Dubieus onderzoek van VU en NSCR naar cybercriminaliteit

Medewerkers van de Vrije Universiteit en het NSCR hebben in samenwerking met het Openbaar Ministerie ruim 2.000 personen geënquêteerd voor een onderzoek naar cybercriminaliteit. De respondenten is niet verteld dat zij benaderd zijn omdat zij als veroordeelden of verdachten te boek staan.

In juni dit jaar zijn allerlei mensen benaderd voor een onderzoek van de Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam en het Nederlands Studiecentrum Criminaliteit en Rechtshandhaving (NSCR). Het betreft personen die door het ministerie van Veiligheid en Justitie ervan worden verdacht zich in het verleden schuldig te hebben gemaakt aan enigerlei vorm van cybercriminaliteit, of daarvoor zijn veroordeeld. Dat wordt echter niet vermeld in de brief die is gedateerd van 15 juni 2015 en ondertekend door prof.dr. Wim Bernasco (VU Amsterdam/NSCR) en Marleen Weulen Kranenbarg, MSc (NSCR).

 

Het NSCR maakt deel uit van de NWO, de Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek. Op haar website stelt de NSCR dat zij ‘zich toelegt op fundamenteel wetenschappelijk onderzoek naar criminaliteit en rechtshandhaving.’ Het instituut werd in 1992 opgezet door het toenmalige Ministerie van Justitie en de Universiteit van Leiden. Op dit moment wordt het NSCR mede gefinancierd door het Ministerie van Veiligheid en Justitie en de Vrije Universiteit.

 

Het onderwerp van de uitnodigingsbrief betreft ‘Onderzoek NL-ONLINE-OFFLINE‘ waaraan respondenten kunnen deelnemen middels een online survey. Op de gerelateerde website wordt gesproken van een onderzoek onder dezelfde naam. Het lijkt allemaal volstrekt onschuldig aangezien er gesproken wordt over de ‘kennis van computers en het internet en over uw ervaringen met online en offline veiligheid.’ Respondenten wordt voorgehouden dat zij een tegoedbon van Bol.com, VVV of Zalando ontvangen ter waarde 50 euro (vet gedrukt!). Daarnaast wordt expliciet vermeld dat de mening van respondenten voor de onderzoekers van groot belang is.

 

CyberCOP

 

In werkelijkheid wordt het onderzoek niet NL-ONLINE-OFFLINE genoemd maar ‘Cyber Crime Offender Profiling (CyberCOP): the human factor examined.‘ Oftewel, onderzoek naar het profiel van de cybercrimineel, want de menselijke factor moet natuurlijk een beeld/profiel scheppen van de persoon van de ‘crimineel’ ten behoeve van de opsporing door het ministerie van Veiligheid en Justitie en haar diensten. Het onderzoek richt zich dus op verdachten en plegers van cybercriminaliteit en niet zomaar op kennis en ervaringen met computers, internet en veiligheid. Een medewerkster van het Openbaar Ministerie (OM) laat weten dat de uitnodigingsbrief zo is opgesteld dat ‘niet op te maken is dat de respondent zelf verdachte is geweest van een delict.’

 

Uit het besluit van het Agentschap Basisadministratie Persoonsgegevens en Reisdocumenten (BPR), de dienst waarvan onderzoekers de adressen van de respondenten gekregen heeft, blijkt in het geheel niet dat het uitsluitend om verdachten of veroordeelden gaat. ‘In het verzoek van 10 juni 2014, 2014-0000658731, heeft het Nederlands Studiecentrum voor Criminaliteit en Rechtshandhaving verzocht om autorisatie voor de systematische verstrekking van gegevens uit de basisregistratie personen in verband met het uitvoeren van het onderzoek CyberCrime Offender Profiling (CyberCOP): the human factor examined.’

 

Artikel 2 lid 1 van het besluit luidt: ‘Aan de onderzoeksinstelling wordt op zijn verzoek een gegeven verstrekt dat is vermeld op de persoonslijst van een ingeschrevene, indien het een gegeven betreft dat is opgenomen in bijlage II bij dit besluit.’ Het BPR heeft op 26 februari 2015 toestemming verleend voor het verstrekken van gegevens. Uit bijlage 1 van het besluit blijkt duidelijk dat het om daders gaat. Of het ook gaat om verdachten maakt het besluit niet duidelijk. ‘Het Nederlands Studiecentrum Criminaliteit en Rechtshandhaving is recentelijk begonnen aan een meerjarig onderzoeksproject naar de plegers van cybercrime.’

Bij navraag blijkt dat het onderzoek ook gericht is op daders: “Voor dit onderzoek zijn zowel personen benaderd die ooit verdacht zijn geweest van het plegen van een online delict als personen die ooit verdacht zijn geweest van het plegen van een offline delict.”

 

Als een van de respondenten de onderzoekers van het NSCR benaderd, wordt gesteld dat ook slachtoffers benaderd zijn. Het BPR maakt echter helemaal geen melding van slachtoffers in het besluit. Er is dus geen toestemming verleend voor het verkrijgen van gegevens over slachtoffers van cybercriminaliteit. Slachtoffers zijn dus niet benaderd. Bijlage 1 stelt dat het bij ‘centraal doel/probleemstelling van het onderzoek’ gaat om ‘het zicht krijgen op (verschillende typen) cybercriminelen, hoog-risico groepen te identificeren en effectievere en beter gerichte interventies en sancties ontwikkelen.’ De onderzoekers schrijven in een email bericht met vragen over het onderzoek dat zij “niet alleen geïnteresseerd zijn in offline en online daderschap, maar ook in de vraag of deze mensen wel eens slachtoffer worden. Vandaar de keuze voor deze meer algemene naam en beschrijving.”

 

Daders en verdachten

 

Het onderzoek is duidelijk gericht op daders en verdachten van cybercriminaliteit. De medewerkers van het NSCR stellen dat het onderzoek dat uitgevoerd wordt op basis van de gegevensverstrekking uit de BRP zich richt op ‘bekende plegers van cybercriminaliteit (op basis van door het Openbaar Ministerie aan ons verschafte verdachten-registraties).’

 

Er is een selectie gemaakt bestaande uit 1.050 verdachten van cybercrime-delicten en 1.050 verdachten van overige delicten, in totaal 2.100 personen. ‘Zij worden bevraagd over hun achtergronden, motieven, persoonlijkheid en sociale netwerken.’ De steekproef is volgens de medewerkster van het OM uitgevoerd middels een ‘abstractie van registers’. Daarvoor zijn twee selectiecriteria gebruikt. Een daarvan houdt in dat de pleger zijn delict in de periode tussen 2000 en 2014 moet hebben gepleegd. Het lijkt dus te gaan om mensen die veroordeeld zijn, maar een medewerkster gaf ook dat het ook om verdachten gaat.

 

De vragenlijst voor de respondenten is opmerkelijk omdat het vragen oproept waarvoor de verstrekte antwoorden zullen worden gebruikt. De respondenten worden uitgedaagd om hun kunde te tonen en er worden technische vragen gesteld. Een van de respondenten heeft de indruk dat de onderzoekers de respondenten proberen te stimuleren om zich te bewijzen om aan een van de stereotyperingen van cybercriminelen te voldoen.

 

In het onderzoek wordt om zeer specifieke daderkennis gevraagd, maar daarnaast ook kennis die voor opsporingsdiensten van groot belang kan zijn, zoals bijnamen van kennissen, delicten die recent zijn begaan en de contacten van de respondent. Het wordt duidelijk dat de vragen zijn gericht op wat het onderzoek zegt te te bestuderen: ‘de typische persoonlijkheidskenmerken van cybercriminelen, hun sociale (criminele) netwerken, hun primaire motivaties en hun criminele carrière.’ De onderzoekers stellen in de bijlage van het BPR besluit dat het onderzoek zich richt op de gelijkenis tussen ‘cybercriminelen’ en ‘criminelen uit de offline wereld’, hun persoonlijkheid en of ‘ze deel uit maken van criminele organisaties.’

 

Wetenschappelijk onderzoek is noodzakelijk, maar waarom wordt de respondenten niet verteld dat het in dit geval niet over computers, internet en veiligheid gaat? Het onderzoek lijkt onafhankelijk, maar er is op allerlei fronten samenwerking met het openbaar ministerie en de respondenten wordt dat niet gemeld. Het is duidelijk dat de onderzoekers bang zijn dat als de geadresseerden dat weten ze niet meedoen. De respondenten worden dus als een soort geblinddoekt proefdier behandeld voor een onderzoek dat niet het echte onderzoek is wat uitgevoerd wordt.  Waarom wordt de  werkelijke naam van het onderzoek niet aan de geadresseerden gegeven? Waarom wordt de bijlage van het besluit van Agentschap BPR niet aan de geselecteerden toegestuurd? Waarom staat in de aanvraag bij BPR niet de naam van het NL-ONLINE-OFFLINE onderzoek?

 

In antwoord op vragen over het onderzoek, wordt geen antwoord gegeven op de vraag waarom niet de werkelijke naam van het onderzoek aan de proefpersonen is vermeld. Wel schrijven de onderzoekers: “In de brief vermelden wij expliciet niet dat er in dit onderzoek personen zijn aangeschreven die ooit verdacht zijn geweest van een strafbaar feit. De reden hiervoor betreft het waarborgen van de privacy omdat het altijd mogelijk is dat iemand anders dan de aangeschreven persoon de brief open maakt.”

 

De onderzoekers stellen dat zij: “Bij al onze onderzoeken hanteren wij een uitgebreide en zorgvuldige toetsingsprocedure voordat deze worden uitgevoerd. Hierbij wordt de opzet van het onderzoek en de benaderingswijze van de respondenten getoetst door zowel het College van Procureurs Generaal van het Openbaar Ministerie en tevens voorgelegd aan de commissie Ethiek Rechtswetenschappelijk & Criminologisch Onderzoek van de Rechtenfaculteit van de Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Daarnaast wordt er een melding gedaan bij het College Bescherming Persoonsgegevens. In deze procedure wordt de meest zorgvuldige benaderingsmethode bepaald. Dit is ook gebeurd voor het NL-ONLINE-OFFLINE onderzoek.”

 

Middels de Wet Openbaarheid van Bestuur zijn bij het ministerie van Veiligheid en Justitie en het College van Procureurs Generaal stukken opgevraagd over het NL-ONLINE-OFFLINE onderzoek. Beide bestuursorganen stellen dat zij geen stukken met betrekking tot dit onderzoek hebben. In een presentatie over het onderzoek ‘Cyber Crime Offender Profiling (CyberCOP): the human factor examined’ worden de volgende partners van VU en NSCR genoemd: “Team High Tech Crime, Nationale Politie Landelijk Parket, Openbaar Ministerie en Reclassering Nederland.”

 

Vermanende woorden

 

NL-ONLINE-OFFLINE is een profielonderzoek van de overheid over cybercriminelen. Het heet geen NL-ONLINE-OFFLINE maar ‘Cyber Crime Offender Profiling (CyberCOP): the human factor examined.‘ Hierbij gaat het vooral om mogelijke interventies en sancties. Aan het einde van de enquête wordt het de respondenten nog eens benadrukt hoe belangrijk het wel niet is dat zij de vragen serieus hebben ingevuld. Hiervoor wordt hen een vraag voorgelegd om te controleren of ze wel écht de vragen goed hebben gelezen en beantwoord. Want als dat niet het geval is, lopen zij de beloning van 50 euro mis.

 

Na deze vermanende woorden wordt de respondent het volgende voorgelegd: ‘Voor wetenschappelijk onderzoek is het relevant om de gegevens die u zojuist heeft verstrekt te koppelen aan gegevens die over u bekend zijn in lokale of landelijke registers (zoals het Sociaal Statistisch Bestand en het Justitieel Documentatie Systeem). Dit zal alleen gebeuren als u hiervoor toestemming geeft. Uiteraard zullen ook die gegevens uitsluitend worden gebruikt voor wetenschappelijke doeleinden en volstrekt vertrouwelijk behandeld, anoniem verwerkt en veilig bewaard worden.’

 

Nu hebben de onderzoekers in Bijlage 1 van het besluit van het Agentschap BPR aangegeven dat ‘de gegevens uit de BRP worden gebruikt om een vragenlijst op te sturen naar de persoon.’ Er wordt tevens vermeld dat ‘op geen enkel moment tijdens het onderzoek een persoon herleidbaar wordt gerapporteerd.’ Dit zal mogelijk betrekking hebben op het doorgeven van mogelijke strafbare feiten die de respondenten in de enquête hebben ingevuld.

 

Er wordt in de bijlage echter niet vermeld dat de verstrekte gegevens van de ondervraagde worden gekoppeld aan de data van justitie: ‘koppelen aan gegevens die over u bekend zijn in lokale of landelijke registers.’ In principe hoeft dat natuurlijk niet omdat die gegevens niet in het bezit zijn van het Agentschap BPR, maar het roept wel vragen op over de mate van ‘eerlijkheid’ van de onderzoekers en het openbaar ministerie.

 

Volgens de onderzoekers wordt “geen van de verzamelde gegevens gedeeld met derden, ook niet met het OM. Er zal nooit zonder expliciete toestemming van de respondent koppeling plaatsvinden met data van het OM. Het OM heeft ons enkel geholpen met het verzenden van de brieven. Het OM en het BPR helpen echter niet alleen bij de mailing aan de proefpersonen, ook bij het koppelen aan ‘gegevens die over u bekend zijn in lokale of landelijke registers (zoals het Sociaal Statistisch Bestand en het Justitieel Documentatie Systeem)’. Dit zou anoniem zijn, maar dat kan niet bij koppeling aan die bestanden, daarnaast krijgt iedere proefpersoon een persoonlijke deelnamecode, die maar een keer is te gebruiken.

 

Lok-onderzoek?

 

Het VU/NSCR-onderzoek is gericht op cyber profiling. Daarvoor worden personen benaderd die zelf niet weten dat ze benaderd zijn als veroordeelde of verdachte. Zij krijgen een vragenlijst voorgelegd waarmee ze uit de tent worden gelokt om daderkennis te presenteren. Maar dat niet alleen, ook info over mogelijke mededaders en andere gegevens over strafbare feiten waarvoor zij veroordeeld zijn, en/of mogelijke strafbare feiten die zij recentelijk zouden hebben gepleegd en waarvoor zij niet veroordeeld zijn. Dit laatste over de connecties van de respondent is natuurlijk gericht op het in kaart brengen van criminele netwerken.

 

Verdachten worden ook op deze wijze benaderd, dus het zou net zo goed een lok-onderzoek kunnen zijn. Vraag is of de respondenten op hun rechten ten aanzien van de gegevens die zij mogelijk prijsgeven, zijn gewezen? Waarom spelen de onderzoekers geen open kaart omtrent het werkelijke doel van het onderzoek? Vanwaar die omslachtigheid en vaagheid? Is dit een wetenschappelijk onderzoek waarbij geënquêteerden worden ingelicht over de ware doelstelling, of is hier soms sprake van een phishing expeditie van een instituut dat gefinancierd wordt door het Ministerie van Veiligheid en Justitie en direct samenwerkt met het OM? Probeert het openbaar ministerie via een onderzoek het zwijgrecht te ondermijnen of te omzeilen?

 

Respondenten zijn reeds strafrechtelijk vervolgd of niet verdachten meer omdat er geen bewijs werd gevonden voor hun schuld. Toch worden zij verleid om aan te geven met wie, waar, wanneer en waarom zij mogelijke strafbare feiten hebben begaan. Los van het profiling en phishing gedeelte van het onderzoek, roept de aanpak vragen op over de wetenschappelijke verantwoording ervan. Want welke serieuze data levert het op om de stoere veroordeelde en/of verdachte cyber criminelen uit de tent te lokken om hun kunde te tonen en met wie ze contact hebben. Het enige waar het onderzoek op gericht lijkt te zijn is de bevestiging van bestaande stereotypering over de cyber criminelen. Dat is zowel voor de wetenschap als voor de opsporing weinig vruchtbaar.

 

 

Buro Jansen & Janssen, augustus 2015

 

 

Brief aan respondenten

http://respubca.home.xs4all.nl/pdf/briefvanvunscraanproefpersonen.pdf

 

besluit agentschap BPR

http://respubca.home.xs4all.nl/pdf/besluitBPRinzakeonderzoek.pdf

Welkomstekst bij onderzoek NL-Online-Offline

http://respubca.home.xs4all.nl/pdf/Welkomnlonlineoffline.pdf

 

presentatie over het onderzoek Cyber Crime Offender Profiling (CyberCOP): the human factor examined

http://respubca.home.xs4all.nl/pdf/NWOCyberCrimemetTeamHighTechCrimeetc.pdf

 

Police from several UK forces seek details of Charlie Hebdo readers

Newsagents in three counties questioned about sales of the French magazine’s special issue

Several British police forces have questioned newsagents in an attempt to monitor sales of a special edition of Charlie Hebdo magazine following the Paris attacks, the Guardian has learned.

Officers in Wiltshire, Wales and Cheshire have approached retailers of the magazine, it has emerged, as concerns grew about why police were attempting to trace UK-based readers of the French satirical magazine.

Wiltshire police apologised on Monday after admitting that one of its officers had asked a newsagent to hand over the names of readers who bought a special “survivors’ issue” of the magazine published after its top staff were massacred in Paris last month.

UK police force apologises for taking details of Charlie Hebdo readers
Read more
The case in Corsham, Wiltshire, was thought to be an isolated incident but it has since emerged that Cheshire constabulary and Dyfed-Powys police have also approached newsagents over the sale of Charlie Hebdo.

In at least two cases – in Wiltshire and in Presteigne, Wales – officers have requested that newsagents hand over the names of customers who bought the magazine.

“This is so ridiculous as to be almost laughable. And it would be funny if it didn’t reflect a more general worrying increase in abuse of police powers in invading privacy and stifling free speech in Britain,” said Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive of free expression campaign group Index on Censorship.

“Does possessing a legally published satirical magazine make people criminal suspects now? If so, I better confess that I too have a copy of Charlie Hebdo.”

Paul Merrett, 57, the owner of a newsagent in Presteigne, Wales, said a detective and a police community support officer from Dyfed-Powys police spent half an hour asking his wife Deborah, 53, about the magazine.

“They wanted to know about Charlie Hebdo. They came in unannounced and we had customers,” he said. “There were questions asking where we got the Charlie Hebdo copies from, did we know who we sold them to – which we didn’t say. We were a bit bemused because it was out of the blue.”

“My wife said, ‘Am I in trouble?’ because she thought she was in trouble for selling them. They said, ‘No, you’re not in trouble’ but just continued with their questioning for half an hour.”

Merrett added: “It was all about Charlie Hebdo. I guess they wanted names and addresses of people we sold them to, which we didn’t tell them anything like that. We sold 30 copies.

“My wife was a bit worried with the questioning but she certainly wouldn’t have given any names to the police. I’m shocked they asked. They wanted to know where we got the copies from, how did we let the customers know that we had them.”

