A sweeping injunction sought by shale oil and gas company UKOG against campaigners in south-east England looks like it has run into difficulties since it was challenged in court in March
The draft orders, originally made against “persons unknown”, attempted to prohibit a wide range of actions, including “combining together using lawful means” if that was intended to interfere with the company’s “economic interests”. The threat of expensive legal action against local campaigners if they breached such a sweeping order is a potentially significant threat to their rights to oppose and protest against the company’s plans.
A preliminary hearing on 19 March at the High Court in London was adjourned for six weeks, however, after five campaigners came forward to challenge the injunction. This was possible because initial advice from the solicitors’ firm Bhatt Murphy and Stephanie Harrison QC from Garden Court Chambers was paid for by Netpol’s Activist Legal Action Fund. Read more
Netpol has today launched a new film on the many allegations of police violence made by campaigners who are blockading shale gas company Cuadrilla’s drilling site at Preston New Road in Lancashire.
In the first in a forthcoming series of short films made with Gathering Place Films on the policing of anti-fracking protests, Netpol shares the voices of campaigners on what is currently the front-line of resistance to fracking in the UK. Read more
On Wednesday and Thursday this week, groups and individuals targeted by undercover police will address a hearing of the Undercover Policing Inquiry at the Royal Courts of Justice, demanding an end to further delaying tactics by the police.
A picket has been called for 9am to 10am outside the court, in support of those targeted by political policing units for nearly 50 years. These targets include many of the individuals and organisations who founded Netpol back in 2009.
This is a general call for people to support the picket, as this hearing is crucial for the future direction of the Inquiry.
Royal Courts of Justice, the Strand, London WC2A 2LL, 9-10 am.
People spied on by undercover police are attending a hearing this week to demand
- the immediate release of the cover names used by undercover police officers, the campaigning and community groups they spied on, and the personal files held on those spied on
- that Inquiry Chair Lord Pitchford puts a stop to police cynically delaying the Inquiry to avoid disclosure of their misconduct.
- vital changes in the way the Inquiry process, to redress a massive imbalance in resources between them and the police.
Dispersal powers are discriminatory. anti-democratic, open to abuse and completely unaccountable.
The Network for Police Monitoring has today launched a new campaign to repeal powers under Section 35 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which extended the police’s ability to dispense individuals from an area for up to 48 hours.
Police officers have been granted even greater levels of discretion about what constitutes ‘reasonable grounds’ to disperse people and it is far too easy for the police to use their new powers in an extremely restrictive way.
Since it was introduced, there is growing evidence that police are misusing these powers against vulnerable and often socially excluded people: teenagers, sex workers. the homeless, particularly in areas with a large black population. Section 35 powers are also increasingly targeting people exercising their democratic right to freedom of protest. These powers are used with absolutely no public oversight.
We believe it is time Section 35 is repealed.
Netpol is asking people to come forward with their own stories so we can build the case for the repeal of Section 35. We have already started to gather case studies where dispersal powers have been misused – and challenged – in a wide range of situations.
You can find out more on the microsite we have set up at repealsection35.org.uk
Netpol has produced a short briefing for campaigners about private security personnel, their powers, the difference between security guards and bailiffs or high court enforcement officers and how you can make complaints about misconduct.
Netpol has put together a new guide for activists on how to start resisting the government’s Prevent strategy at a local level
As part of our support for Together Against Prevent, the campaign tactic adopted by a growing number of organisations, this guide is intended to help activists to organise locally in order to resist the government’s draconian and discriminatory Prevent strategy.
This is a first version that we plan to extend as we discover new ideas for action – if you have any suggestions, contact us. The guide is also a Creative Commons document so please feel free to copy, adapt and expand on it. The text is set out below.
Last week’s verdicts were an important victory – but they do not settle arguments about what constitutes “reasonable” obstruction of the highway
During last week’s trial of anti-fracking campaigners charged with obstructing the highway near the Horse Hill exploration site in Surrey, one defendant made the surprising claim that a solicitor at the London law firm Bindmans had told him “it was OK to walk in the road”.
District Judge William Ashworth said he was “disturbed” by this statement, although it seems more like a simple misunderstanding of a solicitor’s advice. It reflects, though, the degree of confusion felt by many anti-fracking protesters about their rights to protest against lorries and tankers arriving at oil and gas exploration sites – and in particular, the use of the “slow-walking” tactic. Read more
When the Countryside Alliance’s advisor on policing, retired Dyfed Powys chief inspector Phillip Davies, addressed the recent National Police Chiefs Council conference in Derby, also attended by Netpol, he was keen to portray opponents of hunting as violent ‘extremists’ and complained bitterly about the lack of police action against them. In reality, however, it is often activists monitoring breaches of the Hunting Act 2004 who are themselves under attack by hunt supporters. Read more
Government unveils new ‘counter-extremist’ bill – but still cannot define what extremism actually means
While most of the media insisting this week’s Queen’s Speech was largely overshadowed by the EU referendum, one new law proposed this week looks set to create even more controversy as existing ‘anti-radicalisation’ legislation, already sweeping, is strengthened further.
The government plans to introduce a Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill, which will ‘prevent radicalisation, tackle extremism in all its forms, and promote community integration’. A statement by the Home Office says it will protect “against the most dangerous extremists” and give police “a full range of powers to deal with extremism”.
Another counter-terrorism bill also formed part of the Queen’s Speech in May last year. It was subsequently criticised by David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism laws, who said it risked legitimising “the state to scrutinise [and the citizen to inform upon] the exercise of core democratic freedoms by large numbers of law-abiding people”. A year on, that bill had completely failed to progress any further because the government has been unable to find a “legally robust” definition of what ‘extremism’ actually means. Read more
The convictions of thirteen Plane Stupid campaigners are a reminder that the courts are only prepared to accept what constitutes ‘peaceful’ protest within strict limits
On Tuesday the Independent reported on concerns raised by campaigners that a judge’s threat to imprison the Heathrow 13, convicted of aggravated trespass on the airport’s runway last summer, undermines “the British legal system’s long-standing tolerance towards non-violent direct action”.
Dr Graeme Hayes of Aston University, calls it “unprecedented in modern times” for environmental activists to face a custodial sentence for “a peaceful, non-violent protest which the judge recognises as being conducted with honesty, sincerity and integrity.” Read more