Tag Archives: Detective Sergeant Will Hodgson

Not FIT for purpose? Police ‘Forward Intelligence Team’ implicated in student protest fit-up

Remember the Forward Intelligence Teams? Well, camera-wielding cops are back in the news again, this time in relation to the policing of the anti-cuts and student protests that exploded across the country at the end of last year. It seems that at least one FIT officer – according to the London Evening Standard – has been implicated in a shameless attempt to fit up a protester on false charges at the ‘DayX3′ protest on 9 December.

Unfortunately for the police involved it seems that the FIT cop was wired for sound and, after catching a young protester who had “breached a police cordon”, that officer was apparently recorded as he “conspired to falsely arrest the 20-year-old” with his colleagues. The arrestee sustained a broken tooth in the arrest. The circumstances are now being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

You may remember that the FIT has history with the IPCC. Experienced FIT cops, including PC Alan Palfrey from Camden, PC Steve Discombe and others, witnessed the deadly assault on Ian Tomlinson by riot cop PC Simon Harwood at the 2009 G20 protests, but failed to come forward and give evidence until long after the original police narrative (‘a tragic collapse/police under hail of missiles’) had been discredited. Their unwillingness to come forward helped stymy attempts to properly investigate the circumstances of Mr Tomlinson’s death, and Harwood – a veteran on the Territorial Support Group – was able to avoid justice as the clock ran down in his favour. The Crown Prosecution Service announced in July 2010 that no charges would be brought against Harwood.

So just what legitimate purpose do the FITs serve? We have seen, as with the Tomlinson case, that these so-called experts in political protest are not actually very good at identifying ‘domestic extremists‘ (as their bosses in the publicly unaccountable National Public Order Information Unit like to call any protesters they don’t like – which boils down to anyone involved in effective activism) – otherwise why would they point out a luckless bystander like Ian Tomlinson for TSG special treatment?

We have also seen FIT officers direct violent attacks on activists when they question why some cops are not wearing their identifying numbers in order to have them photographed against their will, even when they knew full well who they were, in a manner consistent not with any desire to maintain public order or to prevent crime, but to embarrass, humiliate or otherwise harm recalcitrant protesters.

And now we appear to have FIT cops directly involved in brazen attempts to subvert the law, and possibly even to assault those they do not like.

But then should we expect anything else? The FITs are police units tasked with ‘harassment policing’ – identifying, surveilling, folllowing and hassling persons of interest in a range of fields, be it in relation to football fans, antisocial behaviour on housing estates or political protest. Their targets might never have committed an offence; but then that is the point – this is, after all, harassment policing, in which the message is loud and clear: if you come onto our radar, we will do our best to intimidate you, scare you, threaten you.

No, the reason the FIT are tolerated, nurtured, supported by the police is clear – to make life uncomfortable for anyone who challenges the status quo, to grind down those who fight against injustices and inequalities (by means legal or otherwise), and to dissuade others from taking action by illustrating just how unpleasant it can be. It’s education in action: pour encourager les autres.

WE ARE ALL FITWATCH: A moment of victory – FITwatch blog back online…

In the words of the FITwatch blog team:

We’re backs!

And with a secure server, massive coverage and a clear message that we’re here to stay.

On Monday night we received notification that our site had been suspended due to “attempting to pervert the course of justice” due to our posting offering advice to the Millbank students. Whilst the email requesting the site be closed on the basis it was being used for “criminal activity” came from DI Paul Hoare, from the Police Central e-crime Unit, the authorisation to close was given much closer to home, by acting Detective Inspector Will Hodgeson. Hodgeson, who was involved in the first Fitwatch case, and has sat through many of our trials and appeals, evidently finally had enough and decided to shut us down.

However, through totally underestimating the power of social media, this pathetic attempt has failed miserably. Within minutes of networking what had happened, people were re-publishing the post anywhere and everywhere. There are now over 100 sites carrying the original post – we haven’t managed to count them all. We have been overwhelmed by the support and solidarity and send massive thanks to everyone who’s offered to help and reposted the information. If we haven’t replied personally, it’s only because we’ve been inundated, and haven’t had time.

