Council Meeting Abandoned as Protesters Insist Spycop Andy Coles Must Go

Undercover is no Excuse for Abuse banner outside Peterborough Town Hall, 19 July 2017

Undercover is No Excuse for Abuse banner outside Peterborough Town Hall, 19 July 2017

There were chaotic scenes at Peterborough Town Hall last night as former spycop Andy Coles defied protesters’ calls to resign and leave the building.

It’s been seven years since the first bunch of spycops were exposed.

A group of eight women who were deceived into intimate relationships by undercover officers brought a case against the police. They asserted that this was not merely deceit, but a strategy by the agents of Britain’s political secret police. They didn’t sue the officers who abused them, but the the employers who devised and enacted the strategy.

In 2015, after four years of police stonewalling, they received a landmark apology. The Metropolitan Police were unequivocal. Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt declared

‘Thanks in large part to the courage and tenacity of these women in bringing these matters to light it has become apparent that some officers, acting undercover whilst seeking to infiltrate protest groups, entered into long-term intimate sexual relationships with women which were abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong.

‘I acknowledge that these relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma. I unreservedly apologise on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Service.’

This concerned the actions of five officers. Several of those subsequently exposed had identical relationships, and it can only be a matter of time before the Met uses the same words to describe them.

One was undercover officer Andy Coles, aka peace and animal rights activist ‘Andy Davey‘. He groomed Jessica for a relationship. He told her he was 24 when he was in fact 32 and already married.

When she discovered his true identity in May this year she spoke out, explaining

‘Although not legally underage, I feel that my youth and vulnerability were used to target me. I was groomed by someone much older, and far more experienced (he had been an acting police officer for 10 years) and I was manipulated into having a sexual relationship with him.’

Coles was, at the time, Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire. He resigned within three days of his exposure, but he still clings on to other positions of authority that demand integrity and trust. He is the governor of two schools – West Park Primary and the Voyager Academy – and he is a Conservative member of Peterborough City Council.

He was only elected in 2015, long after the spycops scandal broke and the public inquiry was ordered. He must have known there was a serious chance he would be unmasked before long, bringing his role and local party into disrepute.

Last night was the first full council meeting since his exposure. Around thirty people demonstrated at Peterborough Town Hall, talking to councillors and the public, and handing out leaflets detailing Coles’ past.

The meeting began at 7pm but lasted less than five minutes. People in the public gallery asked why Coles was present when anyone else, so damningly unmasked, would be suspended or – as he has done from the Deputy PCC post – resign.

Human Rights Abuser Andy Coles bannerA banner painted by Jessica herself was hung from the public gallery saying HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSER ANDY COLES.

It is not a controversial statement, it merely echoes how his erstwhile employers have described officers like him. The mayor adjourned the meeting and refused to reconvene it until the banner was removed.

The people in the gallery refused to remove the banner until Coles left the building. Jessica, and those like her, have been quiet for too long already.

Coles refused to leave and so, after an hour’s standoff, the mayor formally abandoned the meeting. It has been postponed until Wednesday next week, 26 July. The people in the public gallery left, vowing to return next week and bring their friends.

Afterwards, Conservative council leader John Holdich defended Coles, telling the Peterborough Telegraph

‘You are innocent until you are proven guilty. Unfortunately Cllr Coles is not allowed to speak for himself because the Met have told him he must not say anything and he is obeying that.’

Coles is in fact allowed to speak for himself, as other spycops have done, but he is choosing not to comment. That is very different to being unable to speak. His stance is perhaps due to him knowing that nothing he says can defend or mitigate what has already been unequivocally condemned by those he abused, the Metropolitan Police and wider society. He has already indicated this by resigning as Deputy PCC.

His clinging to the equally untenable position of councillor is insulting to the women he abused and to the council itself. He must go.

New Spycops Public Inquiry Chief Named

Sir John Mitting

Sir John Mitting

Sir John Mitting has been appointed to take over as chair of the public inquiry into undercover policing.

It comes three months after the current Chair, Lord Pitchford, announced he has motor neurone disease and does not expect to be able to complete the inquiry. Mitting will work alongside Pitchford for the time being and will succeed him as chair at an appropriate time.

The inquiry was commissioned in March 2014 after years of revelations about spycops. The three years since have been characterised by police delays and obstructions, and the inquiry has still yet to formally begin.

As a High Court judge, Mitting has had a little involvement with the issue before, ruling in a March 2015 hearing of the case brought against police by activists abused by undercover officer Marco Jacobs.

On that occasion, he orchestrated an ingenious solution to the problem of police saying they would ‘neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND) if Jacobs was their officer. Mitting got them to agree that, while they would not officially drop their stance of NCND, neither would they contest the activists’ assertion that Jacobs was an officer, and if damages are awarded then the police will be liable to pay.

However, there are many elements of Mitting’s professional and personal life that cause serious concern.

JUDGE IN SECRET SPY COURTS

He is vice-president of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), a bizarre secret court dealing with government surveillance cases. It was formed in 2000, when the state realised that surveillance authorised under the new Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act may breach human rights or other law.

Most of its claims are held in secret and not even the spied upon citizen is allowed to be at the hearing. Their lawyers don’t get to be at the hearing either. There is no chance to cross-examine. Complainants just send some papers to the court. In contrast, the police (or whichever state body is accused) and their lawyers are allowed to be at the hearing. The citizens and their lawyers do not get to see what’s in the state’s submissions – they may omit evidence that incriminates them, or invent evidence about the citizens. The court then considers the case and makes a decision. It gives no reasoning for its decision. It doesn’t even have to confirm whether the citizens were under surveilance. The citizens cannot appeal the judgement.

It’s unsurprising that it finds in favour of the state over 99% of the time. Between its formation in 2000 and 2012, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal upheld 10 complaints out of 1,468.

Kate Wilson, who was abused by undercover officer Mark Kennedy, has a case pending at the IPT.

From 2007-2012 Mitting sat as a judge in the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. This is another Kafkaesque secret court, dealing with applications to deport people accused of being a threat to national security.

