John Hutchins was a spy sent by the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) under the alias 'Edward Johnson' to obtain information and influence Stand Up to Ukip, an anti-Nigel Farage protest group during the 2015 general election campaign.
Protestors from the Thanet branch of Stand Up to Ukip have claimed to have been suspicious of a man claiming to be 'Edward Johnson', a builder from Essex, who tried to encourage activists to deface posters and heckle outside meetings. They then found photographs of 'Johnson' standing next to Nigel Farage and his close protection officers on a Ukip members' Facebook page. The group have published texts from 'Johnson' where he provided a list of Farage's public events and encouraged the group to abuse Farage, something the group believe would have discredited them. The campaigners have searched the internet for the mobile number used by 'Edward Johnson' and found it was listed on the website of John Hutchins, whose Twitter biography says he is a close protection officer and LinkedIn page says he worked for Secura Associates, the company used by Farage to provide his security.
The party have admitted 'Johnson' was an informant they sent into the Thanet branch of the group during the election campaign. A spokesperson has said:
- in order to provide reasonable security it was of course necessary to have information from the inside. In order to do this it was important to gain the trust of the activists, an approach used by a great many security operations tasked with protecting the safety and well being of a targeted individual.'
- A detailed account of how Edward/John was found out by campaigners can be found at the ThanetWatch blog.
Secura Associates Ltd
Secura Associated Ltd is a small company in "private security activities", its only director James Woolfenden, born in 1980. The company was founded in 2011, registered in Harwich, Essex, while its trading address is in Rugeley, Staffordshire.
In his March 2015 book The Purple Revolution, Farage mentioned hiring Woolfenden to protect himself. After having felt threatened when surrounded by angry Scottish nationalists in Edinburgh and 'various other incidents', he realised the need for proper security. He claims that the party pays for his protection because as UKIP leader he does not qualify for taxpayer-funded security.
Farage describes Woolfenden as 'a former British Army man who had been in Afghanistan with the military police, calling "James and his team...great blokes".
UKIP spying on opponents
In December 2014, Ukip’s chairman in Scotland, Arthur Thackeray, boasted that the party was using undercover measures to spy on its opponents and to "infiltrate" rival organisations during the Scottish independence referendum to "infiltrate" rival organisations. The party has recruited private investigation industry contacts to monitor anti-Ukip protest groups.
- And to throw opponents off the scent, he revealed that “spotters” used to infiltrate anti-UKIP protest groups are being recruited from the Polish community - because it was felt they were the last people the mob would expect to be working for UKIP. ‘Decoy’ events have been set up by Ukip to take protesters away from the proper venues.
Groups thought to have been monitored by UKIP include Radical Independence, the Socialist Worker Party, Scottish Socialist Party, United Against Fascism and Stand Up To UKIP.
Arthur Thackeray described Ukip’s network as “‘a very good intelligence service” adding that the private investigations would “most definitely” continue ahead of the election. Thackeray himself said he went undercover himself at a Radical Independence Campaign event. He told the Mail on Sunday:”As someone who’s done a lot of covert work in my time, it was nothing. For the remainder of the campaign, every time there was an event we went along.”
Before becoming UKIP Scotland chairman and chief of staff to Ukip MEP David Coburn, Thackeray was a director of a group of security and private investigations companies, Cope Investigations, founded in 2006 and dissolved in 2008
In November 2014, it was found out Thackeray had proudly boasted of marching with the English and Scottish Defence Leagues on Facebook two years earlier, spelling out his support for the far-right groups in a post on September 3, 2011, writing: “I personally support the aims and objectives of the Defence Leagues. Ukip has no official party line on this issue.”
- Two days after the article was published in the Guardian Hutchins' Twitter Account @johnhutchins4 was taken down
- Rowena Mason Ukip spy who infiltrated protest group 'tried to encourage abuse of Farage' Guardian, 16 May 2015, accessed 18 May 2015.
- Companies House, Secura Associated Ltd, Company and director check, 18 May 2015
- Nigel Farage, The Purple Revolution: The Year That Changed Everything, Biteback Publishing, March 2015
- Keith McLeod, UKIP's chairman in Scotland Arthur Thackeray reveals party SPIES on opponents, Daily Record, 21 December 2014 (accessed 18 May 2015)
- Companies House, Arthur Thackeray, Company and director check, 18 May 2015
- Nick Dorman, Top Ukip aide linked to race hate groups and has BOASTED of taking part in far-right demonstrations , Mirror Online, 29 November 2014 (accessed 18 May 2015