This was a real attempt to squash dissent and criticism of the police, as well as attempting to stifle common sense advice to protesters subject to a witch hunt by the right wing press. The solidarity given by so many people has ensured this hasn’t happened, and has shown we can fight back. Even if we were to be arrested and prosecuted now, we would still be grateful to CO11 for the amount of publicity they’ve generated for us.

We’re back, and we’re stronger than ever.

WE ARE ALL FITWATCH: FITwatch press release on the Met Police taking down website

FITwatch press release concerning the shut down of fitwatch.org.uk by the Metropolitan Police

NEWS RELEASE

For immediate release

15th November 2010

*Police shut down activist website after support of demo students*

Police have shut down an activist website for openly supporting the student demonstrations at Millbank. FITwatch – a direct response to police Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT) – has a history of challenging excessive police surveillance and breaches of civil rights.

The website was shut down at the request of the Metropolitan police after FITwatch issued advice to students fearful of arrest after the Millbank demonstration. A number of national newspapers made reference to an activist ‘anti-police site’ that urged demonstrators not to panic into giving themselves up.

“Our advice was simply good sense based on the understanding we have of police operations”, said Val Swain, a FITwatch activist. “We don’t want to see students arrested, convicted and criminalised for what was an entirely justified action.”

The Metropolitan police applied to the websites host to suspend the site on the grounds that it was involved in ‘criminal activities’- specifically, ‘attempting to pervert the course of justice’.

“This is an attack on freedom of speech,” said Emily Apple, another FITwatch activist. “The police don’t like what we do. They have seized a flimsy excuse to shut us down, and are trying to silence criticism of the police, and support for political dissent”

*For more information, contact:*

defycops@yahoo.co.uk

Notes for the Editor:

i. The use of the domain name www.fitwatch.org.uk has been suspended following a request to the web hosting company, Just Host, from the Metropolitan police. The Met claimed the site was being used for ‘criminal activities’ following comments made on the blog following the student demo at Millbank. The police stated that the blog was being used in an ‘attempt to pervert the cause of justice’.

ii. Fitwatch published an article on Friday 12th November that contained advice to protesters who were fearful of being identified by press photography, cctv or FIT. That advice has been copied widely around the internet, indicating the support that FITwatch has received on this issue. A copy of the post can be found at http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2010/11/468002.html?c=on#comments

iii. FITwatch contributed to a major story on the police use of ‘protester databases’ in the Financial Times on 17th October 2009.

iv. FITwatch was also in the news in July when the Evening Standard reported on a court victory by three Fitwatch supporters who had successfully challenged the right of police to place attendees at an open public meeting under surveillance. http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23860752-protesters-rights-were-violated-by-met-surveillance.do

v. A number of FITwatch activists are currently taking legal action against the police for assault and unlawful arrest

vi. A number of newspapers including the Mail and Independent carried the story of ‘anti-police’ website giving advice. The Independent stated:

“Activist websites have published step-by-step instructions to those who fear they may be identified and arrested in the aftermath of the violence. One anti-police site told participants to destroy potential evidence, including clothing and any distinctive jewellery worn. A contributor urged demonstrators not to panic or give themselves up as a result of the flood of media coverage.”

vii. The last post to the site before suspension was highly critical of the way the police have been capitalising on the aftermath of the protests to defend their own budgets and justify repression of protesters.

WE ARE ALL FITWATCH: Watching the detectives behind the website shutdown

The letter sent to FITwatch’s website hosts was written over the names of Acting Detective Inspector Will Hodgson and Detective Inspector Paul Hoare.

DI Hodgson, from Public Order Crime Team in the CO11 Public Order branch of the Metropolitan Police, is in charge of Operation Malone, the Met’s investigation into the events at the Millbank building in Central London last week during the #demo2010 student protests. It would appear that his most high profile work before this was busting ticket touts.

DI Hoare, on the other hand, seems to be a cyber crime specialist working out of the Met’s Central eCrime Unit (PCEU). DI Hoare may be found on business networking site LinkedIn, which helpfully tells us that previously he spent four-and-a-half years doing a similar job at the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), the half-baked British attempt at an FBI-type outfit.

