National Domestic Extremism Team issues bail conditions designed to prevent
two house raids in Evesham and Gosport in the early hours of Tuesday 10th
November, four animal rights activists were arrested, charged with conspiracy
to commit criminal damage and given wide-ranging bail conditions designed
specifically to prevent their participation in any facet of animal rights
campaigning. The charges are based upon the seizure of a solitary piece
of 'evidence' in a raid a year earlier.
raids commenced at 7am when police wearing balaclavas, including members
of the National Domestic Extremism Team (NDET), raided two houses. At one
address masked police scaled the walls and broke windows, instead of knocking
on the door, to gain entry. At the other, 20-30 police burst in brandishing
fire extinguishers. From these two raids four people were arrested and later
charged with conspiracy to cause criminal damage. The arresting officer
was DC Mace, of the NDET London, and the accusations relate to several minor
acts of criminal damage in the south of England, claimed by anonymous animal
bail conditions imposed upon those charged are remarkable in their severity;
the activists must “not to participate in, assist travel arrangements,
facilitate or organise in any way any animal rights related activity, stall,
website, protest or demonstration”. All of the activities prohibited
by the bail conditions are completely legal. The bail conditions, deliberately
framed to prevent lawful animal rights activity, are also reminiscent of
the Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) (see here) imposed on several of
those convicted of conspiracy to blackmail in January 2009 (see here). The
defendants in that case were prevented from protesting against vivisection
for the rest of their lives by the ASBOs imposed.
aftermath of the arrests last week, the National Extremism Tactical Coordination
Unit (NETCU) rapidly published a press release on their website naming the
four and stating that they had been arrested in relation to animal rights
'extremism'. Their press strategy proved relatively ineffective as the story
was only picked up by four or five local papers. Crucially, however, all
the stories included the phrase 'animal rights extremism'. In fact, the
terms 'animal rights extremism' and 'domestic extremism' have no basis in
law but are artificial definitions coined by the police to delegitimise
particular types of dissent.
and NETCU are police units focussed on targeting, and limiting support for,
direct action campaigns involved in effective dissent. NETCU goes to great
lengths to explain that it is not acting to stifle 'lawful protest', however
NETCU's political policing directly targets those involved in overt, public
campaigning. Last Tuesday's raids involved officers from Cheshire, West
Mercia and Surrey Police forces with Hampshire and Kent Police also involved
in issuing warrants. This massive police operation was spurred by an act
of 'lawful protest'.
protest that has been used as a justification for the raids and the arrests
occurred on 14th October 2008 when two activists hung a banner from a motorway
overpass near Novartis subsidiary, Ciba Vision’s premises at Hedge
End, near Southampton. The banner-drop was in protest against Novartis'
involvement in vivisection; Novartis is a customer of Huntingdon Life Sciences
(HLS), Europe's biggest animal testing laboratory. Although the protestors
had committed no illegal act and neither was arrested, their details, including
their address, were taken for a possible court summons. A few days later,
police raided their house on the pretext that the paint on their banner
was red and black, colours apparently favoured by activists who had daubed
slogans on walls during actions against companies working with HLS. Both
were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause criminal damage and conspiracy
to blackmail. (For further details of this arrest see SchNEWS 652).
grounds for the arrests were tenuous in the extreme and highly unlikely
to result in conviction. However, in making them NETCU achieved one objective;
the harassment of active animal rights rights campaigners. This harassment
had two aims – intimidation of potential new activists and criminalisation
of persistent campaigners. Hitting activists with spurious charges such
as these allows the police to place activists on bail and potentially monitor
and restrict their movements. NDET knew that they wanted to prosecute these
two campaigners for something, they just weren't sure what for yet.
From the raid on the activists' house the police took a great deal of property
and during the search an item was taken that would later be used as justification
for the arrests. Months passed and their house was raided on yet another
occasion. The campaigners were still on police bail without charge over
a year after the first raid when, on Tuesday 10th November 2009, NDET broke
down their door and arrested them for conspiracy to cause criminal damage.
The grounds for these arrests were that the item seized was similar to one
used in a number of direct actions, although the police admit that the chances
that is connected are less than one in a thousand.
more people who happened to live in the same house where the item was found
were also arrested. Incredibly, considering the flimsy evidence, the police
attempted to remand them in prison. They were, however, released on bail
by a judge at Portsmouth Magistrates Court. All four of those arrested were
charged with conspiracy to cause criminal damage, two of them are due to
appear at Portsmouth Magistrates Court on Wednesday 18th November.
'Pawns In The Game'