Imprisoned anarchist Toby Shone is fighting a new battle as he counts down the weeks to his halfway release on December 28th 2022. This article was first published by Brighton Anarchist Black Cross.
As the UK collapses into something resembling a tin-pot dictatorship and a Victorian poorhouse, Toby continues to be targeted by the Probation Service and their colleagues in the Counter-Terror National Security Division and MAPPA (Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements) for his 'thought crimes ', 'anarchism' and 'alternative lifestyle'.
In September, Toby was informed that Cardiff-based probation officer Paul Smith had booked a series of interviews for him (without communicating these to his lawyers as instructed) with forensic psychologist Dr Harriet Chapman from the Centre for Forensic and Criminological Psychology, University of Birmingham. Dr Chapman's intention was to interrogate Toby under the Extremism Risk Guidelines formulation tool, ERG22+. This assessment which is “intended for use with people who have been convicted of any extremist or extremist-related offence” (which he hasn't been) considers at least 22 factors by which an individual can be regarded as an extremist and thus be subject to de-radicalisation measures. We could find no public paper detailing these 22 factors or the format of the interview.
These largely experimental and deeply authoritarian de-radicalisation measures, which appear to be rolled out on a one-to-one basis, include the Healthy Identity Intervention, Desist and Disengagement Programme, Motivational and Engagement Intervention and Developing Dialogues. All of these are highly invasive, intensive programmes designed to investigate and dismantle a targeted individual's personal narrative, childhood and influences, to attempt to undermine their critique of the existent, to isolate them from their relationships and affinities and to re-mould them into the perfect citizen under conditions of duress. Think re-education camps and political indoctrination. In effect they are seeking to "pathologise" the holding of anarchist beliefs: anarchism as a psychological illness. This tactic of “punitive psychiatry” has been used by other authoritarian states, most notably Soviet Russia, China and the USA.
Naturally, Toby refused to co-operate, at which point he received a letter from his probation officer Mr Smith threatening that “Whilst you have every right not to engage with this piece of work, the assessment will be undertaken whether or not you take an active role in it. For your own sake though, I would suggest that it would be preferable for it to include your voice rather than being a paper-based assessment.”
Despite being found Not Guilty of any terrorist offence in October 2021 and the subsequent rejection by a High Court judge of the prosecution's application for a Serious Organised Crime Prevention Order against Toby on the grounds of “No Necessity”, the cops have found willing partners in the probation service. Although at this stage, there appears to be no legal basis for their demands, the cops and probation are continuing to bring the same accusations and evidence to bear that failed to even make it to a trial in October 2021, but this time to a different judge.
The licensing restrictions under consideration by Probation, Counter-Terror and MAPPA are even more extreme and extensive than those applied for under the Serious Organised Crime Prevention Order that Toby defeated in May 2022. He has been re-categorised by Paul Smith, whom he has met a total of 15 minutes, as High Risk in a new OASIS report (his previous probation officer stated that Toby was Low Risk) and has been placed on MAPPA 4, Level 3 – the highest risk category under this joint agency. All without a trial or a conviction.
It is clear that the UK police state is trying to set the groundwork for LASIT (Left, Anarchist and Single Issue Terrorism). Toby is a test case.
Draft conditions include:
- No contact with extremists or anyone arrested for extremism;
- No discussions (sharing opinions will be regarded as 'grooming' 'radicalisation' and 'preaching');
- No attending any meeting or gathering except for the purpose of worship;
- Only one phone, which must be handed over to the police whenever they ask for it – nothing must ever be deleted from this phone; and,
- Toby must live in an Approved Hostel for one year.
The first two conditions (contact and discussions) cannot hold water without defining who and what is an extremist and begs the question whether they will be subjecting all of Toby's associates to ERG22+ too in order to come up with a workable plan. Equally it will interesting and enlightening to find out exactly what topics of conversation and what opinions are now forbidden in modern-day Britain: in recent weeks, we have already seen that silently and peacefully holding an anti-monarchy placard is an arrestable offence.
Furthermore, a year in an Approved Hostel is unprecedented and unnecessary. AP's are for those who will find it difficult to 'integrate back into society': people without social support, sex offenders, addicts and violent offenders.
There are more political prisoners in UK now than in living memory. Toby Shone's case – more than any other – is of paramount importance as this is an almost extra-legal attempt to criminalise and destroy not only a perceived opponent, but also the entirety of anarchist and libertarian ideals and ideas at a time when crushing and barefaced attacks on the poor give those ideas more leverage and potentiality than ever before.
It is time to dismantle any lines people may still be drawing between each other in the hopes of appearing to be more legitimate to the State. Particularly, in these times, when civilisation as we knew it is in collapse and the infrastructures of the fourth and fifth industrial revolutions are being established, any one of us who has an ounce of free thinking in them is a threat and a target. This attack on Toby Shone is not isolated. All over the world, anarchists and activists are being rounded up and thrown in jail. We are responsible for keeping these ideas alive and we need to pay attention, stand together, support those trapped in the judicial system and attack where we can.