The cases are based on secret evidence which has never been heard by either the appellants themselves or their lawyers. In many of the cases, a return to their country of origin would be likely to result in detention and a high risk of torture.

Whilst Mitting was involved in a number of cases, the judgements that have come to prominence are ones that have been unpopular with the press, such as ordering the release of Abu Qatada and preventing the deportation of an Algerian terror suspect on humans rights grounds.

INSTITUTIONAL SEXISM

Mitting’s entry in Who’s Who reads:

MITTING, Hon. Sir John Edward

Kt 2001

Hon. Mr Justice Mitting

Born 8 Oct. 1947; s of late Alison Kennard Mitting and Eleanor Mary Mitting; m 1977, Judith Clare (née Hampson); three s

a Judge of the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, since 2001

Education
Downside Sch.; Trinity Hall, Cambridge (BA, LLB)

Career
Called to the Bar, Gray’s Inn, 1970, Bencher, 1996; QC 1987; a Recorder, 1988–2001; Chm., Special Immigration Appeal Commn, 2007–12; Vice-Pres., Investigatory Powers Tribunal, 2015–

Recreations
Wine, food, bridge

Club
Garrick

Address
Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, WC2A 2LL

The mention of the Garrick Club is noteworthy. It’s an elite London ‘gentleman’s club’ that is one of the last to prohibit women from becoming members. That a bastion of codified sexism is Mitting’s choice of environment is of serious concern as he takes charge of an inquiry with institutional sexism and abuse of women at its core.

Incidentally, the Garrick Club was the scene of a confrontation between Mitting and former Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, who Mitting had ruled against in the Plebgate case, ordering him to pay substantial damages to a police officer Mitchell had insulted.

The appointment of a spycops Chair whose past is at odds with the aim of the public inquiry does not necessarily doom the process to failure. When the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry were given Sir William MacPherson, the family campaign saw his history regarding cases with racial elements and tried to have him removed. They failed, yet MacPherson appeared truly outraged at what he found and issued a damning report that forced the police to admit they were institutionally racist, and recommended reform of state institutions far beyond the police.

WHICH KIND OF CHANGE?

With Pitchford stepping down, there is an opportunity to change the structure of the inquiry. As the Hillsborough families showed, even with its most powerful tool – a judge-led public inquiry – the state is not very good at investigating state wrongdoing.

The Child Sexual Abuse inquiry which, like the undercover policing inquiry, was commissioned in 2014 but has yet to properly begin, has lurched from crisis to crisis and is now on its fourth Chair.

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry had the benefit of a panel of lay members, familiar with the issues, who played an important role in adding a broader dimension to the chair’s work. The undercover policing inquiry covers many of the same issues as the Lawrence inquiry (and indeed the Lawrence campaign and family themselves). It also deals with abuse of people who have been campaigning against state and other power. To be effective it must have input from people who understand those perspectives and subcultures.

This inquiry is not about mere serious allegations of officers’ wrongdoing, but proven and systemic abuse of citizens. It is not there to arbitrate between police and activists, but to uncover the full facts of this victim/perpetrator situation. The voices of the abused must be heard above the police who lied for decades and, since discovery, have done all in their power to avoid accountability and keep the truth hidden.

Another Spycop Outed: Andy Coles / ‘Andy Davey’

Andy Coles, aka Special Demonstration Squad officer Andy Davey

Andy Coles, aka Special Demonstration Squad officer Andy Davey

A new name has been added to the infamous list of Britain’s political secret police. Last week Andy Coles was known to the public as Cambridgeshire’s Deputy Police Commissioner and a Conservative member of Peterborough City Council. Now we know he was also Special Demonstration Squad officer ‘Andy Davey‘.

He infiltrated London animal rights campaigns from 1991-1995.

His old comrade Paul Gravett, having learned of other spycops in the movement, seriously suspected ‘Davey’ as far back as 2013. He was confident enough to name Davey three years ago in How Special Branch Spied on Animal Rights Movement.

‘Davey was so well entrenched that he begun to produce the group’s newsletter. Shortly afterwards he also transferred the mailing list onto a computer. We were in the era when some organisations still did not have their own PC or internet access and his IT expertise was considered invaluable. Spies are trained to exploit skills shortages like this, to ensure they become trusted and above suspicion.’

No conclusive proof of Davey’s identity, or his real name, was forthcoming until the Undercover Research Group followed the trail from clues from a most unlikely source – the autobiography of Andy Coles’ brother, ex-Communards keyboard player turned vicar and broadcaster the Reverend Richard Coles. The story of their investigation is fascinating, and has led to their comprehensive profiles of both his time undercover and his life outside it.

Long after his deployment, Coles was on the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Terrorism and Allied Matters committee (ACPO-TAM) when it was running the deployment of spycops such as Mark Kennedy in the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU). Coles was Head of Training up until the time when the unit was taken out of ACPO-TAM’s control in March 2011.

SEXUAL PREDATOR

During his time undercover Coles was known for forcing himself on women. This went on unbeknownst to ‘Jessica’, an activist with whom he cultivated a serious long-term relationship, a practice the Metropolitan Police have conceded was

‘a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma’

Jessica has only recently learned the truth and made this statement

‘Although I was 19, I had never been in a proper relationship before. Events in my life had taught me it’s best to keep people at arm’s length.  So, I didn’t know how to react when he made advances towards me, I was embarrassed, awkward, and what truly makes me feel sick now, is that I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.  I look back now and realise I was naive, idealistic, unsophisticated and a very young 19.’

She believed he was slightly older than her, considerably younger than his actual age of 32.

‘Although not legally underage, I feel that my youth and vulnerability were used to target me. I was groomed by someone much older, and far more experienced (he had been an acting police officer for 10 years) and I was manipulated into having a sexual relationship with him.  I didn’t even know his real name…

‘my life as I knew it was a lie. One of the people that I trusted most never existed.  I can’t look back at those times in the same way now. I can’t trust my judgement, because I got things so wrong. I am now beginning to look at people I know differently. I can’t even feel that I’m being paranoid, because it’s justified.’

