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« A chat with Leo and Doug | Main | Big science - Josh 138 »
Tuesday
Jan102012

Government surveillance of windfarm protestor

In an eerie echo of the use of anti-terrorist police to investigate Climategate, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change has apparently authorised the use of surveillance to delve into the background of a windfarm protestor.

The victim, George Watson, is going to sue.

Appalling, if true.

H/T Ben Pile

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Reader Comments (54)

Dr Montford
Thank you for advising the wider community of this quite astonishing action on the part of the DECC. George Watson is to be congratulated on his action and we all wait, with bated breath, to see what Mr Huhne's response might be to this outrageous misuse of government power. I wonder if Dr North at EUReferendum has seen this; it would be right up his street!

Jan 10, 2012 at 9:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterTony Windsor

Excellent letter. Huhne is in trouble on all sides.

My group is one of the 514 associations from 23 countries represented by EPAW. I'll listen out for a knock on the door in the early hours.

Jan 10, 2012 at 9:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Utter abuse of process and power by the 'still '?? under investigation Huhne ! funny how those that show so little regard to the law are so quick to bend it to their will when they want !

Jan 10, 2012 at 9:06 PM | Unregistered Commentermat

How many more people opposed to wind-farms, and other climate/energy related policies are under investigation too? This could well be the tip of the iceberg.

Jan 10, 2012 at 9:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Drake

I am afraid this is now going beyond a point where I feel I can safely ignore it.

Jan 10, 2012 at 9:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Atkinson

Pedantic point: in Scotland the legislation applicable and corresponding acronym used is "RIP(S)A". "RIPA" is English legislation that would not apply in the northern jurisdiction.

Useful information here:

http://surveillancecommissioners.independent.gov.uk/

Jan 10, 2012 at 9:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterwoodentop

Fantastic letter and the demand of 2.5 million punitive damages too. The guy has balls of steel to take on the head climate charlatan like that!

Jan 10, 2012 at 9:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterFarleyR

"The Guy". is I believe a lawyer of some renown. He's fighting the Loon Huhne on ground of his own choosing. This one could run and run.

Jan 10, 2012 at 9:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrumpy Old Man

Oh lovely letter! The Huhnatic's response should be a joy to view.

Jan 10, 2012 at 9:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterAdam Gallon

"The Guy". is I believe a lawyer of some renown. He's fighting the Loon Huhne on ground of his own choosing. This one could run and run.

Any links on who he is?

It doesn't read like something a lawyer would draft, IMHO.

Jan 10, 2012 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered Commenterwoodentop

There's no actual evidence here, all we have to go on is the protestor's suspicions. A policeman visited Watson at his home on Christmas Eve so he's going to sue the UK government for £2.5 million. Isn't Mr Watson isn't over reacting a trifle ? You normally have to sustain severe and permanent physical disabling injuries to justify that kind of wonga.
Something else that doesn't add up why is he complaining to the Metropolitan Police ? Did the Met send a copper all the way to our man's home in Scotland or was it a local force?

Appalling, if true. But a good story for this blog if not true.

Jan 10, 2012 at 9:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

Hengist.

I agree that caution is necessary here and have said so. Try not to be so bolshie. It just leads the threads to deteriorate.

Jan 10, 2012 at 10:02 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I would push red-hot needles under my nails to see that (alleged) perjurer, Huhne, in clink.

Jan 10, 2012 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

I don't imagine EPAW would make this up. Presumably it is the Metropolitan Police who would investigate illegal activities of members of HM Government in London.

Jan 10, 2012 at 10:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

RIPA goes well beyond crime/terrorism as being grounds for "directed surveillance" as opposed to "intrusive surveillance". As per S28 RIPA

"(2)A person shall not grant an authorisation for the carrying out of directed surveillance unless he believes—
(a)that the authorisation is necessary on grounds falling within subsection (3); and
(b)that the authorised surveillance is proportionate to what is sought to be achieved by carrying it out.
(3)An authorisation is necessary on grounds falling within this subsection if it is necessary—
(a)in the interests of national security;
(b)for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or of preventing disorder;
(c)in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom;
(d)in the interests of public safety;
(e)for the purpose of protecting public health;
(f)for the purpose of assessing or collecting any tax, duty, levy or other imposition, contribution or charge payable to a government department; or
(g)for any purpose (not falling within paragraphs (a) to (f)) which is specified for the purposes of this subsection by an order made by the Secretary of State."

