A former police officer who is now a prominent climate crisis activist has accused the metropolitan police of trying to recruit him to spy on Extinction Rebellion.
Former Detective Sergeant Paul Stephens, who joined XR after retiring from the London force in 2018, claims he was approached by an officer he knew near Parliament Square during the non-violent mass civil disobedience group’s campaign in London on October 2019.
“He asked me if I wanted to get into the books, become a covert source of human intelligence [Chis]Stephens said. But I rejected it immediately. I joined XR to get those in power to do something about climate change, not to spy on peaceful people doing their part for the planet. “
The Met said it could “neither confirm nor deny any Chis activity in connection with Extinction Rebellion.”
Stephens, who was communicating with police on behalf of XR at the time of the approach, said it was immoral and a waste of resources to target protesters to stop the climate collapse. “It is wrong to use these devious and intimidating tactics against peaceful protesters. XR is not an organized crime gang or a terrorist cell, ”he said.
“The police are desperate to find out who the organizers of Extinction Rebellion are, but there are no organizers. It is a fluid, non-hierarchical movement that the police seem to find very difficult to understand. “
Stephens’ claims will raise concerns that police, who are under intense pressure from Home Secretary Priti Patel to crack down on the group, have been looking to build a network of informants within XR, which is planning more protests in London in August.
It also comes amid the investigation into undercover policing, which was established by the government in 2015 after it emerged that undercover officers had sex with at least 30 female activists and spied on as many as 1,000 groups, including justice campaigns. left parties and environmental movements, more than 40 years.
Geraint Davies, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on democracy and the constitution, said: “Despite public outcry around the use of covert sources of human intelligence to infiltrate peaceful protest groups, this practice appears to continue.”
Davies said undercover officers could encourage people to break the law: “The combination of police powers to prohibit protests at the risk of serious nuisance and legal immunity for undercover officers means they could become agent provocateurs.”
The police are believed to be collecting a great deal of information about XR activists, whom Patel has called criminals who threaten the “UK way of life”. Hundreds of phones and computers belonging to XR members have been seized since the group was created in 2018.
“They have arrested about 100 people for conspiracy to cause public nuisance, without anyone being charged so far, but they have confiscated a large number of devices and obtained a large amount of information,” Stephens said.
There are at least four other former officers involved in XR, including an inspector and a chief superintendent.
Stephens, who served the Met for more than 30 years, said: “My job in the police used to be about preventing immediate threats to life. But the threat to life from climate change is overwhelming. “