In March this year, Coles was the opening speaker at the annual conference of Link to Change, an organisation supporting young people facing sexual exploitation. He is Chair of Families First Peterborough, a community interest company working with disturbed and vulnerable children in danger of being excluded from school. He is a governor of two Peterborough schools, West Town Primary Academy and The Voyager Academy. Until last year, he was served on Peterborough’s council cabinet as a Lead Member with responsibility for Children’s Services.

There is no suggestion of anything untoward in Coles’ particular focus on groups concerning young people, but it is surely intolerable for a man who groomed a teenager for sexual exploitation to hold such positions.

Coles’ boss at the SDS was Bob Lambert, who had himself been undercover in the same campaiging groups, also having a number of sexual partners among those he spied on. Lambert was awarded an MBE for services to policing when he retired in June 2008. Coles had received the Police Long Service & Good Conduct Medal three months earlier, for 20 years’ service in which ‘the officer’s character has been very good’. That both men retain their awards having committed human rights violations and abuses of police power is an insult to those they abused and to decency itself.

Lambert resigned from his policing-oriented academic posts after the truth came to light. Coles’ position as arbiter of policing in Cambridgeshire, and in a variety of civic functions that require integrity, is equally untenable.

HE SAW IT COMING BUT STILL HE HID

Since undercover officer Mark Kennedy hit the headlines in 2011, every spycop must have been wondering if they will be the one who is exposed next. Coles’ cover name was published more than three years ago, presumably something he’s been aware of. Yet he did not come forward to apologise to the campaigns he undermined nor to those whose trust he abused or the women he violated. He hoped he would get away with it.

Even now, in the full glare of publicity, he refuses to even speak, let alone try to atone. Instead, he has locked his Twitter accounts – even the public servant ones as a councillor and Deputy Police Commissioner.

Once again, we see that the depravity and arrogance of spycops was not something in the distant past. The same things that took them undercover – a sense of superiority, a cavalier disregard for the welfare of the citizens they abuse – remain integral to their character today.

But the truth is out and we know who Andy Coles is. An unrepentant part of one of the darkest episodes in Metropolitan Police history, he has no place in positions that deal with the vulnerable, nor roles that require integrity and transparency. He must come clean. He must resign.


UPDATE 15 May 2017: Coles has resigned as Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner. He has been referred to the Independent Police Comapints Commission. He still has two school governorships, roles in organisations for young people and a seat on Peterborough City Council.

Spycops Activists Meet Scottish Minister, Demand Inquiry

Spycops campaigners at the Scottish Government, Glasgow, 10 May 2017. From left: Donal O'Driscoll, Merrick Cork, Helen Steel & Tilly Gifford

Spycops campaigners at the Scottish Government, Glasgow, 10 May 2017. From left: Donal O’Driscoll, Merrick Cork, Helen Steel and Tilly Gifford

People spied on by political undercover police in Scotland met with the Scottish Justice Minister Michael Matheson last week, demanding an independent public inquiry.

The forthcoming Undercover Policing Inquiry, led by Lord Pitchford, is limited to events in England and Wales, despite the fact that most known spycops were also active in Scotland.

After the Home Office refused to include Scotland in the inquiry, last September the Scottish Government appointed HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) to conduct a review of undercover policing in the country.

As HMICS is a body of senior police officers, many victims of the spying do not find it credible and eighteen of them recently declared a boycott of the process. Outraged that the Justice Minister commissioned a review without even speaking to those affected, they requested a meeting, and on Wednesday a delegation they met him in Glasgow.

The group included Helen Steel, who had been in Scotland with her partner John Barker, aka undercover officer John Dines; Climate activist Tilly Gifford, targeted by undercover Scottish police and so outside Pitchford’s remit; Donal O’Driscoll and Merrick Cork, spied upon at the G8 protests in 2005; and the sister of ‘Andrea‘ who was deceived into a relationship by undercover officer Carlo Neri who then integrated into Andrea’s Scottish family.

Matheson repeated his claim that the HMICS review will be ‘thorough and independent’, despite the fact that it only covers policing in Scotland since 2000 and is done by police officers, some of whom have personal connections to the abuses.

The group recounted their personal experiences. Andrea’s sister recalled a number of family occasions, including Carlo Neri coming to her graduation.

Tilly Gifford was a member of climate campaigners Plane Stupid when she was singled out by undercover officers who tried to recruit her as an informer. She told the Evening Times

‘I don’t know who these people were. They were using Strathclyde Police resources but their names did not appear on any Strathclyde Police databases…

‘Because this happened in Scotland, I will not be included in the Pitchford Inquiry. Although there is evidence, and it is documented, that I was targeted, I will be completely left out of the inquiry.’

Gifford is applying for a judicial review of the UK and Scottish government’s exclusion of Scotland from a real inquiry. She has already crowdfunded the costs to get it going (though more is needed and you can donate here).

It was pointed out to Matheson that, given the fact that the spycops targeted elected Labour and Green politicians, it’s probable the SNP were spied on too, including his colleagues and their families.

The group made plain to Matheson that there is already enough established fact to warrant an a full scale inquiry that is credible to the victims, and were absolutely clear that they will not settle for less. Describing the HMICS review as ‘a figleaf’, they demanded it be scrapped immediately.

Matheson insisted he would wait for the HMICS review – planned for publication around September – and only then decide if further inquiry is needed. He made it plain that he would not be dissuaded on this point.

The Scotsman weighed in with an unequivocal opinion piece

Campaigners have already won a judicial review of the Home Office decision in Northern Ireland and should Ms Gifford’s action be successful in Scotland, the courts may take the dilemma out of the SNP’s hands.

If not, those spied on by police in Scotland face the prospect of being the only ones unable to get accountability for what happened to them.

Scotland cannot be left behind. Should the English inquiry not be extended north of the Border, then Scottish ministers must act to fill the void.

Mr Matheson was left in no doubt that this is what is required of him.

Spycops Victims Boycott Scottish Inquiry

HMICS whitewashPeople spied upon by Britiain’s political secret police in Scotland are boycotting the forthcoming Scottish review of the issue, saying ‘it cannot be trusted’ and branding it ‘pointless’.