A Dyfed-Powys police spokeswoman declined to say why officers sought the names of Charlie Hebdo readers but said: “Following the recent terrorism incidents, Dyfed Powys police have been undertaking an assessment of community tensions across the force area.

“Visits were made to newsagents who were maybe distributing the Charlie Hebdo magazine to encourage the newsagent owners to be vigilant. We can confirm the visits were only made to enhance public safety and to provide community reassurance.”

In Warrington, Cheshire, a police officer telephoned a newsagent that had ordered one issue of the magazine for a customer, who asked to remain anonymous. She said: “My husband ordered a copy of the special edition of Charlie Hebdo from our local newsagent in North Cheshire.

“Several days later the latter had a phone call from the police, saying they’d been told that he had been selling and advertising Charlie Hebdo in his shop. He replied that this was untrue: he had supplied in total one copy, concealed, to a customer who was a French lecturer. I find the police action quite disturbing.”

Charlie Hebdo buyers attract police interest
Letter: A member of Her Majesty’s police service visited the newsagent, requesting the names of the four customers who had purchased Charlie Hebdo
Read more
DCI Paul Taylor, of Cheshire constabulary, said he was not aware of any officer contacting newsagents by telephone but added: “We were aware of the potential for heightened tensions following the attacks in Paris. Therefore where it was felt appropriate officers visited newsagents to provide reassurance advice around the time of its publication.”

In a later statement, a Cheshire police spokeswoman said: “Officers were asked to call into local newsagents in their area to provide visible reassurance around the time of publication and were not asked under any circumstances to make inquiries as to who was purchasing or preordering the Charlie Hebdo magazine. Each area endeavoured to visit as many newsagents as possible however we cannot provide an exact figure.”

The MP and former Conservative shadow home secretary David Davis said he thought the police action was more “stupid than sinister” but disquieting nonetheless.

“Quite what they think they’re doing and why they are wasting police time tracking down individual readers of Charlie Hebdo, really makes you wonder what sort of counter-terrorism and security policy those police forces are pursuing.

“It also has to be said that when police forces check up on what you are reading it’s unsettling in a democracy. I’m quite sure it’s not intentionally so, but it is unsettling and not something you should do lightly.”

The Metropolitan police said they were unaware of any such investigations by their officers in London.

A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said there had been no national guidance issued to forces about approaching newsagents that stocked copies of Charlie Hebdo.

However, counter-terrorism officers are known to have shared intelligence nationally following an assessment of potentially vulnerable communities after 17 people were killed in three days of violence in Paris.

The attacks began with two gunmen bursting into Charlie Hebdo’s Paris offices and opening fire in revenge for its publication of satirical images of the prophet.

In the UK, counter-terrorism officers have stepped up protection of police officers and the Jewish community over concerns that they may be targeted by Islamist militants.

Five million copies of the magazine – which has a usual print run of around 60,000 – were published in a special edition, with about 2,000 of them reportedly distributed in the UK.

Josh Halliday and Shiv Malik
Tuesday 10 February 2015 19.03 GMT Last modified on Wednesday 11 February 2015 12.09 GMT

Find this story at 10 February 2015

© 2015 Guardian News

Occupyer benaderd door de RID

Tijdens een actiekamp van Occupy Ede in 2012 werd een jongeman aangehouden door de politie omdat hij boetes had openstaan. In de cel kreeg hij bezoek van een RID’er die hem vergeefs gepolst heeft om informant te worden.

De 25-jarige ‘Sjoerd’ sprak met Buro Jansen & Janssen over zijn ervaringen met de politie en een man van een inlichtingendienst die hem lastig vielen in de weken voorafgaande en op de dag van de kroning van Willem-Alexander. De uitwerking daarvan lees je in het artikel ‘Inlichtingendienst intimideert anti-monarchist’, zie elders in deze nieuwsbrief.

Tijdens onze gesprekken met Sjoerd vertelde hij terloops over een benadering door ene Greet. Dat zat zo. Sjoerd deed mee aan Occupy Ede, een kleine groep mensen die in de stad in de Gelderse vallei de wereld wilde verbeteren. Een stad die vooral in het nieuws komt als er iets met Marokkaanse Nederlanders aan de hand is, verders een doorsnee Gelderse gemeente. Occupy Ede haalde zelfs in 2012 de landelijke media.

Na het langdurig kamperen in Occupy-tenten werd Sjoerd in de laatste dagen van het protest aangehouden. Hij had nog twee boetes openstaan en de politie dacht dat Sjoerd zou zijn gevlogen als ze hem niet voor het einde van de actie zouden oppakken. Sjoerd was een bekende van de politie. Hij kraakt al vijf jaar en veel deelnemers aan Occupy waren bekend bij de sterke arm. Uit lopend onderzoek van J&J blijkt dat de politie Occupy scherp in de gaten hield en zicht probeerde te houden op de personen die aan de actie deelnamen.

Greet zonder achternaam

Nadat Sjoerd in de cel was beland, kreeg hij bezoek. Een dame die zich introduceerde als ‘Greet’ zonder achternaam wilde hem het een en ander vragen, het was beslist geen verhoor, zo benadrukte zij. Ze nam Sjoerd mee naar ‘achteren’ en zei dat ze al langer geïnteresseerd was in Occupy, ze wilde graag met hem daarover praten. Sjoerd had Greet nooit eerder gezien. Zij bood hem thee en koffie aan en hij kreeg er ook nog koekjes bij. Sjoerd wilde graag een sigaret roken, dat zou ze proberen te regelen.

Uiteindelijk draaide het gesprek van de RID’er Greet uit op een benadering. “Zij vroeg mij of ik de verklikker wilde uithangen voor de politie”, vertelt Sjoerd. Volgens Greet was Sjoerd bekend met demonstraties in de regio Gelderland vanwege zijn betrokkenheid bij Occupy Ede en kraakacties. Greet wilde heel graag dat Sjoerd zou toehappen. Ze zei dat zij in ruil voor informatie wel kaarten voor feesten voor hem kon regelen, ze had het over een beloning tussen de 50 en de 100 euro.

Greet had het gevoel dat Sjoerd misschien wel rijp was om naar de politie over te lopen. Hij leek zich namelijk af te zetten tegen Occupy die hij een ‘stel doelloze hippies’ noemde. Ook over krakers was hij niet bijster positief. ‘Die zouden zich eens een keer moeten douchen’, vertelde hij aan Greet. Sjoerd bracht het allemaal nogal serieus en niet op een lacherige manier, al bedoelde hij het vooral als practical jokes.

Greet dacht dat Sjoerd de juiste persoon was om politie-informant te worden. Ze kon hem dan wel geen strafvermindering verlenen en aan een sigaret helpen, maar indirect stelde zij hem geld in het vooruitzicht voor het verklikken, aldus Sjoerd. Hij kreeg na afloop van het onderhoud het mobiele nummer van Greet overhandigd en werd enkele dagen later vrijgelaten.

Bij thuiskomt vertelde hij zijn ervaringen aan zijn vriendin Rosa, die enthousiast werd. Ze antwoordde dat zij het wel cool zou vinden om samen met haar vriend af te spreken met een ‘echte spionne’. Sjoerd was minder enthousiast maar ging akkoord met het voorstel. Hij belde Greet en sprak met haar af bij een snackbar op station Ede-Wageningen. Toen Sjoerd met zijn vriendin drie weken na zijn celstraf op de afspraak met Greet verscheen, baalde de functionaris zichtbaar. Ze had erop gerekend om alleen met Sjoerd te kunnen praten.

Black Block

Het gesprek ontwikkelde zich ronduit bizar omdat Rosa niet echt aan het gesprek kon deelnemen. Immers, zij had nooit zelf gekraakt en ook niet deelgenomen aan Occupy. Zij kon echter wel goed boeren en begon een wedstrijd met Sjoerd in wie dat het hardst en het langst kon doen. Greet vond het vervelend dat het stel van de gehele situatie een grap maakte, maar waagde nog wel een poging. Ze begon over het ‘Black Block’ (in het zwart geklede gemaskerde autonomen, red.), of Sjoerd wilde doorgeven bij welke demonstraties het ‘Black Block’ aanwezig zou zijn, dat zou al een heleboel schelen. Ze bleek ook geïnteresseerd in namen en rugnummers van ‘Black Blockers’. Greet wilde daar zeker voor betalen, eventueel in natura in de vorm van een leuke party voor een bedrag tussen de 50 en de 100 euro.

Gaandeweg het gesprek vond Sjoerd het wel welletjes. Vanwege de meligheid en het ongemakkelijke gevoel over het verklikken, zag Sjoerd het helemaal niet meer zitten om met Greet verder te praten. Hij had het gevoel dat hij deelnam aan een gesprek waar hij eigenlijk niet thuishoorde. Greet bleef aanhouden, ze zei dat hij erover kon nadenken en dat hij haar altijd kon bellen als hij van gedachten zou veranderen. Sjoerd wilde zo snel mogelijk weg en maakte haar duidelijk dat hij absoluut niet met de politie wilde samenwerken.

In de weken daarna stuurde Sjoerd haar zo nu en dan een bericht als hij ’s avonds laat thuiskwam. Hij sms’te Greet dan ‘hoi’ en dan antwoordde zij met de vraag ‘zeg het eens?’ Heel diep ontwikkelde de communicatie zich verder niet. Sjoerd sloot het altijd af met ‘doei’ en na verloop van tijd hield hij op met communiceren met de spionne. “Ik heb sindsdien geen last meer gehad van Greet, maar haar nummers zijn 0628630364 en 0651331895, voor wie eens met haar wil communiceren over de politie en de regio Gelderland”, aldus Sjoerd. Achteraf denkt Sjoerd dat hij benaderd werd omdat hij in de cel zat en omdat hij regelmatig was geïnterviewd in kranten en op de lokale tv.

Buro Jansen & Janssen
25 maart 2015

Find this story at 25 March 2015

MI5 and Liberal party allegedly ‘covered up’ MP Cyril Smith’s four decades of abusing children

Police received at least 144 complaints by victims about late Liberal MP Sir Cyril, but MI5 and Special Branch put pressure on officers to drop investigations, new book claims

Politicians, police and M15 covered up former MP Sir Cyril Smith’s sexual abuse of vulnerable boys as young as eight for four decades, it has been claimed.
Police received at least 144 complaints by victims about the late Liberal MP Sir Cyril, but MI5 and Special Branch put pressure on officers to drop investigations, according to a new book.
The 29st MP for Rochdale was able to continue his abuse while the authorities blocked prosecutions, and the Liberal Party even put his name forward for a knighthood in 1988 in spite of the rumours of his activities circulating around Westminster, it has been alleged.
Former Liberal party leader David, now Lord Steel, nominated Sir Cyril for the honour despite knowing of the allegations about the MP, it was reported.
Lord Steel’s involvement only emerged in recent weeks after a Freedom of Information battle.
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The current Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg sent a celebratory message that was read out at Sir Cyril’s 80th birthday party, which said: “You were a beacon for our party in the ’70s and ’80s and continue to be an inspiration to the people of Rochdale.”
A new book, written by one of Sir Cyril’s successors as MP for the Lancashire constituency, Labour’s Simon Danczuk, also reveals that child porn was found in the late MP’s car but police were ordered to release him.
Sir Cyril, who died aged 82 in 2010, was arrested repeatedly for “acts of gross indecency with young lads” in public toilets but no action was taken, according to the book Smile for the Camera: the Double Life of Cyril Smith.
A member of the Liberal party, which later merged with the Social Democratic Party to become the Liberal Democrats, Sir Cyril was also a visitor to the notorious Elm Guest house in South-west London, which is now the focus of a Scotland Yard investigation into an alleged VIP paedophile ring, the Daily Mail reported.
Sir Cyril, who was MP for Rochdale between 1972 and 1992, was governor of almost 30 schools, and in the 1960s he helped to open Cambridge House children’s home, where he abused boys, often subjecting them to spurious medical examinations, according to the book.
But when police launched an investigation, a senior police officer intervened to stop it, it has been claimed.
The book, co-written by Matthew Baker, also claims that senior Labour figures’ support of the Paedophile Information Exchange helped keep Sir Cyril “hidden from scrutiny”.
It claims that police officers were threatened with dismissal and gagged by the Official Secrets Act if they tried to expose the Sir Cyril’s sexual abuse of boys.
Mr Danczuk, Rochdale MP since 2010, first raised Sir Cyril’s case in the House of Commons in 2012 after victims contacted him to tell of their ordeals.
Lord Steel was unavailable for comment. Last year, he said he had asked Cyril Smith about the allegations of child abuse and accepted his denial of wrongdoing, the Daily Mail reported.
A spokesman for Mr Clegg said: “Clearly he would never have paid tribute to Cyril Smith if he had had any idea about these horrible allegations.”
A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: “Cyril Smith’s acts were vile and repugnant and we have nothing but sympathy for those whose lives he ruined. His actions were not known to or condoned by anyone in the Liberal Party or the Liberal Democrats.”

By Melanie Hall11:22AM BST 12 Apr 2014

Find this story at 12 April 2014

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2014

Monstrous cover-up: How the Liberal party, police and MI5 concealed MP Cyril Smith’s industrial-scale child abuse

For four decades, 29st politician was free to prey on vulnerable children as young as eight
Police received at least 144 complaints from victims yet authorities blocked any prosecution
New book serialised in Daily Mail details how Smith – who died in 2010 aged 82 – was repeatedly protected despite being arrested for sex crimes
MI5 and Special Branch officers put pressure on police to drop investigations
Child porn was found in Smith’s car but police were ordered to release him
Liberal Party put his name forward for knighthood in 1988 in spite of rumours of his sordid activities swirling around Westminster

The shocking scale of the Establishment cover-up of former Liberal MP Cyril Smith’s sickening sex abuse of boys is revealed today

The shocking scale of the Establishment cover-up of former Liberal MP Cyril Smith’s sickening sex abuse of boys is revealed today
The shocking scale of the Establishment cover-up of former Liberal MP Cyril Smith’s sickening sex abuse of boys is revealed today.
For four decades, the depraved 29st politician was free to prey on vulnerable children as young as eight.
Police received at least 144 complaints by victims of the predatory paedophile yet the authorities blocked any prosecution – allowing Smith brazenly to continue his abuse.
The Liberal Party even put his name forward for a knighthood in 1988 in spite of the rumours of his sordid activities swirling around Westminster.
David, now Lord Steel nominated him for the honour despite knowing of the allegations about the bachelor MP for Rochdale, the ex-Liberal leader’s involvement emerging only in recent weeks after a Freedom of Information battle.
At Smith’s 80th birthday party, a gushing message from current Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was read out, which said: ‘You were a beacon for our party in the ’70s and ’80s and continue to be an inspiration to the people of Rochdale.’
Now, an explosive new book serialised in the Daily Mail details how Smith – who died in 2010 aged 82 – was repeatedly protected despite being arrested for a string of sex crimes.
Written by one of Smith’s successors as MP for the Lancashire constituency, Labour’s Simon Danczuk, the book reveals:
MI5 and Special Branch officers put pressure on police to drop investigations;
child porn was found in Smith’s car but police were ordered to release him;
he was repeatedly arrested for ‘acts of gross indecency with young lads’ in public toilets but no action was taken;
Smith was a visitor to the notorious Elm Guest house in South-west London, now the focus of a Scotland Yard investigation into an alleged VIP paedophile ring;
senior Labour figures’ support of the Paedophile Information Exchange helped keep Smith ‘hidden from scrutiny’.
In his book, Smile for the Camera: the Double Life of Cyril Smith, Mr Danczuk details Smith’s ‘rapacious sexual appetite’ and highlights chilling similarities between the northern MP and fellow paedophile Jimmy Savile.
For four decades, the depraved 29st politician (pictured above in 1972) was free to prey on vulnerable children as young as eight
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For four decades, the depraved 29st politician (pictured above in 1972) was free to prey on vulnerable children as young as eight
David, now Lord Steel (centre) nominated Smith for a knighthood despite knowing of the allegations about the bachelor MP for Rochdale, the ex-Liberal leader’s involvement emerging only in recent weeks after a Freedom of Information battle
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David, now Lord Steel (centre) nominated Smith for a knighthood despite knowing of the allegations about the bachelor MP for Rochdale, the ex-Liberal leader’s involvement emerging only in recent weeks after a Freedom of Information battle
Like the DJ, Smith – who in 1973 appeared on Savile’s Clunk Click TV show – portrayed himself as a charitable man supporting young boys to provide cover for his sordid activities.
But unlike in the Savile scandal, police forces around the country repeatedly investigated sex abuse allegations against Smith yet their efforts to prosecute the MP were constantly blocked.
The book details how police officers were threatened with dismissal and gagged by the Official Secrets Act if they attempted to expose the politician’s sordid activities.

