National Domestic Extremism Unit: activities

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

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This article is part of the Undercover Research Portal at PowerBase - investigating corporate and police spying on activists.

Part of a series on
Undercover Police Units
National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU)
National Coordinator for Domestic Extremism, National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit
Parent Units:
NPOIU, National Domestic Extremism Team, NETCU, Confidential Intelligence Unit
2004 to present

See main page National Domestic Extremism Unit

This page looks at the activities of the National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU) as a whole. The NDEU went through a number of incarnations since being created in 2004, including as National Coordinator Domestic Extremism (NCDE) and is currently called the National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (NDEDIU).

The NDEU had two significant stand-alone subunits, their history is detailed at their own pages: the National Public Order Intelligence Unit and the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit. The role of the NDEU / NPOIU in running undercover officers such as Mark Kennedy, Lynn Watson, Marco Jacobs and Rod Richardson is covered elsewhere, as is that of the National Domestic Extremism Database.

Other detailed pages on the domestic extremism units:

General remit

A 2009 job advert noted that the work carried out by the domestic extremism units was for 'reducing or removing the threat, criminality and public disorder that arises from domestic extremism in England and Wales specifically, and the UK generally'; it went on to categorise Domestic Extremism as Animal Rights Extremism, Environment Extremism, Extreme Right Wing, Extreme Left Wing and Emerging Threats.[1] This broad categorisation has been echoed in a number of other police and government documents (see under Domestic Extremism for further detail).

Though animal rights protest provided the motivation for creating the units, from early on its work encompassed other movements such as anti-capitalism, eco-defence and peace movements. A 2007 report notes that the NPOIU was gathering material on the Faslane 365 campaign,[2] while the careers of "Lynn Watson" and Mark Kennedy show a clear interest in environmental campaigns such as Climate Camp, and also anti-fascism.

Following the 2010 Student riots in London, the Head of NDEU, Adrian Tudway made the comment:[3]

Asked if more work is being done in the wake of the Millbank rioting to identify those suspected of plotting to commit crime during protests, Mr Tudway replied: "Absolutely." He said: "It is quite right in our role as ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) goalkeeper to watch where the social protests are going and how they are developing and to try, where possible, to identify flashpoints." Mr Tudway... said intelligence officials do not examine the work of trade or student unions. The former Met detective said: "We would not look at organisations like that because constitutionally that would be wrong. But what we are obliged to do is where there are crossovers from protest into extreme behaviour, whether public disorder or criminality. If you compare the English position with that across Europe, in most European countries the domestic security service have the remit for this."

In 2013, Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations, Cressida Dick, who division included Counter Terrorism Command, thus overseeing the NDEDIU by that stage, wrote to the Home Affairs Committee to say:[4]

Whilst much of our effort is focused toward the threat of terrorism from Al Qaeda and its associates, we remain cognisant of the threat from individuals who engage in terrorist activity in the name of Extreme Right or Left wing views or other ideologies. The National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (NDEDIU) sets the national strategic direction for understanding extremist threats to the UK. It has a wide range of international partners which it works with, particularly law enforcement and security agencies in Europe. Furthermore it enables us to understand and respond more effectively to the nexus of terrorism and hate crime. For this reason Domestic Extremism policing remains an integral part of CT and wider law enforcement activity.

NDEU / NPOIU database and intelligence gathering

One the functions of the NPOIU was the maintaining a database of individuals related to protest, something it had inherited from the Animal Rights National Index. Over time this database, known as the National Domestic Extremism Database grew to include images and details of up to 9000 protestors.[5] Officers from the domestic extremism units were regularly seen at protests and other political gatherings noting details and taking photographs,[6] though there has been confusion between deployment of Forward Intelligence Teams, who also fed details into the database,[7] and those who were specifically from the domestic extremism units. That the latter were engaged in this was confirmed in the trial of Debbie Vincent. [8] As well as its own officers, it gathers intelligence from other forces,[9] from Police Liaison officers[10] and uses specialist software to scan social media. [11]

It became a subject of controversy when campaigners claimed that it was helping to criminalize protest.[12] Further controversy was added when it became known that ‘spotter cards’ based on it were being issued to local police at major events, [13] and later when it emerged that much of the detail on it related to lawful activity.[14] Following two court cases which found police retention of protestor surveillence breached human rghts,[15][16] and two inspections by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, it was ordered to be cleaned up and better processes put in place.[17] However, it remains in place being one of the key functions of the domestic extremism units that has survived the reorganization and transfer to the Metropolitan Police, and the fallout from the Mark Kennedy scandal. [9]

In 2013 it became the subject of a legal campaign by police monitoring organization Netpol.[18]

Targeting Animal Rights

A central aspect of the NCDE / NDEU work was the targeting of animal rights campaigns, in particular Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty and SPEAK. From 2004 to 2009 this was known as Operation Forton, and were lead by the five forces were animal rights extremism was at its highest – Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey, Kent and Thames Valley.[19] Forton itself was initiated and mostly lead by Kent Police.[20]

