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Leyton Marsh: Malice and the prosecution of Mike Wells

Two weeks ago the trial began of nine members of Critical Mass, out of 182 originally arrested, for riding their bikes too close to the Olympic Park on the evening of the Opening Ceremony. Another malicious Olympics prosecution (see p 12), that of citizen journalist and photographer Mike Wells, finally came to an end almost two months ago on 17th January 2013. The story began with an unsubstantiated allegation that Mike assaulted the driver of an excavator at Sandy Lane, the unmade road that runs alongside Leyton Marshes, and ended nine months later at Stratford Magistrate’s Court. Mike’s prosecution occurred against a background of warnings from police and politicians that the authorities would take a hard line in the face of protest and disorder.


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How topping! Olympic Park fence electrified from mid 2010 to 22nd October 2012

For the Olympics the abnormal becomes normal. One of the most astonishing things to happen at London 2012 was the building of an electrified fence around the Olympic Park. The idea that this was necessary or sensible was seldom questioned. It may well be that most people didn’t even realise it had been done. People were constantly surprised when I pointed it out to them. But even those who did know of it probably thought the electricity was only on during the Games. Not so.

In December I asked the ODA

‘Is the electric fence around the Olympic Park still in use as an electric fence? If not, when was it last operated as an electric fence?’


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Sochi 2014 - Risks or Rights?

NoSochi2014 is a campaign by Circassians living outside Russia, who want to draw attention to the genocide perpetrated against their people 150 years ago. Sochi happens to be the capital of their former homeland, Circassia, so its choice as the location for the 2014 Winter Olympics is a source of further pain as no recognition is given to Circassia or to what occurred a century and a half ago. On the contrary the Sochi Olympics is seen as providing an opportunity for the Russian state to create a new reality and simply paint the Circassians out of history.


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Star Struck by missiles

It was hard to see how putting missiles on the top of flats enhanced security during the Olympics. If a plane had managed to penetrate the exclusion zone and had not been destroyed by Tornados out in the countryside shooting it down over London would plainly cause massive casualties. It seemed at the time this was simply a demonstration of the power of the state to take this kind of action (the missiles were installed without the agreement of the residents, the MOD said they would only be consulted after the decision to use them had been taken) to impress corporations and governments and show off its hardware.


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'Cleaning' the city goes after the Olympics

In Egham, Surrey, miles away from the Olympic heartland of Stratford, local people are complaining that cameras installed on the A30 during the Olympics for the security of athletes staying at the University of London’s Royal Holloway College will be retained. The council at Runnymede, famous as the home of Magna Carta, has claimed ‘strategic’ reasons for retaining CCTV cameras stating that there is no need for a new planning application as the cameras are covered by permitted development legislation and that "The impact caused by the height of the cameras and poles is greatly outweighed by the advantages of retaining the cameras and their ability to support our CCTV work and the Surrey Police... in this strategic location."


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Olympics end but security stays the same

The Olympic Park remains a high security paranoia zone. It is still surrounded by the perimeter fence, although hopefully the electricity has been turned off. Anyone wishing to join an LLDC tour is sent a long list of IDs which visitors have to present before they can get on a bus. Bizarrely the A list includes a Freedom Pass alongside passports (with visas if needed!) and a variety of warrant cards. The B list includes birth, adoption and marriage certificates which are considered to be of equal value to a utility bill. Why it should be necessary to produce this kind of ID to be allowed on a bus (you’re not allowed to get off the bus) to go around the Park is unclear. But then these things have just become ‘normal’ now!


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Statewatch: A “clean city”: the Olympic Games and civil liberties by Chris Jones

A report by Statewatch

In 2005, the UK won the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games. Seven years later, the Games are due to begin, but they are not without controversy. Sponsors of the Games – including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Cadbury’s, BP and, perhaps most controversially, Dow Chemical [1] – were promised “what is chillingly called a ‘clean city’, handing them ownership of everything within camera distance of the games.” [2] In combination with measures put in place to deal with what have been described as the “four key risks” of terrorism, protest, organised crime and natural disasters, [3] these measures have led to a number of detrimental impacts upon civil liberties, dealt with here under the headings of freedom of expression; freedom of movement; freedom of assembly; and the right to protest. The Games will be hosted in locations across the country, but primarily in London, which is main the focus of this analysis.


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Have you seen one of our drones?

A neighbour of a friend, who was staying in Bow, told him the police had asked him one day during the Olympics: 'have you seen one of our drones?' It seems a drone crashed somewhere in Bow! Just in case this was an urban legend I thought I would make a Freedom of Information request to check out whether any drones had been in use and if any had crashed. The Met was not exactly forthcoming and fell back on the argument that national security was at stake and any revelation would be of benefit to criminals or terrorists.