More…
‘I’ve come to examine you’: From bogus medical examinations to punishment beatings, how paedophile Cyril Smith used his powerful public image to abuse boys
The truth about Labour apologists for paedophilia: Police probe child sex group linked to top party officials in wake of Savile
Knighted by Steel and eulogised by Clegg: Cyril Smith and the indelible shame of the Liberal Party
How Cyril Smith evaded the law: Sickening folly of the Left who aided his cause by advocating paedophilia
Mr Danczuk, Rochdale MP since 2010, first raised Smith’s case in the House of Commons in 2012 after victims contacted him to tell of their ordeals at the hands of the ‘29st bully’.
One young Liberal activist was sexually assaulted in Smith’s office in the House of Commons in the 1980s as other MPs, including then Labour leader Michael Foot, walked by.
Days later, the Crown Prosecution Service revealed that his victims’ claims were investigated by police on three separate occasion – in 1970, 1998 and 1999 – but each time files were submitted to prosecutors, they were rejected.
The Liberal Party, bruised by the negative publicity surrounding the 1979 conspiracy to murder trial of its leader Jeremy Thorpe (right) and aware of Smith’s ‘electoral Midas touch’, was eager to sweep the problems under the carpet
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The Liberal Party, bruised by the negative publicity surrounding the 1979 conspiracy to murder trial of its leader Jeremy Thorpe (right) and aware of Smith’s ‘electoral Midas touch’, was eager to sweep the problems under the carpet
The CPS belatedly agreed that Smith should have been prosecuted and Greater Manchester Police publicly acknowledged, amid ‘overwhelming evidence’, that he did sexually and physically abuse young boys.
The book, co-written by Matthew Baker, reveals that as far back as the 1950s, Rochdale police had their suspicions about the politician.
Smith, MP for Rochdale between 1972 and 1992, was governor of almost 30 schools. In the 1960s, he helped to open Cambridge House children’s home, where he abused boys, often subjecting them to spurious medical examinations.
But when police launched an investigation, the chief constable of Lancashire personally intervened to stop it.
In the 1970s Smith was arrested on a number of occasions in public toilets in London’s St James’s Park, a regular haunt for young male prostitutes after dark, but always walked free.
The cover-ups continued in the 1980s when Smith’s car was pulled over on the motorway near Northampton and traffic officers discovered child porn in the boot.
At Smith’s 80th birthday party, a gushing message from current Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was read out, which said: ‘You were a beacon for our party in the ’70s and ’80s and continue to be an inspiration to the people of Rochdale’
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Now, an explosive new book serialised in the Daily Mail details how Smith – who died in 2010 aged 82 – was repeatedly protected despite being arrested for a string of sex crimes
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At Cyril Smith’s 80th birthday party, a gushing message from current Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was read out, which said: ‘You were a beacon for our party in the ’70s and ’80s and continue to be an inspiration to the people of Rochdale’
‘The police were naturally disgusted and wanted to press charges,’ says the book. ‘But then a phone call was made from London and he was released without charge.’
When Rochdale police first started investigating him in 1972 they were threatened by the council’s Liberal leader and, according to Mr Danczuk’s book, rumours of his activities were well known in Westminster for many years.
But the Liberal Party, bruised by the negative publicity surrounding the 1979 conspiracy to murder trial of its leader Jeremy Thorpe and aware of Smith’s ‘electoral Midas touch,’ was eager to sweep the problems under the carpet .
David Steel, who took over from Mr Thorpe as party leader, even recommended Smith for his knighthood despite knowing of the sordid rumours that surfaced in 1979 that the MP had abused young boys.
The Cabinet Office had previously refused to disclose who had put Smith forward – claiming it would breach data protection rules – but the Information Commissioner’s Office ruled earlier this year that there was a ‘legitimate public interest’ in it being disclosed.
Lord Steel was unavailable for comment. Last year, he said he had asked Cyril Smith about the allegations of child abuse and accepted his denial of wrongdoing
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Lord Steel was unavailable for comment. Last year, he said he had asked Cyril Smith about the allegations of child abuse and accepted his denial of wrongdoing
Lord Steel was unavailable for comment. Last year, he said he had asked Cyril Smith about the allegations of child abuse and accepted his denial of wrongdoing.
A spokesman for Mr Clegg said last night: ‘Clearly he would never have paid tribute to Cyril Smith if he had had any idea about these horrible allegations.’
The book also describes how Labour politicians’ support for a notorious paedophile group that campaigned to legalise sex with children helped Smith evade justice for years.
Earlier this year the Mail revealed the extraordinary links between the National Council for Civil Liberties and the Paedophile Information Exchange.
Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman, her MP husband Jack Dromey, and former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt held key roles in the NCCL, which in 1975 granted ‘affiliate’ status to the group of predatory paedophiles.
Smith was friends with PIE founding member Peter Righton and Mr Danczuk said the NCCL’s backing for PIE helped Smith’s crimes remain secret.
‘Worryingly, it seemed a fair few on the Left, including some who have subsequently become key figures in the Labour Party, were fooled into giving this hideous group shelter.
‘All of which helped Cyril’s cause and kept him hidden from scrutiny.’
Smith was a visitor to Elm Guest House, in Barnes, south west London, which is at the centre of the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Fernbridge.
A Liberal Democrat spokesman said: ‘Cyril Smith’s acts were vile and repugnant and we have nothing but sympathy for those whose lives he ruined. His actions were not known to or condoned by anyone in the Liberal Party or the Liberal Democrats.’

‘I’ve come to examine you’: From bogus medical examinations to punishment beatings, how paedophile Cyril Smith used his powerful public image to abuse boys
By SIMON DANCZUK
The huge man, all of 29st, unlocked the door with his own key and burst into the teenager’s room.
‘Take your clothes off,’ he ordered the orphaned youngster, who was sick with the flu and had taken to his bed in the hostel instead of going to work.
‘I’ve been told you’re ill and I’ve come to examine you,’ the man declared. Yet this was no doctor, but a councillor and businessman, a respected and well-known figure in the local community.
Just like Jimmy Savile – whom he counted as a friend – Cyril Smith used his public image as a shield while manipulating his way into positions of influence over vulnerable young people he then ruthlessly abused. Above, Smith (bottom left) with children outside the House of Commons
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Just like Jimmy Savile – whom he counted as a friend – Cyril Smith used his public image as a shield while manipulating his way into positions of influence over vulnerable young people he then ruthlessly abused. Above, Smith (bottom left) with children outside the House of Commons
‘He was a colossus, more than three times my size,’ the lad recalled years later, in graphic and disturbing testimony. ‘I remember his eyes watching me like a beast sizing up its prey. In the folds of fat around his neck I could see rivulets of sweat.
‘Shaking with fear, I did as I was told. He bent down and clasped me with huge hands like shovels.
Suddenly he grasped my private parts and began to squeeze. I screamed.
‘Violence flashed in his eyes. “Now, now, lad. I’ll have none of your petulance. This is for your own good. I’m checking to see if there’s anything wrong with you,” he said, as he forced his way between my thighs again.
‘I don’t know how long it lasted, but it felt like hours.
‘When he rose there was a faint smile on his features, which twisted into a sneer as he said: “There’s nothing wrong with you, lad. You’re swinging the lead, trying to bunk off work.”
‘ “No,” I stammered. “I’ve never had a day off in my life. I’m sick.”
‘He lunged towards me and in one brutal movement threw me over his knee. Thwack, thwack, thwack.
‘His monstrous hand rained down on my bottom, smacking me until I thought I’d pass out. I cried out in pain, but that only made him hit me harder.
‘When he finished I was trembling and whimpering as he held me down and told me: “It had to be done, lad.”
‘Above his heavy breathing I could smell his rancid body odour. With a wet sponge, he then began to stroke me, rough hands sliding over the welts he had made.
‘He was humming to himself, broken every now and then by strange squeals of pleasure. “There, there,” he kept whispering, his breath bearing down on my neck.
‘When it was over he let me slide to the floor, cleared his throat and adjusted his braces. He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and mopped his brow.
‘ “You’ll know better now,” he said, and made his way out.
‘The door clicked shut. For a while the only thought I entertained was death.’
When he calmed down, the shattered youngster pulled his wits together.
‘I dragged my clothes on, gathered my things into a duffle bag and ran. I spent the next night huddled in a bus shelter,’ he said.
‘That winter of 1963 was the coldest in 200 years. But that was nothing compared to the chill left in me for the rest of my life.’
The sadistic bully who administered this beating at Cambridge House, a boys’ hostel in the Lancashire mill town of Rochdale — and in the process tainted this bright young man’s life — was Cyril Smith.
Smith posed as a tireless worker for children – at one point he was governor of 29 local schools and set up a youth charity, Rochdale Childer – using it all as a cover to prowl from classroom to classroom and youth club to youth club
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Smith posed as a tireless worker for children – at one point he was governor of 29 local schools and set up a youth charity, Rochdale Childer – using it all as a cover to prowl from classroom to classroom and youth club to youth club
In 1963, he was already an enormously powerful local figure, a political godfather with fingers in many pies.
Known as Mr Rochdale, he later became the town’s mayor, then its Liberal MP, and for 20 years strutted the national stage.
At Westminster, on television and in the media, Smith was a big man in every sense.
He was one of the most popular faces in politics, using his oversized appearance, humour and in-your‑face northern bluffness to stand out in a world of grey, indistinguishable politicians.
But just like Jimmy Savile — whom he counted as a friend — Smith used his public image as a shield while manipulating his way into positions of influence over vulnerable young people he then ruthlessly abused.
And, like Savile, he deployed his professional success, powerful personality and highly placed contacts to ensure he was never held to account. It was only after his death in 2010 at the age of 82 that men like that victim from Cambridge House felt safe to speak out.
Yet Cyril Smith’s dark side has always been talked about in Rochdale — and the whispers echoed through British politics.
One of the most shocking elements of his story is how the truth was known to the police and in Westminster, yet concealed from the wider public, allowing a paedophile to hide in Parliament.
When I first arrived in Rochdale as its prospective Labour candidate in 2007, I, too, was taken in by him. It was 15 years since he’d stood down as MP but he continued to cast a spell over the town.
Case studies
I’d be woken at 2am by people asking for urgent help on a problem. When I pointed out it was the middle of the night, I’d be told: ‘Cyril would always help us whatever time it was.’
A working-class boy made good, he oozed supreme confidence and had a common touch that broke down barriers, shuffling around Rochdale market in carpet slippers to buy a bag of tripe.
Although he was officially ‘retired’ from politics, he still sat in an armchair on street corners, smiling like some saintly monk while people queued to hear his homilies. Councillors couldn’t get elected without his backing.
At first, I respected him for his homespun politics, his spit-and-sawdust grit and his passion. But in time, the scales fell from my eyes and I was confronted with absolute horror. Once you looked beyond the jolly clown playing for the camera, there was a sickening, dark heart.
‘He’d grope all the boys as he gave out awards’
I saw it in police files that had been hidden for years and I heard it in the desperate voices of grown men Cyril had abused as boys.
As soon as the first victim approached me, there was no turning back. Every email, every phone call, every meeting uncovered more about his double life.
And the more I found out, the more I came to realise that this wasn’t just about abuse, it was about power — and a cover-up that reached from Rochdale all the way to the very top of the Establishment.
Smith posed as a tireless worker for children — at one point he was governor of 29 local schools and set up a youth charity, Rochdale Childer — using it all as a cover to prowl from classroom to classroom and youth club to youth club.
His happiest hunting grounds were Cambridge House, a hostel for ‘working boys’ he helped set up with other politicians, and Knowl View, a residential school for children with learning difficulties, where he was a governor and had his own set of keys, coming and going at will.
To sit before the men he abused there and listen to them recount their ordeals is an experience no one can prepare for. There is anger, confusion and a deep sense of shame as they recall violence, spanking and groping that will never be erased from their memories.
His happiest hunting grounds were Cambridge House, a hostel for ‘working boys’ he helped set up with other politicians, and Knowl View (above), a residential school for children with learning difficulties, where he was a governor and had his own set of keys, coming and going at will
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His happiest hunting grounds were Cambridge House, a hostel for ‘working boys’ he helped set up with other politicians, and Knowl View (above), a residential school for children with learning difficulties, where he was a governor and had his own set of keys, coming and going at will
Smith would carry out bogus medical examinations as an excuse to fondle them, or beat them as supposed punishment for breaking the rules — then ‘comfort’ them afterwards.
Those who defied him were hit and smashed against walls. Boys’ teeth were knocked out and their bodies treated like playthings.
Other details of Cyril’s abuse filtered through to me almost casually. The cleaner in my office mentioned in passing how he once played for a football team as a teenager and Smith presented the awards every year.
‘He’d grope all the boys as he was presenting their medals,’ I was told. ‘We complained to the coach, but he said we’d have to put up with it because Cyril was the sponsor and paid for the do.’
I listened, horrified. It was presented as just another everyday story of Cyril abusing boys — as if everyone knew.
I began to wonder how many other public figures over the years had received calls and letters about Cyril and not acted on them. I imagine there were a few.
‘I cried out but it only made him hit me harder’

Certainly, when I started to ask questions after getting elected, a fellow Labour MP approached me and told me to leave Cyril alone. ‘Don’t attack him, steer clear of him,’ he said. ‘It’s not worth it.’
It wasn’t just the words that irritated me, it was the look that followed. It more or less said: ‘Play the game, this is how it works, and if you want to join our club then obey our rules.’
One of the most troubling whispers that repeatedly reached me was that Cyril had been protected by MI5. But, initially at least, no one was prepared to go on the record about it.
A former Labour MP I approached started to talk but went silent after a few sentences. ‘No good will come of this,’ he said nervously. ‘It’s best left.’ And then he shut the door on me.
A former police officer I tracked down to his pub in Cheshire went white when I mentioned Cyril’s name. ‘I can’t talk about that time,’ he said, and again the door was closed.
It was hard not to conclude that powerful forces were still at work to protect Smith’s name. But the voices of the victims could not be silenced, and in the autumn of 2012, in Parliament, I named Cyril as an abuser.
After I spoke publicly, more stories flooded in, and not just from victims.
Many — as I will describe in detail in the coming days of this series — were from police officers saying Smith’s crimes were widely known to them but their superiors refused to act.
I was told of officers who found child pornography in the boot of Smith’s car, only for a mysterious call from London to tell them not to charge him.
It’s now known that on three separate occasions files were passed by Lancashire Police to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Crown Prosecution Service containing details of Smith’s abuse. Yet on each occasion no prosecution was pursued. It is as though Cyril was untouchable
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It’s now known that on three separate occasions files were passed by Lancashire Police to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Crown Prosecution Service containing details of Smith’s abuse. Yet on each occasion no prosecution was pursued. It is as though Cyril was untouchable
I was told how Smith’s case was used during police training on child abuse, with one instructor admitting there had been 144 complaints against him. Mysteriously, when this became known to her superiors, the instructor was silenced and moved to another job.
I was told how Smith was repeatedly detained for acts of gross indecency in toilets in St James’s Park, London, only for orders to discontinue inquiries in each case.
And I was told how, when other inquiries were completed and revealed compelling and disturbing evidence that Smith was a serial paedophile, they were ignored.
It’s now known that on three separate occasions files were passed by Lancashire Police to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Crown Prosecution Service containing details of Smith’s abuse. Yet on each occasion no prosecution was pursued. It is as though Cyril was untouchable.
On one now notorious occasion, files of evidence on Smith held by Special Branch were removed by MI5 officers from the safe at police headquarters in Preston and taken to London. They were never seen again. This was just one of several cover-ups which I will reveal in detail later in this series.
Some will no doubt argue that things have changed. The cover-up of Cyril’s abuse was a long time ago. The values of the Seventies are a lot different to the standards expected in public life today. People wouldn’t stand for that now. Awareness of child abuse has improved tenfold. No one would tolerate this kind of behaviour among colleagues, surely?
I would like to believe this view, but all the signs I’ve seen suggest it’s not the case.
Cyril wasn’t the only abuser in Rochdale, and he was influential enough to ensure that other abusers were allowed to hang on to his coat-tails and carry on, undetected by the authorities.
The problem that the town has to face up to, I believe, is that paedophile gangs have been operating there for years.
A leaked report to the local health authority, by a council HIV prevention officer named Phil Shepherd, warned that men from as far away as Sheffield travelled to Rochdale to abuse boys at Knowl View School.
I will tell the full, horrifying story behind this report, and how it became public, later in this series.
But it instantly invites the questions: Who was organising this? Who knew what was happening? Who chose to remain silent?
A number of police officers have told me that Cyril was just the tip of the iceberg and, unfortunately, I expect more stories of his abuse to emerge.
I think in time we’ll hear that there were more abusers in Parliament, more terrible cover-ups.
And it won’t be just one political party that’s guilty of harbouring abusers.

Additional reporting: Matthew Baker.
By MICHAEL SEAMARK and GUY ADAMS and DANIEL MARTIN
PUBLISHED: 21:01 GMT, 11 April 2014 | UPDATED: 20:18 GMT, 12 April 2014

Find this story at 12 April 2014

© Associated Newspapers Ltd

Senior Liberals ‘were aware of Cyril Smith child abuse allegations’ (2013)

Lib Dem candidate Dominic Carman says concerns about late MP’s behaviour were rife within Liberal party in 1970s

Liberal party grandees including the former leader Jeremy Thorpe were aware of allegations that Cyril Smith was a serial abuser of boys throughout the 1970s but failed to launch a formal inquiry, according to a Liberal Democrat candidate who has passed his concerns on to the police.

Dominic Carman, who has represented Nick Clegg’s party in two parliamentary elections, claimed that his father, the barrister George Carman, learned that concerns about the late MP for Rochdale’s behaviour were rife within the party while successfully defending Thorpe in a trial for conspiracy to murder in 1979.

Father and son discussed Liberal concerns about Smith at length in May 1979 as Thorpe prepared to go to trial, Carman said, amid concerns that their disclosure could harm the former leader’s defence.

The claims, which have been passed on to Greater Manchester police, will add to widening concern at institutional responses to allegations of abuse against the MP, who died in 2010. Officers believe that Smith was a prolific abuser of boys and should have been charged with crimes more than 40 years ago, it emerged in November.

They will also increase pressure upon the Liberal Democrats as they are forced to confront allegations of sexual harassment against Lord Rennard, one of the party’s most senior figures. Rennard denies any wrongdoing. There is no suggestion he was aware of the claims about Smith.

The party announced an inquiry last week into how it has handled past complaints of sexual impropriety. Tim Farron, the party’s president, has admitted that the party has “screwed up” inquiries into claims that Rennard groped or propositioned female activists.

Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP who first raised concerns about Smith’s activities in parliament in November, said that there is a pattern whenever allegations of sexual abuse emerge inside the Liberal Democrats. “They bury their heads in the sand and claim to know nothing. For the sake of Rochdale victims, Clegg has to stop stonewalling and now come clean on what his party knew about the sexual abuse carried out by Cyril Smith,” he said.

The Thorpe trial gripped the nation in 1979, amid claims of illicit affairs, greed, murder and revenge.

Thorpe, who led the Liberal party for nine years, was accused of plotting the murder of his alleged former lover, Norman Scott, for threatening to uncover their alleged affair. It was claimed that Thorpe and others had hired a hitman to kill Scott, but that the hitman had shot dead Scott’s dog, Rinka, instead.

George Carman’s reputation as a fearsome counsel was cemented after he cross-examined Scott. His son, Dominic Carman, who stood for the Lib Dems in 2010 in Barking and again at the Barnsley byelection in 2011, said that he discussed the Smith allegations with his father in May 1979 as the trial was about to begin.

These discussions were, he claimed, prompted by the publication in the week before the trial of allegations that Smith had abused boys in a children’s hostel printed in the Rochdale Alternative Press, a small circulation local magazine.

Thorpe’s legal team was concerned that the magazine’s report might be followed up by a national newspaper and have a negative impact upon the trial, Carman said.

“My father was told by Thorpe that senior Liberals knew of the serious nature of the allegations against Smith and that they dated back many years. I approached the police in December with information,” Carman said. A spokesman for Greater Manchester police confirmed that an officer has spoken to Carman.

Thorpe was cleared of plotting to murder Scott but failed to regain his political career.

Another source who also claimed to have spoken to George Carman during the trial said that the barrister was concerned about the possible impact of further revelations in the Thorpe trial.

“The reason that it was a genuine fear was because there were so many allegations against Smith involving boys that one assumed there was no smoke without fire,” the source said.

Smith was named by Danczuk in November on the floor of the House of Commons as a serial abuser of boys. Victims of Smith claim he abused many young boys in a hostel and a school in the late 1960s and continued to abuse others into the 1980s.

Police first investigated the claims in 1968, but the Crown Prosecution Service concluded there was no case to answer.

In November, the Crown Prosecution Service re-examined their files but this time said that, if the same evidence was unearthed today, they would have prosecuted Smith.