So use of surveillance can be legal under RIPA for a wide range of activities though of course the it also has to pass the tests of being necessary and proportionate.

RIPSA seems to frame it more narrowly

Section 6 - "An authorisation is necessary on grounds falling within this subsection if it is necessary—
(a)for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or of preventing disorder;
(b)in the interests of public safety; or
(c)for the purpose of protecting public health."

Jan 10, 2012 at 10:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterTed

If Mr. Watson has been pursued with no evidence to qualify for such intrusion under RIPA, that is pursued illegally, it seems quite reasonable to seek a remedy in law. It will of course be up to a court to decide the matter.

On the face of it, it certainly doesn't appear that Mr Watson has made this up. He also appears to be someone who knows what he is doing as regards the law.

The danger with legislation such as RIPA is that it's easily abused to lean on or engage in fishing expeditions on people who don't strictly qualify but are deemed inconvenient.

Jan 10, 2012 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Hengist,
stuff like this is above local plod pay grade. They are obliged to escalate via a fairly standard protocol depending on the level of government concerned - sometimes they tell you to go straight to the top - they don't want the hassle/expense . And the authorities- well, if they're caught red-handed - they will try to bargain it down... and get the injured party to sign a gagging order.

Huhne is undeniably a raving innumerate AGW zealot (just have a look at public speeches on YouTube) whose grasp of his brief is so tenuous that other folk have do his actual job.

If Huhne has turned the internal security forces over to harassing "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells" one has to assume it's because his reality distortion field has a tear in it.

The sooner Huhne meets reality - the better for all of us.

Jan 10, 2012 at 10:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterTomO

Re: Hengist

There's no actual evidence here, all we have to go on is the protestor's suspicions.

George Watson states that it was another Government Department that brought it to his attention.
Unless you have evidence of George making false claims or distorting facts there is no reason not to believe him.

Jan 10, 2012 at 11:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

..... so he's going to sue the UK government for £2.5 million. Isn't Mr Watson isn't over reacting a trifle ? You normally have to sustain severe and permanent physical disabling injuries to justify that kind of wonga.
Jan 10, 2012 at 9:57 PM Hengist McStone

You're confusing punitive and compensatory damages Hengist.

English Law doesn't normally permit purely punitive damages - but, interestingly, abuse of power by public officials is one of the exceptional cases where they are allowed.

So perhaps Watson knows what he's doing.

Jan 10, 2012 at 11:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

I have to say that I'm a little surprised at some of the responses. The time to get worked up about RIPA was a decade ago. [2002] The government, however, plans to widen the list of authorities which can demand access to phone, Internet and email records to the extent that it will be quite difficult to identify the bodies that don't have the authority to obtain data on you without the aid of a court order.

[From the same article]"Essentially, the extensions (which take the form of a draft order to be debated next week) switch RIPA from covering largely security issues to a set of powers that can be used by absolutely any national or local government body to trawl for information that might be helpful in investigating almost anything they care to."

"Warrants" - quaint, I like that.

Jan 11, 2012 at 12:27 AM | Unregistered Commenter3x2

"Warrants" - quaint, I like that.

Indeed. The wording of the letter is all wrong and doesn't make legal sense.

Jan 11, 2012 at 12:48 AM | Unregistered Commenterwoodentop

Hengist McApologist: " Isn't Mr Watson isn't over reacting a trifle ?"

Visiting someone on Christmas Even is gross intimidation. 2.5 million is too low for such appalling abuse.

Jan 11, 2012 at 3:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

As a 'colonial' who recently taught in comprehensives in and around London for a few years, I was instantly aware from day 1 of my English colleagues' genuine fear of the consequences to their careers of questioning official policies too loudly. I found the atmosphere in state schools unhealthy, to say the least; this tactic of the ill-educated Huhne betrays his true political instincts and his utterly appalling lack of any form of education in the sciences.