WE ARE ALL FITWATCH: “I’m FITwatch, and so’s my wife!” Cop censorship backfires as news of arbitrary website shutdown goes viral

Met Police website takedown backfires as interwebz comes out to support FITwatch

WE ARE ALL FITWATCH: The FITwatch takedown letter – cops demand hosts shut down police watchdog website

A letter from the hosts of the FITwatch blog – taken down at the behest of the Metropolitan Police – has been published on IndyMedia, and it makes for interesting reading, not least because it also includes the text of the cops’ email to the hosting company…

Hi [recipient's name deleted],

We received a request to close an account the site mentioned below is hosted on:

Request from Metropolitan Police in London Uk to remove website used
for criminal purpose – fitwatch.org.uk IP 69.175.66.250

APPLICATION FOR CLOSURE OF A UK BASED DOMAIN NAME
Fitwatch.org.uk – IP 69.175.66.250

To whom it may concern at Singlehop

Op Malone
In connection with our criminal investigation into registration or use of the domain name set out in this letter, we hereby confirm that:

• The domain is being used to undertake criminal activities. Attempting to Pervert the Course of Justice, contrary to Common Law

We hereby request Singlehop to de-host this website for a minimum period of 12 months. Please note that this request will be also sent to the domain name registrar for the website. You should provide the following contact phone number, email address and reference number to the registrant: 0207 230 8100 pceu@met.pnn.police.uk

REASON FOR CLOSURE

This website are committing offences of attempting to pervert the Course of Justice under Common Law. The website is providing explicit advice to offenders following a major demonstration in Central London. The demonstration was marred by violence and several subjects have already been arrested with a major police operation underway to identify and arrest further offenders.

The person controlling these websites has posted material held to be contrary to Common Law within the UK. Therefore to prevent the domain names from being used in crime we request that the domain name is suspended for a minimum period of 12 months (or until expiry of the domain name if earlier).

This common law offence is committed where a person or persons:-
(a) acts or embarks upon a course of conduct
(b) which has a tendency to, and
(c) is intended to pervert,
(d) the course of public justice.

Registrant Information for fitwatch.org.uk

Registrant : [DELETED]

All other personal details withheld

Registered on : 17-Nov-2008

Authority to close the website and IP address given by

Will Hodgeson, Acting Detective Inspector

Metropolitan Police

CO11 Public Order Branch

Many Thanks in Advance

Yours faithfully

DI Paul Hoare

Police Central e-crime Unit (Computer Crime Unit)
SCD6 Economic & Specialist Crime Command, Metropolitan Police.

1st floor, Indigo Block, Cobalt Square
1 South Lambeth Road,
London
SW8 1SU
0207 230 8100
pceu@met.pnn.police.uk


Kind regards,

[Senders' name deleted]
Just Host
http://www.justhost.com

JustHost
SingleHop

WE ARE ALL FITWATCH: That censored FITwatch post in full screengrab glory!

I wrote the previous post in a hurry late at night; I then realised I actually had the ‘offending’ FITwatch post in a tab on my browser from when I started reading it originally. So here it is, in full, stitched-back-together screengrab glory (click for full size)…

Screengrab of police-censored FITwatch blog post

Meanwhile Tilting At Windmills has published a very handy list of sites republishing the original FITwatch post, the story is on The Register, the hashtag #FITwatch looks like trending, Guardian journo Paul Lewis has written a story on it, and in general Acting Detective Inspector Will Hodgeson (né Detective Sergeant Hodgson) and his CO11 chums are looking like the proverbial donut-munching Keystones.

WE ARE ALL FITWATCH: Cops take down police watchdog website with wild claims, no evidence, spurious legality

FITwatch blog suspended at behest of police, without court order or evidence

It seems that FITwatch, the campaign-cum-mindset that has helped turn the tables on the harassment policing strategy employed by cops eager to undermine anti-authoritarian political activists (and working class youths, football fans and any number of others whom the Boys in Blue consider inconvenient but who generally act in a lawful fashion) has really needled someone… The FITwatch website has been suspended by its webhosts, reportedly at the request of Acting Detective Inspector Will Hodgeson of the Metropolitan Police’s ‘public order’ unit CO11. In the words of a posting on IndyMedia, “Following contact from New Scotland Yard, the Fitwatch website and domain name (www.fitwatch.org.uk) have been suspended for a minimum of twelve months for ‘attempting to pervert the course of justice’.”

