An activist has described how officers from Scotland Yard’s Counter Terror Command accosted her while she waited at the bus stop. Initially asking to have ‘a word’ the officers changed their mind and fled when the campaigner got out her mobile phone and started filming.
Emma is an anti-militarist activist, who is currently working with a group planning protests against the NATO summit, due to be held in Newport, South Wales this September. She is convinced that the officers were intending to ask her for information relating to those protests.
Emma says she had walked a short distance from her flat to the bus stop, calling on a neighbour on the way. She said she had scarcely stopped walking before she was approached, and believes they may have followed her from her home. One officer flashed his warrant card and identified himself as Counter-Terror. He used Emma’s name, and asked if he could ‘have a word for a minute’. Her response was, ‘yes as long as I can film it’.
The officer then appeared to change his mind about speaking to Emma, attempted to hide his face and move away. Bizarrely, a second man then got involved and tried to distract Emma by persistently asking her for directions. When she asked the second man if he too was an officer from Counter Terrorism both men walked to their car and drove away.
Emma may well have been correct in her suspicions. Counter Terror Command is now the home of the secretive National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU), the unit that operated Mark Kennedy and other undercover police officers. These officers infiltrated a variety of protest groups, and used intimate relationships with a number of women to further their deception.
The operation of the NDEU was moved from ACPO to the Met’s Counter Terror Command in 2011, but it is known to continue its use of undercover officers as well as other ‘covert human intelligence sources’, or CHIS – otherwise known as informants. Last November police faced fierce criticism after a Cambridge University Student made a secret recording with a hidden camera of an officers attempt to recruit him.
Another member of the anti-NATO group has also told us he is making a complaint after he was recently stopped by police while driving. The police officer carrying out the stop identified him as a ‘known protester’, asked what his ‘plans for the year’ might be and told him, ‘we’ll be watching you’.
Emma’s solicitor, Raj Chada, has written to the police to ask for an explanation, and expressed concern that such an approach could constitute an invasion of her rights to a private life under article 8 of European Convention on Human Rights.
He said, “We have received instructions that a number of our clients have been approached by “counter terrorism police” over the last few days and weeks. At present, it is not clear the reason for the approach and we have requested further info from the police.”
Emma is concerned that police actions of this sort could leave people feeling intimidated. She said that speaking out about what happened, and getting support from the people around her made her feel more confident.
“I think this can happen to almost anyone involved in protest, and probably happens quite a lot, but people don’t want to talk about it. They might feel isolated and not sure about what to do.
“I think the main message I would be keen to convey is that if it happens to you, you don’t have to be drawn into their conspiracy of silence, it is their secret not yours. I think it’s important for people to have some one to turn to so they can talk things over or get legal advice without fear of repercussions.”
Individuals are under no duty to cooperate with these approaches, or to provide information. A good fact sheet on how to respond when asked to become an informer is available on the Free Beagles website. People wanting access to legal advice should contact their own solicitor, or Netpol on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: ‘Emma’ is a pseudonym