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2019

John Catt wins at the European Court of Human Rights, with a ruling that suggests personal data containing political opinions deserve a “heightened level of protection” and that the retention of John’s data “has neither been shown to be absolutely necessary nor for the purposes of a particular [criminal] inquiry”. The court highlighted the absence of any meaningful rules or safeguards for keeping information collected on political campaigning.

The Home Office faced pressure to release a report prepared by its Extremism Analysis Unit called Leftwing Activism and Extremism in the UK

2018

A summary of Extremist Symbols and Flags issued by the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command includes specific references to “domestic extremists” including the Hunt Saboteurs Association and “Antifa”.

2017

A Counter-Terrorism Local Profile identified anti-fracking protests at Broadford Bridge in Sussex as a “priority theme… where increased tensions or vulnerabilities may exist”. A similar profile for Surrey highlighted “community tensions related to onshore oil and gas operations” in the east of the county. The Broadford Bridge protests did not start until April 2017, four months after the Home Office’s statement saying opposition to fracking was not a “vulnerability”.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) began an investigation into accusations that the NDEDIU had deleted a mass of documents in 2014, shortly after the announcement of the Undercover Policing Inquiry. A further investigation by the IPCC was set up to look at allegations the Metropolitan Police had used hackers based in India to illegally access the private emails of hundreds of political campaigners and journalists.

2016

Attempts by the government and the police fail to come up with a “legally robust” definition of extremism. Nevertheless, the government introduces a bill that

A newsletter issued by Driffield School in North Yorkshire told parents, based on information given to it by counter terrorism police, that “East Riding’s main priorities are far-right extremism, animal rights and anti-fracking”.

City of York council is condemned for including the low levels of civil disobedience associated with anti-fracking campaigns in its Counter Terrorism Local Profile for York and North Yorkshire

Following a freedom of information request, Home Office was finally forced to issue a statement saying “support for anti-fracking is not an indicator of vulnerability” to extremism.

John Catt takes his legal challenge to the European Court of Human Rights.

A whistleblower within the NDEDIU alleged that police improperly destroyed files they had compiled on Baroness Jenny Jones in order to ensure she could not access police records she had requested through a data protection subject access request.

Subject access requests reveal the NDEDIU had tracked the political activities of the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Sian Berry, the party’s candidate for London mayor.

2015

The UK Supreme Court rules against John Catt, delivered a ruling in an appeal by the police that amounted to what Netpol described as “judicial approval for the mass surveillance of UK protest movements”.

A letter from Chris Greany, the head of the NDEDIU, to the Green Party peer Jenny Jones says the new definition “applies to those who plan or commit acts of serious criminality, and low levels of civil disobedience would not usually apply, it could apply like any other form of action if it caused serious criminality”. It adds that aggravated trespass “would not meet the threshold for the definition unless there was serious criminality”.

A further letter to Jenny Jones from the then Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, says this definition “addresses issues arising from your previous concerns and would not usually apply to low levels of civil disobedience such as civil trespass or minor disruption”.

The mother of a young anti-fracking activist who took part in protests at Crawberry Hill in East Yorkshire, is visited at her home by counter-terrorism police asking about her son’s alleged “involvement with extremists”.

Police told teachers in West Yorkshire that they should consider environmental activists and anti-fracking protesters as potential extremists and gave Green Party MP Caroline Lucas – who was arrested in 2013 for her part in blocking a road at an anti-fracking demonstration in 2013 – as an example of extremism.

City of London police included Occupy London and environmentalists in a presentation to nursery workers on potential terrorist threats.

Netpol published an audio recording of a training session that provided concrete evidence that counter-terrorism officers from Merseyside Police were linking anti-fracking protests to “domestic extremism” and making unsubstantiated claims about campaigners who took part in protests in 2014 at Barton Moss in Salford.

2014

A freedom of information request to the Metropolitan Police says there are “2627 individuals on the database that have their own record” and confirms the existence of a new definition of domestic extremism:

“Domestic Extremism relates to the activity of groups or individuals who commit or plan serious criminal activity motivated by a political or ideological viewpoint.”

Netpol highlights how the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which regulates the powers of public bodies to carry out surveillance, says that one of the tests of a ‘serious crime’ is whether it includes “conduct by a large number of persons in pursuit of a common purpose” – the definition of a protest.

The Green Party peer Jenny Jones discovered details of her campaigning activities had been added to the national domestic extremism database. The NDEDIU was unable to say how many elected politicians were its files.