The review by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) was commissioned by the Scottish government. Although most known officers from the disgraced units were active in Scotland, the Home Office has limited the full-scale public inquiry to events in England and Wales. The Scottish government – supported by every party in Holyrood – formally asked for inclusion but were rebuffed in July last year.

The Scottish government responded by asking HMICS to do a review, but only of events in Scotland since 2000.

Now eighteen people have written to HMICS, decrying both the remit and the choice of the body itself.

Most of them were so heavily spied upon that they are among the 200 people designated core participants at the London-based public inquiry. They include several women who were deceived into relationships by undercover officers and have received an abject apology from the Metropolitan Police.

Others were only targeted in Scotland and so cannot be part of that inquiry. Among them are former MSP Frances Curran and climate activist Tilly Gifford who is bringing a case to force a judicial review of Scotland’s exclusion.

Many were also on the illegal construction industry blacklist, despite never having worked in that trade. Several hundred activists were on the list as every constabulary’s Special Branch illegally supplied it with the details of people who were politically active.

‘The HMICS review has none of the muscle it takes to bring the truth to light, even if it were within the remit and was so disposed.

‘There is little point in another report that simply says things were wrong but it has all changed now. We and the Scottish public need proper answers. We want to know the truth of who spied on us, how we were targeted and why police thought they could get away with it. Without that truth there is no path to justice.’

The group add that they ‘do not want to be complicit with measures that treat a violation as less serious if it occurs on Scottish soil’.

Citing earlier reviews in England as inadequate, they call for an entirely different approach that puts the abused first, rather than leaving everything to the abusers and their colleagues;

‘the HMICS review should be scrapped and replaced by something that is credible to all sides and to the public at large’.

 


The full text of the letter:

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland
1st Floor West
St Andrew’s House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

27 April 2017

Dear HMICS,

Re: Review of Undercover Policing in Scotland

We were spied upon by undercover political secret police officers in Scotland. Some of us were spied on to such a significant extent that we are core participants at the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI), yet the same officers committing the same acts against us in Scotland will not be considered by the UCPI. Some of us were only spied upon in Scotland and so are ignored by the UCPI. We all deserve the truth, as do the Scottish public whose democratic rights have been interfered with.

In 2011, when the truth of what had been done to us came to public attention, we were met with denials from senior police, and sham inquiries that were narrow investigations by police officers. We have no faith in police investigating themselves. We said these reviews were not sufficiently transparent, robust or independent to satisfy public concern and would not come close to addressing all of the issues raised. We were proven right.

As the scale of what went on became clearer and the content of many of these reports – including one from your sister body HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) – were discredited, more serious action was taken. Mark Ellison’s reviews were followed by the announcement of the UCPI. Its exclusion of events in Scotland is a serious limitation. Most of the exposed officers were active in the country and the truth of what happened in Scotland is just as important as it is in England.

For the Scottish Government to commission a review by HMICS is a retrograde step. It is much like the response we had in 2011; police self-investigating a tiny part of what happened, a fob-off to give the appearance of doing something.

We are far beyond that now. We are not dealing with allegations, but proven abuses. This includes officers initiating and furthering intimate relationships with women in Scotland, which the Metropolitan Police has conceded was a violation of human rights and an abuse of police power. It warrants comprehensive and impartial investigation, which we have no faith HMICS is capable of delivering.

Firstly, there is a mater of trust. HMICS is a body of career police officers investigating their colleagues. On that basis alone, it cannot be trusted.

The proposal to look at two disgraced units that were, at the time in question, overseen by the current chief constable of Scotland (whose wife works for your sister organisation, HMIC). This makes it even harder to feign independence. Additionally, the review is being led by Stephen Whitelock who has been working in and alongside the posts that deployed undercover officers, including authorising Strathclyde’s deployments of the abusive Met officers this review examines. The decision to choose him and HMICS gives the appearance of corruption. We cannot think of anyone less appropriate to be doing this.

Secondly, there is a matter of scope. The HMICS remit is limited to events since 2000, a fraction of the lifetime of the units. Among the many outrages committed was the targeting of women through intimate relationships, the use of stolen identities of dead children and the illegal blacklisting of construction workers, environmental and community campaigners. All of these took place in Scotland before 2000 but the investigation will treat them as if they did not happen. To ignore such a significant part of the pattern of abuses makes the investigation unable to see anything like the whole picture and renders it pointless.

Thirdly, there is the element of HMICS’ power to investigate. We have battled for years to get as far as we have, faced by a police culture that will do anything it can to avoid accountability. We have some hope that the UCPI, with its power to compel witnesses who give testimony under oath, might elicit some truth. The HMICS review has none of the muscle it takes to bring the truth to light, even if it were within the remit and was so disposed.

There is little point in another report that simply says things were wrong but it has all changed now. We and the Scottish public need proper answers. We want to know the truth of who spied on us, how we were targeted and why police thought they could get away with it. Without that truth there is no path to justice. There is also no means for the Scottish public to learn how these undemocratic abuses came about and so put steps in place to ensure they do not happen again.

No police report to date has offered anything like that and there is no reason to believe HMICS could, let alone would, do so.

We believe the Justice Secretary should have spoken to those of us abused by these officers in Scotland before deciding on an appropriate course of action. Instead, he spoke only to police and their satellite bodies and then hired them.

We do not want to be complicit with measures that treat a violation as less serious if it occurs on Scottish soil. The HMICS review should be scrapped and replaced by something that is credible to all sides and to the public at large.

The Scottish public and those abused in Scotland deserve a proper Inquiry into the abuses committed by political undercover policing units, just as those in England and Wales deserved one.

Andrea
Alison
Claire Fauset
Donal O’Driscoll
Dr Nick McKerrell
Frances Curran
Harry Halpin
Helen Steel
Jason Kirkpatrick
John Jordan
Kate Wilson
Kim Bryan
Lindsay Keenan
Lisa
Martin Shaw
Merrick Cork
Olaf Bayer
Tilly Gifford

Spycops in Ireland: Secret Report With More Questions Than Answers

Gardai in uniformShortly after the truth about undercover officer Mark Kennedy hit the headlines in January 2011, officials from many of the 11 countries he visited wanted answers. In Ireland, the Minister of Justice asked the police to write a report on his visits.

