UK anarchist Toby Shone was put on trial for terrorism last year. The charges – which were never proven – related to the 325nostate.net anarchist website.
Toby was arrested in November 2020 in the Forest of Dean in Southwest England.
The prosecution against Toby was part of a wider police operation known as ‘Operation Adream’. The original charges were that the 325 website – which published reports of direct action – contained material ‘that would be useful to terrorists’, and that the site fundraised for ‘terrorist activities’.
The case is comparable with the 1997 Green Anarchist/Animal Liberation Front – or GANDALF – trial’, which accused the editors of Green Anarchist magazine and the Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group newsletter of “unlawfully inciting persons unknown to commit criminal damage”. However, Operation Adream went one step further by charging Toby with terrorism.
Toby told The Canary that “the implications of this case do not only concern anarchists”, but should be a warning to anyone who “wants to see actual social, political or environmental change”.
CPS’ terrorism case fails
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) eventually offered no evidence in relation to the terrorism case, and Toby was found not guilty.
However, he was convicted of possession of a small quantity of drugs with intent to supply, and was sentenced to three years and 9 months in prison.
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Now, the Counter Terrorism Unit want to use the drugs conviction to apply for a Serious Crime Prevention Order (SCPO). The SCPO will enable the police to control his use of computers, bank accounts and other electronic devices for five years after he is released from prison. They can apply to renew the order indefinitely.
SCPO orders can be imposed by courts on people who have been convicted of ‘serious’ crimes. The orders are designed to severely limit people’s freedom by – in the words of the CPS – imposing “conditions considered appropriate for the stated purpose of protecting the public from serious crime”.
The CPS lists the crimes that qualify for the imposition of a SCPO order on its website. The list includes “drug trafficking”, but the crime has to be deemed by the court to be ‘serious’ in order for a SCPO to be imposed.
The application for the SCPO is due to be heard on 6 May at Bristol Crown Court. A solidarity demonstration is planned at the court at 8.30am.
Imprisoned since 2020
Toby was originally imprisoned in Wandsworth and had a hearing at the Old Bailey. His trial was eventually moved back to Bristol, to be tried locally, and Toby was moved to HMP Horfield in Bristol.
Recently Toby was moved again, this time to HMP Parc in Bridgend, after supporters spoke out about targeting and threats made against him by a right-wing prison officer.
The Canary interviewed Toby from his prison cell. He said about Operation Adream:
According to Operation Adream’s framework, anarchism is a terrorist ideology.
Reporting on and publishing communiques on direct action and sabotage is ‘glorifying terrorism’. Prisoner solidarity efforts for anarchist prisoners is ‘supporting terrorism’, collecting funds for those prisoners and for anarchist publications is ‘funding terrorism’.
Commenting on the initial terrorism charges against him, Toby stated:
The prosecutors were seeking to impose over a decade of prison on me. I’ll leave speculation aside, and I’ll mention that the charges were not dropped. Technically, the Crown offered no evidence to refute my defence statement and a ‘not guilty’ verdict was recorded.
According to Toby, the SCPO which is being sought against him is a politically motivated attempt to keep him, and those close to him, under close surveillance:
The SCPO is a method to keep me under continuous five year investigation, and de facto house arrest. It is simply a method of repression, which is intended to intimidate me, my family and my friends. To criminalise and place under surveillance those I’m close to, and to try to force me to change the way I choose to live, and with whom.
Toby described the conditions of the SCPO:
It is an attempt to force me to use cashless banking and payments. To control my use of phones, USBs and computers. Stop me using encryption and stop me from using any form of open source software such as Linux. And to stop me from using crypto currencies.
A “clandestine and subversive lifestyle”
The SCPO order will make it very difficult for Toby to live collectively, as he did before his arrest. Toby told us:
…In the papers filed against me, living collectively, ‘off grid’ in a ‘nomadic way’, is seen as a threat to the system. And it’s part of the ‘clandestine and subversive lifestyle’ that I must be stopped from pursuing. Really this means that anyone who is viewed as being ‘outside’ – if such a thing exists – of society, or the cops invented ideas of ‘normality’, can be targeted as an enemy of the state. And the police can invent whatever fictions they like to justify their control.
Part of a move towards a surveillance society
Toby relates the repression against him to a broader process. He said that it’s a move towards a society where the state gives itself more and more control, enabled by technological advances:
It’s possible to make a broad argument that society itself is transforming into a world where everything and everyone is trackable, monitored and profiled. Any realities that don’t conform to this new vision of how regulation and digitalization is to function is seen as a threat to power.
Toby also described how the control order would affect his life:
As to how it would affect my life, the control order demands constant contact with the police to inform them and seek permission for my contact with others. Use of cash, use of communication devices, my movements, where I sleep, or reside, my use of postboxes, storage units, restrictions on using a single bank account. The list is extensive.
A political measure
Toby sees the order as something that is impossible to comply with, and – in fact – just a ploy to put him back in prison as soon as possible:
The order is not really intended to be complied with. It’s been drawn up in such a way as to be impossible to submit to. The aim of the ‘Anti Terrorist Unit’ is to put me back in prison as soon as possible after I am released, and try to frighten me from speaking out about what the endgame is.
The police are able to seek this SCPO against Toby because he has been convicted of intent to supply controlled substances. However, SCPOs are normally used against large-scale drug-dealing operations. This is confirmed by the CPS website which states that “ Far from fitting in to this categorisation, Toby’s drug conviction is comparatively insignificant.
