Friday 8 April 2011

UK Uncut Protesters Arrested In Intelligence 'Fishing Trip'?

Now hang on just ONE minute:

Did Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens just come perilously close to admitting that the mass arrest of activists from UK Uncut on 26 March was an intelligence-gathering fishing trip against "sort of anarchist groups" - an opportunity to confiscate and poke around in individuals' mobile phones in the hope that it might "improve the intelligence picture"?

The following is taken from evidence given by Owens on 29 March to the Home Affairs Select Committee investigation on the policing of the TUC's massive anti-cuts demonstration:

Mark Reckless
(Tory MP for Rochester and Strood): "... do you feel there is an issue with the Met’s ability to get intelligence on some of these so-called sort of anarchist groups, and can you see ways in which you may be able to improve that sort of pre-warning intelligence network?"

Lynne Owens: "I think we are seeing a changing face of protest. We have not had protests in London for over five years of the scale that we have seen since the end of last year. We did do, contrary to all the commentary, a fairly significant amount of pre-event work on known groups of people, and indeed a number of arrests were made as part of that process. Do we now need to build on that intelligence picture? Yes, we do. It is why the fact that we arrested as many people as we did is so important to us because that obviously gives us some really important intelligence opportunities. I think it is interesting, and perhaps somewhat ironic, that we find ourselves in this position where we are being asked questions about intelligence pictures where less than a month ago we were being asked about whether it was proportionate to deploy undercover officers in public protests and public order situations. So I think there is something for the police service about getting the balance right. We do need to improve the intelligence picture, but our ability to arrest over 200 people at the weekend gives us a very good starting point in terms of building that picture.

[emphasis added]

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