activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: united kingdom

activist who discovered the father of her son was an undercover officer settles legal claim

Bob Lambert, an undercover officer, posed as an animal rights activist in the 1980s. Green Party politician Caroline Lucas has named Lambert, who infiltrated the ALF, as the undercover officer who allegedly planted a bomb at a department store in 1987. Like several other undercover officers in the UK between the mid-1980s and 2010, he apparently deceived women into developing long-term sexual relationships with him.

Though he was already married with two children, Lambert fathered a child with one of the women before disappearing in 1989. The woman didn’t discover he was an undercover officer until 2012. She is one of at least 12 women who sued for the trauma they suffered after having intimate relationships with undercover officers.

Her case was the first to settle. According to yesterday’s Guardian article,

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous and is known by the name Jacqui, said the out-of-court settlement in which the Met would pay her £425,000 would not bring closure for her as the force had not admitted wrongdoing.

Police chiefs have maintained that the undercover officers were not permitted to have sexual relationships with the people on whom they were spying. Yet such relationships were routine, often lasting several years.

Advertisements

novartis obtains extended court order to restrict anyone protesting against animal research

Novartis, which already had an injunction against members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), obtained an extension today to cover anyone protesting animal research. The court order blocks animal rights demonstrations at the company’s U.K. facilities or against any of its employees. According to a Bloomberg article,

The order bars harassment or intimidation of Novartis employees, including abusive or threatening posts on websites or social media. The order also restricts demonstrations to six people or fewer, in designated protest zones, with no amplified sounds, and forbids costumes, face-coverings or “blood-splattered costumes.” Anyone breaching the injunction can be arrested.

At least 18 companies have obtained injunctions from British courts against SHAC. After the conviction of SHAC activist Debbie Vincent last month, Novartis allegedly wanted protection from any backlash. The injunction is temporary and there will be a trial to determine whether it remains in place.

one person arrested as activists blockade a nato conference in the united kingdom

To greet delegates to a NATO conference that started yesterday, activists hung banners off bridges near the venue and temporarily blockaded the event. Police had to escort cars into the conference. One protester was arrested, apparently for violating the Public Order Act. According to Chloe Marsh from Smash EDO,

Senior NATO and member state officials, parliamentarians, and defence and security experts – responsible for untold death, illegal torture flights, and wars purely to protect Western interests – are gathering right now in Steyning. We are here to oppose them.

Smash EDO is a campaign against the arms trade. Activists have carried on a long-running campaign specifically calling for the closure of EDO, a US-owned arms company that has a factory in Brighton, England.

animal rights activists to appeal their convictions due to the involvement of an undercover police officer

Two members of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) have decided to appeal their convictions for planting incendiary devices at department stores, because evidence suggests that former Special Demonstrations Squad officer Bob Lambert played a key role in the events that led to their convictions. Green Party politician Caroline Lucas has named Lambert, who infiltrated the ALF, as the undercover officer who allegedly planted a bomb at a third department store around the same time. According to today’s BBC article,

Andrew Clarke and Geoff Sheppard were convicted of planting incendiary devices at Debenhams stores in Romford and Luton in 1987. An undercover police officer allegedly planted a third device at a branch in Harrow to help convict the men. The officer has denied this and said he would not have committed such a crime.

While posing as an animal rights activist in the 1980s, Lambert also co-wrote a leaflet critical of McDonald’s that led to the longest civil trial in English history. During the four decades that the secret Special Demonstrations Squad existed, police officers infiltrated hundreds of protest groups. Like several other undercover officers in the UK between the mid-1980s and 2010, Lambert apparently deceived women into developing long-term sexual relationships with him.

Though already married with two children, Lambert fathered a child with one of the women before disappearing in 1989. The woman didn’t discover he was an undercover officer until 2012. She is now one of 11 women who are suing for the trauma they suffered after having intimate relationships with undercover officers.

united kingdom’s top criminal court overturns convictions of twenty-nine climate change activists

In June 2008, climate change activists ambushed a freight train carrying coal to Europe’s largest coal-fired power station, Drax. An undercover Metropolitan police officer, Mark Kennedy, played a role in the protest. According to today’s Guardian article,

… the train was stopped by two men posing as Network Rail staff, wearing orange jackets and hard hats, who held up a red flag. Moments later, the train and a nearby bridge were scaled by the protesters wearing white paper boiler suits and carrying banners. The protest lasted 16 hours, causing delays to numerous freight and passenger services and the clean-up operation cost Network Rail nearly £37,000.

Today the United Kingdom’s top criminal court overturned the 29 activists’ convictions, because the prosecution failed to disclose Kennedy’s involvement and related evidence during the trial. This is the third case in the past few years in which charges have been dropped, or convictions overturned, because Kennedy’s involvement and related evidence was suppressed. Kennedy spent seven years infiltrating left-wing protest groups, traveling to 11 countries on 40 occasions, and slept with at least three female activists.

london police apologize for death of homeless newspaper salesman at g20 protest

During a 2009 G20 protest in London, officer Simon Harwood hit homeless newspaper salesman Ian Tomlinson from behind as Tomlinson walked away from police lines. Harwood struck Tomlinson with a baton and pushed him to the ground. Tomlinson collapsed fewer than three minutes later, dying shortly afterward.