Fortunately the wonder that is the interwebz often leaves shadows where once were forms, so you can still read caches of posts on the FITwatch blog. This is the last one published, following the recent raucous student anti-cuts demo that brought public anger to Tory Party HQ. I reproduce it here (typos corrected, bullet-pointed for legibility) for you to decide what all the fuss is about.

Read it and consider for yourself the implications of police officers demanding the closure of websites without due process. Read it and consider the implications of police officers who were closely linked to the failure to properly investigate the death of an unarmed civilian, Ian Tomlinson, at the hands of other police officers, acting in this manner. Read it and consider what next such police officers will be prepared to do in the name of ‘public order’, in the name of ‘justice’.


Beating police repression after the student occupation.

The remarkable and brilliant student action at Millbank has produced some predictable frothing at the mouth from the establishment and right wing press. Cameron has called for the ‘full weight of the law’ to fall on those who had caused tens of thousands of pounds of damage to the expensive decor at Tory party HQ. Responsibility is being placed on ‘a violent faction’, after the march was ‘infiltrated’ by anarchists.

There are an encouraging number of initiatives to show solidarity with the arrested students – something that is vital if they are to avoid the sort of punitive ‘deterrent’ sentences handed out to the Gaza demonstrators. A legal support group has been established and the National Campaign against Cuts and Fees has started a support campaign. Goldsmiths lecturers union has publicly commended the students for a ‘magnificent demonstration’.

This is all much needed, as the establishment is clearly on the march with this one. The Torygraph has published an irresponsible and frenzied ‘shop-a-student’ piece and the Met are clearly under pressure to produce ‘results’ after what they have admitted was a policing ‘embarrassment’.

51 people have been arrested so far, and the police have claimed they took the details of a further 250 people in the kettle using powers under the Police Reform Act. There may be more arrests to come.

Students who are worried should consider taking the following actions:

If you have been arrested, or had your details taken – contact the legal support campaign. As a group you can support each other, and mount a coherent campaign.

If you fear you may be arrested as a result of identification by CCTV, FIT or press photography;

  • DON’T panic. Press photos are not necessarily conclusive evidence, and just because the police have a photo of you doesn’t mean they know who you are.
  • DON’T hand yourself in. The police often use the psychological pressure of knowing they have your picture to persuade you to ‘come forward’. Unless you have a very pressing reason to do otherwise, let them come and find you, if they know who you are.
  • DO get rid of your clothes. There is no chance of suggesting the bloke in the video is not you if the clothes he is wearing have been found in your wardrobe. Get rid of ALL clothes you were wearing at the demo, including YOUR SHOES, your bag, and any distinctive jewellery you were wearing at the time. Yes, this is difficult, especially if it is your only warm coat or decent pair of boots. But it will be harder still if finding these clothes in your flat gets you convicted of violent disorder.
  • DON’T assume that because you can identify yourself in a video, a judge will be able to as well. ‘That isn’t me’ has got many a person off before now.
  • DO keep away from other demos for a while. The police will be on the look-out at other demos, especially student ones, for people they have put on their ‘wanted’ list. Keep a low profile.
  • DO think about changing your appearance. Perhaps now is a good time for a make-over. Get a haircut and colour, grow a beard, wear glasses. It isn’t a guarantee, but may help throw them off the scent.
  • DO keep your house clean. Get rid of spray cans, demo related stuff, and dodgy texts / photos on your phone. Don’t make life easy for them by having drugs, weapons or anything illegal in the house.
  • DO get the name and number of a good lawyer you can call if things go badly. The support group has the names of recommended lawyers on their site. Take a bit of time to read up on your rights in custody, especially the benefits of not commenting in interview.
  • DO be careful who you speak about this to. Admit your involvement in criminal damage / disorder ONLY to people you really trust.
  • DO try and control the nerves and panic. Waiting for a knock on the door is stressful in the extreme, but you need to find a way to get on with business as normal. Otherwise you’ll be serving the sentence before you are even arrested.