They refused to make it public but last week, following tenacious work by Ellen Coyne at the Times, it was released under Freedom of Information and The Canary published it in full.

In the report – little more than a fob-off letter – the Gardai don’t deny authorising Kennedy’s visits, and they defend their decision to keep it secret from their own government. Kennedy visited the country many times, committing human rights abuses, inciting action and getting arrested under a false identity.

The release of the report raises more questions than it answers. Who authorised his visits? What remit was he given? What oversight did they have on what he actually did? What did other British spycops do in Ireland?

MARK KENNEDY IN IRELAND

Mark Kennedy made at least five undercover visits to Ireland, taking on many different roles. In spring 2004 he was part of an info-tour raising awareness of the upcoming G8 meeting in Scotland and visited the Shell To Sea gas pipeline protest in Co Mayo. On Mayday 2004 he was part of a Dublin black bloc demo against an EU summit where he was attacked by police and needed hospital treatment. He was arrested, held for five hours and released.

In June 2004 he participated in the demonstration against George Bush’s visit to Dromoland Castle. He made at least two other visits to Ireland over the next two years, including acting as a trainer on a programme for anarchist activists later in 2004 on civil disobedience.

Mark Kennedy and Sarah Hampton in Dublin 2005

Mark Kennedy (left) and Sarah Hampton (right) in Dublin 2005

Kennedy was at the European Youth for Action’s April 2005 meeting in Co Clare to establish a European network of anti-war and peace activists.

He drove to Dublin in March 2006 to attend the Anarchist Bookfair. UK activists gave him publications to take which he reported as confiscated by UK border officials. He later went back to the Shell to Sea protest.

A second report – also a police self-investigation for the Ministry of Justice – was commissioned last year yet, despite demands from Irish parliamentarians, they are still keeping that one secret. Having hidden the truth from the government for so long, the Gardai are still keeping it from the public. Does it contain any answers about Kennedy’s activities? What are they hiding?

Even then, the two reports are focussed on Mark Kennedy’s visits to Ireland. There are even bigger questions. Which other British spycops came to Ireland to undermine campaigns and abuse citizens? Did any come from other countries? What exactly were they there for, and what did they end up doing?

NOT JUST KENNEDY

Although we only know about 18 officers of Britain’s political secret police – around 10% of the total – it’s already established that other officers visited the Republic; Mark Jenner, John Dines and Jim Boyling were also there, the four of them covering a period of 15 years.

Mark Jenner drove activists to Belfast and Derry in August 1995, and took part in street fighting when nationalists clashed with the loyalist Apprentice Boys of Derry march on 12 August. The Police Service of Northern Ireland say that police there were ‘completely blind’ to the presence of Met spycops, and that deploying them without training or oversight was ‘an act of madness’. Whilst in the North, Jenner also visited the Republic. It would be astonishing if, as the Gardai imply was the case with Kennedy, the Met informed them and got the visit authorised yet kept police in the North in the dark.

Jim Boyling visited Ireland in 1997 and is reported to have participated in the destruction of an experimental genetically modified crop. John Dines went to Ireland in late 1991/early 1992 during the final stages of his deployment.

HOW MUCH MORE?

Like Kennedy, Jenner, Boyling and Dines were the subjects of legal action by women they abused through relationships, something which the Met themselves have conceded was ‘a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma’. All but Boyling committed these abuses in Ireland, and Kennedy did so with several women.

This week, four of the women affected wrote to the Irish government asking

  • Who authorised these undercover operations in Ireland?

  • Do Irish police hold files on us, and when will we be given access to those files?

  • How does the Irish state justify foreign police officers having deceptive intimate relationships with women, in violation of our human rights and bodily integrity?

  • How many more UK police officers operated in Ireland and how many more women were abused by the police on Irish soil?

Did the Gardai know about this aspect of the British spycops’ activities? If so, they were complicit in human rights abuses. If not, it shows that their oversight was grossly incompetent and therefore warrants proper independent investigation.

Other questions should be answered to. When did it start? Is it still going on? Which Irish campaigns were targeted and stymied? Which citizens were abused?

Their cavalier approach to transparency and legality raises other questions. In the UK, spycops including Kennedy and Boyling engineered dozens of wrongful convictions for the people they spied on. Did the same thing happen in Ireland?

Even with the handful of officers exposed, it is clear there was long-term, systematic abuse. Most of the known officers went abroad. We can be sure that there are many, many more similar outrages and abuses committed by the as-yet unknown officers. The forthcoming British public inquiry will only look at actions in England and Wales.

NO EXCUSES, NO MORE DELAYS

We already know that the Gardai authorised foreign secret police to come to Ireland and spy on people, including inciting them to action, whilst there they committed human rights abuses, and it was kept secret from the government. The Gardai used their power in sinister and disturbing ways, facilitating numerous abusive officers. It beggars belief that anyone would dare to suggest a self-investigation into one officer would be sufficient, let alone accept it and fend off calls for anything more rigorous, yet this is what the Justice Minister is doing.

It shouldn’t take legal action by journalists to force admission of what’s already known. We shouldn’t rely on victims to do their own research into what was done to them and have pleas for answers go unanswered. If officials in government and police believed in justice they would be revealing the truth rather than hiding it.

Pitchford Inquiry Brands the Met ‘Incompetent’

'Undercover is no Excuse for Abuse' banner at the High CourtLast week a crucial battle in the undercover policing scandal saw unprecedented moments when the Inquiry chair labelled the Metropolitan Police incompetent and ill-prepared. Pitchford Watcher was in court and looks at what led to this and what it may mean for the future direction of the Inquiry.

At the heart of the Pitchford Inquiry into Undercover Policing one issue towers above all: the release of the cover-names of the undercover officers who targeted protest movements.

For many involved there can be no truth or justice without answers – and for that they need to know who spied on them. Not necessarily who the cops are in real life, but the cover-names used by police posing as activists to infiltrate their campaigns, their friendships, their families and beds, who deceived and abused them. From the start, for the ‘Non Police, Non State Core Participants’ as the subjects of police spying are awkwardly termed, meeting this has been the primary pre-requisite for justice.

