National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit

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This article is part of the Counter-Terrorism Portal project of Spinwatch.


The National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU) is one of a number of national police intelligence units set up under the aegis of the Association of Chief Police Officers. The National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit is one of the three "domestic extremism" units working under the direction of Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway. NETCU, NPOIU (of which the CIU is a section) and NDET are the three units answering to ACPO. As the "national co-ordinator for domestic extremism" he commands about 100 staff and has a budget of about £9m a year.[1]

NETCU is headed by Superintendent Steve Pearl.[2] The unit is based in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, a centre of animal rights activism because of the presence of research firm Huntingdon Life Sciences.[3]

Role

ACPO describes NETCU's role as follows:

Its main focus is to promote a joined up, consistent and effective response to local police forces dealing with single-issue extremism of any character - including animal rights extremism. NETCU also provides a central support and liaison service to animal research and related industries.[4]

According to the Telegraph, two thirds of the unit's work relates to animal testing companies, but 18 per cent relates to farming and other industres that keep live animals.[5]

NETCU has also been involved in monitoring anti-abortion groups such as the UK Life League.[6]

An October 2009 Guardian report described NETCU's role as helping "police forces, companies, universities and other bodies that are on the receiving end of protest campaigns."[7]

Netcu's job is to give "security advice, risk assessments and information that can minimise disruption and keep their employees safe". Its head, Superintendent Steve Pearl, says his 16-strong unit works with police forces across the country, keeps detailed files on protest groups, rather than individuals, and liaises with thousands of companies in aviation, energy, research, farming and retail.[8]

In dialogue with industry

An article in The Guardian from January 2011 states that

NETCU gives out advice to police forces, companies, universities and other organisations to cope with protests that it believes will be unlawful. The Cambridgeshire-based unit, set up in 2004, liaises with thousands of companies in aviation, energy, research, farming and retail.[1]

Structure

NETCU is answerable to the ACPO Terrorism and Allied Matters Committee (ACPO(TAM)) and works closely with the Home Office, National Crime Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), as well as with local police forces. It is one of a number of units overseen by the National Co-ordinator for Domestic Extremism.[9]

History

NETCU was formed in March 2004 by ACPO, with funding from the Home Office.[10]

Netcu head Steve Pearl later told the Guardian that at the time, the Home Office was "getting really pressurised by big business – pharmaceuticals in particular, and the banks – that they were not able to go about their lawful business because of the extreme criminal behaviour of some people within the animal rights movement."[11]

In September 2006, Pearl claimed that half of Britain's animal rights extremists had been put behind bars and the number of attacks had dropped significantly.

Mr Pearl claimed that the successes had helped the research companies. "The confidence of industry has most certainly started to rise again and we are seeing tangible evidence of this with greater investment in the United Kingdom," he said.[12]

Eco-terrorism smear

In November 2008, the Observer cited NECTU as a the source of fears of a "growing threat of eco-terrorism" and of concerns that "a 'lone maverick' eco-extremist may attempt a terrorist attack aimed at killing large numbers of Britons."

The unit is currently monitoring blogs and internet traffic connected to a network of UK climate camps and radical environmental movements under the umbrella of Earth First!, which has claimed responsibility for a series of criminal acts in recent months.
A senior source at the unit said it had growing evidence of a threat from eco-activists. 'We have found statements that four-fifths of the human population has to die for other species in the world to survive.
'There are a number of very dedicated individuals out there and they could be dangerous to other people.'[13]

Two weeks later, the Observer readers editor Stephen Pritchard announced that the paper had withdrawn the story:

It's perfectly legitimate to report police security concerns, but none of the statements were substantiated. No website links were offered, no names were mentioned, no companies identified and no police source would go on the record.[14]

Pritchard noted that NECTU declined to respond to allegations that it "was briefing in this manner in order to make prosecutions easier and to boost its funding, which is at risk owing to the decline in animal rights campaigns."[15]

George Monbiot suggested that the original Observer article provided support for the proposition that the eco-terrorism smear was motivated by the decline of animal rights extremism.[16] It stated:

The rise of eco-extremism coincides with the fall of the animal rights activist movement. Police said the animal rights movement was in 'disarray' and that its ringleaders had either been prosecuted or were awaiting prosecution, adding that its 'critical mass' of hardcore extremists was sufficiently depleted to have halted its effectiveness.[17]

The Guardian raised such allegations with Steve Pearl in October 2009:

Pearl denied the unit was engaged in mission creep but admitted that environmental protesters had now been brought "more on their radar" as they had been "shutting down airports, and shutting down coal-fired power stations, more recently stopping coal trains, hijacking coal trains and ships in the river Medway."[18]


Tony Blair and pharmaceutical companies in dialogue

An article by Corporate Watch brings to light the dialogue between NETCU, government and industry

After a decade of victories and high profile campaigns the crunch came in 2003/4 when large pharmaceutical companies started threatening to pull out of the UK in the face of sustained campaigns from the likes of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty and others. Tony Blair met with representatives of the pharmaceutical companies and the security agencies at a secret meeting in Oxford. A new strategy was being created, one that gave birth to NETCU.[19]

Working alongside the media, lawyers and corporations

The aim was to explore new, political ways in which campaigns and protests could be countered and marginalised, suggests a Corporate Watch article.