Alan Collins, a solicitor who represents 11 men who claim they were abused by Smith, urged the Lib Dems to come clean about what it knew about Smith’s abuse of young boys.

“The fact is a group of sexual abuse victims were cheated of justice and the smell of cover-up hangs in the air and needs one way or the other to be dispersed,” he said.

Thorpe, 83, who has Parkinson’s disease, has been given a list of detailed questions asking what he knew of allegations surrounding Smith, but has not responded.

Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat chief whip, conducted an internal inquiry into what MPs knew about Smith’s abuse of young boys in December, and concluded that there was no case to answer.

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats said they would help police in any future inquiries into Smith: “We are a completely different party to the Liberals on 1979 – a different structure and different rules.”

Rajeev Syal
theguardian.com, Tuesday 26 February 2013 17.20 GMT

Find this story at 26 February 2013

© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Cyril Smith MP abused boys, Manchester police find (2012)

Police find ‘overwhelming evidence’ former Rochdale MP attacked vulnerable boys and CPS criticises 1970s decision not to prosecute

Police have acknowledged that the late MP Sir Cyril Smith repeatedly physically and sexually abused children at a Rochdale care home but escaped answering the allegations after prosecutors declined to put him on trial.

Smith, the Liberal and subsequently Liberal Democrat MP for the town, who died in 2010, was the subject of police investigations dating back to the 1960s.

In a statement, Greater Manchester Police said there was “overwhelming evidence” that he attacked boys, six at the Cambridge House children’s home in Rochdale, and two others.

Smith was secretary of the Rochdale Hostel for Boys Association, where he was accused of abusing vulnerable youngsters by spanking and touching them.

The announcement is the first official recognition that Smith went to his grave without answering for his alleged crimes.

In another statement, the Crown Prosecution Service said a decision not to prosecute made in 1970 by the then director of public prosecutions would not have been made today. The CPS said attitudes and the law had changed, but added that one factor that allowed Smith to escape trial was an assessment by the DPP in 1970 that “the characters of some of these young men would be likely to render their evidence suspect”.

The first investigation into Smith uncovered eight youths who alleged that Smith attacked them when they were teenagers, between 1961 and 1966. The descriptions of the attacks were similar and according to the CPS “were allegedly conducted on the pretexts of either a medical examination or punishment for misbehaviour”.

Greater Manchester police said: “The force is now publicly acknowledging that young boys were victims of physical and sexual abuse committed by Smith.”

The statements from police and the prosectors come ahead of new media revelations about Smith and the failure to prosecute him which were expected to surface on Wednesday.

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood said: “If the same evidence was presented to the CPS today, there would have been a very realistic prospect that Smith would have been charged with a number of indecent assaults, and that the case would have been brought to trial.

“Clearly that is a bold statement to make but it is absolutely important for those victims who were abused by Smith that we publicly acknowledge the suffering they endured. Although Smith cannot be charged or convicted posthumously, from the overwhelming evidence we have it is right and proper that we should publicly recognise that young boys were sexually and physically abused.”

Police would pursue allegations that Smith was helped to commit his attack by other people who are still alive, but as yet such claims have not surfaced.

In 1998 and 1999, Greater Manchester Police passed two separate files to the CPS about Smith’s activities at Cambridge House, but on both occasions no further action was recommended.

Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale, who first raised allegations against Smith on the floor of the House of Commons, said the CPS had serious questions to answer over its failure to act in the past.

A Liberal Democrat spokesman said: “These allegations are abhorrent and should be taken very seriously.

“Clearly the party does not endorse any person proved to have been in incidents such as these. All allegations should have been investigated thoroughly with the authorities taking whatever action necessary.

“Any new allegations should be made to the police. The Liberal Democrats are not aware of any allegations being made to the party, and have never been involved in any investigations.

“The alleged incidents and the reported police investigations took place outside of the time Cyril Smith was a Liberal MP.”

Vikram Dodd and Rajeev Syal
The Guardian, Tuesday 27 November 2012 20.16 GMT

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© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Cecily McMillan’s guilty verdict reveals our mass acceptance of police violence

The hyper-selective retelling of events mirrors the popular narrative of Occupy Wall Street – and how one woman may serve seven years while the NYPD goes free

The violence against Occupy protestors was widespread and well-photographed. So why is one non-violent protestor now convicted of police brutality? Photograph: Ramin Talaie / EPA
The verdict in the biggest Occupy related criminal case in New York City, that of Cecily McMillan, came down Monday afternoon. As disturbing as it is that she was found guilty of felony assault against Officer Grantley Bovell, the circumstances of her trial reflect an even more disturbing reality – that of normalized police violence, disproportionately punitive sentences (McMillan faces seven years in prison), and a criminal penal system based on anything but justice. While this is nothing new for the over-policed communities of New York City, what happened to McMillan reveals just how powerful and unrestrained a massive police force can be in fighting back against the very people with whom it is charged to protect.

McMillan was one of roughly 70 protesters arrested on March 17, 2012. She and hundreds of other activists, along with journalists like me, had gathered in Zuccotti Park to mark the six-month anniversary of the start of Occupy Wall Street. It was four months after the New York Police Department had evicted the Occupy encampment from the park in a mass of violent arrests.

When the police moved in to the park that night, in formation and with batons, to arrest a massive number of nonviolent protesters, the chaos was terrifying. Bovell claimed that McMillan elbowed him in the face as he attempted to arrest her, and McMillan and her defense team claim that Bovell grabbed her right breast from behind, causing her to instinctively react.

But the jury didn’t hear anything about the police violence that took place in Zuccotti Park that night. They didn’t hear about what happened there on November 15, 2011, when the park was first cleared. The violence experienced by Occupy protesters throughout its entirety was excluded from the courtroom. The narrative that the jury did hear was tightly controlled by what the judge allowed – and Judge Ronald Zweibel consistently ruled that any larger context of what was happening around McMillan at the time of the arrest (let alone Bovell’s own history of violence) was irrelevant to the scope of the trial.

MORE ON THE CECILY MCMILLAN VERDICT:

• Cecily McMillan and this homeless woman faced the same NYPD charge. Guess which one got a trial

• Juror speaks: ‘Most just wanted her to do probation, maybe some community service. But now what I’m hearing is seven years in jail? That’s ludicrous.

In the trial, physical evidence was considered suspect but the testimony of the police was cast as infallible. Despite photographs of her bruised body, including her right breast, the prosecution cast doubt upon McMillan’s allegations of being injured by the police – all while Officer Bovell repeatedly identified the wrong eye when testifying as to how McMillan injured him. And not only was Officer Bovell’s documented history of violent behavior deemed irrelevant by the judge, but so were the allegations of his violent behavior that very same night.

Maybe we should ask #CecilyMcMillan about her #myNYPD moment. http://t.co/zle2kOHvDf pic.twitter.com/lDVFsWhOZN

— Ⓐ ‏#GrumpyCuntSec Ⓐ (@brazenqueer) April 22, 2014
To the jury, the hundreds of police batons, helmets, fists, and flex cuffs out on March 17 were invisible – rendering McMillan’s elbow the most powerful weapon on display in Zuccotti that night, at least insofar as the jury was concerned.

That hyper-selective retelling of events to the jury mirrored the broader popular narrative of OWS. The breathtaking violence displayed by the NYPD throughout Occupy Wall Street has not only been normalized, but entirely justified – so much so that it doesn’t even bear mentioning.

After the police cleared the park that night, many of the remaining protesters went on a spontaneous march, during which a group of officers slammed a street medic’s head into a glass door so hard the glass splintered. It is the only instance of which I know throughout New York City’s Occupy movement where a window was broken.

Still, it is the protesters who are remembered as destructive and chaotic. It is Cecily McMillan who went on trial for assault but not Bovell or any of his colleagues – despite the thousands of photographs and videos providing irrefutable evidence that protesters, journalists and legal observers alike were shoved, punched, kicked, tackled, and beaten over the head. That mindset was on display during the jury selection process at McMillan’s trial, when juror after juror had to be dismissed because of outright bias against the Occupy movement and any of its participants.

It’s impossible to understand the whole story by just looking at it one picture, even if it’s McMillan’s of her injuries. But that is exactly what the jury in McMillan’s case was asked to do. They were presented a close up of Cecily McMillan’s elbow, but not of Bovell, and asked to determine who was violent. The prosecutors and the judge prohibited them from zooming out.

This is, of course, how police brutality is presented to the public every day, if it is presented it at all: an angry cop here, a controversial protester here, a police commissioner who says the violence of the NYPD is “old news”. It’s why #myNYPD shocked enough people to make the papers – because it wasn’t one bruised or broken civilian body or one cop with a documented history of violence. Instead, it was one after another after another, a collage that presented a more comprehensive picture – one of exceptionally unexceptional violence that most of America has already accepted.

Molly Knefel
theguardian.com, Monday 5 May 2014 20.17 BST

Find this story at 5 May 2014

© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Occupy Wall Street activist found guilty of assaulting police officer

• Cecily McMillan faces up to seven years in prison
• Occupy protesters shouting ‘shame’ led out of courtroom

An Occupy Wall Street activist is facing up to seven years in prison after being convicted by a jury in Manhattan of assaulting a New York police officer as he led her out of a protest.

Cecily McMillan was on Monday afternoon found guilty of deliberately elbowing Officer Grantley Bovell in the face in March 2012. After a trial lasting more than four weeks, the jury of eight women and four men reached their verdict in about three hours.

Judge Ronald Zweibel ordered that McMillan, 25, a graduate student at the New School, be detained. He rejected a request from her lawyers for bail.

“I see absolutely no reason why a remand would be appropriate here,” Martin Stolar, her lead attorney, told the judge. “She is not likely to be somebody to cut and run.” Zweibel replied: “Remanded pending sentencing.”

Supporters of McMillan in the courtroom reacted furiously, shouting “shame” and screaming at the more than 30 police officers lining room 1116 at Manhattan criminal court. After half a dozen refused to leave the court, two were carried out by police officers.

Wearing a white dress and a beige jacket, McMillan sat still and silent as the verdict was read on her charge of second-degree assault, a felony. McMillan was placed in handcuffs by police and led out of the courtroom as supporters went on shouting. “Corruption is the fuel, the court is the tool,” one chanted. Sentencing was scheduled for 19 May. Her lawyers said she was being taken to the women’s facility at the Riker’s Island jail.

Speaking outside, Stolar described the verdict as “a terrible mistake” and criticised Zweibel’s decision to detain McMillan, a first-time convict, before sentencing. “She never missed a court appearance, she has always been here, and is fully cognisant of what the consequences of a guilty verdict are,” he said.

Claiming that Zweibel had made “numerous errors” during the trial, Stolar said: “Those will be the subject of an appeal. We have optimistic thoughts about what an appeal might do, such as send it back for a new trial.”

McMillan was found guilty of intentionally assaulting Bovell in order to “prevent him from performing his lawful duty”. Her conviction is the most serious of the dozens against members of the protest movement, which sprang up in the autumn of 2011. Hers is believed to be the last of more than 2,600 prosecutions brought against members of the movement, most of which were dismissed or dropped.

Prosecutors accused McMillan of attacking Bovell, 35, as he walked her out of Zuccotti Park, in lower Manhattan, where activists had gathered on the night of 17 March 2012 to mark six months of the Occupy movement. Bovell had found her screaming at a female officer, who had asked her to leave the park so that it could be cleaned, prosecutors said.

Assistant district attorney Erin Choi told the court last month that Bovell was walking behind McMillan with his hand on her shoulder. McMillan asked people around her “Are you filming this?”, said Choi, and then “crouched down, then bent her knees, and then aimed her elbow at the officer and then jumped up to strike”.

“Officer Bovell was completely horrified,” said Choi. “This was the last thing he was expecting to happen that day.” Photographs showed that Bovell suffered a black eye. He said that he went on to experience headaches and sensitivity to light.

Prosecutors showed the jury grainy video clips of the incident, downloaded from YouTube, which they said proved McMillan deliberately struck Bovell before attempting to run away. Less than two hours into their deliberations, the jury asked if they could re-watch the video footage. They were given a laptop on which to view it in the jury room.

Stolar, who argued in court that the clips were not clear enough to prove anything, told the Guardian that he thought they were responsible for the conviction. “I think that is the only piece of evidence that a jury could hang its hat on,” he said. “On a quick glance without analysis, it looks like an assault. But it does not show what happened to Cecily.”

McMillan claimed that she swung her arm back instinctively only after having one of her breasts grabbed from behind while she was walking out of the park. Her lawyers showed photographs of bruising to her chest to support this. They said McMillan did not know that Bovell was a police officer, and did not intend to hurt him.

Stolar told the jury that on a “day off from protest”, McMillan became caught up in the chaotic scenes at Zuccotti Park, after she stopped by to collect a friend to continue St Patrick’s Day celebrations with a friend visiting from out of town, which saw her dressed in bright green.

Testifying, McMillan said that she had “no memory” of the moment her elbow struck Bovell. “I’m really sorry that officer got hurt,” she said. She has said that she suffered a seizure or anxiety attack after being arrested, a claim supported by activists who say they saw her convulsing on the pavement, and subsequently received treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Choi, however, described McMillan’s account as “so utterly ridiculous and unbelievable that she might as well have said that aliens came down that night and assaulted her”. She said the bruising was not detected during two hospital checks on the night of the incident and suggested that McMillan caused it herself.

In his own testimony, Bovell, a Barbados-born US navy veteran who typically patrols the 40th precinct in the Bronx, said: “I remember the defendant crouching down and, all of a sudden, she lunged her elbow back and hit me in the face.”

McMillan rejected an earlier offer from prosecutors for her to plead guilty to a charge of second-degree assault of a police officer, which would have still resulted in her being classed as a felon, in exchange for a recommendation to the judge that she should not receive a prison sentence.

Her lawyers stressed throughout the trial that she was a moderate left-wing political activist who had urged her fellow Occupy members to pursue a path of non-violent engagement with the state. The prosecutors, however, were unmoved, accusing McMillan of using the movement as a shield.

“It is time for the defendant to answer for her own criminal actions,” Choi said in her closing arguments last week. “Our founding fathers did not create a right to free assembly so people could commit crimes and hide behind their right to protest. This is a sacred right that should be preserved and protected.”

A loyal group of McMillan supporters, which calls itself Justice4Cecily, said in a statement that it was “devastated by the jury’s verdict”. It criticised Zweibel for blocking McMillan’s lawyers from citing past allegations of violent conduct against Bovell, and for banning them from speaking to the media early on in the trial. “He is rightly known as ‘a prosecutor in robes’,” the group said.

Asked to elaborate on his complaints about Zweibel’s handling of the trial, Stolar said: “I have a lot of opinions about this judge, but I still have to appear before him, so … I am not going to be too glib.”

Jon Swaine in New York
theguardian.com, Monday 5 May 2014 20.17 BST

Find this story at 5 May 2014

© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Occupy Activist Assaulted by Cop, Faces Seven Years in Prison

I didn’t know Cecily McMillan two years ago, when I glimpsed her convulsing on the street, obscured from view by a cluster of NYPD officers and a confusion of Occupy protesters. Word spread swiftly through the downtown Manhattan intersection: The young woman had been assaulted by the cops; her body went into seizure, her brain unconscious, her ribs cracked.

That was March 17, 2012. Protesters were marking six months since Occupy Wall Street first inserted itself into an unremarkable concrete park in the financial district, breathing a gust of ephemeral insurrectionary momentum into Manhattan’s grid and beyond. The six-month anniversary was marked by raucous street marches and multiple arrests. It culminated in McMillan, a student at the New School, lying on the street by Zuccotti Park surrounded by police as onlookers shrieked for an ambulance to be called.

Two years later, the commercial flows of downtown Manhattan glide untouched by the enraged encampment and attendant marches that once had defiantly but fleetingly claimed that space. Many if not most occupiers returned to schools and jobs and semblances of normalcy under the vagaries of late capitalism. The system did not crumble. Occupy’s lasting imprint at times feels too faint to trace. But a return to normalcy was not available for McMillan.

I met McMillan numerous times during and since Occupy’s heyday. We agreed on very little. We disagreed on how a brief occupation of New School student center should play out, we disagreed on whether Occupy should crystallize into a formal political movement with elected representatives (McMillan even worked on the well-meaning congressional campaign of “Occupy Candidate” George Martinez, while I condemned [1] such mainstreaming); where she wanted organization and party-building, I wanted some more chaotic not-this. Our dissensus was representative of the multitudinous constellation that constituted Occupy; we didn’t all just get along.

Along with every sometime occupier I know, though, I believe that McMillan’s current predicament is a vile indictment (or a sad example) of the criminal justice system at work. While the NYPD’s predilection for mass arrests during Occupy’s height clogged up the district courts with hundreds of misdemeanor and infraction cases, McMillan’s assault heaped a far more terrifying and arduous fate on the 25-year-old. Monday marks the beginning of a trial in which she faces felony charges for second-degree assault on officer Grantley Bovell, who had grabbed the activist’s chest from behind and prompted her seizure. McMillan’s breast was visibly bruised, as photographs evidenced; she had instinctively swung backward having been grabbed from behind by the cop. Accidentally knocking Bovell’s temple as he dragged her backward, McMillan earned herself charges that carry up to a seven-year prison sentence.

For the first time in some time, I saw McMillan last month. The weight of a potential prison sentence and exhaustion from two years of trial delays weighed heavily on the 25-year-old. Her eyes were quick to well up; “It’s been hell,” she intimated. As writer and artist Molly Crabapple observed [2] listening to McMillan address supporters after a pretrial hearing, “Cecily tried to hide the tremor in her voice.”

It was during that same hearing that McMillan learned that officer Bovell’s fecund history of misconduct — particularly against protesters — would not be considered admissible in her case. Bovell had been subject to at least two inquiries by the police force’s internal affairs bureau. Bovell also currently faces assault charges [3] brought by another March 17 Occupy participant, Austin Guest, who alleges that following his arrest, Bovell dragged him down the aisle of a police bus while “intentionally banging his head on each seat.” Earlier accusations levied against Bovell include an incident in which a young boy on a bike was run down by an unmarked cop car, left with broken teeth and in need of stitches. Bovell had also been caught on a surveillance camera kicking a man on the floor while arresting him in a Bronx bodega in 2009. It is McMillan, however, who faces censure by the criminal justice system.

There are weeks of hearings ahead for McMillan. Even if she is found innocent — a basic but necessary deliverance of justice — she has already suffered too much. Speaking briefly in front of the state Supreme Court in downtown Manhattan Monday, McMillan, demurely clad in a pink shirt and beige blazer, briefly addressed supporters. “Thank you for being here today,” she said.

Her lawyer, the National Lawyers Guild’s Martin Stolar, reiterated to reporters and supporters present that McMillan had a “reputation [as] somebody who promotes non-violence as the preferred method of achieving political ends.” (Indeed, views on revolutionary violence are among McMillan and my political differences.) “An innocent woman is being accused of something that could send her to prison for seven years,” Stolar said. “She was leaving the park pursuant to the police department’s orders when she was brutally assaulted by a police officer and subsequently accused of assaulting that police officer.”