It is fair to say that the Metropolitan Police blanched at this demand. This sort of scrutiny of their dark arts is their worst nightmare, one they go extraordinary lengths to avoid. Over the last few decades they are known to have let large cases collapse rather than provide this disclosure.

It is no less true of the six-year civil case brought by women deceived into relationships. There, in a highly unusual move, the Met conceded and gave an unconditional apology. It effectively ended the case, just at the moment when the police were about to be forced to disclose. However, without answers, there was no closure for the women.

The women who fought that long battle do not give up so easily. Two of them, Helen Steel and Kate Wilson, spoke at last week’s hearing. It was their sometimes emotional (and rightfully so) submissions, that brought the damning statements from Pitchford. Though tetchy and constantly interrupting the pair, who were clearly frustrated with the police delays, he was unstinting in his own criticism of the police.

POLICE RESISTING ACCOUNTABILITY

To understand the significance of those comments, we need to take a step back and understand the lead-up to the issues facing the Inquiry. Since the Inquiry began in 2014 it has been dogged by problems, many of a legal nature. The police have constantly fought the release of any details, claiming the need to protect both undercover policing as a tactic and the welfare of undercover officers. It is an uphill battle as they are clearly defending the indefensible in this case. However, as the women in their court case discovered, the police are nothing if not tenacious, and are equally willing to spend large amount of taxpayers’ money to defend their reputation.

For some non-state/police core participants, it feels like a rugby match, each scrum a bruising push towards the final line. Though slowly advancing, each gain in the fight comes with personal costs in what is already a horrendous story. The interventions by Steel and Wilson last week attested to this. It was little surprise that every time the police promised co-operation, those in the public gallery laughed bitterly.

Though, what emerged is that the Inquiry is having its own direct experience of the police failing to meaningfully deliver, despite said promises.

Last year the Inquiry overruled police applications to have the Public Inquiry in private. Pitchford said cover-names would be released unless there was good reason not to. Where arguments to not release existed, these would be dealt via Restriction Orders – in turn evidenced with risk assessments setting out the dangers facing officers if cover and real names were revealed. Thus, risk assessments became pivotal to the process.

DELAYS UPON DELAYS

The first tranche of restriction order applications were due October 2016. Instead, what happened was a farce: friends of undercovers were chosen as risk assessors and had to be dropped; others fell by the way for different reasons. The Inquiry itself had to intervene heavily in the process, including providing specific guidance on what an acceptable risk assessment amounted to. In Pitchford’s words:

the Metropolitan Police were not the experts in risk assessment they claimed to be.

Pitchford has been clear that without the cover-names released the Inquiry cannot proceed. The suspicion in some quarters is that the Met are taking this as that is a guide on how to obstruct. Again, as the Chair told their barrister last week:

This process does not work if you take a year to give me a risk assessment.

For the normally highly restrained language of courts, all these are all harsh words, and damaging to the Metropolitan Police’s reputation. The Met had no real response either: the process had collapsed and needed rebuilding. The October 2016 deadline passed and a new one, the 31st March this year was put in place. At the Inquiry’s request, progress updates moved from monthly to fortnightly. Still, the March deadline was missed as the Metropolitan Police were unable to submit any risk assessments, and worse, applied for an extension until October 2017.

If Pitchford and the Inquiry team were frustrated, those spied upon were incensed. Not least as the Inquiry seemed to be accepting the for now familiar police stalling tactics. However, when Dan Squires, counsel for the non-police/state participants, raised that the police delays were deliberate, Pitchford was quick to step in and disapprove of the suggestion.

However, Pitchford perhaps underestimated, as the police had, the tenacity of those most affected. They were not having it, and were prepared to say so. Kate Wilson and Helen Steel stood up and reiterated the core demands: stop the delays and release the cover names.

Addressing court was clearly a painful experience for them, and frequent interruptions by a seemingly irascible Pitchford made it harder. They were talking from personal experience of having their lives invaded, but this was not simply an account of wrong doing: they had serious points to make about police behaviour.

Building on Squires’ points, they went further, demanding the Inquiry took a stronger grip of the situation and to stop leaving all the power in the hands of the police, the very people being charged with abuse. It was in the face of this that Pitchford’s clear irritation finally broke through. He acknowledged their distress, but again refuted the allegation that it was deliberate. However, this time he tempered it with his trenchant criticism levelled against the Metropolitan Police of incompetency, failure to plan and lack of foresight.

SELECTIVE SECURITY

The police tried a number of tactics, including pleading anxiety on behalf of some officers, and the claim of the need to protect operational secrets. Yet, they had no answer for the point that there had recently been a steady release of court cases and news stories where cover-names have been published as part of prosecution evidence. This included cases involving ISIS and serious organised crime. As Helen Steel remarked, it smelled more of a fight over reputation.

There is little doubt she was right. The Metropolitan Police had scored an own goal, seeking to protect its reputation on one front resulted in it being damaged overall. Pitchford for the most part gave them an easy ride, but when pushed it finally became clear that the Met had not just been given enough rope to hang themselves, but had put their neck into the noose.

Other police forces are clearly paying attention and looking at more nuanced approaches. For instance, the National Police Chiefs’ Council submitted that cover-names could be released if the real names were given automatic anonymity.

Just before the hearing it appears the Met realised the danger it faced. It would not be good if the new Commissioner was formally summoned to give explanation in person, as the Inquiry has the powers to do (a possible outcome of a Section 21 Order under the Inquiries Act). Thus, on the first day of the hearing they produced a much revised and more ambitious timetable. They went from complaining how difficult it would be to get anything in place before October, to promising the first tranche of 22 applications by 1st June, more by 1st August, and by 1st October all 150 affected SDS officers (undercovers and back-room alike) to be risk assessed, and where necessary restriction order applications submitted.

This is just the Special Demonstration Squad officers, and does not include the officers from the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, whose 50+ undercovers have apparently all indicated they want to make restriction orders. Nevertheless, where the Met goes, other forces are likely to follow.

