Activist Gets A Visit From Special Branch
As a highly active anti-nuclear and internet rights campaigner, Stella Purvis is convinced the UK government will attempt to bring in wide-ranging net censorship under the pretext of dealing with child pornography. So she decided to apply for the right to research the disparity between official claims and the actual incidence of web child pornography. However, as a transitioning transsexual, she was a prime target for a fit up.............so Special Branch paid her a visit. This is her story........
On 11th January 2001, my computer was seized by the police. Also seized were; floppy discs of the first draft of a novel, a book proposal about nerve agent, a book proposal about the CIA, numerous routine communications from CND, Trident Ploughshares and other anti-nuclear Groups, an essay about communications aboard the 1950s nuclear submarine Nautilus, 13 DAT tapes of raw interview material collected for BBC Radio 4s environmental program Costing The Earth - and already broadcast - a research proposal to the University of Lancaster concerning media manipulation in the "supergun" and "nuclear bomb triggers" affairs - together with ideas for numerous other essays, scripted talks for Radio 4, fictionalized biography towards the making of new radio tales, and other fragments totaling hundreds of pages of text.
A collection of more than 2000 photographs and photographic equipment was totally ignored by the searching officers - very odd behaviour for men authorised to look for "indecent photographs".
Background. I am a transitioning transsexual who changed her name to Stella Purvis on 3rd January 2001. I was previously known as Vaughan Purvis [Christopher David Vaughan Purvis].
I am a member of an internet campaign group called Cyber Rights & Cyber Liberties UK, a group of university academics, practising solicitors and others. In the summer of 2000, I was actively engaged in opposing the then Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill.
Like most members of Cyber Rights, I believed the government was using fear of on-line child porn as an excuse and smoke screen to justify the draconian invasions of privacy entailed in the Bill.
While data supplied by the ISPs industry watchdog the Internet Watch Foundation showed that net-based child porn originating in the UK was less than 2%, half of which could be ascribed to a single individual, Home Office propogandists presented a picture of growing menace - while statistics from IWF showed an actual decline.
Consequently, I wrote last summer to Colin Phillips, Chief Constable of Cumbria, asking for his authority to search the web for child porn sites in order to compile a statistical summary to refute government claims. This research protocol cited a number of individuals as academic, journalistic and personal references.
After a very long delay this research proposal was rejected in a letter from a female Assistant Chief Constable (name forgotten) and the project shelved.
On 22nd December 2000, while I was visiting medical consultant Dr S.A.Pidd, at the Queen Victoria Hospital, Morecambe - an entire day out from Barrow-in-Furness - my home, then at 20 Greenhill Close, Ormsgill, Barrow-in-Furness was broken into with numerous thefts and criminal damage including cutting all the cables on my PC - keyboard, mouse, printer, scanner etc.. The police failed to appear following my three complaints. I was not immediately able to repair this damage, and it was not perhaps for three days that it occurred to me to check the Win 98 v.2 "history" file for the day of the burglary.
I discovered that the burglars had entered numerous sites with titles like "Little Kids" and "Pink Lolita", at a time when I can easily show I was still in Morecambe. The police again failed to respond to a lengthy call made to a dispatcher named Claire, so I posted an appeal entitled Help on the Cyber Rights list, which was seen and read by many people, referring to the child porn accusation. This was answered by one Nigel Jones, an Assistant Chief Police Officer from (I think) Kent - a regular contributor to the list - who published the name and phone number of one Mark Cameron - as being a computer specialist I should contact in Cumbria Police.
Despite numerous calls to Mark Cameron it was not until 10th January that he told me that he and a colleague would visit me at 10am the following day. Mark Cameron and colleague did not appear the following day, 11th January. Instead, I received a visit from one D/S Forrester and a search party armed with a search warrant issued under the Child Protection Act authorising a search for "indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children ".
I asked D/S Forrester what this was all about and he said " We are aware of your letters to the Chief Constable ". He described my Help notice on the Cyber Rights list as "an attempt to cover my back ". But while my computer was seized, no interest was shown in my large photographic collection, and of the 24 exhibits listed in the search document as having been seized, not one item is a photograph. Almost all are documents related to the anti-nuclear movement, to DU, Trident Ploughshares, or wrong-doing by Intelligence organisations. WHY ME ?
Together with "Heather", I have acquired more than 50 Geiger tubes and 12 scintillation counters with a view to creating monitoring stations round nuclear facilities in Cumbria and Scotland.
I was in brief communication with David Shayler during his exile in Paris, and one is reminded of the seizure of the computer belonging to, I think, a Sussex university student who had also been in touch with the portly runaway.
Nor was this the end of this loathsome business. On returning from a shopping trip at about 4pm the following day, I was astonished to see my two Staffordshires being lead away to van by the borough dog warden. The door of 20 Greenhill Close had been smashed in, and four police officers and the estate manager were inside.
The "word was out" that I was a child pornographer, (how?) the officers said, and "the word was" that a mob was going to "get me" that very night. I must grab a toothbrush and leave immediately. I said I had no intention of leaving as this would appear to be an admission of guilt for something I had not done. I was then told that if I did not leave with them right away and go to the Borough Homeless Persons Hostel, they would arrest me and lock me in a cell "for my own protection" under the P.A.C.E. Act. So my dogs were taken away to be locked in cages, and I was taken to the hostel for down-and-outs trailing a smear like a slug trail behind me. Deprived of communications of any kind, it has taken me days to rally and counterattack the dangerous, desperate and dishonest men who had done to this to me.
Was it under the orders of Colin Phillips himself, or rogue elements in the Special Branch Ulverstone office acting beyond all law and control? Certainly, they deceived the magistrate who signed the search warrant since not even the sickest mind could meaningfully connect the documents, stories, book proposals and radio talk scripts to the "indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children" cited on the search warrant.
I have not as yet January 29, 2001 - been charged with any offense. But who can say what further crimes or fabrications may yet be concocted to justify what the Special Branch has already done? Who gave the order to destroy me and my democratic right to oppose and expose nuclear weapons, atomic pollution and the wrong-doing of intelligence agencies and the secret police?
Everything I say here is true.
Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment
98 Church Street
Barrow in Furness, LA14 2HJ
STRIDENT AGAINST TRIDENT - no group has done more to highlight current issues surrounding nuclear arsenals than the stridently active Trident Ploughshares - 2000