McMillan’s case is among the very last Occupy legal challenges on the New York courthouse docket. It’s a sad but appropriate final testament to a brief moment in New York history when the sprouts of a new and radical politics emerged and seemed to birth new possibilities. McMillan’s ongoing ordeal — synechdochal of a criminal justice system that stifles dissent while upholding and rewarding brutal impunity — is a reminder that the anger that drove thousands of us into the streets for Occupy should continue to drive us; bold and radical dissent is as necessary as ever.

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com [4].

April 8, 2014
Natasha Lennard
Monday, April 7, 2014

Find this story at 8 April 2014

How Special Branch Spied on Animal Rights Movement

Since 2010 there have been revelations about police infiltration of protest groups. For over 40 years the state sanctioned the use of undercover police to gain intelligence on political activists, including animal rights campaigners.

Though it was widely assumed that groups were under surveillance, no-one would have imagined the extent to which the secret state burrowed deep into organisations, established close friendships and sexual relationships with activists, and broke the law to further its objectives. This article will explain how it happened and what can be learnt from it.

The Special Demonstrations Squad

The story begins in 1968, when tens of thousands of people marched against the Vietnam War. In March there was rioting as protesters fought with police outside the American Embassy in London and the government was so alarmed that it set up of the Special Demonstrations Squad (SDS).

Although the police had used undercover officers before to catch criminals, this was as Rob Evans and Paul Lewis say in their book ‘Undercover’, ‘a new concept in policing.’ Special Branch officers transformed themselves into activists and lived amongst their targets for several years. They changed their appearance and used fake identities to penetrate political groups to the highest levels to gain intelligence and to enable the police to maintain public order. The nickname for the SDS was ‘the hairies’ because – in the early days at least – their operatives had to grow their hair long in order in order to blend into the milieu of radical politics.

The job of the SDS was to infiltrate groups considered subversive which meant those that ‘threatened the safety or well-being of the state or undermined parliamentary democracy’. Initially this meant mainly Marxist or Trotskyist groups, as well as the anti-apartheid movement in the seventies.

The eighties: Robert Lambert

By the early eighties, however, the animal rights movement had become established. It was attracting thousands of people on protest marches against vivisection and groups like the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) were rescuing animals and damaging property. To the state this was a dangerous and subversive threat.

Evans and Lewis say Special Branch first became involved when one of its operatives was deployed at the World Day for Lab Animals march in April 1983. Shortly afterwards a second spy was sent in. His name was Robert Lambert and he became an almost legendary figure amongst his colleagues. For the activists who knew him he was equally unforgettable, though nowadays it is for all the wrong reasons.

Lambert called himself Bob Robinson. Like all SDS agents he stole the identity of a dead child. Mark Robert Robinson died aged seven in 1959, only to be quietly resurrected 24 years later by Lambert who would have found his birth and death certificates. He was then given a forged driving licence, passport and other documents. This procedure was known in SDS circles as the ‘Jackal Run’ because it was based on the book, ‘The Day of the Jackal’.

Lambert quickly immersed himself in the world of animal rights by going to protests and meetings. At a demo outside Hackney Town Hall he met Jackie, 12 years younger than him, and they soon started a relationship and their son was born in 1985. Lambert was already married with two children but knew an activist girlfriend would give his cover an added dimension, making him appear a fully rounded, genuine person.

London Greenpeace and the ALF

In 1984 Lambert became involved in London Greenpeace (LG). This wasn’t an AR group as such but a radical organisation (not to be confused with the much larger Greenpeace International) that embraced anarchism and direct action. Up to then it had been mainly concerned with anti-nuclear and environmental issues but in the mid-eighties it adopted much more of an animal liberation stance.

The first LG meeting I attended was a public meeting with a speaker from the ALF in 1985. Lambert chaired the discussion and obviously had a prominent role in the group. He soon became a close friend. Like all the spies that followed him, Lambert had a van that was used to take people to demos. He said he was a gardener and needed a vehicle for his job.

Lambert’s mission was to infiltrate the ALF and he made it clear he was a strong supporter of illegal actions. In 1986 he organised a benefit gig for the ALF Supporters Group but kept back some of the takings to buy glass etching fluid, used to damage windows. Soon afterwards he confided to friends that he had dressed as a jogger and thrown paint stripper over a car belonging to the director of an animal laboratory.

He also wrote two notable publications. One was a simple A5 leaflet titled ‘You are the ALF!’ which exhorted people to do direct action themselves, not ask others to do so on their behalf. The other was a booklet called ‘London ALF News’ which had articles on the ALF and a diary of actions, including attacks he had carried out.

Debenhams

In July 1987 the ALF targeted three Debenhams’ department stores with incendiary devices because they sold fur. In two, water from the sprinklers caused hundreds of thousands of pounds in losses, but at the Luton branch they had been switched off and fire gutted the store, causing over £6m in damage.

Two months later, Andrew Clarke and Geoff Sheppard were caught at the latter’s bedsit in Tottenham in the act of making incendiary devices as the police burst in. In June 1988 at the Old Bailey Sheppard received 4 years and 4 months and Clarke 3 ½ years. Obviously the police had been tipped off but neither activist knew who it was until nearly 24 years later when Lambert was uncovered as a spy.

Lambert, according to Sheppard, was the third member of this cell. Neither activist suspected him but then they had good reason not to – as far as they were concerned he had planted the device in the Harrow store that caused £340,000 in damage.
The last time I saw Lambert was in a pub near the LG office in Kings Cross in November 1988. He was unusually downbeat as he told me his father who had dementia had just died and the values he fought for in World War II were dying too under Thatcherism. He also said Jackie had started a relationship with a fascist and he was no longer allowed to see his son. Both stories were lies and I now know he was preparing for his exit.

All undercover spies have an exit strategy, usually prepared months if not years in advance. Lamberts would have been devised around the time of the Debenhams action but departing too soon would have appeared suspicious. He waited for over a year, until he left allegedly on the run from Special Branch, which was in fact his employer. They even staged a fake raid at the flat where he was staying.

John Dines

By the beginning of 1989 Bob Robinson was just a memory but LG already had another spy in its ranks. John Dines, using the surname Barker, had joined the group in October 1987. During the next year as he rose to prominence, Lambert was on the wane – going to fewer meetings and demos. This was a pattern that would be repeated time and time again.

Like his mentor, Lambert, Dines had van which he used for demos. He twice drove activists all the way to Yorkshire to sab grouse shoots and he also took them to a protest against Sun Valley Chickens in Herefordshire. While there he was apparently arrested but released without charge. He too produced an anonymous publication called ‘Business as Usual’, which comprised a diary of actions, and he also organised two benefit gigs for London Greenpeace in late 1989.

John Dines and McLibel

While LG was well known in activist circles – mainly for the anti-McDonald’s campaign it had started several years earlier – it hardly registered to the outside world. Most people confused it with Greenpeace International. All that began to change, however, when five of its supporters were sued for libel by McDonald’s in September 1990.

None of the defendants had written the pamphlet that was the subject of the writ; in fact three of them weren’t even part of the group at that time. Ironically Lambert had been one of the architects of the ‘What’s Wrong with McDonald’s’ factsheet but he was long gone.

McDonald’s placed several infiltrators of its own in the group from the autumn of 1989 onwards with the result that it became infested with spies. At some meetings there were more of them than genuine activists. These new corporate spies aroused suspicion – they didn’t quite fit in – and some of them were followed. One of those doing the following was Dines, together with Helen Steel, who would later be sued and become Dines’ girlfriend..

In January 1991 I and two others decided to cut our losses and apologise. Helen and Dave Morris carried on fighting the case as the McLibel 2. By their side was Dines who was the group’s treasurer and a key player. He relayed the legal advice they received and the tactical discussions they had with other group members back to his bosses in the SDS who then passed it on to McDonald’s. Several years later the McLibel trial revealed that Special Branch and McDonald’s had exchanged information about London Greenpeace. Morris and Steel sued the Metropolitan Police over this and received £10,000 in an out of court settlement and an apology.

London Boots Action Group: Andy Davey and Matt Rayner

By the early nineties the animal rights movement was on a roll again and three activists decided to set up a new London-wide organisation called London Boots Action Group (LBAG), to target Boots plc, which at that time did animal testing. LBAG was unashamedly pro-direct action so it is no surprise that it became a target for the SDS. The group was launched in November 1991 with a public meeting that attracted nearly 100 people, two of whom were spies.

Andy Davey and Matt Rayner were two of the many new people to join the fledgling group. But they were slightly different – they had vans, which made them both unusual and useful, and they got quickly involved. Both also had jobs (quite rare in those days as many activists were either unemployed or students). Davey was a ‘man with a van’ removal service – his nickname was ‘Andy Van’ – while Rayner said he worked for a company that delivered musical instruments.

Each lived in a bedsit, Davey in Streatham, south London, Rayner in north London. They even looked similar – tall, dark haired and with glasses, and spoke with Home Counties accents. What set Davey apart from other agents was his dog, named Lucy who came from an animal rescue person that lived locally. His bosses probably decided he would appear a more authentic activist if he had a companion animal.

Personality-wise they differed though. While Rayner was easy going and friendly, enjoying social situations, Davey had a somewhat hesitant and nervous manner and could at times appear too eager to please. Initially there were suspicions about both but they quickly assimilated into the protest scene. They would have known who each other were, as their unit had only about a dozen operatives at any time, but they weren’t close. This meant that if one spy was uncovered, the other wouldn’t fall under suspicion.

It was not common practice for two spies to be placed in the same group. In the book Undercover, the whistleblower Peter Francis says the SDS had two animal rights spies when he joined it in January 1993. This was indicative of the threat posed by animal rights in general and LBAG in particular.

Davey was so well entrenched that he begun to produce the group’s newsletter. Shortly afterwards he also transferred the mailing list onto a computer. We were in the era when some organisations still did not have their own PC or internet access and his IT expertise was considered invaluable. Spies are trained to exploit skills shortages like this, to ensure they become trusted and above suspicion.

Rayner, too, was a fixture in the London scene. He would usually be the one to drive activists to demos outside London. A notable example was the 1993 Grand National when he took a vanload of people to Aintree. This was the year the race had to be abandoned because the course was invaded, costing the betting industry over £60m.

In 1995 – following former spy Dines’ example – he drove a carload of saboteurs to the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ to sab a grouse shoot. While there he was arrested and taken into police custody, only to be released a few hours later. He wasn’t charged but this brush with the law only served to improve his standing.

London Animal Action: Davey’s exit

Rayner had a long term relationship with a female activist. Davey never managed this though it wasn’t for want of trying and he gained a reputation as a lecher. This no doubt undermined his status – some saw him as a bit sad, others didn’t really take to him – and it probably played a part in the decision to take him out of the group. This happened quickly as he announced he was ‘stressed’ and was going to Eastern Europe. The double life he was leading was probably taking its toll as well. He left in February 1995 with a farewell social to which only a few people came. Shortly afterwards a hunt sab whom he knew received a couple of letters postmarked abroad.

As Davey’s exit was hasty, the spy who replaced him joined London Animal Action – as LBAG was now called – around the same time he left. Unusually the new agent was female and her name was Christine Green. As she set about inveigling herself into the group, Rayner’s deployment was reaching its climax. In May 1995 Geoff Sheppard’s flat was raided again by the police where they found materials for making an incendiary device and a sawn-off shotgun. In October he was sentenced to seven years in prison.

After Geoff’s release we speculated on why the police had chosen him. Devices were being placed in various targets and it appeared to have been simply a chance raid due to his arrest in the eighties. However, it is now clear that Rayner set Geoff up just as Lambert had done years earlier. No-one suspected him of the sting because he was, like his boss had been, an established and trusted of the group: by 1995 he was LAA treasurer.

Lambert the spymaster

By the mid-nineties Lambert was the operational manager of the SDS thanks to his ‘legendary tour of duty’ a decade earlier. According to Evans and Lewis he was ‘the gaffer…pulling the strings like a puppet-master’ and he used his experience to guide a new generation of infiltrators who were in some cases spying on the same activists as he had. Geoff was one of those and he describes Rayner as being ‘up to his neck’ in direct action. The final proof came in April 2013 when it was discovered the real Matthew Rayner died aged four in 1972. We still don’t know his true identity.

One of Lambert’s first duties when he re-joined the SDS was to write a report on a spy who had ‘gone rogue’ named Mike Chitty. Chitty – known as Mike Blake – had penetrated the animal rights movement in London at the same time as Lambert but in comparison his deployment had been a failure. It resulted in no high-profile ALF arrests and it seems he enjoyed socialising more than targeting subversives. Even worse, when his deployment finished he returned to his activist comrades, leading a double life unbeknownst to his employers or his wife. He was eventually pensioned off after he began legal action against the Met for the stress he suffered due to his covert role.

Rayner’s exit strategy

Clearly not everybody could cope with the demands of undercover work. Davey may have been one of those but Rayner made of different stuff. His exit strategy was masterly in execution, bearing the hallmark of his mentor and manager, Lambert, who had written a report highlighting the importance of ‘carefully crafted withdrawal plans’ to convince ‘increasingly security-conscious target groups of the authenticity of a manufactured departure…inevitably this entails travel to a foreign country.’

In November1996 Rayner apparently went to work in France for a wine company. He had always liked France and could speak the language fluently. To a few close friends he mentioned his unease with activism after being raided by the police and the breakdown of the relationship with his girlfriend. Very well liked, he was given a big going away party, presented with a camera from the group and a speech wishing him well in his new life.

The next day he drove to France in his van and with him were two activist friends. At the port they were questioned by a police officer who said he was from Special Branch before letting them go on their way. This plan was concocted for the activists’ benefit in the knowledge they would tell others about it, lending further credibility to Rayner’s exit. A few weeks later he briefly came back to London and met up with friends before supposedly returning to France for good. Then over a period of about a year letters were sent and phone messages were left saying he had moved to Argentina, and after that he was never heard from again.

Christine Green

By 1997 Green was occupying a key part of the group, driving activists to demos, going to meetings and mailouts and taking part in protests, as her predecessors had done. She had even taken over Rayner’s role of group treasurer. The same pattern repeating itself but no-one was aware of it. For the next two years Green appears to have been the only spy in LAA. Perhaps there was another who remains unexposed – though this seems unlikely – or the SDS may have deployed another spy elsewhere.

To enhance her cover, Green began a relationship with a well-known hunt saboteur whose job was a coach driver and they took coach loads of protesters to some of the high profile demos of the time, for example at Hillgrove Farm. There is no suggestion that the sab was a spy. There was speculation surrounding her, however: she was not always easy to get along with – though she did make some friends -and she always carried the same bag around with her, which inevitably drew suspicion.

Towards the end of 1999 Green let it be known she was tired with activism. Early in 2000 she said she was departing to Australia for a relative’s funeral and would stay there travelling. About a year later, though, she reappeared and made contact with a few activist friends. Several years later in 2010 she cropped up once more, this time in Cornwall where she was spotted with the same boyfriend in a veggie café. Someone who knew them from LAA tried to have a chat and was all but ignored.

Dave Evans

Green’s replacement in and the last known SDS spy was Dave Evans. Like Dines he appeared to be from New Zealand and he had the same rugged appearance. He had a van and was a gardener too, so very much in the Lambert mould, except his personality couldn’t have been more different. While his boss was amiable, even charming, Evans could be a bit peevish and erratic: once he turned up at a demo then left after only a few minutes saying his flatmate was locked out. Typically spies spent five or six days in the field, only returning to their families for one night per week, but on one occasion he went missing for so long that people became concerned and went round to his flat.

A lot of the time he gave the impression of not being very committed and more interested in the social side of the group. LAA had a big drinking culture which he took to like a duck to water and he often took part in fundraising at festivals by working in bars. In SDS parlance he was a ‘shallow paddler’, not a ‘deep swimmer’.

In the last year or so of his deployment, Evans’ involvement in animal rights tapered off somewhat and it was recently revealed that his flatmate was Jason Bishop, a spy active in anti-capitalist groups. The pair drove minibuses to the G8 protests in Scotland in 2005. Both were arrested with other activists for conspiracy to commit a breach of the peace but the charges were dropped.

Evans’ exit and the end of the SDS

Evans was last seen at the AR Gathering in 2005. While sitting around a bonfire he began asking other activists questions about LAA, which had just folded after its bank account containing thousands of pounds was seized by Huntingdon Life Sciences. The mask slipped and it became obvious that he was a cop. He must have realised this because he left the next morning and was never seen again. Evans was the last known SDS spy in London animal rights circles. There were also at least two corporate infiltrators during this period, one of whom worked her way up to be group treasurer before she was uncovered.

In 2008 the SDS was disbanded, its functions supplanted by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) set up a few years earlier. This was one of three pillars of a new secret state established by the Labour government to combat ‘domestic extremism’, a term which encompassed anyone who wanted to ‘prevent something happening or to change legislation or domestic policy outside of the normal democratic process.’ The others were the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU) and the National Domestic Extremism Team.

There is no reason to believe that intelligence gathering has diminished in the last few years. The animal rights movement has been perceived as less of a threat, mainly due to the imprisonment of certain activists, but the emergence of the anti-badger cull campaign will undoubtedly lead to an increase in surveillance and spying. The ‘Undercover’ book also mentions a recent spy in the Welsh animal rights scene but does not go into detail.

Conclusion: (1) How were we duped?

With the benefit of hindsight it appears obvious that animal rights groups in London were targeted by undercover police who followed the same pattern over a period of at least two decades. In that case why did no-one find out what was going on?

The answer lies in Lambert, the spymaster, who established the template the rest followed. For 23 years ‘Bob’ as he was known was held in such high esteem and affection that his authenticity wasn’t doubted. He was one of us, an anarchist and animal liberationist, who had fled overseas to build a new life. Nobody guessed he was working just a few miles away at Scotland Yard.

The agents that followed – Dines, Davey, Rayner, Green and Evans – did attract suspicion but only individually, not as a sequence. The people they spied upon were activists fighting for animal rights and a better world, welcoming of outsiders into their groups, not spycatchers. Moreover the suspicions were usually no more than of the ‘they are a bit dodgy’ variety, with little or no concrete evidence. Many people have been falsely accused in this way over the years.

The whole thing finally fell apart thanks to the determination of two women: Helen Steel and Laura, the girlfriend of a spy called Jim Boyling, whom she met in Reclaim the Streets in 1999. She managed to track him down after he left her and he confessed about Lambert and Dines. Helen had spent years searching for the latter after he supposedly ran off abroad in 1992. By 2010 she knew he had been a cop but it was Laura who confirmed that he was also a spy. At the same time Mark Kennedy, who worked for the NPOIU, was unmasked.

Conclusion: (2) What difference does it make?