Jan 11, 2012 at 4:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Nice to see Tallbloke on it as well.

Jan 11, 2012 at 6:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

I agree with Watson that windfarms are useless.

But this letter doesn't appear to have been drafted by the Senior Counsel that he claims to have instructed. Nor does he present any evidence of wrongdoing other than hearsay.

I fear that the DECC may be able to escape this one quite easily.

Jan 11, 2012 at 6:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

There is no claim that the letter has been drafted by SC, merely to inform Huhne that, "I advise you that I have instructed Senior Counsel to begin legal proceedings against the UK Government
and you personally as an individual." ... the letter is 'the first shot across the bows' to elicit the circumstances of the illegal intrusion into the man's private life.

Jan 11, 2012 at 8:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterStreetcred

"Something else that doesn't add up why is he complaining to the Metropolitan Police ? "

I believe the Met co-ordinate ant-terrorism activities in the UK.

If anti-terrorism legislation was used it was probably the through them.

Jan 11, 2012 at 8:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterNial

@streetcred

If you had a case against Chris Huhne, and you had a tame QC on board, wouldn't you use that resource on drafting your correspondence? DECC have an army of lawyers ready to rebut/challenge/disown/ignore.

A letter that seems to have come from Watson's kitchen table after a dram or two is not a good way to start.

I wish him well, but this is not a great beginning.

Jan 11, 2012 at 8:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Bruce: "Visiting someone on Christmas Eve is gross intimidation. 2.5 million is too low for such appalling abuse."

I think I have a huge retrospective claim against Santa.

Jan 11, 2012 at 8:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Brown

There is a delicious irony here, a Government Minister who is running from the law, usurping and bending the law [again] in pursuing a citizen whose legitimate rights are doubtless being infringed but the more sinister aspects are truly chilling, this harassment has the hallmarks of the DDR [ or any Police state for that matter].

Jan 11, 2012 at 8:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

The purpose of the letter is to extract a reply from Huhne. That is the one that will need the careful drafting!

Jan 11, 2012 at 9:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

George Watson is very lucky that they didn't just kill him.* They killed the Brazilian electrician with zero evidence against him.

The time to protest was ten years ago when the Bush/Blair/Howard axis was formed. Martin Niemöller comes to mind.

This is not meant to imply approval. I don't.

Jan 11, 2012 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered Commenteracementhead

If it ever gets that far I will be interested to see who requested the surveillance in the first place. If I have understood the legislation correctly a Secretary of State cannot authorise surveillance themselves on a whim, it must be requested by another person - in section 41 of RIPA 2000 this is limited to

(a) a member of any of the intelligence services;

(b) an official of the Ministry of Defence;

(c) a member of Her Majesty’s forces;

(d) an individual holding an office, rank or position with any such public authority as may be designated for the purposes of this section as an authority whose activities may require the carrying out of intrusive surveillance.

Jan 11, 2012 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

"an individual holding an office, rank or position with any such public authority as may be designated for the purposes of this section as an authority whose activities may require the carrying out of intrusive surveillance"

Well, that narrows it down..!

Jan 11, 2012 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

I note that both RIPA and RIPSA have a clause whereby it can be invoked 'In the interests of public safety'...
Bearing in mind the recent evidence of turbine blades making a bid for freedom when buffeted by strong (but not exceptional) winds, shouldn't the legislation be directed towards the manufacturers, installers and operators of wind farms themselves..??
What about a Class Action, folks...?

Jan 11, 2012 at 12:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

He should have heeded the helpful warnings ....
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQlHaGhYoF0&feature=share

Jan 11, 2012 at 1:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterPunksta

If an organisation I belonged too employed a legal advisor I would expect the person appointed to be a registered solicitor. There is no record of George Watson on the Law Society of Scotland or the Law Society UK list of registered solicitors. Perhaps EPAW should have carried out a due diligence test before making the appointment!

Jan 11, 2012 at 3:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterBerlingboy

James P

"an individual holding an office, rank or position with any such public authority

Maybe the receptionist did it -- assuming she was full-time. :)

Jan 11, 2012 at 4:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

George Watson is not the solicitor.. he is the complainant that has apponted one.?