We asked Toby to comment on the drug charges he was convicted for. He said:
The raids in Operation Adream took place against several addresses, which were collective living projects.
I was using medical marijuana and DMT to treat my cancer and related conditions. I also had joint possession of LSD and psilocybin. This was deemed ‘possession with intent to supply’ despite being simply a collective amount in a house project/hangout. These medicines are known for their potential rapid deconditioning effects, and their use for self analysis and reprogramming has been widely studied.
Toby said that the attempts by the police to paint him as a drug dealer are intended to hide the use of the SCPO to repress his political activity:
Police efforts to label me as a ‘drug dealer’ are smears and attempts to obscure revolutionary anarchism. I’m anti capitalist and against any gang or mafia type practices. I’m opposed to the use of hard narcotics and their supply.
“Prison is a path which all revolutionaries must face”
I asked Toby whether this was his first time in prison. He said:
This is not my first time in the hands of the enemy. But this is the longest I have spent behind the door, having faced the rifles of the ‘Anti Terrorist Unit’, and the demands for such a long sentence.
Prison is a path which all non-conformists, dissidents and revolutionaries must face.
Toby maintains that prison needs to be abolished as an institution. He argues that prisons are used to oppress the “exploited classes”:
As for my observations, they are unchanged. Prison cannot be reformed. It must be destroyed along with the state and the society which requires it.
Prison is the institutional repression of the most exploited classes, and maintains the divide between the rich and the poor. It’s always been so, and always will be. There is no ‘rehabilitation’, only warehouses of suffering where they store men, women and children in conditions unlikely to engender anything but hostility, misery and hatred. however much they dress it up with lies and phantasms of redemption.
Cutting the “wild roses before they bud”
Toby sees Operation Adream – and the application for a control order against him – as “an attack on 21st century anarchism”.
According to Toby, police forces in Europe and Latin America have taken similar measures against anarchist insurrectionalist movements, but Operation Adream is significant because it took place in the UK. Toby said:
Anarchist insurrectionalism is already a major target in Europe and Latin America. The only novel thing is that this is the first time such an operation was conducted in UK.
Anarchist insurrectionalists believe in the need for constant social and class struggle, and attacks against the state. Insurrectionalists favour informal organisation based on affinity over the creation of permanent revolutionary institutions. Toby says that many anarchist insurrectionalists believe in organisation through affinity groups which are federated into larger flexible structures, but do not become formalised, and can remain responsive.
Toby sees Operation Adream as part of a wider state strategy which labels left-wing groups as ‘terrorists’:
The establishment of ‘left wing terrorism’, as a new [police] focus comes at a time of lethargy in the radical Left, despite the times we’re living in today, which are full of the conditions likely to create a real momentum towards resistance.
However, at an international level, a resurgence of anarchist, anti-civilization and anti capitalist action is taking place. And the state is aware of that fact, and seeks to cut any wild roses before they bud.
Terrorism label is nothing new
In fact, the labelling of militant parts of the Left as ‘terrorist’ by the British state isn’t really anything new. Supporters of the UK animal rights movement have consistently been branded both ‘terrorists’ and ‘domestic extremists’, and UK supporters of the Kurdish Freedom Movement have been imprisoned under anti-terror laws in recent years. The UK police have long been labelling radical ecological movements as ‘terrorist’, and have used Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act to interrogate suspected radicals from a broad range of social movements at UK borders.
A police counter-terrorism document – circulated in 2020 to medical staff and teachers as part of an anti-extremism briefing – included reference to groups ranging from the Anarchist Federation and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) to mainstream NGOs like Greenpeace and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Avenging “the state’s failure”
I asked Kevin Blowe from Network for Police Monitoring for a comment on the SCPO being sought against Toby. He said.
The SCPO is arbitrary punishment for a conviction Toby did not receive, imposed by counter-terrorism police who seem determined to avenge the state’s failure to find any evidence against him for alleged “terrorist” activities. If imposed, it is also almost impossible to comply with while maintaining any involvement in political activism, because the police must know everything about anyone he meets and talks to. It is, therefore, an unsubtle attempt to silence him.
At a time when the government claims there are growing threats to the right of freedom of expression, Toby’s experience is a reminder that the biggest threat to free speech comes from the state itself.
“The implications of this case do not only concern anarchists”
Toby said that his case should not only be of interest to anarchists; it shows that the state will do what it can to repress and imprison everyone who chooses to struggle for change:
The implications of this case do not only concern anarchists, who have been under the microscope for some time, but anyone who is living in alternative way with their ideas or their actions, collective or not. Anyone who essentially wants to see actual social, political or environmental change will at some point put that into practice. And the state has prepared prisons for you.
Toby concluded with a call to organise for freedom, and for revolution:
That’s why we must realise what we’re up against, and organise. Revolution and freedom is the imperative.
Stay strong out there.
Featured image via Flickr/Dave Nakayama (resized to 770x403px)Support us and go ad-free
- You can write to Toby at: Toby Shone A7645EP, HM Prison Parc, Heol Hobcyn John, Coity, Bridgend CF35 6AP
- Donations can be made to: The Bottled Wasp
Sort Code: 08-92-99
Acc No: 65601648
IBAN: GB35 CPBK 0892 9965 6016 48
BIC: CPBK GB22
- Read more about Toby’s case
- Toby’s SCPO hearing is taking place on 6th May at Bristol Crown Court. Supporters are welcome, and a solidarity demonstration is planned at 8.30am outside the court.
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