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Jailed British anarchist Toby Shone won a hearing last week at Bristol Crown Court. Toby’s lawyers were challenging an attempt by the head of the police’s counter-terrorism division to obtain a Serious Crime Prevention Order (SCPO) against him.
Toby’s arrest was part of a larger police operation known as ‘Operation Adream’.
The Canary questioned Toby from his jail cell before the hearing. You can read the interview here.
Toby was originally tried for terrorism last year. The charges – which have never been proven – related to the 325nostate.net anarchist site. The initial allegations were that the 325 website – which published direct action reports – contained material “which would be useful to terrorists” and that the site was raising funds for “terrorist activities”.
The Canary wrote at the time:
[Toby’s] The case is comparable to the 1997 Green Anarchist/Animal Liberation Front – or GANDALF – lawsuit, which accused the editors of Green Anarchist magazine and the Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group newsletter of “unlawfully inciting strangers to commit criminal damage”. However, Operation Adream went further by accusing Toby of terrorism.
In addition to the allegations mentioned above, the prosecution also claimed that 325 website was involved in the distribution of terrorist publications, claiming that certain elements of the website fell into this category. Toby told us that the prosecution focused on a writing by Italian anarchist Alfredo Bonnano called What are anarchists?, as well as solidarity material with two Italian anarchist prisoners. Other site content featured in the failed lawsuit included letters posted on 325 by imprisoned members of the Greek anarchist groups Conspiracy of Cells of Fire (CCF) and Revolutionary Struggle. These groups are not illegal in the UK, but the charge was based on the argument that the CCF was the continuation of another group called 17 November – a group originally created in Greece in the 1970s to resist the regime military. November 17 is a banned group in the UK.
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The initial terrorism case falls through
The terrorism case against Toby collapsed in October 2021, with the Crown officially offering no evidence and the court entering a “not guilty” verdict. However, Toby was convicted of a relatively minor offense involving possession of a relatively small amount of illegal substances with intent to supply. He was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months in prison.
Despite the fact that Toby’s conviction had nothing to do with terrorism, the counter-terrorism police requested a SCPO upon his release.
So what is a serious crime prevention order?
COPS orders can be imposed by the courts on people who have been convicted of “serious” crimes. The orders are designed to severely limit people’s liberty by – in the words of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) – imposing “conditions deemed appropriate for the stated purpose of protecting the public from serious crime”.
The CPS lists on its website the offenses that may result in the imposition of a SCPO order. The list includes “drug trafficking”, but the crime must be deemed “serious” by the court for a SCPO to be issued.
A ridiculous and repressive list of restrictions
The planned SCPO order would have come into effect when Toby was released from prison and was intended to place significant restrictions on his freedom. The draconian measures included the requirement to inform the police of where he planned to live, if he planned to spend the night elsewhere and if he planned to have visitors. It would also have banned him from using Linux operating systems, VPNs, and any encrypted communication. Toby should have registered all laptops, cell phones or USB storage devices with the police.
We spoke to Toby in April, and he said The Canary how SCPO would affect his life:
SCPO is a method of keeping me under continuous investigation for five years, and de facto house arrest. It is simply a method of repression, intended to intimidate me, my family and my friends. To criminalize and put under surveillance those I am close to, and try to force me to change the way I choose to live, and with whom. This is an attempt to force me to use cashless banking and payments. To monitor my use of phones, USB drives and computers. Stop me from using encryption and stop me from using any form of open source software such as Linux. And to prevent me from using cryptocurrencies.
Toby went further and said the order was a ploy to get him back in jail as soon as possible. He said The Canary:
The order is not really meant to be obeyed. It is written in such a way that it is impossible to submit to it. The objective of the “Anti-Terrorist Unit” is to put me back in prison as soon as possible after my release and to try to scare me by preventing me from talking about what the endgame is.
Toby Shone, you are not alone!
A protest took place outside Bristol Crown Court on Friday May 6 in solidarity with Toby. Fans chanted “Toby Shone, you’re not alone!” and “Our passion for justice is stronger than your prisons”.
