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Court rules that secret police file on 90-year-old campaigner is lawful

9th Mar 2015

90-year-old John Catt, a peace and human rights campaigner with no criminal record, has lost a four-year legal battle to compel police to destroy a secret file of his political activities.

The Supreme Court ruled that the record of Catt’s activities at more than 60 protests over four years was lawful, with four judges ruling in favour of the Metropolitan Police, and one judge dissenting.

Catt launched legal action after discovering that his habit of drawing sketches of demonstrations had been logged by the Metropolitan Police, along with descriptions of his appearance and clothing.

Information was collected on Catt as he regularly participated in demonstrations against a Brighton-based military manufacturer, EDO MBM, which police said were ‘amongst the most violent in the UK’. Although it was accepted that Catt took part only in peaceful protest, it was said that the information on Catt was part of a jigsaw which allowed the police to detect and prevent crime associated with the demonstrations.

After the ruling, Catt said that he does not agree that the police ‘should be trusted with information about innocent people’s lawful political activities’ as it gives them ‘too much scope to abuse their powers.’ Catt aims to take the case to the European court of human rights for ‘the sake of other innocent people whose lawful political activities are being monitored by the state’.

Thousands of individuals have been monitored by the Network for Police Monitoring as police say they need to keep an eye on potential domestic extremists who have, or are likely to, commit crime to achieve their political ends.

The unit insists that it is not concerned with campaigners who keep within the law to exercise their democratic right to protest, however police have been criticised after it was revealed that the unit has been keeping files on activists who have not committed any crimes.