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Friday, 13 November 2009

FITwatch accuses ACPO boss, Sir Hugh Orde, of 'playing politics' before publication of HMIC report which is certain to further criticise the police’s

As FITwatchers eagerly await the publication of the final part of the HMIC (1) report ‘Adapting to Protest’, we note the thinly disguised attempt by Sir Hugh Orde, ACPO’s president (2), to pre-empt what is expected to be a highly critical report into police behaviour towards legitimate public protest.

In a series of surprisingly frank comments in yesterday’s press, Sir Hugh admits that ACPO-controlled domestic extremism units (3) involved in surveillance of protestors are unnecessary and ‘can go tomorrow’, though he adds that monitoring of protestors should continue under ‘independent regulation’. We’d love to hear Sir Hugh’s definition of ‘independent’.

FITwatch has been monitoring the collection of data for use by the ACPO domestic extremism units (3) for two years and is convinced that the police and ACPO are abusing their powers by collecting and collating data unlawfully. We believe such activities fall foul of European and UK laws on the processing of data and breach of privacy. We therefore welcome the disbanding of the domestic extremism units, saving millions of pounds of public money; one unit, The National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) alone has an annual budget of £5 million and a staff of 60 to 70 officers (4).

FITwatch is convinced that ACPO has become a law unto itself, dictating the law-making agenda to government, while remaining wholly unaccountable. ACPO, the Companies House-registered body, is also involved in a number of questionable commercial activities which generate substantial profits. We welcome Orde’s belated admission, therefore, that ACPO is out of control and must become a statutory body.

FITwatch rejects Sir Hugh’s plea to continue monitoring protestors. Fitwatch activist Val Swain said: ‘There is no need to keep tabs on political protesters at all, and it should stop. There is no reason why criminal activity carried out in the course of protest should be treated in any way differently from criminal activity elsewhere. There is no need for separate units, special functions or special surveillance teams that spend hours on end doing nothing more useful than photographing protesters. It is a huge waste of public money and police resources, and it is a disproportionate interference in civil rights. This is a last ditch attempt by ACPO to retain control of these units under 'independent regulation'. ACPO has operated a deliberate shroud of secrecy, keeping the details of their activities hidden even from regulatory bodies such as the Metropolitan police authority. Before the three domestic extremism units are wound up, however, they should come clean about the extent of data they have access to, and the sort of data they keep, and the ways in which their databases operate’.

Notes

(1) Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary
(2) Association of Chief Police Officers
(3) NETCU (national extremism tactical co-ordination unit), NPOIU (national public order intelligence unit) and NDET (national domestic extremism team)
(4) parliamentary question on 10 November 2009 about the NPIOU asked by Dai Davies MP to Secretary of State for the Home Department

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hmm...

You see, I'm sympathetic to FitWatch, but you're going yourselves no favours here... Personally, I don't have a problem with the police filming protests where they have cause to expect protestors to break the law - so long as they merely film the law breaking... Anything in addition to that is above and beyond what is required.

Where Fitwatch and I are 100% in agreement is when these "Domestic Extremism" teams start detailing who is attending public meetings, recording number plates, and intimidating people who ARE NOT THERE TO BREAK THE LAW. This happens to be the vast majority of protestors.

I recently contacted Tim Alexander of ACPO (Terrorism and Allied Matters) to try to find out under which provision of their Data Protection Register entries they might be collecting data on such individuals, of whom they had no reasonable cause to suspect of being involved in / being likely to become involved in criminal behaviour. The specific question I asked was for either the Registration Number applicable to / details of the Data Controller for the National Public Order Intelligence Unit. He said he didn't have the information to hand (which is reasonable enough) and would get back to me - but we're now two weeks on and nothing... I might give him a nudge next week if I think on...

Martin

Anonymous said...

The NPIOU is a Metropolitan Police Unit - DPA requests go to SO15 - the Counter Terrorism Command - this gives you a clue as to the likleyhood of a detailed response.

Stephen said...

"Fitwatch activist Val Swain said: ‘There is no need to keep tabs on political protesters at all, and it should stop. There is no reason why criminal activity carried out in the course of protest should be treated in any way differently from criminal activity elsewhere.'"

BANG ON! Thank you, Fitwatch.

Really Fit said...