The next important question is what difference does it make? Isn’t this just history? While a lot of this happened a long time ago it does stretch up almost to the present. Those who experienced this also have to show what the state is capable of doing to other, newer activists. Should we should trust politicians and believe the promises made by political parties or is the state fundamentally a force for repression? Can we cooperate with a system that tries to disrupt and undermine groups and individuals in this way?

What went on still matters because when we sweep away all the intrigue and scandal, we are left with a very simple fact: the spies were there to prevent animals being saved. This article has concentrated on what occurred in London because that’s where the writer has mainly been active but there is no question that infiltration went on elsewhere. We know, for instance, that there was a spy active inside SHAC before the mass arrests of 2007.

Many people have been arrested, convicted and even imprisoned during the struggle for animal rights and if it can be proved that a spy was involved, then those convictions are possibly unsafe. Even if their role was only driving activists to a demo where they were arrested, then there could be good grounds for an appeal. This is especially true if those nicked discussed their case with the spy, because this information would have been passed on to the police.

So far a total of 56 convictions or attempted prosecutions of environmental protesters have been overturned, abandoned or called into question over the past two years following disclosures surrounding the activities of undercover police officers. Most of these relate to Mark Kennedy and two climate change actions against power stations in 2008 and 2009.

Most defendants are being represented by Mike Schwarz from Bindmans and he has said he is keen to act for animal rights campaigners who want to try to overturn their convictions. But in order to do that we first have to find out who the spies were.

Conclusion: (3) Learning the lessons

There are no fewer than 15 investigations taking police into the role of undercover police. The main one is Operation Herne which is an internal Metropolitan Police enquiry This will last up to three years and cost millions of pounds but many of the victims of the SDS, including women who had relationships with spies, are boycotting it. They have instead called for an independent public enquiry as when the police investigate themselves the result is inevitably a whitewash.

What can activists themselves learn? Well firstly we should not succumb to paranoia. This may sound strange after what we know now but it is important to realise that the spies were in a small minority. Yes there were several in LBAG/LAA over the years but the group was large and regularly attracted over 50 people to its meetings.

There are, however, commonsense precautions that can be taken. The modus operandi of Special Branch agents – such as using dead children’s’ identities and driving vans – will not be replicated by current spies but if there are certain aspects of a person’s behaviour that don’t make sense or appear suspicious , then it is entirely reasonable to find out the truth. If that means questioning the person to ascertain whether they are a bone fide activist, then so be it. A genuine person would not object to this line of enquiry if the reason for it were explained to them.

Finally the lesson to take from all this is that we are making a difference. The state would not have invested such huge resources in trying to undermine the animal rights movement if it did not fear what we stand for. This is something we should be proud of.

If you have any further information or would like to join an email distribution list called ARspycatcher please contact: ARspycatcher@riseup.net

AR Spycatcher

Find this story at 26 February 2014

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‘Gaan jullie stenen gooien?’ Inlichtingenoperatie rondom studentenprotest

Dat studenten actie voeren tegen aangekondigde bezuinigingen op het onderwijs is van alle tijden. Daar is niets staatsondermijnend aan. Des te meer opmerkelijk dat diverse actieve studenten gedurende de acties en betogingen door de Regionale Inlichtingendienst en geheime dienst AIVD benaderd zijn met de vraag informant te worden.

Eind 2009 stak er langzaam een storm van protest op tegen de bezuinigingen in het onderwijs. Al jaren wordt er zowel binnen de politiek als vanuit wetenschappelijke hoek geroepen dat er geïnvesteerd moet worden om het Nederlandse onderwijs op peil te houden. De regering van CDA en VVD met gedoogpartner PVV vindt echter dat ook het onderwijs moet korten in verband met de algemene economische malaise. De studentenbonden, maar ook docenten keerden zich tegen het beleid van staatssecretaris Zijlstra van het ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap (OCW).

Naast de ‘officiële’ organen van studenten (LSVB en IOS) en de jongerenorganisaties van enkele politieke partijen (Dwars en Rood) ontstond er een keur aan actiegroepen. Verspreid over het land richtten studenten clubs op als de Kritische Studenten Utrecht (KSU), Kritische Studenten Nijmegen Arnhem (KSNA), Kritische Studenten Twente (KST), Professor Protest (Amsterdam), SACU (Studenten Actie Comité Utrecht), Onderwijs is een Recht (OIER, Landelijk) en de comités SOS Nijmegen en SOS Amsterdam.

Actiegolf

Vanaf april 2010 tot de zomer van 2011 spoelde een golf aan acties over het land. Ludieke acties op straat of in universiteiten, bezettingen van hogescholen en faculteiten en demonstraties in verschillende steden. In het najaar van 2010 nam het protest in omvang toe en in januari 2011 demonstreerden ruim 10.000 studenten tegen de bezuinigingen.

Doel van de acties was van meet af aan duidelijk: geen kortingen op het onderwijs, zeker in een tijd dat de werkloosheid toeneemt. Ook al leefde er groot ongenoegen over het kabinet en gedoogpartner PVV, de regering omverwerpen was nooit een doelstelling. Oppositiepartijen en universiteits- en schoolbesturen verzetten zich samen met de studenten.

Nu lopen ludieke acties, bezettingen en demonstraties wel eens uit de hand, maar zoals onderzoek van Buro Jansen & Janssen naar demonstratierecht in Den Haag heeft uitgewezen, gebeurt dit zelden. Als er al ongeregeldheden plaats vinden, zijn lang niet altijd de actievoerders de schuldigen. Veelal is het ook te wijten aan het optreden van de politie. Bij grote demonstraties is vaak ook een overmacht aan mobiele eenheid aanwezig. De laatste jaren blijven ernstige rellen dan ook uit.

Begin 2011, op het hoogtepunt van de protestgolf, deed zich echter iets geks voor. Op de ochtend van vrijdag 21 januari meldde VVD-burgemeester Van Aartsen aan de NOS dat ‘de gemeente Den Haag aanwijzingen had dat radicalen de studentendemonstratie van vandaag willen verstoren’. Van Aartsen zei dat de politie die aanwijzingen baseerde op informatie afkomstig van ‘open en gesloten bronnen’.

Tijdens die demonstratie vonden er enkele schermutselingen plaats, maar of daar de ‘radicalen’ bij betrokken waren waar Van Aartsen eerder die dag op doelde, bleef onduidelijk. De open bronnen zouden websites, pamfletten en allerlei bladen zijn. Bij gesloten bronnen kan het gaan om telefoon en internet taps, observaties, maar ook informanten en infiltranten.

Zoals verwacht vond er een relletje plaats op het Plein voor het Tweede Kamergebouw en op het Malieveld. De politie meldde dat een deel van de aangehouden jongeren deel uit zou maken van radicale groeperingen. Volgens burgemeester Van Aartsen waren de arrestanten leden van de linkse groep Anti-Fascistische Aktie, zo meldde de NOS die avond.

Radicalen

Volgens de demonstranten liepen er tijdens de betoging veel agenten in burger mee en was de ME dreigend aanwezig. Dit kan het gevolg zijn geweest van de dreigende taal van de burgemeester. De ‘radicalen’ moesten per slot van rekening in de gaten worden gehouden. Van de 27 verdachten (cijfers van de politie) werden er nog op dezelfde dag 22 vrijgelaten.

Vijf verdachten werden maandag 24 januari voorgeleid. Volgens het openbaar ministerie bevonden zich hieronder ‘enkele niet-studenten’. Het zou gaan om een 27-jarige man uit Spanje, een 22-jarige man uit Haarlem, een 21-jarige Amsterdammer, een 26-jarige inwoner van Wassenaar en een 18-jarige Delftenaar.

Het OM maakte niet duidelijk wie nu wel of niet student was. Een HBO-student Arts and Sciences kreeg 8 weken onvoorwaardelijk opgelegd, een student politicologie en geschiedenis 80 uur werkstraf, een bouwkundestudent 40 uur werkstraf en een student toerisme een boete van 500 euro.

Alle verdachten en advocaten spraken van excessief politiegeweld. “De ME mishandelde vrouwen en kinderen” en “ik smeet vrijdag een aantal stenen, nee, geen bakstenen, naar de ME, omdat het geweld dat de politie gebruikte me diep schokte.” De rechter moest toegeven dat het optreden van de politie “niet de schoonheidsprijs verdiende.”

De veroordeelden waren allemaal studenten, zelfs de Spanjaard. Waarom logen burgemeester, politie en OM zowel voor als na de demonstratie over ‘radicalen’? Bespeelden zij de media om zo studenten in een verkeerd daglicht te plaatsen? En waar kwamen die radicalen plotseling vandaan? Na de demonstratie waren de radicalen volgens de burgemeester deelnemers aan de actiegroep AFA. Welke kennis had de politie en vanwaar werd die ingezet?

De gebeurtenissen rondom de demonstratie van 21 januari richtte de aandacht op iets dat al maanden aan de gang was. Vanaf het begin van de studentenprotesten is de overheid bezig geweest om het verzet in kaart te brengen, studenten te benaderen, informanten te werven, te infiltreren en zicht te krijgen op verschillende groepen. Niet de Landelijke Studenten Vakbond (LSVb) of het Interstedelijk Studenten Overleg (IOS) zouden een gevaar vormen, maar andere ‘radicalere’ studentikoze actiegroepen.

Benadering

In april en mei 2010 werd ‘Marcel’ gebeld door een man die zei dat hij van de recherche was en zichzelf Veerkamp noemde. Van welke afdeling en in welke hoedanigheid de beambte contact opnam, vertelde hij niet. Veerkamp werkt echter voor de Regionale Inlichtingendienst Utrecht, zoals uit een andere benadering blijkt. (zie Observant 58, Voor de RID is Griekenland ook een gevaar). De ‘rechercheur’ wilde graag geregeld contact met Marcel.

Marcel is student en actief voor het Studenten Actie Comité Utrecht (SACU) dat nauw samenwerkt met de Kritische Studenten Utrecht (KSU). Beide actiegroepen richten zich op de bezuinigingen op het onderwijs, maar plaatsen die tevens in maatschappelijk perspectief. Naast bezettingen, demonstraties en acties organiseerden ze ook debatten, lezingen en discussies. De kritische studentengroepen hielden een weblog bij met verslagen, agenda en discussie, een open structuur.

De man van de ‘recherche’ wilde van Marcel uit eerste hand weten wat de Utrechtse studenten de komende tijd gingen doen. “Zij wilden graag weten wat ze van ons konden verwachten”, vat Marcel het telefonische onderhoud samen. Marcel vond het nogal vreemd dat de man hem benaderde. Voor demonstraties werd openlijk opgeroepen en de groep meldde deze zelfs bij de politie aan. Waarom zou hij dan achter de rug om van andere studenten met deze man gaan praten?

Al snel werd duidelijk waar het de man om te doen was. Tijdens een van de twee gesprekken vroeg hij Marcel of ze van plan waren om stenen te gaan gooien tijdens studentendemonstraties. Marcel was nogal overrompeld door deze vraag, het leek of de politie er op zat te wachten. Alsof er een behoefte bestond van de zijde van de overheid om de studenten te criminaliseren.

AFA

Waarom wordt een student in Utrecht benaderd met de vraag of de studenten stenen zouden gaan gooien? Als Marcel de enige benaderde actievoerder was geweest dan is de conclusie simpel. De man die hem belde is wellicht werkzaam voor de Regionale Inlichtingendienst (RID) en was op zoek naar een contact binnen de kritische studentengroepen met het oog op mogelijke toekomstige ongeregeldheden. RID’ers hebben zo ook contacten met voetbalsupporters, zoals die van FC Utrecht.

Hoewel het personeel van de RID professionals zijn in het misleiden van mensen, kan de opmerking betreffende ‘stenen gooien’ een verspreking zijn geweest. De benaderde Marcel is echter geen uitzondering. ‘Peter’ werd in een eerder stadium gebeld door iemand van de overheid. Hij is student in Amsterdam en was actief voor de actiegroep Professor Protest. Het is niet duidelijk of de man die hem benaderde dezelfde persoon is geweest die Marcel heeft gebeld. Peter werd gevraagd om als informant te gaan werken. Hij voelde daar niets voor en verbrak de verbinding.

De combinatie van verschillende benaderingen, het bestempelen van elementen bij een studentendemonstratie als zijnde ‘radicaal’ en het benoemen van de ‘linkse groep Anti-Fascistische Aktie’ is te toevallig. In het deelrapport Ideologische Misdaad uit 2005 en 2007 van de KLPD worden deelnemers van AFA expliciet genoemd als ideologische misdadigers, mensen die worden verdacht van het plegen van een misdaad uit ideologische, politieke motieven.

Zodra activisten van AFA door politie worden gezien als ideologische misdadigers en door het landelijk parket gelijk worden gesteld aan roof misdadigers (Strategienota aandachtsgebieden 2005 – 2010) dan is een inlichtingenoperatie gericht op studenten een logisch uitvloeisel indien AFA-activisten ook student zijn en actief binnen die groepen. Daarbij passen benaderingen, infiltratie, aftappen, observaties en andere geheime methoden. Kritische studentengroepen plaatsen de strijd tegen de bezuinigingen van het kabinet in een breder perspectief.

Actieve studenten zijn soms ook politiek actief of strijden voor bijvoorbeeld dierenrechten, ondemocratisch Europa of bijeenkomsten van de G8 of G20. Het optreden van de overheid in deze doet sterk denken aan de inlichtingenoperatie van de BVD rond de Amsterdamse studentenbond ASVA in de jaren ’60 en ’70. Het verschil leek dat Marcel en Peter niet door de inlichtingendienst (de AIVD) zijn benaderd, maar door de ‘recherche’. De recherche zou dan misschien de Nationale Recherche zijn geweest vanwege de ‘ideologische misdaad’.

Geheime dienst

Nu is de wijze waarop prioriteiten gesteld worden aan het werk van politie en parket onderhevig aan politieke druk. Prioriteiten veranderen jaarlijks, afhankelijk van gevoerde discussies in de Tweede Kamer en de doelstellingen van een individuele minister. Het is echter moeilijk voor te stellen dat studentenprotesten plotseling als een belangrijk strategiepunt zijn benoemd voor de Nationale Recherche. Beleid verandert meestal traag, het duurt een tijd voordat het opsporingsapparaat zich gaat richten op een andere prioriteit.

Niet de Nationale Recherche zat dan ook achter de studenten aan, maar de geheime dienst. De benadering van ‘Karin’ onderstreept dit. Zij werd benaderd door iemand van het ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties, het ministerie dat verantwoordelijk is voor het functioneren van de AIVD. Marcel en Peter zijn waarschijnlijk benaderd door functionarissen van de Regionale Inlichtingendiensten van Amsterdam en Utrecht.

Probleem is dat inlichtingenfunctionarissen meestal niet te koop lopen met hun naam en het werk dat ze verrichten. Indien je als burger zelf niet vraagt met wie je van doen hebt, kunnen zij niet de beleefdheid opbrengen om duidelijk aan te geven dat zij voor een inlichtingendienst werken.

Karin is student aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA). Zij is sinds eind 2010 betrokken bij het studentenverzet. In februari 2011 bezette zij samen met andere studenten het Bungehuis van de UvA. Aan de actiegroep waar zij deel van uitmaakte, Professor Protest, nam ook Peter deel.

Op 20 april 2011 werd Karin gebeld door een man die zich voorstelde als ‘Ivo Kersting’ (of Kertjens of Kerstman of Kerstland) van het ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijkrelaties. Haar mobiele nummer was niet gebruikt als perstelefoon dus Ivo moet haar nummer via het Centraal Informatiepunt Onderzoek Telecommunicatie (CIOT) hebben verkregen.

Ivo belde vanuit Amsterdam met nummerherkenning en sprak Karin met haar voornaam aan. Zij was nogal overrompeld door het telefoontje. Hij vroeg of hij op een gelegen tijdstip belde waarop zij ontkennend antwoordde. Hij kon haar over een uur terugbellen, maar zei niet waarover. Karin vroeg het nog, maar Ivo zei, “nee, over een uur hoor je dat wel”.

Een uur later hing hij weer aan de lijn, nu zonder achternaam. “Hallo, weer met Ivo, van Binnenlandse Zaken. Wij zijn de studentenbeweging in kaart aan het brengen. Jij bent toch woordvoerder geweest van de Bungehuis bezetting? Je bent ons positief opgevallen, en je zou ons erg helpen als je met ons rond de tafel komt zitten om wat te debatteren over de studentenbeweging.”

Ivo heeft gedurende de telefoongesprekken op geen enkele manier uitgelegd wat voor functie hij op het ‘ministerie’ vervulde. Karin antwoordde dat ze geen tijd had en niet meer actief betrokken ws bij de studentenprotesten. Ivo leek een beetje van zijn stuk gebracht door haar resolute antwoord. “Oh, dat is jammer je zou ons echt enorm kunnen helpen, kan ik je niet overhalen?”, probeerde hij nog. Toen Karin ontkennend antwoordde, gooide hij zonder gedag te zeggen de hoorn op de haak.

Intimiderend

Medewerkers van de inlichtingendienst hebben de neiging zich boven de burger, de samenleving te plaatsen. Ze hebben toegang tot allerlei persoonlijke informatie waardoor mensen die benaderd worden zich erg geïntimideerd voelen. Karin vond de gesprekken met Ivo Kersting vervelend en intimiderend. Hij bleef aandringen, draaien, geveinsd vriendelijk doen en doordrammen terwijl zij toch duidelijk was met haar ontkenning.

Ivo belde namelijk na een paar minuten weer terug. Hij verontschuldigde zich niet dat hij zo onbeschoft de hoorn op de haak had gegooid, maar zei meteen dat ze geld kreeg voor deelname aan het gesprek. Hoewel Karin opnieuw zei niet mee te willen werken, bleef de functionaris aanhouden. “We kunnen ook in Amsterdam afspreken. Ben je in Amsterdam? Je woont toch in Amsterdam? Ik ben nu met een collega in de buurt dus dan zouden we even kunnen spreken?”

Blijkbaar wisten ze meer van haar dan ze hadden laten doorschemeren. Karin wees de agenten opnieuw af, maar op het drammerige af bleef Ivo aanhouden. “Anders spreken we af dat jij bepaalt waar en wanneer je af wilt spreken. Je zou ons echt enorm kunnen helpen.” De druk werd opgevoerd. Karin moest zich schuldig gaan voelen. Zij wilde niet meewerken terwijl Ivo en zijn collega zo redelijk waren.

Dat waren ze echter niet. Ze intimideerden haar en toonden geen respect voor haar standpunt. “Weet je wat, ik overval je nu natuurlijk. Misschien kan ik je anders volgende week bellen”, zei Ivo alsof hij haar ontkenning helemaal niet had gehoord. Opnieuw voor de tiende keer antwoordde Karin dat ze niet wilde afspreken, geen tijd en zin had.