Given that we are under constant surveillance from CCTV cameras and helicopters, even more so during the Olympics in the vicinity of Stratford, I have to wonder why the use of drones should not be revealed. Informing the public that they are in use should not compromise operations as UAVs can be deployed without the knowledge of those being observed far more easily than helicopters or publicly situated cameras. To reveal the operations of drones after the event would not compromise operations at the time and may even assist in ensuring the guilty are convicted, rather than the innocent, if film of an event is available because a drone was in use. Of course this would not be possible if the presence of a drone is not revealed.

The idea that revealing the use of drones would alert criminals and terrorists to police activity in a particular area and mean 'More crime would be committed' seems pretty fanciful. Criminals and terrorists are, by their nature, likely to assume they are being watched. Knowing that drones were being deployed might even act as a deterrent and make them more cautious about perpetrating crimes. But if it really was the case that there was a particularly sensitive case where revelation would compromise an operation then plainly exceptions could be made. In the particular case of the Olympics it is hard to see any justification for refusing to reveal their use as plainly everyone knows where the Olympics were being held and that there was a massive security operation in place, so it is not going to alert any criminals or terrorists, especially as the event is now well in the past. The exception claimed by the police is not to conceal but to reveal and in the case of the Olympics makes no sense at all.

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2012100003430

I respond in connection with your request for information which was received by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on 29th October 2012. I note you seek access to the following information:

1. Did the Met Police use any drones (unmanned surveillance aircraft) during the Olympics?
2. If yes, when and where were they deployed?
3. If yes, were there any accidents involving drones?
4. Were any drones lost, did any crash?
5. If yes - where did such accidents or losses occur?

DECISION

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000, (the Act), this response represents a Refusal Notice for this request under Section 17(1) of the Act.

The MPS can neither confirm nor deny that it holds the information you requested as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the Act does not apply, by virtue of the following exemptions:

Section 23(5) Information supplied by or concerning certain security bodies.
Section 24(2) National Security.
Section 31(3) Law Enforcement

REASONS FOR DECISION

Should it be held, constituents of this information would attract Section 23, other constituents 24 and other constituents attract Section 31 of the Act.

It should not be surmised that should the information be held by the MPS we would be applying Sections 23, 24 & 31 to the same pieces of information.

Please see the legal annex for the sections of the Act that are referred to in this response.

Section 23 is an absolute class-based exemption and therefore there is no requirement to conduct a harm or public interest test

Sections 24, and 31 are prejudice based qualified exemptions and there is a requirement to articulate the harm that would be caused in confirming or not that the information is held as well as carrying out a public interest test.

Overall harm for neither confirming nor denying that any other information is held

Any disclosure under the Act is a disclosure to the world at large, and by confirming or denying the use of this specialist equipment at certain events, would show the criminals what the capacity, tactical abilities and capabilities of the MPS are, allowing them to target specific areas of the UK to conduct their terrorist activities.

To confirm or deny that this type of police tactic has or has not been used would enable those engaged in criminal or terrorist activity to identify the focus of policing activity across the UK. This would have the likelihood of identifying location-specific operations which would ultimately compromise police tactics, operations and future prosecutions as criminals could counteract the measures used against them.

The MPS neither confirms nor denies that such tactics have been used because to state that no information is held for one event regarding UAVs, and then exempt information held in another, would itself provide acknowledgement that UAV's have been used at that second event.

Any information identifying the focus of policing activity could be used to the advantage of terrorists or criminal organisations. Information that undermines the operational integrity of these activities will adversely affect public safety and have a negative impact on both National Security and law enforcement.

Public safety would be put at risk if it were confirmed or denied that UAV's were known to be used or conversely, were known not to have not been used at specific events.

Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S31

By confirming or denying when or where UAV's are used, would enable the public to see where public funds are being spent. Better public awareness may reduce crime or lead to more information from the public.

Factors against confirmation or denial for S31

By confirming or denying the use of UAV's, law enforcement tactics would be compromised which would hinder the prevention and detection of crime.

More crime would be committed and individuals would be placed at risk.

Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S24

The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent and by confirming or denying whether UAV's were or are used would lead to a better-informed public

Factors against confirmation or denial for S24

By confirming or denying when, where and why UAV's are used within the MPS area would render security measures less effective. This would lead to the compromise of ongoing or future operations to protect the security or infrastructure of the UK and increase the risk of harm to the public.

Balance test

The security of the country is of paramount importance and the MPS will not divulge whether information is or is not held if to do so would place the safety of the public at risk or undermine National Security. Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and in this case providing assurance that the MPS is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat posed by the criminal fraternity, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of police investigations and operations in this area.

As much as there is public interest in knowing that policing activity is appropriate and balanced in matters of national security this will only be overridden in exceptional circumstances.

Therefore it is our opinion that for these issues the balancing test for confirming or denying whether the MPS uses UAV's is not made out.

No inference can be drawn from this response as to the existence or not of any other information.


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