The arrest phase of this was called Operation Achilles and overseen by DCI Andy Robbins of Kent police.[21] In 2007 it saw the arrest of 32 people and the subsequent conviction in 2008 and 2009 of a number of leading activists. At its height, Operation Achillies involved 700 police officers, including from Holland and Belgium, and involved the bugging of homes and cars.[22] It appears to have been overseen by ACC Adrian Leppard, then head of Specialist Operations at Kent Police, and was the largest police operation of its time.[23]

Forton was in turn followed by Operation Aries, which targeted suspects not dealt with under Forton.[19] It was officers from SO15 / Counter Terrorism Command working in coordination with the NDEU and the Dutch National Crime Squad, who carried out a series of arrests in July 2012,[24] that resulted in the conviction of SHAC activist Debbie Vincent.[25]

Also part of the operations against animal rights campaigns was the 2006 Operation Tornado, coordinated by West Mercia Police into protests against the Sequani animal testing laboratory, and which saw the imprisonment of one activist.[26]

As part of these operations, it is known the NCDE / NDEU collaborated with other parts of the justice system, including working with the Crown Prosecution Service.[19] NETCU also played a leading role in assisting civil injunctions to be taken out.[27]

August 2011: the London riots

During the August 2011 riots, the NDEU stepped in to provide ‘support and daily tension briefings’ for the President of ACPO who was attending COBR meetings with the Government. This followed the Police National Information and Coordination Centre being overwhelmed by the demands being placed on it due to the scale of the disorder. In this, it relied on the secure Special Branch communication network which was not linked to the control rooms of police forces.[28] The HMIC report “Rules of Engagement” which looked at the police response to the riots noted that public disorder is not just issue of domestic extremism but of community tension as well, and recommended some changes in the light of this, including a central ‘all source hub’ focused on community tension, separate from domestic extremism arrangements. [28]

Monitoring the Far Right

On 27 April 2011, the head of NDEU, Adrian Tudway, sent an email to a Muslim group saying that he did not consider the anti-Islamist English Defence League as ‘not extreme right-wing as a group’ and that a ‘line of dialogue’ should be opened with them. [29] This caused anger in the Muslim community when it became public, particularly as it was known by then that one EDL member had been collecting information on Muslim police officers and the subsequent investigation by Specialist Operations (the wide area of the MPS which the NDEU sits in) was subject of a letter of complaint from the National Association of Muslim Police.[30] This lead to the Metropolitan Police being accused of not taking right wing extremism seriously.

However, from May 2011 the NDEU became active in working with local police forces to obtain anti-social behaviour orders against members of the EDL. DC Andy Haworth of the NDEU has been spokesperson in a number of cases in which EDL protestors were given such orders, including Joel Titus,[31] Richard Price and Collum Keyes (applied for jointly by Thames Valley Police and the NDEU),[32], Shane Overton (in conjunction with BTP and Lincolnshire Police)[33]

Haworth is quoted as saying:[33]

We are working to support all police forces with Crasbo applications against any individual who persistently commits criminal acts at (or travelling to and from) Defence League demonstrations, regardless of whether they profess to support the Defence League or oppose it, in order to ensure future demonstrations are peaceful and lawful.

While Chief Inspector Tom Naughton of British Transport Police said in the Overton case:[33]

We have worked closely with the National Domestic Extremism Unit to ensure the strongest possible case was built and that any ASBO imposed against him would truly prevent further offending and protect the public.

Officers from the NDEU were also looking at EDL footage to see if Norwegian far right murderer Anders Behring Breivik took part in their protests.[34][35]

From speech of James Brokenshire, Home Office Minister for Crime and Security to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation made on 13 March 2013:[36]

There are also views that groups such as defence leagues can provide ‘gateway ideologies’ through which individuals may migrate to more extreme organisations.
Where these lines blur, from a counter-terrorism perspective, is where the real risk, and our interests, lie.
We need to understand more about these groups: how they impact on radicalisation and whether activities such as EDL marches act as recruiting grounds for Far Right Extremist groups.
We also need to understand whether they enhance vulnerability, and, if so, how this can be curtailed.
One important organisation in helping us understand this picture is the National Domestic Extremism Unit who act at a national level to collate and analyze intelligence in order to support UK Policing in relation to all matters of domestic extremism including Far Right Extremism.

Relationship with private security

A number of officers involved in the various domestic extremism units have gone on to work in the private security and intelligence world.[27] In the 2012 HMIC report into the units, this was acknowledged:[17]

A close relationship was built up over a number of years between the NDEU and those industries which found themselves the target of protests, to raise awareness of threats and risk so that damage and injury could be prevented. A number of police officers have retired from NDEU's precursor units and continued their careers in the security industry, using their skills and experience for commercial purposes.

In particular, NETCU is known for its close links with business associated with the vivisection and pharmaceutical industries. It has since been revealed that it met with blacklisting firm The Consultancy Association in November 2008.[37] However, it appears that this became an issue of concern within the police as the HMIC report went on to state:[17]

HMIC acknowledges NDEU's concerns about attempts by retired officers to then contact and work with NDEU as this, on occasions, led to potential conflict of interests. Given this, HMIC welcomes NDEU's policy that it will have no contact with private security companies which operate in the same type of business.


