View Full Version : Police admit UKuncut arrests made for ‘intelligence gathering’

Magda Hassan
04-09-2011, 07:38 AM
Police admit UKuncut arrests made for ‘intelligence gathering’ (http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/04/08/police-admit-ukuncut-arrests-made-for-intelligence-gathering/)

by Sunny Hundal
April 8, 2011 at 2:04 pm

A senior police officer has admitted, while giving evidence to MPs, that “intelligence gathering” was one of the main reasons that UKuncut protesters were arrested at the March 26th demonstration.
UKuncut had already accused the Met of politically-driven arrests (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/apr/02/uk-uncut-fortnum-mason-protest). This is the first time an admission has been made publicly that the main reason for arrests was not crime prevention but “intelligence gathering”.
Lynne Owens, QPM MA, Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police, said this while giving evidence on what took place on the day (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmselect/cmhaff/uc917-i/uc91701.htm).
(The oral evidence given on the day has just been published)
On intelligence gathering (emphasis ours)

Lynne Owens: 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.
What intelligence is the police trying to glean from a group of peaceful protesters (http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/03/27/watch-ukuncut-occupation-of-fortnum-mason-was-peaceful/), and from a movement that has always participated in non-violent actions?
On UKuncut and ‘violence’ inside the store

Q14 Mr Winnick: Needless to say there are no apologists in this House for thuggery. We were all shocked by what we saw on the television screen. What I want to ask you is regarding the complaints of the organisation-if it is an organisation or group-UK Uncut. They occupied Fortnum & Masons. I am not saying what they did was right, but they occupied it. As far as one can tell, what they stated was that there was absolutely no violence on their part and they claim that they were told if they came out they would not be arrested because there had been no violence on their part, and they were arrested. Could you comment on that?
Lynne Owens: Yes. I have to be quite careful about what I say about Fortnum & Mason, because some of the people who have been charged have been charged from that venue. But what I would say is that some of the commentary we have seen, which is trying to draw a very clear line between anarchists and UK Uncut, isn’t as simple as we saw it operate on the day. The very fact that we have charged that number of people with aggravated trespass hopefully is an indication to this Committee that we do believe, and we have the support of CPS in believing, that significant criminal offences were committed and it is not a truism to say they were unmasked and they were acting peacefully.
Q15 Mr Clappison: Fortnum & Mason presumably would otherwise have been open for business on Saturday and they had their business disrupted, if nothing else. Without commenting about particular offences by people, was there damage caused in Fortnum & Mason?
Lynne Owens: There was damage caused on the outside. I think you will have seen the wide coverage of it, and it is our current understanding that people consumed some of the goods that were in the store, so in other words theft.
In response to the “theft” point, Cath Elliott says on her blog (http://toomuchtosayformyself.com/2011/04/08/arrests-in-the-name-of-intelligence-gathering/) that this is a ridiculous excuse.
“If Lynne Owens wants to arrest a truck load of people for consuming goods inside a food store she pop along to my local Tesco’s, where on any given day of the week numerous people can be found (usually toddlers, but hey, no one’s above the law, right?) wandering the aisles while chowing down on crisps, biscuits, and assorted other sundry items they’ve picked off the shelves.”
For maybe some theft (though there’s no evidence of this), people were stripped of their clothes, put in cells for 24 hours and had their mobile phones confiscated. Is that proportionate policing?
On police lies (the question is ignored)

Q18 Dr Huppert: Firstly, let me say that I share the concern about the allegations that the police lied to some of the occupiers there. I assume that you will be looking into what happened and if police did lie to people, then that wouldn’t be considered appropriate.
Can I move on to the broader issue, because I had the privilege of seeing you a few weeks ago at the Joint Commission on Human Rights where we had a very detailed discussion with you and the TUC about the plans for this. It is very interesting to compare before and after and have a look through the comments. Firstly, in terms of the planning for the operation, with hindsight do you think there is any more that you or the TUC could have done to arrange the whole protest better?
Lynne Owens: No, in terms of the main process that is why we are saying we think it is a successful operation. We are clearly saddened that some criminals chose to come to London and cause damage, but the operation was a success and much of that was due to the planning that we had with the TUC.
The oral evidence session also features MPs asking Lynne Owens if the police needed (and could ask for) more powers to police the Royal Wedding.
Because, of course, the one thing the police is lacking is police powers in order to do their job.