Infiltration of political and protest groups is sometimes spoken about as an historical phenomenon. The Pitchford Inquiry covers spycops from 1968 to 2010 but that shouldn’t fool us into thinking it isn’t a live issue. The Guardian reported three years ago that “1200 undercover police officers” were operating across England and Wales, but wasn’t able to say how many deployments were political in nature.
What we can be sure of is Debbie Vincent, now nearing the end of her sentence, is the victim of one such operation. She was the target of an undercover cop calling himself James Adams, working for the National Public Order Intelligence Unit but posing as a executive working for the pharmaceutical giant Novartis. Debbie and another activist held two meetings with Adams and Andrew Jackson, Global Head of Corporate Security at Novartis, in 2010.
Debbie was an organiser for Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) who were trying to persuade Novartis to sever its ties with Huntingdon Life Sciences. As a result of the police’s sting operation she and two activists named Sven and Natasha were arrested in July 2012 and charged with conspiracy to blackmail HLS. In 2014 Debbie was sentenced to six years imprisonment. Sven and Natasha were living in the Netherlands and have recently been extradited to this country to stand trial although that is still months away.
In a letter I received from Debbie this week she said she will have “draconian licence conditions” upon release. As a convicted “domestic extremist” she will be subject to a Multiple Agency Public Protection Arrangement which will control where she can live, who she can see and even access to mobile phones and the internet, until her probation finishes in April 2020. If that isn’t enough, she will then be liable for a five year ASBO to forbid her campaigning against HLS or any of its customers or suppliers.
Debbie is a core participant in the Pitchford Inquiry because SHAC was a crime target for undercover police operations. A number of spycops infiltrated the group including Ian Farmer, Gary Rayner and Ritchie Clarke. For the same reason she is also appealing against her conviction.
Please write to Debbie before her release on the 13th to wish her well. She will probably not be able to reply but prisoners like to receive letters from people on the outside.
Debbie Vincent, #A5819DE, HMP Send, Ripley Road, Woking, Surrey GU23 7LJ
Further information: https://corporatewatch.org/news/2014/apr/17/if-you-dont-fight-youve-already-lost