It would actively work with the media, lawyers and corporations to achieve this. Lead by Supt. Steven Pearl, it developed links with the pharmaceuticals industry, the press and with lawyer Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden. It even had a presence at security exhibitions and conferences.[19] 
 

Allies with lawyers

The Public Order Act 1986 and other laws relating to harassment were used to make protest inherently unlawful. A detailed account of the legal implications are presented in the Corporate Watch article

NETCU formed its infamous alliance with lawyer Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden. The Protection from Harassment Act of 1999 was the “stalkers law,” brought in by New Labour to give protection to women. Lawson-Cruttenden worked out that it could also be used to 'protect' corporations from demonstrations by seeking civil injunctions against protesters. The arrival of NETCU meant Lawson-Cruttenden now had a friendly police organisation to go hand in hand to companies, encouraging them to seek civil injunctions under the act, severely curtailing the right to protest in the process. When campaigners started to poke holes in the use of this law, the government of the day had little qualms about bringing in amendments to the law in favour of corporations.

As described on their own website, Lawson-Cruttenden & Co

has achieved injunctions for transnational companies that have been recognised as protecting the business interests of clients who were being targeted and harassed. Experts in Corporate Harassment, they have acted for a number of transnational companies who have been targeted by animal rights and environmental protestors.[20]  

This company worked on the controversial injuction behind [21]. The Corporate Watch article suggests that Lawson-Cruttenden

actively prepared and hawked injunctions, at the same time as NETCU was encouraging companies to take them out. For instance, documents released during the infamous Heathrow Climate Camp injunction[22] indicate that Lawson-Cruttenden was preparing documents five months before it was even decided that Heathrow would be the target.[19]  

'Domestic extremism': no legal definition

Protest groups were to be re-branded as “extremist” to justify bringing in various measures curtailing protest in general, argues an article on NETCU by Corporate Watch.

'Domestic extremism' has no legal definition, as opposed to 'terrorism' which does. However, it the words of NETCU, it is defined by the police as:[19] 
“… generally used to describe the activity, individuals or campaign groups that carry out criminal acts of direct action in furtherance of a campaign. These people and activities usually seek to prevent something from happening or to change legislation or domestic policy, but attempt to do so outside of the normal democratic process.” [23] 
 


Databases

Groups such as NETCU and the NPOIU build up profiles of protests (allegedly images of 1822 separate individuals) in order to identify and focus on people they believe are 'ring-leaders', with the belief that dealing with them will solve the 'problem'.Assistant Commissioner Anthony Speed states that

Experience shows that the same people are involved in demonstrations - whether it's disruption of building works and motorways, runways, live animals for export, or people 'reclaiming' the streets. It tends to be the same people who support them and travel around the country. It's about keeping a database on them - identifying the main individuals.”[24] 


  The Guardian has described the NPOIU as "essentially a giant database of protest groups and protesters in the country."[25] 


Housed at a secret location in London, its purpose is "to gather, assess, analyse and disseminate intelligence and information relating to criminal activities in the United Kingdom where there is a threat of crime or to public order which arises from domestic extremism or protest activity". 

Police in England and Wales collect intelligence on individuals and then feed it to the NPOIU which, Setchell said, "can read across" all the forces' intelligence and deliver back to them "coherent" assessments.[26] 


The future of NETCU: restructuring

An article By Corporate Watch outlines the reasons for a re-organisation

which will see the units brought back under the aegis of the Metropolitan Police due to be completed by the summer. Setchell and Pearl were both effectively sacked, with Det. Chief Supt. Adrian Tudway taking over from the former as National Domestic Extremism Co-ordinator. Comments from Pearl in the Telegraph[27] November 2010 indicate that this was also in part due to a desire to cut costs.[19] 

According to the NETCU website

following reviews within ACPO TAM and a HMIC Value for Money Review, it was agreed by the ACPO TAM board to merge the three Domestic Extremism units into single national function under a lead force.[28]
The National Co-ordinator for Domestic Extremism, Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway, is currently managing the merger said "The three domestic extremism units were set up at different times during a six year period, with the current economic climate and the need to maximise resources it makes sense to merge." 

This restricting gives rise to some difficult questions. As formulated by Corporate Watch

Police and politicians will not give up such tried and tested tactics easily. It remains to be seen whether they will simply become even more secretive, or whether some more rigourous oversight of intelligence-gathering and undercover operatives in protest movements be put in place.[19] 
 


Transferable skills and alliances: police and private security industry

Questions have been raised regarding the ethics of "former police officers cashing in on their surveillance skills for a host of companies that target protesters".[29] See the Powerbase overview of the revolving door between the private security industry and the police.

The future of NETCU

According to NETCU's own website

following reviews within ACPO TAM and a HMIC Value for Money Review, it was agreed by the ACPO TAM board to merge the three Domestic Extremism units into single national function under a lead force.[30]

The National Co-ordinator for Domestic Extremism, Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway, is currently managing the merger said "The three domestic extremism units were set up at different times during a six year period, with the current economic climate and the need to maximise resources it makes sense to merge."

