Police caught on tape trying to recruit Plane Stupid protester as spy

25.4.2009   (Guardian   – and others)

Climate change activist taped men who offered cash for information about group’s
members and activities

Undercover police are running a network of hundreds of informants inside protest organisations
who secretly feed them intelligence in return for cash, according to evidence
handed to the Guardian.

They claim to have infiltrated a number of environmental groups and said they
are receiving information about leaders, tactics and plans of future demonstrations.

The dramatic disclosures are revealed in almost three hours of secretly recorded
discussions between covert officers claiming to be from Strathclyde police, and
an activist from the protest group Plane Stupid, whom the officers attempted to
recruit as a paid spy after she had been released on bail following a demonstration
at Aberdeen airport last month.

Matilda Gifford, 24, said she recorded the meetings in an attempt to expose how
police seek to disrupt the legitimate activities of climate change activists.
She met the officers twice; they said they were a detective constable and his
assistant. During the taped discussions, the officers:

• Indicate that she could receive tens of thousands of pounds to pay off her
student loans in return for information about individuals within Plane Stupid.

• Say they will not pay money direct into her bank account because that would
leave an audit trail that would leave her compromised. They said the money would
be tax-free, and added: “UK plc can afford more than 20 quid.”

• Accept that she is a legitimate protester, but warn her that her activity could
mean she will struggle to find employment in the future and result in a criminal

• Claim they have hundreds of informants feeding them information from protest
organisations and “big groupings” from across the political spectrum.

• Explain that spying could assist her if she was arrested. “People would sell
their soul to the devil,” an officer said.

• Warn her that she could be jailed alongside “hard, evil” people if she received
a custodial sentence.

The meetings took place in a Glasgow police station last month and in a supermarket
cafe on Tuesday. Gifford used a mobile phone and device sewn into her waistcoat
to record what they described as a “business proposal” that she should think of
as a job.

They intimated that in return for updates on Plane Stupid’s plans she could receive
large sums of money in cash.

When lawyers acting for Plane Stupid contacted Strathclyde police this week to
establish the identities of the detective constable, they were initially told
by the human resources department there was no record of his name.

But when the Guardian contacted the force, they acknowledged officers had had
meetings with Plane Stupid activists.

In a statement last night, assistant chief constable George Hamilton said the
force had “a responsibility to gather intelligence”, and such operations were
conducted according to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). The
force would not comment on the identity of the officers.

“Officers from Strathclyde police have been in contact with a number of protesters
who were involved with the Plane Stupid protests including Aberdeen airport,”
he said. “The purpose of this contact has been to ensure that any future protest
activity is carried out within the law and in a manner which respects the rights
of all concerned.”

Gifford’s lawyer, Patrick Campbell, said: “I have very considerable concerns
about these events. There appears to be a covert operation that is running in
some way with, or using, Strathclyde police’s name. There appears to be a concerted
effort to turn protesters to informants and possibly infiltrate peaceful protest

He added: “The methods employed are disturbing, and more worrying yet is the
lack of any clearly identifiable body responsible for this. These individuals
seem to have some kind of police support or at the very least connections with
the police – the access to police stations confirms that – but my concern is the
lack of accountability and the threat to the individual and her right to protest.”

Gifford intended to meet the officers for a third time on Thursday, taking a
lawyer with her. But the officers did not appear at the rendezvous. However, she
said she was later approached by the detective constable, who said he was disappointed
in her. The man got into a car, leaving Gifford feeling shaken and intimidated.

She said last night that the initial approach from the officers was “an opportunity
that fell out of the sky”. She added: “Recording them seemed like the obvious
thing to do. I was keen to find out what they had to offer, what they wanted to
find out, and feed that back to the group in case other members of Plane Stupid
were approached.”

In a statement, Plane Stupid said: “Our civil liberties were invaded and our
right to peaceful protest called into question simply to defend the interests
of big business.”



see also
Plane Stupid

Cop watch: cops caught trying to bribe a Plane Stupid activist

see also


BBC at

Police ‘pay protester informers’

includes video clips.





Evening Standard

Police ‘wanted protester to spy’


Fresh questions over police tactics have been raised after an environmental protester
claimed that officers tried to recruit her as a paid spy to inform on her organisation.

Politicians stepped in when Matilda Gifford revealed that she was approached
by officers claiming to be from Strathclyde Police a few weeks after she was arrested
in a protest at Aberdeen Airport in March.

Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Scottish Green Party called on ministers to
clarify the role of police and ensure their actions were appropriate.

Ms Gifford said she had felt “intimidated” by the experience, which she made
public in a series of recordings handed to the Guardian newspaper.

“The main thing about getting this story out was to warn other activists. Other
people have been offered money or intimidated like me,” she said. “We’re not to
be intimidated, we must continue to do what we do with a clean conscience. After
being scared by these people, I wanted to go public so that I can feel safe.”

The 24-year-old said police told her that they have a network of informants inside
protest organisations, which they tried to persuade her to join.

In meetings at a Glasgow police station, which she recorded, and later in a cafe,
they offered her financial rewards for information on Plane Stupid.

Strathclyde Police Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said the force had
“a responsibility to gather intelligence”.

He added: “Officers from Strathclyde Police have been in contact with a number
of protesters who were involved with the Plane Stupid protests, including Aberdeen
Airport. The purpose of this contact has been to ensure that any future protest
activity is carried out within the law and in a manner which respects the rights
of all concerned.”

The revelations were described as a “storm in a teacup” by John O’Connor, a former
commander of Scotland Yard’s Flying Squad, who told the BBC: “The police don’t
just sit in their ivory tower and expect the phone to ring and be given intelligence
information. They go out actively to gather it.”