The battle of the cover names has taken a big step forward, though is only half-completed. Pitchford has still to agree to this new timetable, then the police need to actually make the applications. There will then follow hearings to determine what will be restricted and what will be released, possibly using a system of benchmarks rulings to guide the police.

IT’S NOT GOING AWAY

The Inquiry was supposed to be completed by 2018. Now, evidence will not be heard until 2019, and as one barrister noted, at this rate the final report will not be submitted until 2022. That is eight years after it was first announced, eleven after Mark Kennedy, Jim Boyling, Bob Lambert and others were all first exposed. Few are surprised by this, after all Pitchford is relatively new to a fight that started four years before he became involved, and for some a cause spanning over two decades.

The spycops scandal continues to be a poison pill for the Metropolitan Police. Last week, it path walked them into a quandary over their reputation. Either they were incompetent and terrible at risk assessment; or they are not, in which case the delays have all been deliberate. It is clear there is a divide between those spied upon and the Inquiry who believes which.

One wonders how much it played a role in the recent sideways move for the man charged with heading up the Met’s response, Martin Hewitt. He has since moved sideways to head up Territorial Policing, with his role now occupied by Fiona Taylor.

Another open question is what incoming Commissioner Cressida Dick makes of it all. She has inherited a problem from her predecessor Bernard Hogan-Howe who took a somewhat belligerent approach to the issue. Yet, it was on her watch that the report that finally buried the Special Demonstration Squad was drawn up, labelling it a rogue unit without moral compass. However, she has her own skeletons and inconvenient connections into the spycops scandal, not the least being that the Special Demonstration Squad spied upon the de Menezes family justice campaign, a shooting she gave the go-ahead for. How much this will come back to haunt her remains unknown.

In the meantime, campaigners are waiting for the 1st June deadline to come around, in equal measures sceptical and hopeful that answers will finally start emerging.

The submissions made by all core participants and transcripts of the hearings of 5th & 6th April can be found at UCPI.org.uk.

The author attended the two hearings in person on 5th & 6th April.

Originally published on Pitchford Watcher.

Help Force a Proper Spycops Inquiry for Scotland

John Dines on Barra

SDS officer John Dines whilst committing human rights abuses on Barra in the 1990s. This will be ignored by the public inquiry & the Scottish police self-investigation.

Most known officers from Britain’s political secret police were in Scotland. It happened over a period of decades and included the targeting of women for relationships that the Metropolitan Police have conceded were ‘a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma’.

Despite this, the public inquiry is limited to events in England and Wales. The Scottish government formally asked for the remit to be extended to Scotland but was refused. They have commissioned a police self-investigation instead which will only look at events since 2000, a gesture so inadequate that it is insulting.

The same abuses were committed by the same officers, and if people deserve answers in England they should get them in Scotland too. More than that, we can only understand what happened by seeing the full picture. To look at officers or campaigns in an isolated way means we cannnot get the full truth.

On 24th October 2016 the Public Interest Law Unit through solicitors in Scotland launched Judicial Review proceedings against the Home Office and the Scottish government. The proceedings filed in Edinburgh challenged:

  1. the decision of the UK Government to refuse to extend the terms of reference of the Undercover Policing Inquiry into undercover policing to cover Scotland; and separately
  2. the decision of the Scottish Ministers to refuse to set up a Scottish Inquiry under and in terms of the Inquiries Act 2005 with terms of reference equivalent to those of the Inquiry but covering Scotland.

Despite this being a strong case, with good facts, supported by clear domestic and human rights law, in March the Scottish Legal Aid Board have refused the legal aid application.

This is where you come in.

A crowdfund campaign has been launched to raise £5,000 to take this case forward and to get the Court to grant permission for it to proceed to a full Judicial Review. We have a month to do it. Please share this widely and donate if you can afford to.

More information and donation details here.

Update on Seeking Spycops Justice Outside England & Wales

Most Known Spycops Worked Outside England & WalesAs children in school we are taught that the best way to organise a nation in the interest of its citizens is with a democratic system, and that this system can’t be flawed because of its checks and balances. Yet recently the Irish government has been proving that the opposite is true, it is operating to protect itself and its security apparatus against the best interests of the people.

This situation has arisen after British police admitted human rights abuses done by their undercover police officers who violated human rights of a number of women by having intimate relations with them during operations.

Four of these officers so far have also been exposed as having operated in Ireland, and victims now demand answers about who was responsible for such international political policing. Yet despite being confronted on the topic by oppositional MPs, Irish government representatives repeatedly say that the issue of exposing the truth and having a transparent inquiry into the abuse ‘does not arise’. Such a position made by any elected official can only serve to chip away at faith in the system they represent.

The continually growing secret policing scandal led then-UK Home Secretary Theresa May to create the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI) to look into two political undercover policing units, but with a remit limited to England and Wales. It had also been revealed that most outed undercover officers had operated abroad in a total of at least 17 countries, including the officers who were in Ireland: Mark Kennedy, John Dines, Jim Boyling and Mark Jenner.

Among targeted Irish groups were those opposed to genetically engineered crop testing and Shell to Sea, a group concerned with protecting fisheries and the environment in County Mayo.

Despite the fact that most known officers went abroad, due to its remit the UCPI refuses to properly examine activity outside England and Wales. Civil rights campaigners and parliamentarians outside England and Wales have responded with demands for answers.

On 8 February 2017 the Irish Justice Minister Francis Fitzgerald replied to a Parliamentary Question by answering

‘should anything emerge from the findings of the UK’s Undercover Policing Inquiry that would be relevant to policing in this jurisdiction I will consider it fully and take any action that may be required’.

However, the minister is either bluffing or is not aware that nothing relating to any events occurring outside England and Wales will be investigated by the UCPI, thus rendering her argument meaningless.

Further problems have arisen from excluding jurisdictions outside England and Wales. High-level German interest in being included in the UCPI stems from scandal around illegal activities by undercover officer Mark Kennedy. On this basis, German MPs Andrej Hunko and Hans-Christian Stroebele moved to have the Home Office include Germany in the UCPI.