A jury examined the incident to determine the cause of Tomlinson’s death. On May 3, 2011, the jury concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that Harwood unlawfully killed Tomlinson. Yet on July 19, 2012, a subsequent jury, in Harwood’s manslaughter trial, found the officer not guilty. Regardless, Harwood was later fired after a police disciplinary panel ruled that his actions constituted gross misconduct.

Following the not guilty verdict last year, Tomlinson’s family initiated a civil case. Yesterday the London police finally apologized to Tomlinson’s family, more than four years after he died. The apology is apparently part of an out-of-court settlement.

undercover police officer co-wrote leaflet that harmed reputation of mcdonald’s

In the mid-1980s, activists with London Greenpeace (unrelated to Greenpeace) began handing out a leaflet critical of McDonald’s. The corporation hired private investigators to infiltrate the group and sued five activists over the leaflet in 1990. Three of the activists apologized but two took the case to trial, which turned out to be the longest civil trial in English history. The judge ruled that the activists failed to prove all the allegations in the leaflet, but according to today’s Guardian article,

It was a hollow victory for the company; the long-running trial had exposed damaging stories about its business and the quality of the food it was selling to millions of customers around the world. The legal action, taking advantage of Britain’s much-criticised libel laws, was seen as a heavy handed and intimidating way of crushing criticism.

The story resurfaced today because a new book, to be published next week, will reveal the role of an undercover police officer in co-writing the leaflet at issue. The undercover officer, Bob Lambert, posed as an animal rights activist in the 1980s. Like several other undercover officers in the UK between the mid-1980s and 2010, he apparently deceived women into developing long-term sexual relationships with him.

Though already married with two children, Lambert fathered a child with one of the women before disappearing in 1989. The woman didn’t discover he was an undercover officer until last year. She is now one of 11 women who are suing for the trauma they suffered after having intimate relationships with undercover officers.

On a related note, Greenpeace Canada promised yesterday that it wouldn’t be intimidated by a $7 million defamation lawsuit filed by Canada’s largest logging company, Resolute Forest Products. The lawsuit echoes previous lawsuits against activists, such as the McDonald’s lawsuit, TransCanada’s $5 million lawsuit, and EDF Energy’s £5 million lawsuit. One of the 21 environmental activists EDF sued writes that although Resolute thinks the lawsuit will silence Greenpeace, it won’t work.

campaigner wins court battle to have information removed from extremism database

In a landmark decision this morning, a Court of Appeal in the UK ruled that the retention of information regarding campaigner John Catt in the National Domestic Extremism Database was unlawful. Last year High Court judges had ruled against Catt. According to today’s BBC article,

Mr Catt began legal action after he discovered details of his protests against EDO, a US-owned arms company which has a factory in Brighton, were being held on the database. The data at the centre of the case included records or reports made by officers policing protests by the group Smash EDO. The group has carried on a long-running campaign calling for the closure of EDO…

In the U.S., such a victory would also be notable. Yet activist attorney Kiko Martinez successfully settled two federal lawsuits in 2007 related to the inclusion of his name on an FBI terrorist watch list because of his political beliefs. He received $106,500 to settle the lawsuits, which he filed after officers stopped him in three different states without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.

energy company settling lawsuit against activists who occupied power plant

EDF Energy is settling a £5 million lawsuit it filed against 21 environmental activists who occupied one of its gas-fired power plants in October 2012. According to today’s Guardian article,

The activists, part of the No Dash for Gas group fighting against a new generation of gas plants in the UK, had occupied the site of a gas-fired power plant owned by EDF in West Burton, beginning last October. Several remained strapped to a cooling tower at the site for over a week, the longest such occupation in the UK. EDF’s claim against the activists said this action had caused damage in excess of £5m, a figure that included staff and labour costs, delays to the completion of the station, specialist security and lost carbon emission credits.

Like the Tar Sands Blockade’s response to TransCanada’s $5 million lawsuit, the UK activists apparently agreed not to enter multiple sites operated by EDF. (A civil injunction against the activists is already in place and bars them from EDF power stations across the country.) The activists could also be incarcerated for the action, because they pled guilty to trespass charges on February 20 and several of them have previous protest convictions. The Guardian article states that we’ll find out in the next few weeks whether these will be “the first prison sentences for climate change activists in the UK.”

undercover police cultivated intimate relationships with activists to spy on radical groups

Does the law allow state agents to develop sexual relationships with the people on whom they intend to gain intelligence? In the UK, six undercover officers cultivated relationships with several women while infiltrating environmental and social justice groups between the mid-1980s and 2010. The relationships ranged from 7 months to many years.

In December 2011, eight of the women brought legal claims against the Metropolitan Police. (A separate case involves a woman who had a child with an undercover officer she believed was a fellow animal rights activist.) According to a press release announcing the legal action,

Through their collective experiences the women have identified a pattern that covers more than two decades of police operations and is therefore indicative of systemic abuse of female political activists involved in a range of different groups. … After the women formed loving relationships with these men, they disappeared when their posting ended, leaving the women to cope with the trauma of not knowing whether or not the person they were in love with would return, not knowing if they should be worried or angry and trying to discover what was real and what was not.

The police sought to have the case heard in a secret court, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), in which complainants cannot see the state’s evidence, have no guaranteed right to an oral hearing, and cannot appeal. Yesterday the High Court in London granted the officers’ application for a secret hearing as to the claims under the Human Rights Act, but rejected their application as to the common law claims (e.g., deceit, negligence, and assault). While the common law claims will not be heard in secret, those claims will now be put on hold pending the verdict of the IPT on the claims under the Human Rights Act.