camera crop

For years it has been common practice for protesters held in a kettle (police containment) to be forced to submit to police filming and/or provide their details as a condition of leaving. There have been countless incidents in which protesters who have tried (lawfully) to refuse these demands have been threatened with arrest, or told they could not leave the kettle.

This should now change, as the High Court has today ruled that the police have no powers to force people to give their details, or comply with police filming and photography, simply because they are held in a kettle.
Lord Justice Moses criticised police practice in no uncertain terms. He stated,

It is unacceptable that a civilian photographer on instruction from the police should be entitled to obtain photographs for investigation and crime investigation purposes…as the price for leaving a containment. Although the common law has sanctioned containment it has done so in only restricted circumstances.

It was not lawful for the police to maintain the containment for the purposes of obtaining identification, whether by questioning or by filming. It follows that it was not lawful to require identification to be given and submission to filming as the price for release.

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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

Schedule 7 terror laws used to interrogate activists

12 Dec

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There is now abundant evidence that the police are using terrorism powers to stop and question activists on their political activities when they pass through UK ports. It is undoubtedly very helpful to the police that the draconian powers introduced by Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 provide no right to silence – a refusal to answer questions can lead to a criminal conviction. The powers are also hugely intimidating – people can be detained for up to nine hours and have their DNA and fingerprints taken. To top it all, no ‘reasonable suspicion’ is needed – the police and border authorities can stop whoever they wish. What more could ‘total policing’ wish for? Continue reading

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