National Public Order Intelligence Unit

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The National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) was run by[1] the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), a private company [2] connected to United Kingdom police intelligence, and was set up in 1999 to track green activists and public demonstrations.[3] There are links between NPOIU, ACPO, National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU), National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU) and Welsh Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit (WECTU).[4]


Because the ACPO is a private limited company rather than a public body, it is exempt from public accountability, including freedom of information laws, even though it was funded by the Home Office and deploys police officers from regional forces.[5]


Established in March 1999, the NPOIU incorporated the Animal Rights National Index,[6] work that had previously been the responsibility of the various Special Branches.[7][8] Initially operated as part of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch.[9] and is now part of the Specialist Operations Business Group.[10]


On 10 November 2009, in a question in the House of Commons, MP Dai Davies (Blaenau Gwent, Independent), asked the then Secretary of State for the Home Department various questions about the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU). In response the Minister of State for Crime and Policing, David Hanson, responded that the main purpose of the unit was to:[11]

  • Provide the police service with an ability to develop a national threat assessment and profile for domestic extremism.
  • Support forces to reduce crime and disorder from domestic extremism.
  • Support a proportionate police response to protest activity.
  • Help forces manage concerns of communities and businesses in order to minimise conflict and disorder.

According to HM Inspectorate of Constabulary the NPOIU "performs an intelligence function in relation to politically motivated disorder (not legitimate protests) on behalf of England, Wales and Scotland." by "co-ordinat[ing] the national collection, analysis, exploitation and dissemination of intelligence on the extremist threat to public order."[9]

Evening Standard investigative journalist Andrew Gilligan described it as "a secretive, Scotland Yard-based police taskforce" whose "role in controlling dissent is central".[12]


The NPOIU was based in London, either at Scotland Yard,[13][14][15] or on the 5th Floor of Tintagel House on the bank of the River Thames.[16] The unit has a staff of 60-70 officers and police staff, seconded from other forces, and has had its budget more than doubled in four years from £2.6 million in 2005/06 to £5.7 million in 2009/10.[11][17] The unit is led by an officer of the rank of Detective Superintendent,[18] as of 2006 this was Maria Smith of the Wiltshire Constabulary.[19]

The NPOIU formed one branch of the National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU), under the control of ACPO's National Coordinator for Domestic Extremism, Detective Chief Supt Adrian Tudway.[17][20] The NPOIU works in conjunction with the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU) and the National Domestic Extremism Team (NDET).[21]

Confidential Intelligence Unit[edit]

The Confidential Intelligence Unit was set up in 1999[16] through discussions held by the members of the Association of Chief Police Officers of England and Wales to observe extremist political groups throughout the UK.[22] The section of the unit is led by an officer of the rank of Detective Chief Inspector.[18]


Strathclyde Police were criticised by pacifist demonstrators at the Faslane nuclear submarine base after demonstrators' details were sent to the unit.[23] Anti-genetically modified food protesters and Muslim university students have also been under surveillance by the unit.[24][25]

In January 2011, it was reported that Mark Kennedy of the Metropolitan Police was one of the first officers to work as an undercover infiltrator for the NPOIU, and had spent seven years within the environmental protest movement.[26] Kennedy later confirmed in an exclusive interview with the Mail on Sunday, arranged through his PR agent Max Clifford,[27] that he as Simon Jenkins suspected suffered a version of "Stockholm syndrome,"[28][29] although he denied becoming an agent provocateur within the movement,[29] adding that he had been incompetently handled by his superiors and denied psychological counselling.[29]

Takeover by the Metropolitan Police Specialist Operations Business Group[edit]

In November 2010 it was announced that the three ACPO units commanded by the National Coordinator for Domestic Extremism would be rebranded as the National Domestic Extremism Unit and brought under the control of the Metropolitan Police Business Group by mid-2011.[30]

Following The Guardian articles about the activities and accusations of Mark Kennedy, and the collapse of the trial of six activists, a number of initiatives and changes were announced:[31]

