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Police bail sysadmin in animal rights extremism probe

Colo contract prompts Serious Crime Act arrest

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A Sheffield man has been released on police bail after being questioned in connection with comments posted to the activist news website Indymedia, which included the personal details of a prominent High Court judge.

The man, in his 40s and thought to work as a systems administrator, was arrested on Monday and questioned for about eight hours. He has been bailed without charge to appear at a police station in May. His home was searched and computer equipment and paperwork seized.

The comments at the centre of the investigation were critical of Mr Justice Neil Butterfield for the landmark blackmail sentences he handed down to seven animal rights extremists last month. One posting encouraged other Indymedia users to use the personal information to contact Butterfield and "to let this friend of [animal testing firm Huntingdon Life Sciences] know exactly what you think about him".

Indymedia administrators deleted the personal information soon after it was posted, but they were contacted by Kent Police the following day requesting the IP addresses of the posters. The Kent force carried out the original investigation that resulted in the blackmail sentences handed down by Butterfield.

Indymedia told Kent Police it does not record IP addresses. The same day the force seized a server belonging to Indymedia and hosted at Manchester-based colocation provider UK Grid.

The Register understands that the man arrested was not responsible for either of the comments and is not an Indymedia activist or administrator. Rather the server was hosted by UK Grid under a contract in his name, along with several others on behalf of unrelated clients.

He was arrested under sections 44-46 of the Serious Crime Act 2007, which came into force on October 1 last year. The relevant sections criminalise "intentionally encouraging or assisting an offence", "encouraging or assisting an offence believing it will be committed" and "encouraging or assisting offences believing one or more will be committed".

A spokeswoman for Kent Police confirmed the man was arrested on "suspicion of incitement" under the Serious Crime Act.

Indymedia has a long-standing policy of not retaining IP address logs to preserve anonymity, and the hard drive of the server taken from UK Grid was encrypted, as were the drives taken from the man's home. It's understood police did not use Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) powers to demand he turn over any encryption keys.

Refusing to provide encryption keys is an offence under section 49 of RIPA and carries a prison sentence of up to five years. ®

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