The Guardian has posted another worrying story (and an interesting video) on the routine police surveillance of environmental activists, most of whom have no connection to any criminal behaviour. The Metropolitan police, who have always been in the forefront of efforts to try to portray political activists as actual or potential criminals, is collecting storing and sharing information, including many private personal details, on activists using Crimint, the national criminal intelligence system. The data includes activists “seen on a regular basis” as well as less frequent activists, regardless of arrests or convictions, their names, political associations and photographs. This information is being shared between police forces to build up more complete portraits of political activity nationwide.
The human rights group, Liberty, is challenging this data collection and sharing on the grounds that it breaches Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. My view is that it almost certainly does, and that the Met are unlikely to care. They are not generally known for their respect for the political rights of British citizens indeed one of their original purposes was to crack down on political dissent back in the Nineteenth Century and they have always maintained this role. They operate the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU) which is also involve in spreading disinformation on political activists and their HQ at New Scotland Yard will apparently host the new privately-run ACPO Confidential Intelligence Unit (CIU).
I have had my own personal experience of the Met’s way of dealing with activists and it is certainly not in any way respectful of anyone’s rights. It urgently needs to be brought under some proper control and accountability, and hopefully being found guilty of breaching Article 8 of the ECHR, if it happens, will be a good start.