Did Spycops Commit Sex Crimes?
Two weeks ago the Crown Prosecution Service announced no charges would be brought against undercover police who had sexual relationships with women they targeted.
The fact that the women consented at the time is irrelevant. Consent can be negated if it is later discovered that there was serious deception involved.
The CPS cited three bits of case law it considered before making its decision. A court decided that Julian Assange’s failure to use a condom after he’d said he would could be rape and should be brought to trial. Another case where a man promised to withdraw before ejaculation, but failed to, was also decided as being capable of amounting to rape. This gives us an indication of the threshold of criminal sexual deceit.
If Julian Assange deserves a trial it is risible to say that these police officers do not. Is anyone seriously suggesting that their profound, prolonged sexual deception lasting years – even having a planned child – is not worthy of a court case, but they would prosecute Mark Kennedy if he had once failed to use a condom as promised?
Conversely, if Assange had been sent into the civil service by Wikileaks and spent many years in a life-partner relationship with a civil servant, solely as part of a spying operation, he would surely be prosecuted for the personal damage he inflicted.
The CPS also mentioned the Justine McNally case. She pretended to be a man in order to have sex with another woman and was jailed for three years in 2013. The Court of Appeal reduced it to a nine month suspended sentence and she was released after 82 days. The conviction stands.
McNally was not an isolated case. Gemma Barker developed three online male personas that she used to deceive young women into having sexual contact with her. In 2012 she was sentenced to 30 months in prison for two counts of sexual assault and three months for one count of fraud.
Trans man Chris Wilson did not tell two female partners of his previous gender before initiating sexual relationships. One relationship involved kissing, a second involved having sex. In April 2013 a Scottish court (whose Sexual Offences Act Scotland 2009 is slightly different to England’s Sexual Offences Act 2003) convicted him of “obtaining sexual intimacy by fraud” and put him on the Sex Offenders Register. He was sentenced to three years probation and 240 hours community service.
There can be no disputing that the secret police’s deceit was on a comparable scale – arguably a far greater one – than McNally’s, Barker’s or Wilson’s. They were not merely lying about their job or the fact that they were already married. They were not just concealing a fundamental truth about themselves that their partners believed they were the opposite of. They were only ever in these womens’ lives as paid agents to undermine and betray those women and what they held most dear. They were living a relationship that was controlled and monitored, perhaps even directed, by a committee of unseen superior officers. This cannot be informed consent. It is abuse.
Whether what the police officers did legally constitutes rape is unclear. Ben Fitzpatrick, Head of Law at the University of Derby, examined the idea from a legal perspective last year over a series of four articles. He concludes that there are several areas in which it is possible that there is a claim.
Clare McGlynn, professor of law at Durham University, is of a similar opinion.
It is not clear that English law would cover the sexual activities in these cases as sexual offences, and the undercover officers have not been prosecuted.
I do think they should have been charged and prosecuted for these activities. The women would clearly not have consented to sex had they known the men were undercover police officers. I think there is a level of deception in these cases which raises them above the ‘I love you’ sort of deception [where someone pretends to in love to convince someone else to have sex with them].
But, put simply, it is untested. The discussions around the definition are reminiscent of those that happened before rape within marriage was finally legally recognised in England in 1991. The CPS also considered charges of indecent assault against the police officers but, as that has the same consent test as rape, they decided not to prosecute.
What happened to the women deceived by police is rare – and its exposure rarer still – so it doesn’t squarely fit any common definitions based on previous, commonplace crimes. But there is no doubting the seriousness of the psychological and sexual abuse. The legal definition of consent and cases cited above mean there is surely a case to answer.
The inescapable conclusion is that if these men were anything other than police officers they would be prosecuted. The decision not to go ahead is a further part of the cover up of the gargantuan injustice of the political secret police.