In 2004, animal rights campaigning, particularly around anti-vivisection, had reached a crescendo, with multinational pharmaceutical companies threatening to pull billions in research from the UK.

It is known that then-prime minister, Tony Blair, met with industry representatives that year. This led to the government producing a green paper on tackling animal rights. As part of the strategy, the Home Office set up the ‘National Forum’ to formulate a multi-agency approach.[1]In 2004, in response to concerns raised by multinational pharmaceutical companies targeted by animal rights protestors, a Cabinet Ministerial Committee on Animal Rights Activists was established. This Committee lead to the creation of the ‘National Forum’ which brought together various agencies to tackle protest movements, and it was in this period that both police and Crown Prosecution Service established national domestic extremist coordinator roles. In 2005, Caroline Flint, then a Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Home Office, told Parliament:
We must raise awareness of the effect on victims of animal rights activity through the national forum, which involves the Attorney-General, the Minister responsible for such matters in the Department of Trade and Industry, Ministers from the Department for Constitutional Affairs, officials, police and others doing relevant work, and myself. We meet regularly to oversee current activity and what the police are doing and to build better awareness. The Crown Prosecution Service has developed guidance on taking witness impact statements in animal rights extremist cases to maximise the prospects of obtaining appropriate disposals and orders such as ASBOs. The Court Service is educating magistrates and the courts about the methods and tactics of animal rights extremists, using guidance and best practice material so that the judiciary is aware of the aggravating nature of the activity when they consider relevant case.
See also:

Farewell to NETCU, Corporate Watch, 19 January 2011.

Protecting People From Animal Rights Extremists, Home Office (press release), 30 July 2004.

National Co-ordinators for domestic extremism

Several initiatives were established, the best known being the appointing of a National Domestic Extremism Co-ordinator by the Association of Chief Police Officers, placed under the governance of its Terrorism and Allied Matters Committee (ACPO TAM). The first national co-ordinator was Anton Setchell from Thames Valley Police, appointed at the senior officer rank of Assistant Chief Constable. He then created the National Domestic Extremism Unit which absorbed among other units, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit in 2006.[3]For a detailed history of the domestic extremism units as currently understood see Undercover Research Group, National Domestic Extremism Unit: organisational history, Powerbase.info, 2018.

Less well known is a similar initiative in the Crown Prosecution Service. It too created a Domestic Extremism Co-ordinator position within its Specialist Crime Division / Complex Case Unit. In 2008 this was barrister Nick Paul. That year, Paul had led the prosecution of 29 climate change activists who had successfully targeted a train delivering coal to Drax power station. One of those involved in that action had been Mark Kennedy – he attended planning meetings and hired a van to drive a number of the activists to the protest. They were found guilty in in July 2009. Those convictions were overturned in January 2014.[2]Rob Evans, Drax protesters’ convictions quashed over withheld evidence of police spy, The Guardian, 21 January 2018 (accessed 23 August 2018).

As Domestic Extremism Co-ordinator, Nick Paul would have worked closely with Setchell’s unit.

Nick Paul in the Ratcliffe case

Nick Paul seems to have been brought into the Ratcliffe case early on. According to the IPCC report, on the 6 April 2009, Det. Ch. Insp. Rob Severn, then senior investigating officer for Operation Aeroscope, contacted Ian Cunningham of the Crown Prosecution Service’s Complex Case Unit office Nottingham office to inform him about the operation. Severn tells Cunningham that it is an intelligence-led operation and that Nick Paul already had an overview of the situation. Paul confirms Cunningham is to be the lawyer on the ground. This is exactly a week before the arrests – ironically meaning prosecutors knew of the action before some of the activists even became involved.

According to the IPCC report, Cunningham was present at subsequent Gold level and ‘pre-incident’ planning meetings prior to the arrests according to police statements. Cunningham denies this and states he is not actually briefed by Severn until 12 & 13 April. He also said he did not attended his first Gold level meeting until 27 April. Earlier that day he was briefed in a meeting with senior Aeroscope investigation officers that an undercover had been involved, and was shown the document setting out Kennedy’s tasking. Christopher Rose in his report noted there was ‘a lack of urgency’ in supplying local CPS (namely Cunningham) with specific details about Kennedy, though Cunningham was aware there was an undercover involved.

From Christopher Rose’s report, the meeting of the 27 April is when Nick Paul is supposedly first informed of Kennedy’s presence and arrest by a Detective Chief Inspector from the NPOIU (the ‘NPOIU DCI’ mentioned previously), though not of the details of his involvement. The use of a Public Interest Immunity application was raised, and in an email to police the same day, Cunningham noted ‘we will always be vulnerable on disclosure especially matters covert’.

