National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit

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Abbreviation NETCU
Founder Association of Chief Police Officers
Type intelligence agency

The National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU) is one of a number of national police intelligence units set up under the aegis of the Association of Chief Police Officers.

NETCU is headed by Superintendent Steve Pearl.[1] The unit is based in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, a centre of animal rights activism because of the presence of research firm Huntingdon Life Sciences.[2]

Role

ACPO describes NETCU's role as follows:

Its main focus is to promote a joined up, consistent and effective response to local police forces dealing with single-issue extremism of any character - including animal rights extremism. NETCU also provides a central support and liaison service to animal research and related industries.[3]

According to the Telegraph, two thirds of the unit's work relates to animal testing companies, but 18 per cent relates to farming and other industres that keep live animals.[4]

NETCU has also been involved in monitoring anti-abortion groups such as the UK Life League.[5]

An October 2009 Guardian report described NETCU's role as helping "police forces, companies, universities and other bodies that are on the receiving end of protest campaigns."[6]

Netcu's job is to give "security advice, risk assessments and information that can minimise disruption and keep their employees safe". Its head, Superintendent Steve Pearl, says his 16-strong unit works with police forces across the country, keeps detailed files on protest groups, rather than individuals, and liaises with thousands of companies in aviation, energy, research, farming and retail.[7]

Structure

NETCU is answerable to the ACPO Terrorism and Allied Matters Committee (ACPO(TAM)) and works closely with the Home Office, National Crime Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), as well as with local police forces. It is one of a number of units overseen by the National Co-ordinator for Domestic Extremism.[8]

History

NETCU was formed in March 2004 by ACPO, with funding from the Home Office.[9]

Netcu head Steve Pearl later told the Guardian that at the time,the Home Office was "getting really pressurised by big business – pharmaceuticals in particular, and the banks – that they were not able to go about their lawful business because of the extreme criminal behaviour of some people within the animal rights movement."[10]

In September 2006, Pearl claimed that half of Britain's animal rights extremists had been put behind bars and the number of attacks had dropped significantly.

Mr Pearl claimed that the successes had helped the research companies. "The confidence of industry has most certainly started to rise again and we are seeing tangible evidence of this with greater investment in the United Kingdom," he said.[11]

Eco-terrorism smear

In November 2008, the Observer cited NECTU as a the source of fears of a "growing threat of eco-terrorism" and of concerns that "a 'lone maverick' eco-extremist may attempt a terrorist attack aimed at killing large numbers of Britons."

The unit is currently monitoring blogs and internet traffic connected to a network of UK climate camps and radical environmental movements under the umbrella of Earth First!, which has claimed responsibility for a series of criminal acts in recent months.
A senior source at the unit said it had growing evidence of a threat from eco-activists. 'We have found statements that four-fifths of the human population has to die for other species in the world to survive.
'There are a number of very dedicated individuals out there and they could be dangerous to other people.'[12]

Two weeks later, the Observer readers editor Stephen Pritchard announced that the paper had withdrawn the story:

It's perfectly legitimate to report police security concerns, but none of the statements were substantiated. No website links were offered, no names were mentioned, no companies identified and no police source would go on the record.[13]

Pritchard noted that NECTU declined to respond to allegations that it "was briefing in this manner in order to make prosecutions easier and to boost its funding, which is at risk owing to the decline in animal rights campaigns."[14]

George Monbiot suggested that the original Observer article provided support for the proposition that the eco-terrorism smear was motivated by the decline of animal rights extremism.[15] It stated:

The rise of eco-extremism coincides with the fall of the animal rights activist movement. Police said the animal rights movement was in 'disarray' and that its ringleaders had either been prosecuted or were awaiting prosecution, adding that its 'critical mass' of hardcore extremists was sufficiently depleted to have halted its effectiveness.[16]

The Guardian raised such allegations with Steve Pearl in October 2009:

Pearl denied the unit was engaged in mission creep but admitted that environmental protesters had now been brought "more on their radar" as they had been "shutting down airports, and shutting down coal-fired power stations, more recently stopping coal trains, hijacking coal trains and ships in the river Medway."[17]

Funding and finances

Netcu is funded by the Home Office.[18]

People

Affiliations

Contact details, Resources, Notes

Contact

  • Address:NETCU, PO Box 525, Huntingdon, PE29 9AL
  • Phone:01480 425093
  • email: netcu@cambs.pnn.police.uk
  • Website: http://www.netcu.org.uk

External Resources

References

  1. Animal rights extremists target farmers, by Jasper Copping, telegraph.co.uk, 14 April 2007.
  2. Half of animal rights extremists are in jail, by Andrew Alderson, telegraph.co.uk, 30 Sep 2006.
  3. LEADING ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVIST SENTENCED, ACPO press release, 25 February 2005.
  4. Animal rights extremists target farmers, by Jasper Copping, telegraph.co.uk, 14 April 2007.
  5. Anti-abortionists turn sights on schools and hospitals in US-style campaign, by Sandra Laville, The Guardian, 27 March 2006.
  6. Rob Evans, Paul Lewis and Matthew Taylor, How police rebranded lawful protest as 'domestic extremism', guardian.co.uk, 25 October 2009.
  7. Rob Evans, Paul Lewis and Matthew Taylor, How police rebranded lawful protest as 'domestic extremism', guardian.co.uk, 25 October 2009.
  8. LEADING ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVIST SENTENCED, ACPO press release, 25 February 2005.
  9. LEADING ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVIST SENTENCED, ACPO press release, 25 February 2005.
  10. Rob Evans, Paul Lewis and Matthew Taylor, How police rebranded lawful protest as 'domestic extremism', guardian.co.uk, 25 October 2009.
  11. Half of animal rights extremists are in jail, by Andrew Alderson, telegraph.co.uk, 30 Sep 2006.
  12. Home: News: Police warn of growing threat from eco-terrorists: Fear of deadly attack by lone maverick as officers alert major firms to danger of green extremism, by Mark Townsend and Nick Denning, The Observer, 9 November 2008.
  13. The readers' editor on ... anonymous sources and claims of eco-terrorism, by Stephen Pritchard, The Observer, 23 November 2008.
  14. The readers' editor on ... anonymous sources and claims of eco-terrorism, by Stephen Pritchard, The Observer, 23 November 2008.
  15. The Paranoia Squad, by George Monbiot,The Guardian, 23 December 2008, via monbiot.com.
  16. Home: News: Police warn of growing threat from eco-terrorists: Fear of deadly attack by lone maverick as officers alert major firms to danger of green extremism, by Mark Townsend and Nick Denning, The Observer, 9 November 2008.
  17. Rob Evans, Paul Lewis and Matthew Taylor, How police rebranded lawful protest as 'domestic extremism', guardian.co.uk, 25 October 2009.
  18. LEADING ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVIST SENTENCED, ACPO press release, 25 February 2005.