Whenever a major story breaks (like the recent Gifford shootings) its usually a good idea to check out the back pages, someones always trying to bury bad news. So it came as no surprise that they announced the collapse of the case against 114 protestors arrested for allegedly planning a direct action protest against the Ratcliffe power station.
And the story would have probably died had it not been for the fact that the Beebs Newsnight crew seemed to be already on the case, their episode is quite an expose:
For those of you who missed this one, back in April 2009, several hundred police officers swooped in an arrested a load of climate change protestors as they slept in a community hall. One of the insidious features of this is that the were arrested for “conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass”, in other words they were arrested for thinking about committing a crime, rather than the crime itself. There is something distinctly disturbing about this, its like something out of the movie minority report (especially as many of those arrested pointed out that, having just been briefed about the plan, they hadnt yet decided to join the protest and were in the process of literally sleeping on it when plod kicked the door in). Even a Daily Mail reader would I suspect find the idea unsettling of police arresting people as a precaution against them committing a crime, rather than for actually committing a crime. Should all non-doms be arrested on the off chance they might decide to cheat on their taxes? Should Rangers/Celtic supporters be arrested before any game on the off chance there might be violence? Should the Orange order members be arrested before a march, just in case? Should MPs (particularly Tory ones) be arrested on their first day on the suspicion they might cheat on their expenses? In fact, taking it to its logical conclusion will we have cops waiting in maternity wards to arrest new born Neds/Chavs on the off chance the commit a crime in the future?
If that werent all bad enough, it seems the whole case collapsed because one of the undercover cops who had infiltrated the group turned canary and fested up to the climate protestors lawyers, offering to give evidence in theyre support. The hasty collapse of the case after this, the attempt to bury the story on a big news day suggested that he might have things to say that Plod would rather not want heard in open court. You see while undercover cops are allowed to break the law to fit in with the groups they are monitoring, there are strict limits to what they can do. A cop monitoring a drug gang could certainly accompany others on a drive by shooting (even do the driving), but suggesting that they go shoot up mad-micks pub would be breaking the law. In essence if he encourages others to break the law he is the one committing a crime. One of the key issues of this case is that the climate protestors were going to call of the protest, but didnt after the undercover plod said that hed done a rece & that the police presence at the power station earlier in the day had disappeared. If this is true, then this is entrapment, and if he was under orders from higher up to encourage protesters not to call of the protest, then those higher up are the ones whose collar should be felt for criminal conspiracy not the environmentalists. Now while they will claim Im sure this cop has gone native on them (he has apparently been spying on climate protestors for at least 7 years), clearly there are alot of questions that need answering, and its highly unlikely he could have kept up this pretence without support from his superiors. He certainly couldnt arrange for several hundred of his colleagues to launch a dawn raid on a community hall – that order had to come from above, suggesting senior police knew exactly what he was up to and may well have ordered him to do what he did.
Hang on now! You might be saying, undercover cops being deployed against environmentalists? That seems a bit much! Yes, the valuable time of at least one undercover cop (he claims he was one of many) was wasted for at least 7 years! This alone is reason enough for someone senior to get the boot. Undercover cops are like hens teeth in the police forces. As an ex-undercover officer put it on newsnight:
…They are simply too valuable a resource to waste on a bunch of fluffy tree huggers
It no wonder he turned canary having been essential wasted on what is a minor public order issue. These undercover cops, and all those guarding the power station/arresting people in a dawn raid could have been off doing something else, like catching people traffickers, or drug dealers or bank robbers or something (jasus! Are you crazy! Why those sorts of people are really dangerous…. I mean someone should go lock them up….oh! wait hang on, thats our job!). There is way too much of this police going after law abiding citizens for minor offences, or overeacting to legitimate protests (which yes, can get out of hand from time to time, but compared to incidents in the past, such as the poll tax riots, its hardly new or something to be worried about). As the climate protestors themselves say its political policing and in a democracy the one thing the cops are not meant to do is make political policing decisions, they must remain, as De Valera put it “the non-political servants of the state”. This is why in the US many positions such as the local sheriffs are democratically elected.
And again, I suspect the real reason the police are doing this is because theyve become lazy. Protestors and law abiding citizens are soft targets for an individual cop, or a local police force, to get up his/their quota of collars, so they go for soft targets for minor things, rather than tackle the harden criminals who inevitably dont come quietly (and know how to handle themselves in a fight). And, having been banged up enough times in the past, they also know how to outwit the criminal justice system (and have all that drug money to pay for lawyers), reducing the chances of a conviction.
Now again, Im sure theres some seething Daily Mail/Express reader blithering but these bloody hippies could have shut down a power station, causing total blackout across the whole of the UK which would have killed 3 Billion people (out of a total uk pop of 60 million) Hangem all! Hardly! Knowing, hippies they wont have shown up till mid-day, and in April about that time the electricity grid is at its lowest levels of demand (& thus one power station unexpectedly shutting down shouldnt cause any major problems – between 4-5pm on a cold, day in early winter however, is another matter). After unfurling theyre banners and dangling off the chimneys for a few hours , theyd have got cold, tired, bored and desperate for a spliff (which is difficult to smoke while hanging from a power station chimney with half the west midland police watching). So not long after the media showed up and got footage of it all, they have fecked off home – via the local jail cell (taxpayer subd hostel). Hardly a national disaster! but then again Im reminded that the Daily Express predicted last winter that the snow was going to kill 60,000 people, so the tabloids do have a slight habit for exaggeration:
I might finally point out that its the job of private security guards (i.e hired goons) to keep hippies out of power stations – not the police. The police should only get called if the corporate goon squad are over stretched, or the police are needed to formally arrest people detained for criminal trespass, etc. Apparently FOI requests suggest that it cost in the order of £300,000 to perform this police operation, thats over £2,500 per protestor! So in effect the UK taxpayer is subsidising the security of energy utility companies (dont they get enough off of us in gas bills!). It would have just been cheaper to turn the station off for a day and buy the lecky from France (ya! Nuclear power! That would have pissed off the protestors!) One has to assume that this whole debacle wont have happened if it werent for lobbying and pressure from someone in the energy industry to do something about climate protestors. Again, it is not the cops job to be the lackeys of corporations; theyve got plenty of hired goons to do that job for them already. If the corporations want the police to protect their assents maybe they would also agree to pay for those cops with say, higher rates of corporation taxes, or higher taxes on high earners.