Netpol receives new two-year funding from October 2016
We are delighted to announce that Netpol has secured additional funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd to address the pressing need to change the way the police continue to respond to anti-fracking protests.
From October 2016, our ‘Protecting the Anti-Fracking Protectors’ campaign will seek:
- a political consensus locally and nationally that policing operations at future protests are genuinely less aggressive in their size and tactics and more transparent in their dealings with industry and the media.
- Lobby Police & Crime Commissioners to publish their expectations of policing strategies towards anti-fracking protests and to effectively scrutinise the human rights compliance of policing operations in their areas.
- an end to intensive surveillance and intelligence-gathering against anti-fracking protesters.
- greater awareness among first time anti-fracking campaigners about their fundamental legal rights,
Alongside our lobbying work, we intend to develop new tools to illustrate how campaigners can most effectively assert their rights to assembly and freedom of expression. We are also setting up a ‘whistle-blowing’ website offering individual campaigners who feel they are unfairly targeted the reassurance they can share information with us securely (including, for example, on inappropriate referrals to the government’s ‘Prevent’ anti-radicalisation programme or evidence of the unfair labelling of activists as ‘extremists’).
Since we began working with the anti-fracking movement in 2014, Netpol has uncovered significant evidence of close ties between police forces and the onshore oil and gas industry and shown how public order training for senior police officers is focused specifically on anti-fracking protest, which undermine attempts by police to portray themselves as ‘neutral’.
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
Lancashire Police face growing industry pressure to ‘crack down’ on anti-fracking protests
Since we highlighted, at the beginning of March, the increasingly confrontational operation by Lancashire Police against anti-fracking campaigners at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, more protesters have complained of violence and officers pushing them towards busy traffic.
This escalation in aggressive police tactics has coincided with a campaign of pressure from supporters of the onshore oil and gas industry, conducted mainly through the pages of the Times newspaper, which has called for the police and courts to respond more robustly towards the anti-fracking movement. Read more
Video evidence of an assault on Tuesday by a Lancashire Police officer on a Fylde borough councillor, Roger Lloyd, points to an escalation of more ‘robust’ and aggressive tactics by police against anti-fracking protests at Cuadrilla’s shale gas exploration site near Blackpool.
This is the latest in a series of decisions made by local police that is likely to make it more difficult for protesters to know with any certainty what treatment they are likely to receive and whether police will genuinely protect their right to protest.
The word “impunity” – exemption from any possibility of punishment or harm – comes up again and again when bereaved families talk about the death of a loved one at the hands of the police. The family of Jean Charles de Menezes used it again in a statement yesterday.
It is little wonder, when charges against officers are so rare, when investigations take so long and when efforts to discover the truth are so vigorously contested, that many start to believe the police – uniquely in society – are immune from prosecution following a death in their care.
Often it seems all families are allowed to hope for is a vague promise to “learn the lessons from the tragedy” and the possibility that senior officers feel at least some sense of shame for the loss of life on their watch. But justice? That is apparently asking for too much.
The announcement of the appointment of Cressida Dick as the next Metropolitan Police Commissioner must feel particularly painful for the Menezes family. Ms. Dick was the senior officer in charge of the botched operation that led to the execution of the Brazilian commuter by firearms officers at Stockwell underground station in London in the summer of 2005.
The Metropolitan Police then lied about the circumstances of Jean’s death and during subsequent investigations vital evidence went missing, including Cressida Dick’s instructions to allow Jean into the station because he did not appear a threat. In 2007, the Met was eventually found guilty of breaking health and safety laws and endangering the lives of Londoners and a year later, an inquest jury decided that a series of police failures contributed to Jean’s death. No individual officers were ever charged or disciplined. Read more
Feedback from supporters who took part in last week’s Domestic Extremism Awareness Day was very clear – people believe strongly that the freedom to protest remains valuable and important and deserves protection from efforts by the state to undermine and disrupt its effectiveness.
Campaigners resent the smearing of their activism as ‘extremism’, not only because this label is evidently so easy to apply without the slightest evidence, but because it seems deliberately intended to drive away wider public support. Read more
Launched in 2013, Netpol’s annual “Domestic Extremist Awareness Day” takes place on Monday 6 February. This year, we are calling for a complete end to the meaningless but sinister use of the ‘domestic extremist’ label against all legitimate political dissent.
As we have argued repeatedly over the last couple of years, the term “domestic extremist” means pretty much whatever the police want it to mean.
It is a critical justification for state surveillance on protest movements in the UK, but both the government and the police have struggled to devise a credible definition robust enough to withstand legal scrutiny. As a result, Prime Minister Theresa May’s flagship counter-terrorism and safeguarding bill, announced back in May 2016, is currently floundering precisely because government lawyers have still been unable to codify ‘extremism’ or ‘British values’ in ways that are compatible with fundamental rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Read more
The Information Commissioner, in rejecting an appeal by Netpol over the refusal of the police to release details of a programme to ‘deradicalise extremists’, has endorsed unfounded and unsubstantiated links between anti-fracking protests and the threat of terrorism.
In October 2015, we asked Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside police for details of referrals made in the prior ten months through Channel, a ‘counter radicalisation’ process that is part of the government’s anti-terrorism Prevent strategy. Channel supposedly offers voluntary support to people identified as “vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism” and although there are a number of agencies involved in it, the police play a central role in its delivery. Rather than overall statistics, we asked specifically for the number of individuals seen as allegedly at risk through their involvement in anti-fracking campaigns.
Our requests were the result of concerns raised with us by campaigners from the region who were angered that their opposition to fracking had been used as an excuse to refer them to Channel, in most cases by universities or further education colleges. All related to an alleged ‘risk’ to adults rather than children.
In a startling determination, the Information Commissioner has said:
Channel may be appropriate for anyone who is vulnerable to being drawn into any form of terrorism… It follows from this that, for a referral to be made to Channel, it must be suspected that an individual is at risk of becoming involved in terrorist related activity.
In effect, the Commissioner is insisting nobody is referred unless there is a good reason for doing so – even if this is for nothing more than expressing legitimate political opinions about fracking. Read more