Partners of Undercover Officers Back in Court

This week the women duped into long term relationships with undercover police officers are back in court in London and have called for a solidarity demonstration outside.

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Eight of the women are supported by the Police Spies Out of Lives group. One of them, ‘Alison‘, lived with Mark Jenner for four years. She told her story to Newsnight earlier this year [on Youtube starting at 16.35]. Today she published an article on the Guardian site about the next stage of the court case.

The police are obliged to provide disclosure and properly outline their case. They have failed to do so, citing a policy of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ (NCND); they say they cannot ever confirm whether somebody was an undercover police officer, and that this policy is essential to the integrity of important and dangerous undercover work. They went as far as applying to have the case struck out on the grounds that, as they would refuse to give proper testimony in court, they would be denying themselves a fair trial.

There is only one flaw with this policy – it doesn’t really exist. It’s a common practice, but that is all. As Police Spies Out of Lives note

The women launched their legal action in December 2011, but it was not until June 2012 that the police first mentioned NCND in relation to the claim. You might think if there had been such a long standing policy this would have been highlighted in the first police response.

There have been innumerable exceptions to NCND, and the women gave the court two large files documenting some instances. After that, and the Ellison review‘s revelations earlier this year about spying on Stephen Lawrence’s family, the police abandoned their strike out the case. They’re still sticking to the ‘policy’ of NCND though.

This puts them in the bizarre position of not naming Mark Kennedy as an undercover police officer. Kennedy hired Max Clifford to sell a gossipy version of his story to the Mail on Sunday – he could scarcely be less secret. More than that, he has been identified in numerous official statements, including a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) in February 2012 that said

It is normal practice for the police to neither confirm nor deny the true identity of undercover officers. This is to protect both the officers themselves, and the effectiveness of the tactic. However, the case of Mark Kennedy is one of exceptional circumstances, including his own public revelations, the media interest in him, and the fact that the Court of Appeal named him on 19 July 2011. Because of this, HMIC has chosen on this occasion to use his real name.

The information is out there and, like toothpaste out of the tube, you can’t put it back in. Mark Kennedy has not been magically de-identified. The current backslide shows that the stonewall use of NCND is both a recent invention and a tactic of obstruction.

Of the other four officers named in the womens’ case, John Dines and Mark Jenner have been extensively documented, and Bob Lambert has not only been identified in the press and the Ellison Review but has given interviews candidly admitting to large parts of his work.

The fifth, Jim Boyling, who was undercover as Jim Sutton, has also been comprehensively reported in the press, television and beyond. It would be hard to suspend him from police duty in January 2011 if he were not a police officer. Later in 2011 Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe confirmed that ‘Jim Sutton’ was an undercover officer [PDF, p22].

Because Boyling went through a 1997 court case under his false identity as Sutton, a convicted co-defendant has won the right to have the conviction overturned. But in a farcical twist at the hearing earlier this year – after this long-standing policy of NCND had been invented –  the police backtracked and would not fully identify Boyling. They confirmed he was a police officer but not an undercover one. As if he might have done the undercover work as a hobby in his spare time. As if confirming that this man whose picture is all over the internet was a police officer doesn’t put him at just as much of a risk as admitting he was an undercover one.

Police lawyers said they weren’t compelled to give any reason why they didn’t oppose the quashing. ‘What kind of justice is that?’ asked the judge. It’s a question we should all be asking.

NCND is another manifestation of the ‘double injustice’ faced by so many victims of police abuse; there is what was done to them, and then there are the tricks of delay, distraction and denial to try to avoid accountability. Many of those who have been spied on – the family of Stephen Lawrence and numerous other black justice campaigns, anti-fascists, environmentalists, Hillsborough families and more – can tell a similar story.

An police service interested in justice would do precisely the opposite. More, these blocks are such blatant decoy tactics, and they know it’s obvious to everyone. But as long as they aren’t forced into actually admitting that’s the case, they can conceal the truth of what they’ve done and deny justice to the citizens they abused.

If this is their response to being caught committing the starkly cruel abuse of these women – the most complete invasion of privacy that it is possible for the state to enact – then what hope can we have for the promised public inquiry?  The fight against NCND is not just a fight for the women concerned, but for everyone spied on by Britain’s political secret police, and for the hope of eventual truth and justice for the wider society.

Their hearing is on Thursday 5th and Friday 6th June at the Royal Courts of Justice on The Strand in London. Police Spies Out of Lives have asked:

  • If you are in London, please join us outside the Royal Court of Justice, The Strand, from 9am–10am on Thursday 5th June to show your support for the women.
  • Please share the graphic (above)
  • Please tell friends, family, colleagues, groups and organisations about the Where We Stand statement

You can follow the case’s progress on Thursday and Friday via the Police Spies Out of Lives Twitter.

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