Jan 11, 2012 at 4:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

But would be interesting how qualified he is to give legal advice.. Hiever.. for what reason did the police turn up on his doorstep.

Jan 11, 2012 at 4:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Barry

Some years ago, I worked in the education dept of Parkhurst prison. You would be surprised at the depth of legal knowledge of some entirely unqualified citizens...

Jan 11, 2012 at 6:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Jan 11, 2012 at 4:10 PM Don Pablo de la Sierra

James P

"an individual holding an office, rank or position with any such public authority

Maybe the receptionist did it -- assuming she was full-time. :)

I haven't followed the RIPA debate for some time on the grounds that if nobody else gave a s**t then why should I waste my time. But ... it looks like the number of people authorised to snoop has been reduced (on paper at least) [2009].

Only director-level officials [of the unreal number of organisations permitted] will now be able to authorise use of RIPA powers, Alan Johnson said.

This was presumably after the spate of (bins, three year olds...dog s**t) abuses of RIPA by local 'authorities'.

I wouldn't have much to say about what the security services or the police need in a modern communications centric world but giving local 'authorities' access to the same powers looked like a step too far. What are 'local authorities' doing investigating terrorism or organised crime? More to the point... who defines 'crime' and 'terrorism'? Following climategate, I do have to wonder.

Jan 11, 2012 at 7:35 PM | Unregistered Commenter3x2

Similar things have happened with the OPP in Ontario, Canada (Ontario Provincial Police), See here:
http://ontario-wind-resistance.org/

and here:
http://freewco.blogspot.com/

for stories from 2010 and 2011.

Jan 11, 2012 at 8:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterWillR

I thought this newspaper article about Vestas' continuing financial problems to be quite enlightening. Especially the part where they state that the CEO is to be retained during the corporate restructuring, because he's very good at lobbying politicians! A gentle term for being able to extract taxpayer money from gullible or agenda-driven politicos on a frequent basis.

I can't think of any other supposedly commercial industry where that's an attribute to be sought out, as a key metric for hiring an applicant for the senior officer position.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-11/vestas-restructuring-may-cut-jobs-while-keeping-engel-as-ceo.html

Jan 11, 2012 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered Commentermikegeo

I suspect that Mr Watson will be finding a severed horses head in the bed next to him in the coming weeks. Lets hope he does not breed tiny fluffy chickens on his farm.

Jan 11, 2012 at 10:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterDisko Troop

(3)An authorisation is necessary on grounds falling within this subsection if it is necessary—
...
(c)in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom;

Surely grounds for investigating the idiot Huhne and the rest of the CAGW scammers?

Jan 11, 2012 at 11:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterJake Haye

Since Mr Watson doesn't know the difference between 'attained' and 'obtained' (see his letter), I hope that nobody is relying on his English expression skills for anything important. And he may or may not have a law degree (I have no idea), but his letter is not one I'd be paying a solicitor for.

He would be wise to let the senior counsel take it from here.

That said, like Tallbloke's follow up of the plod invading his house, it is a worthwhile exercise to make The Authorities publicly justify their intrusion into the lives and homes of private citizens - especially when those citizens are otherwise law abiding folk who happen to have got up the collective nose of influential people.

Jan 12, 2012 at 1:57 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohanna

A legitimate though rarer meaning of “to attain” is “to acquire”—and particularly, I notice, after a little web-searching, in Scotland—; accordingly, I suspect that Mr Watson might use “attain” properly.

Jan 12, 2012 at 4:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterDeadman

You are right, Deadman, but the use of archaic Scots terminology just reinforces the suspicion that Mr Watson is a self taught bush lawyer. He has seen the term in Scottish legal documents and used it in a way that is not consistent with common usage. Like many self trained legal eagles, he confuses form with substance. It is a dead giveaway that he is not a lawyer, as well as not being too discriminating when it comes to his use of language.

Jan 12, 2012 at 5:30 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohanna

The link is now showing a blank page.

Jan 12, 2012 at 9:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterHusq

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