Paul’s roll continued to be an active one. In July 2009, Rose tells us that Paul opposed charges against Kennedy being dropped. The key paragraph is (once again):

24. On 23 July 2009 an email from the DCI NPOIU to Nick Paul refers to having seen the Deputy SIO and the intelligence officer that day and said “the SIO or Deputy have not given the local CPS any details of the asset but they are aware there is an asset involved”. (Earlier in July 2009 Nick Paul had rejected the DCI NPOIU’s “tactical suggestion” that the UCO be removed from the charging pool). He went on “if the asset remains in the charging pool we will need to interject in some way to prevent charging”. This email is important because, as indicated in paragraph 22 above, it is inconsistent with the Deputy SIO’s recollection, because it illustrates the DCI NPOIU’s determination, throughout, to keep Kennedy “out of the frame” and because it shows, to put it no higher, a lack of urgency in supplying details of the UCO to the local CPS.

 

There is a deeper set of implications here. One that Paul was very much in the loop at this point and was calling the shots. The second, that he thought the evidence against Kennedy was strong enough that he should be charged – a good year before the trial takes place. The NPIOU were clearly positioned enough to be able to successfully interject and have Kennedy removed, but conversely, it means that questions over Kennedy’s role as potential agent provocateur were known in place and at the highest levels very early on in the investigation.

Paul was replaced in January 2010 as co-ordinator for domestic extremism by Bethan David.

Nevertheless, Rose – whose brief was to investigate failure in the CPS following the collapse of the Ratcliffe trial – inexplicably does not explore Paul’s role at all, focusing almost exclusively on Ian Cunningham. From what we can tell he does not appear to have actually interviewed Paul.

This is all the more surprising given Rose makes the pertinent point, that while various people mention briefings, without notes of what the briefings actually said then little of substance can be drawn as to what was actually briefed about. This is the position we are left with here, as was Rose.

To this picture can be added a Doughty Street press release of 2011, which stated:

[Nick Paul] was also responsible for advising the Police in respect of covert investigations in respect of domestic extremism cases and developed a close working knowledge of RIPA.

 

Nevertheless, stepping back to look at the larger picture, we have someone deeply involved in overseeing the prosecution of campaigners, not least where Mark Kennedy played a role in the actions they were being charged over.

So, though we are not in a position to provide more specific conclusions, there is sufficient concern that the role of the Crown Prosecution Service in the miscarriage of justice is being down-played. This concerns could be addressed in part by the minutes of the Aeroscope Gold level meetings or communications between CPS senior staff such as Nick Paul with relevant police managers, whether NPOIU or local ranking Ian Ackerley.

As a final aside, after leaving the CPS, Nick Paul returned to Doughty Street Chambers in November 2011, which he had been a co-founder of, with among other Keir Starmer. Starmer, when he stepped down as DPP also returned to Doughty Street. In another irony, it had been barristers from Doughty Street who had defended the Ratcliffe cases.

References   [ + ]

1. In 2004, in response to concerns raised by multinational pharmaceutical companies targeted by animal rights protestors, a Cabinet Ministerial Committee on Animal Rights Activists was established. This Committee lead to the creation of the ‘National Forum’ which brought together various agencies to tackle protest movements, and it was in this period that both police and Crown Prosecution Service established national domestic extremist coordinator roles. In 2005, Caroline Flint, then a Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Home Office, told Parliament:
We must raise awareness of the effect on victims of animal rights activity through the national forum, which involves the Attorney-General, the Minister responsible for such matters in the Department of Trade and Industry, Ministers from the Department for Constitutional Affairs, officials, police and others doing relevant work, and myself. We meet regularly to oversee current activity and what the police are doing and to build better awareness. The Crown Prosecution Service has developed guidance on taking witness impact statements in animal rights extremist cases to maximise the prospects of obtaining appropriate disposals and orders such as ASBOs. The Court Service is educating magistrates and the courts about the methods and tactics of animal rights extremists, using guidance and best practice material so that the judiciary is aware of the aggravating nature of the activity when they consider relevant case.
See also:

Farewell to NETCU, Corporate Watch, 19 January 2011.

Protecting People From Animal Rights Extremists, Home Office (press release), 30 July 2004.

2. Rob Evans, Drax protesters’ convictions quashed over withheld evidence of police spy, The Guardian, 21 January 2018 (accessed 23 August 2018).
3. For a detailed history of the domestic extremism units as currently understood see Undercover Research Group, National Domestic Extremism Unit: organisational history, Powerbase.info, 2018.