The Home Office Minister of State for Policing, Mike Penning, responded on 13 November 2015. He referred to the original terms being limited to England and Wales, and continued,

‘The Inquiry team has confirmed that they would encourage witnesses to provide a complete picture when submitting their evidence, although they will need to consider evidence against the terms of reference’.

This clearly meant evidence of events occurring outside England and Wales could be submitted, but would not be examined fully by the Inquiry. More, it meant that issues around activity abroad cannot be mentioned if they don’t directly connect with actions in England and Wales.

After further scandal about UK undercover operations in Germany were exposed in the press and questioned in Parliament, the German Interior Ministry confirmed that on 31 May 2016 they had formally asked the UK Home Office to extend to the UCPI to include British undercover operations in Germany.

However on 14 September 2016 the German Interior Ministry wrote to MPs Hunko and Stroebele, saying that he had received a communication from Brandon Lewis in the UK Home Office stating that in order to prevent further delay to the UCPI and improve public trust in the work of the police, they refused to include undercover operations in Germany into the remit of the Inquiry.

A legal action was begun in Germany by UCPI witness and Core Participant Jason Kirkpatrick on 20 July 2016, based upon Kirkpatrick’s having been targeted numerous times in Germany by Mark Kennedy. The UK government flatly refused to extend the UCPI to Germany, stating:

‘The particular high profile allegations which prompted the decision to commence an Inquiry were primarily if not exclusively about events said to have originated from English and Welsh police forces, and alleged to have occurred in England and Wales. They were about alleged miscarriages of justice, alleged sexual relationships between male undercover officers and members of the public’.

The sexual relationships are, by the police’s own admission, a violation of human rights and an abuse of police power. The fact that women (British and otherwise) have suffered the same abuse outside of England and Wales appears to be something the Home Secretary hopes to not hear, see or speak of.

Education of the Irish Justice Minister is ongoing, and it is hoped she will also soon request inclusion in the UCPI just as her German, Northern Irish and Scottish counterparts have done.

Despite Irish government intransigence and the UK’s rebuffing of German and Scottish attempts to be included in the UCPI, there is still hope elsewhere. A case brought in Northern Ireland recently has led to judicial review of the British government’s refusal to widen the UCPI. That court date is expected to be towards the end of 2017.

Amidst growing concern about whether the UCPI would ‘follow the evidential trail’ beyond England and Wales, solicitors for the activist Core Participants in the Inquiry recently sought clarification from UCPI staff. On 1 November 2016 the UCPI solicitor Piers Doggert wrote,

‘it is likely that the activities of some of the undercover police who will be examined by the Inquiry will have taken them outside of the jurisdiction of England and Wales during the period in question. They may have travelled with other non-state witnesses and both may wish in due course to give evidence about this. In so far as what occurred during that period forms part of the wider narrative of tasking of the officer, or the relationship under consideration, then that evidence will be received by the Inquiry and may form part of the narrative within the final report.

‘However, the Inquiry will not attempt to form any judgement about the legality or propriety within a jurisdiction outside of England and Wales of the actions of an undercover police officer from England and Wales; the terms of reference preclude it from doing so’.

In other words, no matter what crimes and abuses an officer committed abroad, if it can’t be made to relate to actions in England and Wales the Inquiry won’t even hear it; and even the deeds they do hear about cannot be properly taken into account.

Clearly this situation is absolutely unacceptable. If justice is to be done by the UCPI, then it needs to truly follow the evidential trail wherever these spycops have committed their abuses. To force this to happen, more victims of their spying will have to continue telling their stories to the press, speaking out in public, pushing supportive politicians to fight for us, and bringing forward legal actions.

As the public continues to hear our stories and our voices grow stronger, we can already start to savour a taste of the justice that we can create for ourselves, as we begin to see this corrupt political policing house of cards tumbling down.

Spycops Inquiry: Children & Young Adults Group

#Spycops inquiry - Children and Young Adults GroupThis post originaly appeared on the Undercover Research Group site.

One of the untold aspects of the spycops saga has been the effect of undercover police on children and young adults.

People have been affected in different ways. For some it is betrayed friendship with people they trusted, for others it is the affect on their family life. Others will have been directly targeted as young activists.

We are aware that there has been a considerable impact to a number of people as a result. In some cases vulnerable people were placed in inappropriate situations, having been deceived by undercover police lying about who they were.

We feel this story is best told by those affected. As a group we wish to bring together and support those in this situation. There is strength in a collective approach, we can be more effective, stronger and we can also ensure that the fullest support is given to those in the group.

What we are looking to achieve is:

  • Mutual support, as those most directly affected will fully understand each other.
  • Document what happened so we can understand better how spycops infiltrated family and personal life, and the effect that happened.
  • Create a strong set of messages that reflects everyone’s needs and ensures that this aspect of the story is not forgotten. This includes putting pressure on the Pitchford Inquiry and the mainstream media to ensure the group is being listened to and being represented properly.
  • That no one person is singled out to carry the message of everyone.
  • Ensure that everyone gets the level of communication they need.
  • Deal with issues of anonymity.
  • As a group we feel that we can get better access to resources, including, where needed, counselling and funding for travel.

A few of us have come together to facilitate this happening, based on our conversations with those affected and their parents. We feel this group should be lead by those affected but recognise that time, energy and emotions all need to factored in. So we are prepared to help out where possible, and lift much of the effort, facilitating it as much as possible.

This group is open to all affected, whether or not they are core participants in the public inquiry. Whilst the main focus will be on people who were under 18 at the time they encountered spycops, we are not going to be rigid on this, recognising that people do not magically change once they hit their birthday. Likewise, while we would like to focus primarily on those children and young adults affected, we will need the input of parents / guardians who have their own perspectives to contribute.

If you would like to be part of this process please let us know, tell us what you’d like to see happen and particularly how you would like us to communicate with you. We would like to arrange a meeting for everyone, let us know if that is something you would like to do. If you have any concerns or questions, please get in touch.

Kim Bryan
Dónal O’Driscoll

Reach us by email.

This is a project initiated by core participants in the inquiry, and is being facilitated by the Undercover Research Group.