Police tried to infiltrate Plane Stupid protest group

Jerome Taylor
Saturday 25 April 2009 00:00
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Undercover police have been caught trying to infiltrate environmental protest groups by offering members large amounts of money to pass information to them. Plane Stupid, a direct action network known for high-publicity protests which often break the law, recorded two officers from Strathclyde Police offering cash to a member.

They tried to recruit Mathilda Gifford, 24, after she was free on bail following an illegal protest at Aberdeen airport last month. She recorded the conversation on a mobile phone and leaked the details to the media.

In the tapes, an officer boasted that they could "afford more than 20 quid" for information. Another suggested Miss Gifford could earn "tens of thousands of pounds" if she agreed to be a spy.

Although Plane Stupid breaks the law during protests, there are fears that police infiltration of the environmental movement may curb the right to protest. Two weeks ago, The Independent revealed that police informants were behind a mass pre-emptive arrest of more than 100 environmental protesters in Nottingham. The arrests took place before a crime had been committed. No charges were brought.

Leo Murray, a founder of Plane Stupid, said: "The police claim they have a right to infiltrate us because we are violent extremists who commit violent acts, yet nothing could be further from the truth," he said. "There is a huge difference between lawful, peaceful and violent protests. [We] break the law but have never resorted to violence."

Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton, the head of violent crime at Strathclyde Police, said his force had a "responsibility" to gather intelligence. He said: "Officers have been in contact with a number of protesters involved with Plane Stupid to ensure any future protest is within the law."

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