Activist raises funds for legal challenge into police spying

An environmentalist is close to reaching an initial fundraising target to help finance her legal action on undercover policing.

Tilly Gifford is bidding to raise money for a legal challenge into police spying.
Tilly Gifford is bidding to raise money for a legal challenge into police spying.

Tilly Gifford launched a crowdfunding effort earlier this month in an attempt to win a judicial review into a decision by the Home Office not to extend the Undercover Policing Inquiry led by Sir Christopher Pitchford to Scotland.

Ms Gifford was one of seven protesters belonging to the group Plane Stupid who occupied a taxiway at Aberdeen airport in March 2009.

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She later recorded exchanges with men claiming to be from Strathclyde Police who indicated they could pay her for any information.

She began her crowdfunding effort after being denied legal aid and so far nearly £4,000 has been pledged towards the initial £5,000 needed to get her case to court.

It is hoped that if a judge believes the case has merit, a further application can be made for legal aid.

Ms Gifford, 32, said: “I’m really relieved at the response. Going public about this kind of thing makes you feel quite exposed, but seeing the messages and the financial support shows that people from all walks of life are deeply concerned about the issue.

“There’s a general concern around democracy and what the police are doing. It’s not niche at all – we’re looking at trade unions, people who work in construction who have been blacklisted; campaigners who have been targeted. It’s so widespread.”

The Pitchford inquiry is investigating undercover policing dating back as far as 1968, but its remit does not cover Scotland and the Scottish Government has declined to set up a similar inquiry.

MSPs believe there is a growing body of evidence to show both the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) and the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) monitored a range of campaigners in Scotland and that a number of Scottish officers had been seconded to the units.

Campaigner Jason Kirkpatrick, who has already secured a judicial review in Northern Ireland, said: “I find it shocking that legal aid was denied [in Scotland], given that it was granted in my identical case in Northern Ireland.”

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A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We continue to believe that a single inquiry across the UK would be the best option for a comprehensive and coherent investigation into these matters. As the UK government has refused our request for this, we have directed HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) to carry out an independent review of undercover policing in Scotland.

“The review will be essential in gathering facts about existing and historical undercover policing activities, over the period the Scottish Parliament has had responsibility in this area, and will inform any future decisions we make.”