Martin, there is very clear evidence now that the police are not just filming law breaking, they are systematically documenting people attending protest.

I am very interested though, in your response from ACPO - please let us know how you get on.

Anonymous said...

With regard to the question of requesting information.
I think the answer is readily available.
ACPO operates under a veil of secrecy, so dotn expect anything tangible to be forthcoming.

Whilst one avenue MIGHT be closed down for these various little organisations to go about their business they will find a way of continuing in form or another.
Anyone thinking differntly is in my humble opinion seriously misled.
Certain elements of Policing are way out of control not only with their artistic interpretation of the law and associated pwers but more alarmingly thier application of such.
As coomendable as FITWATCH's aims are in curtailign and better controllign such issues i really do think it's fighting a loosing battle.
But no harm in trying i guess at least some are not prepared to accept blindly..

Anonymous said...

Yes - your last post was very damaging to your reputation - an instant response to a Police raid on animal rights extremists that you instantly denounce as an oppressive raid by shadowy special units only to have all of those arrested charged the same day by hampshire police!
Whats that got to do with lawfull protest groups?

Clovis said...

anonymous 0956

you claim npoiu is a met police unit. but a spot of research indicates that it's one of the acpo units. this is bolstered by the fact that, according to the met police authority website, a member of mps staff was seconded to npoiu in 2004. i don't think that the met would second their own staff to a met unit.

FIT Watch said...

Anon 08:12

Four people were charged with conspiracy to commit criminal damage - this doesn't mean they are guilty or the raid proportionate.

Even if the people concerned are eventually found guilty, it does not justify the aggressive manner in which the raids were conducted, nor does it justify photographing leaflets and posters are evidence of animals rights extremism.

Too many people switch off or presume guilt as soon as "animal rights" is mentioned. The repression animal rights activists face is far worse than anything experienced by environmental activists and has to be fought.

Anonymous said...

For me, the original commenter btw, my main focus is on how the police are recording details of people who are not actually suspected of commiting any crime.

In order to operate this wonderful database of theirs, they need (in order to do so legally) to have an entry on the Data Protection Register detailing in broad terms the information they collect and the purposes for which this information is processed.

I very stongly suspect that they have no such covering entry on the register, which means that their operating in this manner would be illegal. No ifs, no buts - it would be black and white. By calling focus onto this issue, I would hope that we could throw some scrutiny on the practice...

Really Fit - I accept your point - hence my interest.

Martin.

ICO said...

Exemptions apply to:

The prevention and detection of crime and the apprehension or prosecution of offenders....


Ta da

Anonymous said...

Nice try, but I think you'll find that the exemptions for preventing and detecting crime DO NOT APPLY to the need to be registered. (They're more geared to Subject Access Requests as I recall...)

At the moment, there is nothing - NOTHING AT ALL - in ACPO's entry to suggest that they can go about merrily filming innocent people and building up a database of their movements.

Once they limit their attention to actual law breakers, things change somewhat.

Martin

John Steed said...

How can they be gathering information "illegally"? It is a de facto police state. Wise up for f**kssakes!

Anonymous said...

"John",

They can be gathering information illegally because the law explicitly prohibits them from behaving in the manner I think they are doing.

So - the police might be breaking the law - what does that give us? Well, at a time when the future of the units we're concerned with is in doubt, and when Hugh Orde has just taken over at ACPO (Hugh Orde being someone with a much better attitude toward lawful protest...), the times as they say are changing. If we can demonstrate that they are operating outside the law, then it's another (perhaps the final) nail in the coffin for this sort of thing.

But yes, Animal Rights groups will continue to be targeted for attention by ACPO. So bring your own actions WITHIN the law, and show that your opponents are OUTSIDE of the law.

If you really want to affect change, then using the law is the only realistic way forward. Nothing else works.

Martin.

John Steed said...

"Martin" as someone who was in Brixton 81-85 and Belfast recetly I can assure you Orde is the same ordure that all police are. We differ on the approach to HM Constabulary, mine being more "robust". Good luck you lot, if we can make common purpose against the enemy we are stronger. Remember de Menezes, Vengeance for Alder!

Anonymous said...

Few people know that ACPO is a private company.

On a totally different subject and not related in any shape, way or form to the above (and me being a bit thick) could anyone tell me what the word "freemasons" means?.