DGR UK operates a strict security culture for the safety of its members and the wider movement – it is very important for you to read the Security Culture page on the main Deep Green Resistance website if you haven’t already.
The situation in the UK is similar to that described in the US, but with some important additions. We work hard to ensure that we understand the legal position regarding being advocates for DGR strategies and that our members understand the risks to themselves by advocating such strategies. See an explanation below on how the UK legal situation differs to the US related to DGR work.
Do Not Send Communiques of Underground Actions to the DGR UK Email Account
This is to ensure the anonymity of underground groups issuing communiques. DGR UK isn’t technologically equipped or designed to receive communiques. There are a number of organisations that are focused only on receiving and publishing communiques, who are not involved in larger movement work. A sort of firewall within a firewall. An example is directaction.info
See the below links for how Indie Media UK had their server seized related to underground animal rights actions:
How Does the Legal Situation Differ in the UK Compared to the US?
This information is from repeated consultation with a top UK criminal defence lawyer and should give you some idea of how it works, but remember we are not lawyers so these are guidelines. Simply put, the US has stronger constitutional protection of free speech than the UK currently enjoys, which means that we have to work harder here to ensure that, on the one hand, we minimise risks to ourselves and our comrades, and on the other hand, we’re not so caught up in worrying about security that we render ourselves entirely inactive and paranoid.
We in the UK used to have a criminal offence of Incitement, which has now been superseded by the offence of Encouraging or Assisting Crime as part of the Serious Crime Act 2007 (read this Wikipedia overview for more information.)
What this means in theory, is that if you say, write or otherwise suggest anything that ‘leads’ someone else to do something illegal, you could be prosecuted under the law. In practice – and this is really where you need to pay attention – the law does not work on the basis of ‘this is illegal, so we’ll prosecute you – this isn’t illegal, so you’re fine.’ For a successful prosecution to be brought, there needs to be a body of evidence against you. So, you need to stop thinking (in this context, at least) of ‘the law’ as a black-and-white thing. We think it helps to imagine it as a court case and a prosecuting barrister with a folder of evidence against you. Ask yourself these questions: What’s in the folder? How convincing is a case against you going to be? What are the chances of a jury convicting you on that evidence?
To make it clearer, here are some examples. Again, this is our understanding, we’re not lawyers. Here’s how it basically works.
EXAMPLE 1: there’s a facebook status describing an action in which a factory manufacturing fracking rigs has been burned to the ground by unspecified arsonists. Clicking ‘LIKE’ on this status seems harmless enough, no? It can, however, be construed as encouraging or assisting crime. But, by itself, it isn’t going to result in a conviction against you. However, if you then go on to burn down the offices of that fracking company, it’s going to be part of the evidence against you. And if you’ve spent the previous months clicking ‘LIKE’ on every facebook post that calls for armed insurrection and industrial sabotage, that’ll count more than that one click.
EXAMPLE 2: you write a blog-post arguing for the desirability and necessity of an underground resistance movement to take the Machine down through industrial sabotage and insurgency, citing the examples of MEND in the Niger delta and the Zapatistas. Is this illegal? Well, possibly. It certainly looks like encouraging or assisting crime, doesn’t it?
But, by itself, it’s not going to make for a strong case against you. For the authorities (or anyone) to bring a case against you, they need to believe that they have a good chance of you getting convicted of the crime. If you’ve written that blog-post and then you’re found with a cellar full of home-made explosives, it’s going to be a significant piece of evidence. If you’ve been caught smashing windows, it’s also going to be a significant piece of evidence. If you’ve been recorded (or overheard) mouthing off about how DGR is going to Stick it to The Man and Blow Up Shit, it’s going to be significant.
EXAMPLE 3: You write a flyer calling for direct action against open case coal mines. Some hot-head reads the flyer, takes an angle-grinder and does the dirty on some JCBs. When they’re arrested, they mention the flyer and how they were ‘doing their bit for the DGR revolution.’ Are you guilty of a crime? Very possibly, under the encouraging or assisting crime umbrella. How likely is a conviction? It depends. On what? On what other evidence there is against you.
EXAMPLE 4: Compare: a. A blog-post calling for widespread sabotage and active resistance to industrial civilisation in a variety of forms. And b. A blog-post calling for a riot at the BP station, next Saturday, at 5pm, bring your own molotovs. Which do you think is going to carry more weight in a case against you?
