Special Branch collusion with Southampton University security

Peter Salmon / Undercover Research Group
16 April 2015

Tuesday’s High Court decision to allow the University of Southampton to shut down a conference on Israel is a shocking attack on free speech. We will not go into the detail of it, other than to point you at the article by Asa Winstanley here. Asa attended the Court hearing and what he told us confirmed a suspicion we have aired in a previous blog posting, that collusion between Special Branch and the private security world is still ongoing.

In that blog we referenced an excerpt from a 2006 Demos report which stated that university security chiefs were getting private briefings from Special Branch based on informal relationships. In the article, we argued that this was demonstrated that Special Branch collusion in a form of political blacklisting was alive and well.

What Asa Winstanley heard in Court was direct evidence this occurred in Southampton University only last month. In summary, Southampton University had come under heavy political and financial pressure to cancel the conference, including, apparently, from Michael Gove and Eric Pickles. The conference was due to take place this coming weekend, but two weeks beforehand, the University said it could not happen and withdrew permission. The organisers sought a judicial review to overturn that decision.

In the course of that hearing it emerged two documents had been provided to the University, one an otherwise innocuous event risk assessment from Hampshire Police. The second was an undisclosed weekly round-up intelligence document from the National Domestic Extremism Unit at the Metropolitan Police, a Special Branch front.

Though it was argued that this second document, never shown to the organisers despite the University claiming it was, could not be disclosed as evidence as the MPS had not given permission, it is not the full story. Indeed, it is likely it was only even mentioned to justify the back channel that was in place between the University and the powers that be.

In particular, the Court heard that the head of Security for Southampton University, one Gary Jackson, was friends with someone in Hampshire Special Branch who told him this conference was something to be worried about. This in turn lead to a more formal meeting with the head of Hampshire’s Special Branch (it is not clear if this is one and the same person), where it was discussed that an armed response unit may be required on campus if the conference went ahead. The premise appearing to be that the conference may attract Jewish protesters which in turn would potentially attract terrorists!

However, behind this shocking attack on civil liberties in the name of security, is the clear statement of informal contact between university security and Special Branch, of precisely the kind described by Rachel Briggs in her Demos report – a report assisted by university bound spycop Bob Lambert and the man who developed the police’s national programme for PREVENT, one Robert Beckley.

As we have also demonstrated elsewhere, the role of the National Co-ordinator PREVENT, is nothing other than a re-branding of the National Co-ordinator for Special Branch. Make of that what you will…

We did a bit of digging and we can reveal some more details of the players in this story.

Gary Jackson has been Head of Security for the University of Southampton from 2005. Between 1971 and 2004 he was with the Navy Police, rising to the very top of that force with the grand title of Provost Marshal of the Royal Navy 2000-2004 – where he was responsible for all Maritime Policing globally. He retired to be QinetiQ’s Maritime Service Police Expert in that company’s successful £25bn bid for the Defence Training Review in 2005.

Though it is not possible to say definitively who Jackson met with, we have a very strong suspicion that it was one Det. Ch. Supt. Scott Chilton, who since December 2012 is the Southampton based Head of the Joint Operational Unit between Hampshire Police and Thames Valley Police forces, where he has command of Special Branch and Covert Policing. He was previously Det. Superintendent as Head of Special Branch for Hampshire in 2009-2011. Interestingly he lists as on of his activities in this role Head of Maritime and Aviation Ports Policing and Security. In terms of ports policing, Hampshire key force, and – of particular interest in this context – a 2010 conference on ‘Maritime Domain Awareness’ where Chilton speaks shows him mixing with quite a number of leading naval officers.

He is also an accredited Authorizing Officer for use of covert police tactics for Hampshire. Now, it was Hampshire police who played a leading role working with the National Domestic Extremism Team during Operation Achilles in 2007-2008, when dozens of animal rights activists were arrested. And it was the Hampshire city of Winchester where they were put on trial. A time when Mr Chilton was running ‘numerous covert policing investigations of a sensitive nature’, we can only wonder what else there is in his past relevant to the spycop saga.

Of course, if Mr Chilton never met or authorised any meeting with Gary Jackson over the Southampton University conference, he can feel free to say so in a response to the FOIA request we have filed here.

We gratefully acknowledge the time taken by Asa Winstanley to explain to us the background to the case and what happened in the High Court.