The High Court Judge refuses to grant a #SCPO against imprisoned anarchist Toby Shone, thwarting the police’s attempt to get revenge for their failed case against him. #card #anarchist pic.twitter.com/JEhrgrqKxJ
— Says Voltairine (@prisonistas) May 6, 2022
A statement from Toby’s supporters implies that the prosecutor was confident he was going to win. They said:
… there was a moment when everyone felt that things were going to go wrong for our comrade. His lack of remorse and commitment to anarchist practice, community, and beliefs were cited as risk factors necessitating continued persecution. The prosecution apparently believed they had won and Toby was quietly asked by his lawyer if he would consider negotiating the terms of the control order to try to mitigate it. Toby refused to accept any form of negotiation, insisting that his team continue to fight the order in full and in principle regardless of the court’s decision.
Living “off the grid”
Thomas Coke-Smythe was assigned to make the case for the Counterterrorism Division in favor of the control order. He denied that the SCPO was requested on the basis of the failed terrorism charges, saying instead that they were to stop Toby from continuing to fund his “alternative lifestyle” by selling drugs. He said:
[the defence case is that] the only reason the SCPO order is sought is that the terrorism offenses were not prosecuted. This is not the case. Clearly Mr. Shone lived off the grid and depended on drug trafficking for his lifestyle, he had no legitimate source of income.
Owen Greenhall – a defense lawyer acting for Toby – argued the order would be an unacceptable imposition on his daily life. Greenhall said encrypted communication was a “common feature of modern life”, with everyday apps such as WhatsApp using encryption. He argued that the requirement to notify the police each time Toby used cloud storage would mean that he would have to notify the police each time he used new cloud storage software, such as Dropbox, Microsoft Drive or Google Drive, and provide the police with account PINs.
Prohibit the use of TOR
The order would also have prevented Toby from using The Onion Router (TOR) and other VPN services, which the prosecution called “dark web”. Greenhall pointed out that there are many perfectly legal uses of TOR. He gave the example that the BBC had suggested to its users in Russia to use TOR in order to circumvent Russian state censorship efforts.
The prosecutor dismissed statements from Toby’s friends, who complained that the order would affect their lives, calling them “paranoia”. However, a statement from Toby’s supporters reads:
The order also would have allowed cops and the court to send his family, friends or other associates to jail for up to a year if they refused to cooperate with the terms of the order, such as turning over their devices to the police if Toby had used them. .
Greenhall pointed out that the terms of the order would have meant that, if Toby was to live in a shared house, anyone visiting the house would have had to provide their contact details to the police. This would apply to both people visiting Toby and those visiting other residents.
The judge ultimately ruled in favor of the defense. Toby supporters wrote:
… after 40 minutes of deliberation, High Court Judge Christopher Parker refused the order on the first count of non-necessity. He added that he was troubled by an order issued by a counter-terrorism unit and to which Toby would be directly responsible, given that Toby had been found not guilty of terrorism charges and was serving time for relatively minor offenses. on drugs. In any event, the order, he said, was draconian even for terrorism offences.
“Revolution is inevitable”
The Canary asked Kevin Blowe of the Network for Police Monitoring to comment on the outcome of the hearing. He said:
We welcome the court’s rejection of vindictive efforts by counter-terrorism police to try again to punish Toby Shone after the terrorism charges against him collapsed.
Their proposed Serious Crime Prevention Order would have given police sweeping powers to control his life indefinitely upon his release from prison. This would have represented an extraordinary restriction on his freedom of expression and his right to participate meaningfully in political activism.
Toby walked off the pitch amid applause and cheers from the public gallery. As he was about to be led down to the cells, he said:
Revolution is inevitable
“We’re going to turn up the heating”
We spoke to Toby from his prison cell at HMP Park in Bridgend after the hearing ended. He asked us to share this statement:
Thank you to everyone who came out to express their solidarity and rage at Bristol Crown Court on Friday. After 15 months of isolation, it was the highest number of comrades seen in a long time. Your strength and warmth remain in the heart.
It was a major defeat and a humiliation for prosecutors and counter-terrorism police, but we must not sit still. A state methodology has been worked out which they will still use to attack others in anarchist space when they can. Operation Adream is also still not over so we need to stay prepared. There are many lessons to be learned here and more complete analysis will come out over time.
I am due out at the end of December and will be free until November 2024. The prison’s Offender Management Unit has confirmed to me that the Counter Terrorism Unit still intends to keep me under surveillance after my release. I’m sure they’ll try to get revenge, but with the love and complicity of all the comrades, we’ll turn up the heat.
Freedom and discord are one and the same.
Still unrepentant and still anarchist, nothing is over. Everything continues.
Image featured via Twitter/VolterineDeclare
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