A prominent anti-fracking campaigner has revealed that he was detained under the Terrorism Act at Exeter Airport just before Christmas.
Ian Crane, who presents the weekly web broadcast Fracking Nightmare, said he was held for about two hours. His phone was taken away to be examined but his luggage was not searched.
He said he was issued with a Notice of Detention under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (pictured below right).
The Network for Police Monitoring, Netpol, said the incident was further “alarming evidence” that opponents of fracking were being targeted as “domestic extremists”. It follows Netpol’s recent publication of a recording in which a counter-terrorism officer at a training session described some opposition to fracking as extremism.
According to Mr Crane, a former oil executive, he was detained by two police officers in plain clothes on 20th December 2015 after he went through passport control at Exeter, following a flight from Amsterdam. The Notice of Detention recorded that he was held at 10.20pm.
He said the police officers told him it was a random check.
“They wanted to know ‘Where have you been?’ ‘What are you doing?’”
“I said everything I did was in the public domain.”
Mr Crane gives talks to community groups about what he says are the risks of fracking. He produced the documentary Voices of the Gasfields about fracking in Australia and has filmed police activity at anti-fracking protests in the UK. Three days after his detention, lawyers for Rathlin Energy sought to make him bankrupt. More details
He also broadcasts on geopolitical issues and during the interview the officers asked him about his views on events in the Middle East.
“They asked questions about what I thought radicalises people.”
“They didn’t say anything about fracking until I did”.
“They said ‘It [fracking] is a concern but we’re alright down here [in Devon and Cornwall]’”.
“We have to take your phone”
Mr Crane said the officers told him they had to take his phone.
“I said this was an infringement against my fundamental human rights.”
“They said ‘We have to take your phone. If you don’t give it to us we will have to charge you under the Terrorism Act.’”
“I said I was allowing them against my better judgement.”
“I said I have this country’s best interests at heart. The legacy we are leaving future generations scares the crap out of me.”
Mr Crane said this was the first time he had had any connection with the security services.
He said he refused to sign the Notice of Detention. He said the interview lasted about an hour. The officers then spent another hour with his phone. He asked the officers to delete any material that had been collected from it.
DrillOrDrop asked Devon and Cornwall Police whether officers had complied with this request. We also asked the force to confirm the details of Mr Crane’s detention.
A spokesperson for Devon and Cornwall Police said the force had no comment to make. It would also not comment on our question about the authenticity of the Section 7 Notice of Detention, which contained two spelling mistakes and had no name or reference to the detaining authority.
Kevin Blowe, Coordinator for Netpol, said:
“As far back as 2012, Netpol called on the Home Office to outlaw the use of Schedule 7 to gather information or intelligence about political activism. This draconian stop and search power is hugely intimidating – people can be detained, with no right to silence, for up to six hours and police can take their DNA, fingerprints and phone or laptop data.”
“Although intended to prevent terrorism, we have documented repeated instances of its use against campaigners, often on the basis of what seems like pre-existing intelligence relating to their political activity. Mr Crane’s experience provides more alarming evidence that opponents of fracking are amongst those who are currently targeted as ‘domestic extremists'”
Mr Crane talks about his experience on the 5th January 2016 episode of Fracking Nightmare
Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act deals with port and border controls. It allows police, immigration and customs officers to detain and question people at ports or airports. A person who is questioned must give the interviewing officers any information or documents that are requested. The schedule also gives officers the power to search people and their property and detain items for up to seven days.
There is no requirement under the schedule for an officer to have “a reasonable suspicion” that someone is involved with terrorism before they are searched. People who fail to co-operate are deemed to have committed a criminal offence.
The use of Section 7 made international headlines in February 2014 when David Miranda, the partner of the journalist Glenn Greenwald, was detained at Heathrow Airport. Mr Greenwald had published documents leaked by the US security contractor, Edward Snowdon. Officers held Mr Miranda for nine hours and seized computer equipment he was carrying.
In February 2015, 25 peace campaigners travelling from parts of Europe to a demonstration in Berkshire were stopped and searched under Schedule 7 by British anti-terrorism police in Calais. More details
Netpol issued guidance on Schedule 7 for activists travel to the Paris climate conference in December
Anti-fracking campaigners and the Prevent strategy
A week before Mr Crane’s detention, Netpol, published a recording from a workshop on the counter-terrorism Prevent strategy. The workshop was a training event held by the police for a group of public sector staff.
According to the recording, a police officer accused some anti-fracking protesters of violent extremism. He alleged they had assaulted workers. Netpol said this was apparently based on a single unfounded allegation of assault made at the Barton Moss protest in Salford which led to no criminal charges. The officer also alleged damage to equipment.
Transcript of recording
“Domestic: animal rights and anti-fracking got anyone [inaudible] got anyone know of Frack Off? Sometimes it does. Why are they on there? Well, if they demonstrate in accordance with the Public Order Act then there’s absolutely no problems. What has happened though recently is at anti-fracking at Barton Moss, down in West Sussex and in Surrey, had some exploratory sites, people there started assaulting the workers going in … damaging equipment, trying to damage the site where the exploratory is taking place and all that sort of stuff. While people are with the placards at the front gate, absolutely no issues but once you cross the line into violence for their cause, then it becomes extreme. And it becomes violent extremism. As long as people stay within the law, no problem.”
Netpol made Freedom of Information requests asking police in north west England to release copies of the standard presentation they used in training sessions. The requests were refused. One force said:
“releasing this information into the public domain risks it being taken out of context, or used without authorisation in an uncontrolled fashion, which could discredit WRAP [Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent] training”.
The Prevent strategy is now a statutory duty for most public authorities. It uses a multi-channel programme called Channel, which, it says, helps to prevent individuals being drawn into radicalisation. Information is said to be shared between different agencies to tailor the most appropriate support.
Netpol said it had been contacted by anti-fracking activists from north west England who had been angered when they were unexpectedly referred to Channel because of their political opposition to onshore oil and gas extraction. In most cases, Netpol said, referrals appeared to have been made by universities and further education collections and all related to adults.
All five police forces in the north-west refused Netpol’s request to confirm the number of Channel referrals in 2015 made specifically for individuals said to be at risk of being drawn into extremism through involvement in anti-fracking campaigns.