Protestor John Catt loses domestic extremism database battle in draconian decision.
87 year old perennial protestor John Catt wants his personal details off the national extremism database, maintaining that his inclusion on the database breaches his human rights and is unlawful. He's spent years peacefully protesting over the Vietnam war, nuclear weapons, Iraq, racism in the police force, poll tax, increasing tuition fees and more recently Brighton based arms factory EDO/ITT.
On Wednesday (30th) during his judicial review, Lord Justice Gross and Mr Justice Irwin rejected John Catt’s attempt to get his details deleted. This is despite the fact that in judicial terms he is of good character and has never been convicted of any crime. The crude decision rules that his right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights is not being violated it also means that all photographic and written evidence can be kept on record against his will.
The result from this case is an important benchmark of the treatment of protesters by police and the judiciary system in general. “This judgement raises matters of constitutional importance and could impact upon anyone engaging in peaceful protest,” said his lawyer Shamik Dutta of Bhatt Murphy solicitors. In effect it gives the system carte blanche to monitor, record and store information of anyone more openly and freely than they did before.
The judge's decision was justified by John's participation in Smash EDO protests. Lord Gross said- “Although many people at Smash EDO protests do not commit criminal offences, disorder and criminality has been a feature of a number of the protests. On one occasion more than £300,000 damage was caused.” Lord Gross failed to mention that the issue of the £300,000 damage was deliberated in Lewes Crown Court in 2010 and seven people known as the Decommissioners were in fact acquitted of criminal damage charges. The damage was found to not be a criminal offence in light of the fact the damage was done to prevent greater war crimes committed by the Israeli army during operation Cast Lead.
Catt began legal proceedings after discovering his details were held on the database. This was only after repeated requests to the Data Protection Agency. In some instances the data record such trivia him taking out his sketch pad and drawing the scene at demonstrations, hardly the acts of public enemy number one then!
This court judgement legitimises the surveillance of anyone who participates in protests. The NPOIU (National Public Order Intelligence Unit) is a UK police intelligence unit, set up in 1999 to monitor thousands of protesters. Police claim that the unit only records the movements of hardcore activists labelled as domestic extremists “who commit crimes to further their political aims”. NPOIU has monitored John Catt at more than 55 demonstrations and not brought a case to court. The case ensued after the veto from ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) to delete data pertaining to John Catt.