  1. Head of Confidential Intelligence Unit (Job Description, National Co-ordinator Domestic Extremism, 2009, acquired and published by Plane Stupid, accessed 10 January 2015.
  2. ACPO Manual of Guidance on DEALING WITH THE REMOVAL OF PROTESTORS FASLANE 365 2006 - 2007, Association of Chief Police Officers, 2007.
  3. Police on 'tightrope' at protests, Press Association, 23 November 2010, accessed from 19 June 2014. Note, date on page refers to the date it was archived; actual date of article derived in this case from the page's URL.
  4. Update by Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick on the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, Home Affairs Select Committee, June 2013, accessed 31 January 2015.
  5. Paul Lewis, Rob Evans and Vikram Dodd, National police unit monitors 9,000 'domestic extremists', The Guardian, 26 June 2013, accessed 31 August 2014.
  6. The monitoring of activists is regularly chronicled on sites such as and
  7. Paul Lewis, Rob Evans and Vikram Dodd, Police in £9m scheme to log 'domestic extremists', The Guardian, 25 October 2009, accessed 31 August 2014.
  8. Blackmail3 Solidarity, Blackmail3 Court Case Update, Indymedia UK, 16 March 2014, accessed 26 August 2014.
  9. 9.0 9.1 A review of progress made against the recommendations in HMIC’s 2012 report on the national police units which provide intelligence on criminality associated with protest, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, June 2013.
  10. Police Liaison "Gateway" Team, Metropolitan Police Service, document released following an FOIA of Kevin Blowe and published by Netpol in June 2014.
  11. Paul Wright, Meet Prism's little brother: Socmint, Wired, 26 June 2013, accessed 26 August 2014.
  12. Paul Mobbs / The Free Range Network, Paper Q2: Britain’s Secretive Police Force, Free Range electrohippies project, April 2009, accessed 31 August 2014.
  13. Spotter cards: What they look like and how they work, The Guardian, 25 October 2009, accessed 31 August 2014.
  14. Kevin Blowe, Secret Diary of an Olympic Domestic Extremist, Random Blowe blog, 5 February 2014, accessed 24 June 2014.
  15. Judgment in case of Catt vs Association of Chief Police Offices and ors., Court of Appeal (Civil Division), (2013) EWCA Civ 192, 14 March 2013.
  16. Judgment in Wood v Commissioner of the Metropolis , Court of Appeal (Civil Division) , 2009 EWCA Civ 414, 21 May 2009.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 A Review of National Police Units which Provide Intelligence on Criminality Associated with Protest, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, 2 February 2012.
  18. CALL OUT: Help Netpol’s legal challenge of secret police databases, The Network for Police Monitoring, 11 March 2014, accessed 31 August 2014.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Gordon Mills, The successes and failures of policing animal rights extremism in the UK 2004–2010, International Journal of Police Science & Management, Vol. 15, No.1, 18 February 2013.
  20. Annual Report 2007/8, Kent Police, 2008, accessed 31 August 2014.
  21. Littlehampton animal rights extremist to be sentenced, Worthing Herald, 9 September 2010, accessed 31 August 2014.
  22. Robin Turner, Jailed animal activist speaks from behind bars, Wales Online, 25 January 2009, accessed 31 August 2014.
  23. Police quiz animal activists, The Express, 1 May 2007, accessed 31 August 2014.
  24. Three arrests in animal rights extremism inquiry, BBC News Online, 6 July 2012, accessed 10 January 2015; corroborated by personal communication.
  25. The Case,, accessed 31 August 2014.
  26. State crackdown on dissent: the animal rights movement, CorporateWatch, 2009, accessed 31 August 2014.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Undercover Research Group, Re-visiting NETCU - Police Collaboration with Industry, Corporate Watch, 6 August 2014, accessed 31 August 2014.
  28. 28.0 28.1 The Rules of Engagement: A review of the August 2011 disorders, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, 20 December 2011, para. 2.35.
  29. Vikram Dodd & Matthew Taylor, Muslims criticise Scotland Yard for telling them to engage with EDL, The Guardian, 2 September 2011, accessed 31 August 2014.
  30. Richard Bartholomew, The EDL: “An Unresolved Investigation”, Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (blog), 11 June 2012, accessed 31 August 2014.
  31. Jack Royston Teen banned from far right protests, Harrow Times, 9 May 2011, accessed 22 June 2014.
  32. First CRASBO for EDL activists, Police, 17 December 2010, accessed 22 June 2014.
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 Lincoln Man Given EDL CRASBO, Linconshire Police press release, 10 March 2011, accessed 22 June 2014.
  34. Jonathan Calvert, Anders Behring Breivik had surgery to look 'Aryan', The Australian, 31 July 2011, accessed 22 June 2014.
  35. Muslims criticise Scotland Yard for telling them to engage with EDL, The Guardian 2 September 2011. Accessed 31 December 2013.
  36. Transcript of speech of James Brokenshire, International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, 15 March 2013, accessed 29 June 2014.
  37. Chloe Stothart, Police question evidence of blacklisting collusion, Construction News, 14 October 2013, accessed 10 January 2014.