So it’s a matter of degree and context and accumulated evidence. If you’re about to do or say something you’re unsure about, perhaps think: how persuasively could a lawyer argue that this is encouraging or assisting crime? If they could, what else could they add to that to build a case against you?
The basic facts are:
- Because of the Serious Crimes Act, no meaningful, vocal dissent is risk-free.
- If you know what the risks are, you can minimise your unexpected exposure to them.
- If you know what level of risk is acceptable to you, you can make informed decisions about what to do, write and say.
Safe practice. This is not an exhaustive list, by any means:
- Assume that any email or text message can and may have been read by someone you’d rather not read it. Consider using secure means of email as standard for DGR-related communication e.g. https://aktivix.org/
- Assume that your mobile phone conversations can be overhead.
- Follow strong security culture.
- Assume that, as DGR-UK grows, police spies will infiltrate, as well as spies from private firms. You won’t know who they are and trying to figure it out will just make you paranoid – this is part of their purpose.
- So, again, follow strong security culture.
- We are an aboveground movement. It’s not our job to cast ourselves as eco-terrorists or eco-warriors, no matter how tempting. Don’t brag about what you’re up to; don’t talk about DGR when you’re drunk if you can’t hold your drink. Become conscious of how and when you’re tempted to speak about DGR inappropriately. This is part of being a responsible member of the resistance and it’s your responsibility to develop yourself in ways that protect yourself and others.
- Think about what you store on your computer. If appropriate, use an operating system that allows you to encrypt your home directory, such as Linux (Mint, Ubuntu, etc.) This doesn’t mean you can stop thinking about what you store.
- Exercise your free speech; don’t let fear grind you down. The only 100% safe thing to do is lie down and give up.
Which all goes towards saying: think about this stuff now, work out how it relates to you and stick to the security culture. Help others stick to it. We’re all learning this stuff – for some of us it’s new, so make small mistakes, not big ones.
Operation Washington and the Gandalf Trial
GANDALF was an acronym (Green Anarchist and Animal Liberation Front) for the 1997 trial in the UK of the editors of Green Anarchist magazine, as well as two prominent British supporters of the Animal Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group (ALF SG), on charges of conspiracy to incite criminal damage.
Starting in 1995, the Hampshire police under “Operation Washington” began a series of at least 56 raids, which resulted in the August–November 1997 trial in Portsmouth of Green Anarchist editors Steven Booth, Saxon Burchnall-Wood, Noel Molland, and Paul Rogers, as well as the ALF UK press officer Robin Webb and ALF SG newsletter editor Simon Russell. The defendants organised the GANDALF defence campaign. The editors of Green Anarchist—Molland, Burchnall-Wood and Booth—were sentenced to three years in jail for conspiracy to incite criminal damage. After four and a half months, all three were released pending an appeal, and their convictions were later overturned. (Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GANDALF_trial).
Noel Molland explains at the end of his account of the episode how the police used tenuous links to claim that Noel was inciting others to commit further actions, see below from http://www.stewarthomesociety.org/ga/noel.htm
“To state the arguments that the police used against me; because I support the ALF, I, therefore wish for ALF actions to occur. I, then, regard lists of ALF actions to be “good news” (this was an expression frequently used by the prosecution). Therefore, because I want ALF actions to occur and because I regard lists of ALF actions to be “good news”, if I compile any lists of actions it is to incite further actions. Or to put it another way, because I support the ALF it is illegal for me to report their actions.
However, the police still had one point to try and prove an actual Conspiracy to Incite. Here the Prosecution had to admit there was no such formal agreement to incite persons unknown to commit criminal damage. However, they said that the word Conspiracy did not automatically mean an actual firm agreement. You could have an implied conspiracy, where although there wasn’t any firm agreement, people just knew they were agreeing with others to do something illegal. Again using myself as an example (because I refuse to claim to speak on behalf of others) I compile lists of ALF actions. This the police say can only be to incite others. I also know that other people are doing things the police claim incite ALF actions. Therefore because I am doing something the police say is illegal and because I know that other people are doing something that the police say is also illegal and because the ‘illegal’ actions are similar, I must therefore be involved in a Conspiracy with these other people. It is an ‘implied conspiracy’. The Prosecution was most clear that you do not need to ever have met or communicated with the other people you are in an implied conspiracy with. All you need to do is know that someone, somewhere, is doing similar things to yourself.”
For further information see:
Undercurrent Gandalf Trial film –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrC65HkXlvs