An article in The Guardian on the three "domestic extremism" units working under the direction of Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway states that

concerns have been growing about the accountability and subject to agreement they will be taken over by the Met under a "lead force" agreement – the same way the Met has overall command of national counter-terrorism operations.[1]

Funding and finances

Netcu is funded by the Home Office.[31] It is one of three "domestic extremism" units working under the direction of Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway. Tudway, the "national co-ordinator for domestic extremism", commands about 100 staff and has a budget of about £9m a year.[1]

People

Affiliations

Contact details, Resources, Notes

Contact

  • Address:NETCU, PO Box 525, Huntingdon, PE29 9AL
  • Phone:01480 425093
  • email: netcu@cambs.pnn.police.uk
  • Website: http://www.netcu.org.uk

External Resources

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Rob Evans, Matthew Taylor, Afua Hirsch and Paul Lewis Rein in undercover police units, says former DPP The Guardian, 13/01/11, accessed 24/01/11
  2. Animal rights extremists target farmers, by Jasper Copping, telegraph.co.uk, 14 April 2007.
  3. Half of animal rights extremists are in jail, by Andrew Alderson, telegraph.co.uk, 30 Sep 2006.
  4. LEADING ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVIST SENTENCED, ACPO press release, 25 February 2005.
  5. Animal rights extremists target farmers, by Jasper Copping, telegraph.co.uk, 14 April 2007.
  6. Anti-abortionists turn sights on schools and hospitals in US-style campaign, by Sandra Laville, The Guardian, 27 March 2006.
  7. Rob Evans, Paul Lewis and Matthew Taylor, How police rebranded lawful protest as 'domestic extremism', guardian.co.uk, 25 October 2009.
  8. Rob Evans, Paul Lewis and Matthew Taylor, How police rebranded lawful protest as 'domestic extremism', guardian.co.uk, 25 October 2009.
  9. LEADING ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVIST SENTENCED, ACPO press release, 25 February 2005.
  10. LEADING ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVIST SENTENCED, ACPO press release, 25 February 2005.
  11. Rob Evans, Paul Lewis and Matthew Taylor, How police rebranded lawful protest as 'domestic extremism', guardian.co.uk, 25 October 2009.
  12. Half of animal rights extremists are in jail, by Andrew Alderson, telegraph.co.uk, 30 Sep 2006.
  13. Home: News: Police warn of growing threat from eco-terrorists: Fear of deadly attack by lone maverick as officers alert major firms to danger of green extremism, by Mark Townsend and Nick Denning, The Observer, 9 November 2008.
  14. The readers' editor on ... anonymous sources and claims of eco-terrorism, by Stephen Pritchard, The Observer, 23 November 2008.
  15. The readers' editor on ... anonymous sources and claims of eco-terrorism, by Stephen Pritchard, The Observer, 23 November 2008.
  16. The Paranoia Squad, by George Monbiot,The Guardian, 23 December 2008, via monbiot.com.
  17. Home: News: Police warn of growing threat from eco-terrorists: Fear of deadly attack by lone maverick as officers alert major firms to danger of green extremism, by Mark Townsend and Nick Denning, The Observer, 9 November 2008.
  18. Rob Evans, Paul Lewis and Matthew Taylor, How police rebranded lawful protest as 'domestic extremism', guardian.co.uk, 25 October 2009.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 19.5 Farewell to NETCU: A brief history of how protest movements have been targeted by political policing 19/01/11, accessed 21/01/11
  20. Lawson-cruttenden&co, Solicitors and Advocates' Wesbite corporate-harassmentaccessed 22/01/11
  21. Lawson-cruttenden&co, Solicitors and Advocates' Wesbite Heathrow Airport Ltd -v- Joss Garman and ors [2007 EWHC 1957 (QB)] accessed 22/01/11
  22. Shnews Airbusted! 27/07/07, accessed 22/01/11
  23. NETCU website What is domestic extremism? accessed 21/01/11
  24. Tash (Alan Lodge)  On Being Watched - for having concerns for the planet BBC website, 21/01/02, accessed 21/01/11
  25. Rob Evans, Paul Lewis and Matthew Taylor, How police rebranded lawful protest as 'domestic extremism', guardian.co.uk, 25 October 2009.
  26. Rob Evans, Paul Lewis and Matthew Taylor, How police rebranded lawful protest as 'domestic extremism', guardian.co.uk, 25 October 2009.
  27. Jason Lewis Did police cutbacks allow extremists to hijack student demonstrations? The telegraph, 14/11/10, accessed 22/01/11
  28. NETCU website Media 24/11/10, accessed 22/01/11
  29. Paul Lewis and Rob Evans Green groups targeted polluters as corporate agents hid in their ranks The Guardian, 14/02/11, accessed 14/02/11
  30. NETCU website Media 24/11/10, accessed 22/01/11
  31. LEADING ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVIST SENTENCED, ACPO press release, 25 February 2005.