Karin was overrompeld, maar was nee blijven zeggen. Achteraf realiseert zij zich dat ze blij was dat ze wist dat ze het volste recht had om te weigeren mee te werken. Na een spervuur aan vragen te hebben overleefd en geschrokken te zijn van de behandeling, bleef er alleen maar boosheid bij haar hangen. “Het is eigenlijk politie van de ergste soort omdat ze zich niet eens voordoen als politie, en het laten lijken alsof je gewoon een gezellig kopje koffie gaat drinken”, vat ze het maanden later samen.

“Veel studenten die benaderd worden zullen dusdanig geïntimideerd zijn dat ze gaan praten omdat ze niet durven te weigeren. Anderen zullen denken dat het om een gezellige discussie of om een debat gaat”, concludeert Karin. De geheim agenten gaven haar ook die indruk. “Ze deden alsof het heel erg zou helpen als ik met ze zou gaan debatteren over de studentenbeweging, alsof zij invloed hadden op de besluitvorming rondom de bezuinigingen”, voegt ze nog toe. Karin is er van overtuigd dat er zeker studenten zijn geweest die op het aanbod zijn ingegaan en met Ivo en zijn collega of andere functionarissen hebben gesproken.

Persoonsdossiers

Naast Marcel, Peter en Karin zijn er ook andere mensen benaderd vanaf het najaar van 2010 tot en met de zomer van 2011. Waarom wordt een inlichtingendienst ingezet tegen een groep studenten die protesteert tegen de bezuinigingen op het onderwijs? Niet om rellen te voorkomen, zoals bij voetbalsupporters. Bij risicowedstrijden communiceert de RID vooral met de burgemeester en met de driehoek over mogelijke ongeregeldheden, niet met de inlichtingendienst.

Dat er een uitgebreidere inlichtingenoperatie rondom de studentenprotesten op touw is gezet, maken de eerste stukken duidelijk die via de Wet openbaarheid van Bestuur (WoB) en de Wet op de Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdiensten (WIV) zijn verkregen. De RID van de regiopolitie Haaglanden heeft op 27 januari 2011 een nabeschouwing van de studentendemonstratie opgesteld voor het Algemeen Commandant van de Staf grootschalig en bijzonder optreden (AC SGBO).

Of dit rapport alleen naar de algemeen commandant is gegaan, valt te betwijfelen. Op 21 maart 2011 schrijft rapporteur ‘R: 15:’ van de RID Haaglanden het verstrekkingrapport 1414/11 aan de AIVD. Het rapport gaat over een studentendemonstratie van 25 maart 2011. Er wordt in gemeld wie de organisator was van de betoging, de route en het aantal te verwachten demonstranten. Onduidelijk is of er delen van het rapport zijn achtergehouden.

Evenmin duidelijk is hoelang de overheid studenten al in kaart aan het brengen is. Duidelijk is wel dat er persoonsdossiers zijn samengesteld van individuele actievoerders. Op basis van die dossiers is de claim van burgemeester Van Aartsen, de politie en het Openbaar Ministerie rond de demonstratie van 21 januari 2011 te begrijpen. Of er provocateurs van politie of inlichtingendienst, mensen die aanzetten tot geweld, tussen de demonstrerende studenten rond hebben gelopen, is niet duidelijk. Wel waren er veel agenten in burger op de been en de ME trad onnodig hard op.

Marcel, Peter en Karin zijn fictieve namen.

Find this story at 26 March 2012

Cambridgeshire police tried to turn political activists into informers

Force defends use of covert tactics against campaigners

Police and anti-fascist protesters clash in Cambridge before a speech at the university by the French far-right leader Marine Le Pen in 2013. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty
A young anti-racism protester abandoned her campaigning work because she felt intimidated by a covert police officer who tried to persuade her to spy on her political colleagues, she has said.

The 23-year-old said the officer, working for a secretive police unit, threatened to prosecute her if she told anyone about the attempt to enlist her as an informer.

The woman, who is a single mother, said the threat had left her feeling “vulnerable and intimidated”, worried that a prosecution would jeopardise her young son, her university place and her chances of working in the future. “If I was charged, I could lose everything,” she said.

The Guardian in November published a secretly recorded video revealing how police had tried to recruit an environmental protester, also in his twenties, to spy on politically active Cambridge students.

Now, three more campaigners have come forward. They have described how police from the covert unit tried to convince them to become informants, and to spy on political groups, such as environmentalists and anti-fascists, in return for cash.

The allegations come two weeks after Theresa May, the home secretary, ordered a public inquiry into the undercover infiltration of political groups after revelations that the police had spied on the family of Stephen Lawrence.

Another of the campaigners said an officer had appeared to follow him and his young daughter to a supermarket where, he said, the officer thrust an envelope containing cash into his hand to induce him to secretly pass on information about environmentalists in Cambridge.

He said he had angrily rejected the envelope, warning that he would get a legal order to stop the police pursuing him, as the officer had previously made two unannounced visits to his home to try to turn him into an informant.

A third campaigner said a police officer had also offered him cash for details about the political activities of leftwing students in Cambridge. He said the same police officer was recorded in the secret video published in November.

All four attempts were made since late 2010 by Cambridgeshire police officers. The force, which accepts that it tried to recruit the four, refused to name or give any details about the unit, but denied its officers would carry out some of the behaviour alleged by the activists.

A spokesperson said : “Officers use covert tactics to gather intelligence, in accordance with the law, to assist in the prevention and detection of criminal activity.”

They added: “In the application of these tactics we wouldn’t engage in behaviour which has been described by the individuals.”

The Cambridge MP, Julian Huppert, said he was “alarmed” by the allegations, and demanded an explanation from the Cambridgeshire chief constable, Simon Parr, of “what has happened here, particularly if people are feeling threatened by the police”.

He added: “The police clearly have a role to keep us safe and to try and understand what is happening. But the sort of methods that are described here seem to me to be simply inappropriate. I do not believe that the sort of steps that are being taken here are proportionate to the actual risks there are.”

The allegations may shed light on how far police may be prepared to go in their efforts to recruit informers, said to number in the hundreds across the country, from inside what activists say are legitimate protest campaigns.

None of the four activists was willing to be named, as they said they feared repercussions from the police.

The single mother has described how her first political action was to join the Cambridge branch of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) in late 2012. She attended two meetings held to mount a counter-demonstration to a march that was being organised by the far-right English Defence League.

She volunteered to help the group’s Facebook page and other social media. Soon after, an officer rang her on her mobile to ask her to come to a local police station as he wanted her opinion on antisocial behaviour in her neighbourhood.

But it was a ruse, she said: at station the officer instead asked her if she would become an informant and tell “everything” she knew about UAF in return for expenses, including trawling Facebook for information about the group.

The officer, whose name is not being disclosed by the Guardian and has been given the pseudonym Peter Smith, saidhe worked for a covert unit whose activities were not known to the rest of the station.

She said that twice during the meeting Smith had warned her that she could be prosecuted if she told anyone, including her mother, about the attempt to recruit her. “He said, if you tell anybody about it at all, we can charge you for getting in our way or compromising our investigation,” she added.

“I felt at the time a bit of blind panic. It took me off my guard. It knocked me for six. You kind of feel like your back is against the wall, and you did not even know that you were going to be there, or why.”

She went home worried “about what I had got myself into here. I felt completely exposed. The problem was that I could not tell anybody”.

She had felt it would be “immoral” not to tell the UAF; but if she did, that could compromise other people in the group.

She said she had also been worried that police would find out if she told anyone, as she suspected that someone at the group’s meetings had passed on her contact details to the police in the first place.

Faced with the quandary, and unable to “look the group in the eye”, she withdrew from UAF. She had felt “pressured” into another meeting with Smith, but after further phone calls from him she had rejected his offer.

She and two others are speaking out after the publication of the secret video, which was recorded by the young protester using a concealed camera. It appeared to show Smith asking the protester to spy on Cambridge students, Unite Against Fascism, UK Uncut and environmentalists.

One of the campaigners who has now come forward said he, too, had been lured to a police station under a pretext by Smith in late 2012.

The campaigner, a student at Cambridge University, had called the police to report two suspicious men on his street who looked as if they were looking for houses to burgle.

A few days later, he said, he had received a call from Smith inviting him to the station to discuss the suspicious men in more detail.

But when he went to the meeting, Smith showed little interest in burglary, and instead asked if he would become an informant, supplying him with information about protests being organised by leftwing students in Cambridge.

Smith allegedly said the campaigner would be paid for his work, but he refused, and heard nothing more.

In the other case, the environmental and social justice campaigner said a police officer had twice come to his house without an appointment and suggested that one of the campaigns he wanted information about was an environmental group, Cambridge Action Network.

He said that even though he had rejected the attempt after a third encounter, the police officer had seemed to follow him and his young daughter a month later to a supermarket, and had pushed an envelope of cash notes into his hand one afternoon in 2011.

“It seemed very random that he should cross our paths there and then, at that moment,” the campaigner said. “Just as we were getting on our bikes, he kind of swooped around the corner on his bicycle and tried to push the money into my hand.”

Rob Evans and Matthew Taylor
The Guardian, Monday 17 March 2014 16.53 GMT

Find this story at 17 March 2014

© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Hillsborough families campaigning for justice ‘had their phones tapped by police spying on them’

Lawyer Elkan Abrahamson has demanded allegations form part of enquiry
He says family members have picked up phone and heard other campaigners
Met Police have not confirmed or denied they put families under surveillance

Hillsborough campaigners may have been spied on by police through a centralised ‘tapping unit’, a leading lawyer has claimed.
Elkan Abrahamson has lodged a series of complaints with the police watchdog over the claims.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) confirmed it has received three referrals about officers spying on campaigners following the 1989 tragedy in which 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives.
Mr Abrahamson, of Broudie Jackson and Canter, said the firm has received strikingly similar accounts of family members picking up the phone to make a call, only to hear an ongoing conversation between other Hillsborough campaigners in a different part of the country.

He said: ‘We’ve had a few separate complaints of phone tapping.
‘It involved a family member picking up the phone only to hear two other family members speaking elsewhere.’

More…
Payouts over secret police will run to tens of millions after it is revealed officers spied on Lawrence family
DAILY MAIL COMMENT: Lawrence and vital role of a free Press
He demanded that allegations of police officers spying on Hillsborough families was included in the public inquiry announced by Home Secretary Theresa May on Thursday after a report found Scotland Yard had spied on murder victim Stephen Lawrence’s family.

Mrs May told the Commons that conclusions that the Metropolitan Police planted ‘a spy in the Lawrence family camp’ were ‘deeply troubling’.
Mr Abrahamson said: ‘It is essential that the enquiry announced by the Home Secretary includes the concerns about surveillance in the Hillsborough case.
‘It will, of course, focus on Lawrence, but the Hillsborough tragedy should equally be subjected to the same scrutiny on this subject of spying.’

The inquiry will be led by Mark Ellison who fronted the independent report into the Lawrence surveillance concerns which sparked this week’s government decision.
The latest Hillsborough complaint echoes the story of Hilda Hammond, who lost her 14-year-old son Philip, and who was on the phone to a friend in 1990 when she could suddenly hear another chat of fellow campaigner Jenni Hicks who was in conversation at her home in Middlesex.
Broudie, Jackson and Canter has also documented a further complaint of a relative believing they were followed by police in Sheffield at the time of the inquests into the tragedy, between 1990 and 1991.
The IPCC also said one of the surveillance complaints related to property being stolen.

The Metropolitan Police, and other forces, has refused to deny or confirm they took part in surveillance of Hillsborough families.
Home Secretary Teresa May has now volunteered to write to every chief constable in the UK to demand they hand over any documents on Hillsborough to the new inquiry.
The move was welcomed, but Mr Abrahamson added: ‘She should ask police forces to provide information on all relevant areas, like surveillance.
‘To hide behind reasons of national security seems particularly unfair when we’re talking about bereaved families.’

It also emerged that some retired cops who had refused to give evidence were now ‘reconsidering’, the IPCC said.
Of the 243 officers whose statements were suspected of being doctored, just 12 of them remain to be questioned.
Rachel Cerfontyne, deputy chairwoman of the IPCC, said: “Concerns have been raised been raised by families about alleged surveillance from police.
‘We believe the Home Secretary’s letter may also assist in identifying whether any documentation relating to surveillance exists.’

By SAM WEBB
PUBLISHED: 20:21 GMT, 9 March 2014 | UPDATED: 09:52 GMT, 10 March 2014

Find this story at 9 March 2014

© Associated Newspapers Ltd

Scotland Yard in new undercover police row; Force accused over attempts to block claims by women allegedly deceived into sexual relationships

Scotland Yard stands accused of covering up “institutionalised sexism” within the police in trying to block civil claims launched by women allegedly deceived into sexual relationships with undercover officers.

Police lawyers are applying to strike out, on secrecy grounds, the claims of five women who say they were duped into intimate long-term relationships with four undercover police officers working within the special demonstration squad (SDS), a Metropolitan police unit set up to infiltrate protest groups.

The legal bid, funded by the taxpayer, is being fought despite widespread outrage and promises of future transparency by Scotland Yard, following official confirmation last week that an undercover officer was deployed 21 years ago to spy on the grieving family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

The Observer understands that police lawyers are asking the high court to reject claims against the Metropolitan police on the grounds that the force cannot deviate from its policy of neither confirming nor denying issues regarding undercover policing.

It is understood that Scotland Yard will say in a hearing, scheduled to be held on 18 March, that it is not in a position to respond to claims and therefore cannot defend it.

Last week an independent inquiry revealed that an officer identified only as N81 was deployed in a group “positioned close to the Lawrence family campaign”. The spy gathered “some personal details relating to” the murdered teenager’s parents. It was also disclosed that undercover officers had given false evidence in the courts and acted as if they were exempt from the normal rules of evidence disclosure.

A separate report on a police investigation into the SDS found that three former officers who had had sexual relations with women who had not known their true identities could face criminal charges.

Harriet Wistrich, a lawyer at Birnberg Peirce & Partners representing the women, said it was absurd that Scotland Yard claimed to be transparent while blocking her clients’ bid for justice in open court. On Friday the former director of prosecutions, Lord Macdonald, accused the police of engendering a “culture of conceit”.

Wistrich said: “They should just hold up their hands and say, ‘this is terrible, we recognise that and are doing everything we can do to put it right’.”

Wistrich said Scotland Yard had made no move to reverse its legal position despite calls by Theresa May, the home secretary, for transparency in the wake of what she last week described as “profoundly disturbing” findings.

“They are basically saying that we have this policy and we have to uphold the policy because we gave lifelong assurances that we would not reveal their identities. This is nonsense when some have confessed themselves to being undercover officers.

“In total, we have got five different officers between the eight claimants and our own evidence suggests there was a deliberate kind of encouragement to do this. We are not just talking about a bad apple … but a rotten-to-the-core, institutionalised sexism.”

The officers accused of forging long-term sexual relationships with women while undercover are Jim Boyling, Bob Lambert, John Dines and Mark Jenner.

Last week May announced a public inquiry into the work of undercover police officers shortly after the publication of the inquiry on allegations of spying on the Lawrence family.

There are additional calls, including by shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, for an examination of the role of undercover officers in providing information for a blacklist operation run by major companies within the construction industry which forced more than 3,000 people out of the sector.

Brian Richardson, a barrister who has set up an umbrella group, Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance, said: “It is extremely important that the proposed inquiry considers the infiltration of the Lawrence family campaign and that of [all] the targets of police surveillance. However, we must continue to campaign to ensure that the inquiry is fully transparent and that those responsible … are held to account.”

Daniel Boffey, policy editor
The Observer, Saturday 8 March 2014 20.30 GMT

Find this story at 8 March 2014

© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Lawrence revelations: admit institutional racism, Met chief told

Anti-terror head moved as black police leader says force has not improved since the 1999 Macpherson inquiry

The crisis engulfing the Metropolitan police following fresh revelations about the Stephen Lawrence case intensified on Friday night as the leader of its black officers’ association called on the commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, to admit that the force was still institutionally racist.

Janet Hills, chair of the Met’s black police association, told the Guardian that the report by Mark Ellison QC into alleged police wrongdoing in the Lawrence case was the latest example of the force failing the communities it serves.

Her comments came as the repercussions from Ellison’s report, commissioned by the home secretary, led the Met to move its head of counter-terrorism, Commander Richard Walton, out of his post after he was caught up in allegations that a police “spy” was placed close to the Lawrence family.

The first public inquiry into the Lawrence case by Sir William Macpherson in 1999 resulted in the force being branded “institutionally racist” for its failings that led the teenager’s killers to escape justice.

Years later the Met said the label no longer applied because it had improved so much, but the leader of the Met’s own ethnic minority officers disagreed.

Hills said: “We believe the Met is still institutionally racist.” She said this was shown by issues such as higher rates of stop and search against black people, and “the representation of ethnic minorities within the organisation, where ethnic minorities are still stuck in the junior ranks”. She added: “For me, it lies in the fact there has been no change, no progression.”

In his first public comments, Hogan-Howe accepted that the Ellison report was “devastating” and the London mayor Boris Johnson, who has responsibility for policing in the capital, described as “sickening” Ellison’s conclusion that a detective in the Lawrence murder investigation may have been corrupt.

Hills said: “The Ellison report’s revelations came because of continuing pressure from the Lawrence family. It’s only because the Lawrence family are fighting for justice that all this is coming out, and there will be more to come.”

Hills said Hogan-Howe should publicly accept that, 15 years on from Macpherson, Britain’s biggest police force – serving a city where 40% and rising are from ethnic minorities – was still “institutionally racist”. She said: “It would be good to hear him acknowledge that … For community trust and confidence he needs to take ownership.”

Johnson defended the Met’s record on race and said confidence was rising in the force Hogan-Howe leads: “He is right to continue and accelerate the work of recruiting a police force that resembles the community it serves.

There has been good progress in recent years in recruiting from ethnic minorities, but there is still some way to go. I know Sir Bernard is determined to get there, and I am sure that we can.”

Ellison’s revelations that the Met had a “spy in the Lawrence camp” during the Macpherson inquiry led the force to announce it would “temporarily” move Walton from his post as head of counter-terrorism, one of the most sensitive jobs in British policing. He has also been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

In August 1998, Walton, then an acting detective inspector, was helping to prepare the Met’s submission to the Macpherson inquiry. He secretly met an undercover officer – described by Ellison as being “positioned close to the Lawrence family campaign” to exchange “fascinating and valuable” information about the grieving family. Some of that information passed from the undercover officer included details on Doreen and Neville Lawrence’s marriage.

Neville Lawrence last night called the revelations “disgusting”, telling the Daily Mail: “It’s unbelievable. They have mocked everything we have done, telling us to our faces that they are listening and things will change, and all the time laughing behind our backs.

“I think they are actually worse than criminals because these officers get paid with taxpayers’ money for what they do.”

Ellison found Walton’s conflicting accounts of the meeting “unconvincing, and somewhat troubling”.

He offered a different version of the purpose of this meeting last month after Ellison told him that he was facing criticism in the report.