  • Acknowledging that "something had gone very wrong" in the Kennedy case to the Home Affairs Select Committee,[32] Home Office minister Nick Herbert stated that ACPO would lose control of three teams involved in tackling domestic extremism. Herbert re-announced the already planned transfer of the units to the Metropolitan Police, with acting commissioner Tim Godwin confirming that this would occur at the earliest possible timescale.[31]
  • HM Inspectorate of Constabulary announced that Bernard Hogan-Howe would lead an investigation into ACPO, to assess whether undercover operations had been "authorised in accordance with law" and "proportionate".[31]
  • The Serious Organised Crime Agency announced an inquiry into the conduct of Mark Kennedy.[31]
  • The Independent Police Complaints Commission announced an investigation into Nottinghamshire Police, over allegations it suppressed surveillance tapes recorded by Kennedy, the contents of which may have exonerated the six Ratcliffe activists.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Public Order Intelligence Unit |". 18 January 2011. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  2. ^ "Body in charge of UK policing policy is now an £18m-a-year brand charging the public £70 for a 60p criminal records check". Daily Mail. London.
  3. ^ "Secret State: Timeline". BBC News. 17 October 2002.
  4. ^ "Britain's Secretive Police Force" (PDF). State Watch.
  5. ^ Monbiot, George. As the political consensus collapses, now all dissenters face suppression. The Guardian. 18 May 2009. Retrieved 5 June 2009.
  6. ^ How scarves and woollies slaughtered a trade by Paul Vallely, The Independent, 6 January 1995
  7. ^ Special Branch to target protesters by Jason Bennetto, The Independent, 3 November 1994
  8. ^ Crackdown on green terrorists by Jason Bennetto, The Independent, 29 December 1994
  9. ^ a b A Need to Know: HMIC thematic inspection of Special Branch and Ports policing, HMIC, January 2003, accessed 18 February 2009
  10. ^ MPA Revenue and Capital Budget Book 2007/08, Metropolitan Police Authority, 24 April 2007, accessed 18 February 2009
  11. ^ a b Written Answers for 10 November 2009 David Hanson MP, Minister of State (Crime and Policing), Home Office, 10 November 2009, accessed 12 November 2009
  12. ^ "Spooks on the trail of 'Captain Gatso'" by Andrew Gilligan, Evening Standard, 12 September 2005
  13. ^ Police unit to target green protesters by Jason Bennetto, The Independent, 7 November 1998, accessed 18 February 2009
  14. ^ `Terrorist methods' of green activists `set terrorist snares' by Jason Bennetto, The Independent, 19 March 1999, accessed 18 February 2009
  15. ^ Secret State Timeline, BBC Thursday, 17 October 2002, accessed 17 February 2009
  16. ^ a b We are all extremists now by Seumas Milne, The Guardian, 16 February 2009, accessed 18 February 2009
  17. ^ a b Collins, Nick (10 January 2011). "What is the National Public Order Intelligence Unit?". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 January 2011.
  18. ^ a b Head of Confidential Intelligence Unit (CIU) National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), ACPO website, cache accessed 18 February 2009
  19. ^ BAWP Grapevine Autumn 2006, British Association for Women in Policing, September 2006, accessed 12 November 2009
  20. ^ "DCS Adrian Tudway appointed new National Coordinator for Domestic Extremism". 15 November 2010. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 11 January 2011.
  21. ^ How does the National Domestic Extremism Unit approach peaceful protest? NDEU/NETCU, undated, accessed 10 January 2011
  22. ^ Secret police unit set up to spy on British 'domestic extremists' by Jason Lewis, published Mail On-Line, 7 February 2009, accessed 16 February 2009
  23. ^ "Anger over data use", Evening Times (Glasgow), 22 November 2002
  24. ^ "Anarchists 'hijacking' GM food protest groups" by Nigel Rosser, Evening Standard, 11 August 1999
  25. ^ Counter-terrorism unit to tackle campus extremism by Roya Nikkhah, Daily Telegraph, 24 October 2006, accessed 19 February 2009
  26. ^ 'Undercover officer who spied on green activists quits Met', The Guardian, 10 January 2010
  27. ^ Walker, Peter; Syal, Rajeev (17 January 2011). "Spy Mark Kennedy feels remorse and is in 'genuine fear for my life'". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  28. ^ Simon Jenkins (11 January 2011). "The state's pedlars of fear must be brought to account". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 11 January 2011.
  29. ^ a b c Caroline Graham (17 January 2011). "'I'm the victim of smears': Undercover policeman denies bedding a string of women during his eight years with eco-warriors". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  30. ^ "Police on 'tightrope' at protests". Press Association. 23 November 2010. Archived from the original on 24 December 2012. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  31. ^ a b c d e Travis, Alan; Lewis, Paul; Wainwright, Martin (17 January 2011). "Clean-up of covert policing ordered after Mark Kennedy revelations". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  32. ^ "Police inspectors review undercover operations". BBC News. 18 January 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2011.