Following a data protection subject access request, Netpol’s coordinator Kevin Blowe published details of his national domestic extremism database records, related to campaigning around issues related to the Olympics. It includes details shared with the NDEU because he had been the victim of a crime.

NDEDIU officers are seen monitoring the “Fracked Future Carnival” protest at the London Shale Gas Forum, where there was little prospect of serious crime.

The Supreme Court considers an appeal by the Metropolitan Police against the previous year’s Court of Appeal ruling that retaining information asbout John Catt’s political activities was unlawful. Netpol intervenes in the hearing.

2013

The NDEU changes its name to the National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (NDEDIU).

The Guardian reports that the NDEDIU is monitoring almost 9000 people it has deemed “domestic extremists”.

Police tell West Sussex county council’s planning committee that it had identified an exploratory oil and gas drilling site at Broadford Bridge as “a site of potential ‘domestic extremism’ from those opposing austerity measures”.

A Cambridgeshire Police officer was caught on camera trying to recruit a student to inform about a number of groups, including UK Uncut, Unite Against Fascism and anti-fracking demonstrators.

Kent councillor Ian Driver of the Green Party discovered he had been placed on the national domestic extremism database for campaigning against live animal exports at Ramsgate and Dover.

John Catt overturns the ruling against him by the High Court in the Court of Appeal.

2012

A data protection subject access request confirmed that the NPIOU had gathered intelligence on campaigners who had stalls at the Glastonbury Festival.

An HM Inspectorate of Constabulary report expressed concerns that the sweeping definition of domestic extremism “could lead to a wide range of protestors and protest groups being considered domestic extremists by the police. HMIC questions whether this is appropriate, and if the police should instead reserve this potentially emotive term for serious criminality.” It recommended:

“In the absence of a tighter definition, ACPO and the Home Office should agree a definition of domestic extremism that reflects the severity of crimes that might warrant this title, and that includes serious disruption to the life of the community arising from criminal activity”.

John Catt loses the first stage of his legal challenge in the High Court.

2011

The NPIOU, NECTU and NDET are merged into the National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU) and transferred to the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command.

The government’s counter-radicalisation Prevent Strategy defines “extremism” as “the vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.”

John Catt began a legal challenge against the gathering and retention of his political activities on the national domestic extremism database.

2010

“Mark Stone” is exposed by activists as an undercover police officer, Mark Kennedy, who had infiltrated different campaigns since 2003 on behalf of the NPIOU. This leads to the collapse of the trial of six environmental campaigners for conspiring to break into Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station.

The NCDE defines domestic extremism as “the activity of individuals or groups carrying out criminal acts of direct action to further their protest campaign” and says the term only applies to “individuals or groups whose activities go outside the normal democratic process”.

John Catt discovered he has been classified as a domestic extremist by the NPIOU.

2009

Tilly Gifford, an anti-airport protester with Plane Stupid, secretly recorded two officers from Strathclyde Police asking her to inform on the movement (recordings and transcripts)

The Guardian publishes a series of articles confirming the existence of the national domestic extremism database. One article says the term “domestic extremism” is now “common currency within the police. It is a phrase which shapes how forces seek to control demonstrations. It has led to the personal details and photographs of a substantial number of protesters being stored on secret police databases around the country”.

2008

A story in the Obsserver claimed NECTU was worried by a “growing threat of eco-terrorism” from environmental campaigners. The paper subsequently withdrew the article as wholly unsubstantiated and its readers’ editor said NECTU had declined to respond to allegations that it “was briefing in this manner in order to make prosecutions easier and to boost its funding, which is at risk owing to the decline in animal rights campaigns.” Guardian journalist George Monbiot called NECTU the “Paranoid Squad”.

2007

NECTU publishes a manual for officers policing protests that directs them to a list of “High Court Injunctions that relate to domestic extremism campaigns” on its website. One of the injunctions listed was a “harassment injunction” against entirely non-violent protests opposing RWE Npower plans to dump power station waste in an Oxfordshire lake, which the energy company had been forced to back down from due to public pressure. An Oxfordshire campaigner wrote to the head of NECTU, Steve Pearl, to ask for his name to be removed from the website and was refused. The law firm used by RWE Npower had previous links with NECTU when seeking to obtain earlier injunctions.

2006

An expanding number of protest and social movements come under the aegis of the NCDE, with the incorporation of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPIOU) and its wider intelligence gathering on protest movements for Special Branch on a national level and the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU) and its work with different industry interests.

2005

“Domestic extremism” becomes the catch-all categorisation for political direct action with the creation of the National Coordinator Domestic Extremism (NCDE), with an early focus on opposition to animal research.