Walton was moved to a non-operational role. It comes as the Met faces withering criticism from the home secretary down over the new revelations about its behaviour during the Lawrence case.

Hogan-Howe said the publication of the Ellison report marked one of the worst days of his police career.

He vowed to reform the force, and told London’s Evening Standard: “I cannot rewrite history and the events of the past but I do have a responsibility to ensure the trust and the confidence of the people of London in the Met now and in the future.”

Theresa May branded the Lawrence revelations, some 21 years after the murder, as “profoundly shocking and disturbing”, adding that “policing stands damaged today”. She said the full truth had yet to emerge.

Lord Condon, Met commissioner at the time of the “spy” in the Lawrence camp, denied any knowledge of the deployment, telling the House of Lords: “At no stage did I ever authorise, or encourage, or know about any action by any undercover officer in relation to Mr and Mrs Lawrence or their friends or supporters or the Macpherson inquiry hearings. Had I known I would have stopped this action immediately as inappropriate.”The fallout after the Ellison report is also reaching the courts. Two campaigners are to appeal against their convictions, alleging that an undercover police officer took part in their protest and set fire to a branch of Debenhams, causing damage totalling more than £300,000.The officer, a leading member of the covert unit at the heart of the undercover controversy, was revealed this week to have also been a key figure in thesecret operation to spy on the family of Stephen Lawrence.

The announcement of the appeal comes as scores of convictions involving undercover officers over the past decades are to be re-examined to see if campaigners in a range of political groups have been wrongly convicted.

Ellison, the QC who produced Thursday’s report into the undercover infiltration of the Lawrence campaign, also found that the unit, the special demonstration squad (SDS), had concealed crucial evidence from courts.

Now he has been asked by the home secretary, Theresa May, to identify specific cases in which unjust convictions have been caused by the SDS, which infiltrated political groups between 1968 and 2008.

Vikram Dodd and Rob Evans
The Guardian, Friday 7 March 2014 23.04 GMT

Find this story at & March 2014

© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies.

Why Police Lie Under Oath

THOUSANDS of people plead guilty to crimes every year in the United States because they know that the odds of a jury’s believing their word over a police officer’s are slim to none. As a juror, whom are you likely to believe: the alleged criminal in an orange jumpsuit or two well-groomed police officers in uniforms who just swore to God they’re telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but? As one of my colleagues recently put it, “Everyone knows you have to be crazy to accuse the police of lying.”
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But are police officers necessarily more trustworthy than alleged criminals? I think not. Not just because the police have a special inclination toward confabulation, but because, disturbingly, they have an incentive to lie. In this era of mass incarceration, the police shouldn’t be trusted any more than any other witness, perhaps less so.

That may sound harsh, but numerous law enforcement officials have put the matter more bluntly. Peter Keane, a former San Francisco Police commissioner, wrote an article in The San Francisco Chronicle decrying a police culture that treats lying as the norm: “Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace. One of the dirty little not-so-secret secrets of the criminal justice system is undercover narcotics officers intentionally lying under oath. It is a perversion of the American justice system that strikes directly at the rule of law. Yet it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America.”

The New York City Police Department is not exempt from this critique. In 2011, hundreds of drug cases were dismissed after several police officers were accused of mishandling evidence. That year, Justice Gustin L. Reichbach of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn condemned a widespread culture of lying and corruption in the department’s drug enforcement units. “I thought I was not naïve,” he said when announcing a guilty verdict involving a police detective who had planted crack cocaine on a pair of suspects. “But even this court was shocked, not only by the seeming pervasive scope of misconduct but even more distressingly by the seeming casualness by which such conduct is employed.”

Remarkably, New York City officers have been found to engage in patterns of deceit in cases involving charges as minor as trespass. In September it was reported that the Bronx district attorney’s office was so alarmed by police lying that it decided to stop prosecuting people who were stopped and arrested for trespassing at public housing projects, unless prosecutors first interviewed the arresting officer to ensure the arrest was actually warranted. Jeannette Rucker, the chief of arraignments for the Bronx district attorney, explained in a letter that it had become apparent that the police were arresting people even when there was convincing evidence that they were innocent. To justify the arrests, Ms. Rucker claimed, police officers provided false written statements, and in depositions, the arresting officers gave false testimony.

Mr. Keane, in his Chronicle article, offered two major reasons the police lie so much. First, because they can. Police officers “know that in a swearing match between a drug defendant and a police officer, the judge always rules in favor of the officer.” At worst, the case will be dismissed, but the officer is free to continue business as usual. Second, criminal defendants are typically poor and uneducated, often belong to a racial minority, and often have a criminal record. “Police know that no one cares about these people,” Mr. Keane explained.

All true, but there is more to the story than that.

Police departments have been rewarded in recent years for the sheer numbers of stops, searches and arrests. In the war on drugs, federal grant programs like the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program have encouraged state and local law enforcement agencies to boost drug arrests in order to compete for millions of dollars in funding. Agencies receive cash rewards for arresting high numbers of people for drug offenses, no matter how minor the offenses or how weak the evidence. Law enforcement has increasingly become a numbers game. And as it has, police officers’ tendency to regard procedural rules as optional and to lie and distort the facts has grown as well. Numerous scandals involving police officers lying or planting drugs — in Tulia, Tex. and Oakland, Calif., for example — have been linked to federally funded drug task forces eager to keep the cash rolling in.

THE pressure to boost arrest numbers is not limited to drug law enforcement. Even where no clear financial incentives exist, the “get tough” movement has warped police culture to such a degree that police chiefs and individual officers feel pressured to meet stop-and-frisk or arrest quotas in order to prove their “productivity.”

For the record, the New York City police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, denies that his department has arrest quotas. Such denials are mandatory, given that quotas are illegal under state law. But as the Urban Justice Center’s Police Reform Organizing Project has documented, numerous officers have contradicted Mr. Kelly. In 2010, a New York City police officer named Adil Polanco told a local ABC News reporter that “our primary job is not to help anybody, our primary job is not to assist anybody, our primary job is to get those numbers and come back with them.” He continued: “At the end of the night you have to come back with something. You have to write somebody, you have to arrest somebody, even if the crime is not committed, the number’s there. So our choice is to come up with the number.”

Exposing police lying is difficult largely because it is rare for the police to admit their own lies or to acknowledge the lies of other officers. This reluctance derives partly from the code of silence that governs police practice and from the ways in which the system of mass incarceration is structured to reward dishonesty. But it’s also because police officers are human.

Research shows that ordinary human beings lie a lot — multiple times a day — even when there’s no clear benefit to lying. Generally, humans lie about relatively minor things like “I lost your phone number; that’s why I didn’t call” or “No, really, you don’t look fat.” But humans can also be persuaded to lie about far more important matters, especially if the lie will enhance or protect their reputation or standing in a group.

The natural tendency to lie makes quota systems and financial incentives that reward the police for the sheer numbers of people stopped, frisked or arrested especially dangerous. One lie can destroy a life, resulting in the loss of employment, a prison term and relegation to permanent second-class status. The fact that our legal system has become so tolerant of police lying indicates how corrupted our criminal justice system has become by declarations of war, “get tough” mantras, and a seemingly insatiable appetite for locking up and locking out the poorest and darkest among us.

And, no, I’m not crazy for thinking so.

By MICHELLE ALEXANDER
Published: February 2, 2013

Find this story at 2 February 2013

© 2013 The New York Times Company

Did an undercover cop help organise a major riot?

The wrongly convicted activist John Jordan claims the Met helped plan serious civil disorder. An independent public inquiry is now vital

From the Stephen Lawrence inquiry we learned that the police were institutionally racist. Can it be long before we learn that they are also institutionally corrupt? Almost every month the undercover policing scandal becomes wider and deeper. Today I can reveal a new twist, which in some respects could be the gravest episode yet. It surely makes the case for an independent public inquiry – which is already overwhelming – unarguable.

Before I explain it, here’s a summary of what we know already. Thanks to the remarkable investigations pursued first by the victims of police spies and then by the Guardian journalists Rob Evans and Paul Lewis (whose book Undercover is as gripping as any thriller), we know that British police have been inserting undercover officers into protest movements since 1968. Their purpose was to counter what they called subversion or domestic extremism, which they define as seeking to “prevent something from happening or to change legislation or domestic policy … outside the normal democratic process”. Which is a good description of how almost all progressive change happens.

Most of the groups whose infiltration has now been exposed were non-violent. Among them were the British campaign against apartheid in South Africa, the protest movements against climate change, people seeking to expose police corruption and the campaign for justice for the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence. Undercover officers, often using the stolen identities of dead children, worked their way into key positions and helped to organise demonstrations. Several started long-term relationships with the people they spied on. At least two fathered children with them.

Some officers illegally used their false identities in court. Some acted as agents provocateurs. Seldom did they appear to be operating in the wider interests of society. They collected intelligence on trade unionists that was passed to an agency which compiled unlawful blacklists for construction companies, ensuring that those people could not find work. The policeman who infiltrated the Stephen Lawrence campaign was instructed by his superiors to “hunt for disinformation” about the family and their supporters that could be used to undermine them. When their tour of duty was over, the police abandoned their partners and their assumed identities and disappeared, leaving a trail of broken lives. As the unofficial motto of the original undercover squad stated, it would operate By Any Means Necessary.

The revelations so far have led to 56 people having their cases or convictions overturned, after police and prosecutors failed to disclose that officers had helped to plan and execute the protests for which people were being prosecuted. But we know the names of only 11 spies, out of 100-150, working for 46 years. Thousands of people might have been falsely prosecuted.

So far there have been 15 official inquiries and investigations. They seem to have served only to delay and distract. The report by Sir Christopher Rose into the false convictions of a group of climate change protesters concluded that failures by police and prosecutors to disclose essential information to the defence “were individual, not systemic” and that “nothing that I have seen or heard suggests that … there was any deliberate, still less dishonest, withholding of information”. Now, after an almost identical case involving another group of climate activists, during which the judge remarked that there had been “a complete and total failure” to disclose evidence, Rose’s findings look incredible.

The biggest inquiry still running, Operation Herne, is investigating alleged misconduct by the Metropolitan police. Of its 44 staff, 75% work for, er, the Metropolitan police. Its only decisive action so far has been to seek evidence for a prosecution under the Official Secrets Act of Peter Francis, the police whistleblower who has revealed key elements of this story. This looks like an attempt to discourage him from testifying, and to prevent other officers from coming forward.

Bad enough? You haven’t heard the half of it. Last week, the activist John Jordan was told his conviction (for occupying the offices of London Transport) would be overturned. The Crown Prosecution Service refuses to reveal why, but it doubtless has something to do with the fact that one of Jordan’s co-defendants turns out to have been Jim Boyling, a secret policeman working for the Met, who allegedly used his false identity in court.

Jordan has now made a further claim. He alleges that the same man helped organise a street party that went wrong and turned into the worst riot in London since the poll tax demonstrations. The J18 Carnival Against Global Capitalism on 18 June 1999 went well beyond non-violent protest. According to the police, 42 people were injured and over £1m of damage was done. One building was singled out: the London International Financial Futures Exchange (Liffe), where derivatives were traded. Though protesters entered the building at 1.40pm, the police did not arrive until 4.15pm.

After furious recriminations from the Lord Mayor and the people who ran the Liffe building, the City of London police conducted an inquiry. It admitted that their criticisms were justified, and that the police’s performance was “highly unsatisfactory”. The problem, it claimed, was that the police had no information about what the targets and plans of the protesters would be, and had no idea that Liffe was in the frame. The riot was “unforeseen”.

Jordan was a member of “the logistics group that organised the tactics for J18. There were about 10 of us in the group and we met weekly for over six months.” Among the other members, he says, was Boyling. “The 10 of us … were the only people who knew the whole plan before the day itself and who had decided that the main target would be Liffe.” Boyling, he alleges, drove one of the two cars that were used to block the road to the building.

It is hard to think of a more serious allegation. For six months an undercover officer working for the Metropolitan police was instrumental in planning a major demonstration, which ended up causing injuries and serious damage to property. Yet the police appear to have failed to pass this intelligence to the City of London force, leaving the target of the protest unprotected.

Still no need for an independent public inquiry? Really?

A fully referenced version of this article can be found at Monbiot.com

George Monbiot
The Guardian, Monday 3 February 2014 20.30 GMT

Find this story at 3 February 2014

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Did undercover cop organise one of Londons largest riots?

On June 18th 1999 a car skidded across a road in the financial heart of London. As traffic was blocked thousands of anti capitalist protesters including Reclaim the Streets barged their way into various corporate buildings.

The J18 Carnival Against Global Capitalism according to George Monbiot ‘went well beyond non-violent protest. According to the police, 42 people were injured and over £1m of damage was done. One building was singled out: the London International Financial Futures Exchange (Liffe), where derivatives were traded. Though protesters entered the building at 1.40pm, the police did not arrive until 4.15pm.’

Jim Boyling’s car blockading the road

A man who was in that car was Detective Constable Andrew James ‘Jim’ Boyling – an undercover cop. In Monbiot’s Guardian article ‘He alleges that the same man helped organise a street party that went wrong and turned into the worst riot in London since the poll tax demonstrations.’

I filmed his car being pulled furiously away by cops (video still above) once they manage to break the steering lock.

Monbiot continues
‘After furious recriminations from the Lord Mayor and the people who ran the Liffe building, the City of London police conducted an inquiry. It admitted that their criticisms were justified, and that the police’s performance was “highly unsatisfactory”. The problem, it claimed, was that the police had no information about what the targets and plans of the protesters would be, and had no idea that Liffe was in the frame. The riot was “unforeseen”.

undercover cop Jim Boyling

Was it really unseen? The Met Police had a cop working undercover on organising the carnival and which buildings would be occupied.

Jordan was a member of “the logistics group that organised the tactics for J18. There were about 10 of us in the group and we met weekly for over six months.” Among the other members, he says, was Boyling. “The 10 of us … were the only people who knew the whole plan before the day itself and who had decided that the main target would be Liffe.”

A Reclaim the Streets activist John Jordan said Boyling who went undercover with the name of Jim Sutton ‘drove one of the two cars that were used to block the road to the building.’

Activists were furious when Sutton/Boyling ‘accidentally’ left the window open allowing six of his fellow cops to break the steering lock and push it out of the way.
Undercover cop Jim ‘Sutton’ Boyling

Monbiot lays it out
‘It is hard to think of a more serious allegation. For six months an undercover officer working for the Metropolitan police was instrumental in planning a major demonstration, which ended up causing injuries and serious damage to property. Yet the police appear to have failed to pass this intelligence to the City of London force, leaving the target of the protest unprotected.’

Find this story at 4 February 2014

BBC Newsnight broadcast a report on Boyling, Watch it here at 4 February 2014

or watch the story at 4 February 2014 here

Police are cracking down on students – but what threat to law and order is an over-articulate history graduate?

For most of my life student politics has been little more than a joke. Suddenly it’s become both serious and admirable

Why are some of the most powerful people in Britain so terrified of a bunch of students? If that sounds a ridiculous question, consider a few recent news stories. As reported in this paper last week, Cambridge police are looking for spies to inform on undergraduate protests against spending cuts and other “student-union type stuff”. Meanwhile, in London last Thursday, a student union leader, Michael Chessum, was arrested after a small and routine demo. Officers hauled him off to Holborn police station for not informing them of the precise route of the protest – even though it was on campus.

The 24-year-old has since been freed – on the strict condition that he doesn’t “engage in protest on any University Campus and not within half a mile boundary of any university”. Even with a copy of the bail grant in front of me, I cannot make out whether that applies to any London college, any British university – or just any institute of higher education anywhere in the world. As full-time head of the University of London’s student union, Chessum’s job is partly to protest: the police are blocking him from doing his work. But I suppose there’s no telling just what threat to law and order might be posed by an over-articulate history graduate.

While we’re trawling for the ridiculous, let us remember another incident this summer at the University of London, when a 25-year-old woman was arrested for the crime of chalking a slogan on a wall. That’s right: dragged off by the police for writing in water-soluble chalk. Presumably, there would have been no bother had she used PowerPoint.

It all sounds farcical – it is farcical – until you delve into the details. Take the London demo that landed Chessum in such bother: university staff were filming their own students from a balcony of Senate House (the building that inspired the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, appropriately enough). Such surveillance is a recent tradition, the nice man in the University press office explains to me – and if the police wanted the footage that would be no problem.

That link with the police is becoming increasingly important across more and more of our universities. London students allege that officers and university security guards co-ordinate their attempts to rein in demonstrations while staff comment on the increased police presence around campus. At Sussex, student protests against outsourcing services were broken up this April, when the university called in the police – who duly turned up with riot vans and dogs. A similar thing happened at Royal Holloway university, Surrey in 2011: a small number of students occupied one measly corridor to demonstrate against course closures and redundancies; the management barely bothered to negotiate, but cited “health and safety” and called in the police to clear away the young people paying their salaries.

For most of my life, student politics has been little more than a joke – the stuff of Neil off the Young Ones, or apprentice Blairites. But in the past few years it has suddenly become both serious and admirable, most notably with the protests of 2010 against £9,000 tuition fees and the university occupations that followed. And at just that point, both the police and university management have become very jumpy.

For the police, this is part of the age-old work of clamping down on possible sources of civil disobedience. But the motivation for the universities is much more complicated. Their historic role has been to foster intellectual inquiry and host debate. Yet in the brave new market of higher education, when universities are competing with each other to be both conveyor belts to the jobs market and vehicles for private investment, such dissent is not only awkward – it’s dangerously uncommercial. As Andrew McGettigan, author of The Great University Gamble, puts it: “Anything too disruptive gets in the way of the business plan.”

Last month it appeared that Edinburgh University had forced its student union to sign a gagging clause (now withdrawn). No union officer is allowed to make any public criticism of the university without giving at least 48 hours’ notice. University managers reportedly made that a deal-breaker if the student union was to get any funds.

The managers of the University of London want to shut down the student union at the end of this academic year. The plan – which is why Chessum and co were marching last week – is to keep the swimming pool and the various sports clubs, but to quash all university-wide student representation. After all, the students are only the people paying the salary of the university vice-chancellor, Adrian Smith – why should they get a say? The plan, it may not surprise you to learn, was drawn up by a panel that didn’t number a single student. What with sky-high fees and rocketing rents in the capital, you might think that the need for a pan-London student body had never been higher. But then, you’re not a university manager on a six-figure salary.

Where universities were historically places of free expression, now they are having to sacrifice that role for the sake of the free market. For students, that comes in the form of a crackdown on dissent. Yet the twentysomethings at university now will end up running our politics, our businesses and our media. You might want these future leaders to be questioning and concerned about society. Or you might wonder whether sending in the police to arrest a woman chalking a wall is proportionate. Either way, you should be troubled.

Aditya Chakrabortty
The Guardian, Monday 18 November 2013 20.00 GMT

Find this story at 18 November 2013

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