All content from October 2014

First Spycops Relationship Case Settled

More than a dozen women who were deceived into relationships with undercover police officers are known to be bringing cases against the Metropolitan Police. Last week, the first case was settled.

Jacqui was a 22 year old animal rights activist in 1984 when she met Bob Robinson, ten years her senior. They lived together for several years and had a son. Robinson was actually police officer Bob Lambert who knew that he would abandon his child as a toddler. Jacqui is certain that Lambert kept tabs on her after he left. Nonetheless, he had no contact, paid no maintenance.

After Lambert was outed by activists in 2011, he issued an apology. It mentions another partner, Belinda Harvey, but not Jacqui with whom he had a much more involved relationship. Lambert’s children with his wife had both died, yet he had not contacted Jacqui to warn her to get her son tested and treated.

Undercover officers went to elaborate lengths to ensure they weren’t suspected after they left. It was essential to maintain the vulnerability of campaigns to future infiltrators. The most powerful trick in the spies’ spellbook was the ignorance of their targets. Put simply, nobody would believe that they did it. So they would feign mental breakdown over a period of months and disappear to get their heads together, never to be seen again.

If we maximise the benefit of the doubt for Bob Lambert we might say he couldn’t have dropped a one-line card to Jacqui to warn of their son’s medical risk as it would have compromised the undercover method. This excuse evaporates once he was outed. If he had any concern for her and their son he would have run to their door. But still he did not tell Jacqui, a decision that could have cost their son his life.

Jacqui only found out the truth by chance eight months later, seeing it in a newspaper. She described it as ‘like being raped by the state’ and has since been receiving psychiatric care. She also says that, had she not stumbled across the truth and made all the effort to find Lambert, she believes he would have taken the secret with him to his grave.

When her son was young she initiated a bid to have him adopted by her new partner. Getting a child adopted without a still-living parent’s agreement isn’t easy. Adoption services made efforts to find him but their report says

I made several attempts including letters and telephone inquiries to contact Mr Robert Robinson… but I was unsuccessful. An informant, Mrs Moseley who shared the same flat with him at Nightingale Estate, Hackney, East London, told me that Mr Robinson’s whereabouts are unknown. She maintained he is unlikely to surface in the future because of his intense political involvement with the Animal Liberation Movement activities.

Adoption report on the search for Bob 'Robinson'The address Lambert lived at appears to have been demolished several years before ‘Mrs Moseley’ made her comment. Jacqui is convinced that this person was a Special Branch plant. The name, Moseley, may well be a warped joke on their part. How it must have seemed to Special Branch that all the loose ends were being tied up.

Jacqui’s new partner died not long after, the second dad her son had lost in his seven years. She returned to bringing him up as a single parent, a few miles from where the well-remunerated Lambert worked.

Considering the full cost of bringing up a child plus her ongoing care, even on purely financial terms the payout of £425,000 seems paltry.

The Metropolitan Police said

From the outset we have dealt with this lengthy case with professionalism and sensitivity, completely understanding the gravity of the circumstances.

Jacqui brought her case in 2012. Numerous other women brought theirs earlier. The Met refused to even admit that Lambert had been an undercover officer until two months ago despite the fact that, as Jacqui said, there was the absolute proof in the form of six foot of Lambert’s DNA walking round. The Met still won’t admit most of the well-established officers such as John Dines and Mark Cassidy were, in fact, undercover officers.

The settlement is testament to the tenacity of Jacqui and her lawyer Jules Carey. It comes despite the unprofessional, insensitive attitude of the Met. No amount of money will buy back Jacqui’s capacity to trust. Looking beyond that to a wider view of justice, as she said, money is an irrelevance.

There is the money, but there is no admission by the police that what they did was wrong, there is no meaningful apology and most importantly there are no answers.

But the legal system effectively forced her to take the money. If she had continued to court and won, but the damages awarded were below the police’s previous £425,000 offer, then she would have had to pay the police’s legal bill.

The women whose cases are still ongoing are likely to get lower amounts as they did not unwittingly have children to raise. This means the police costs could even exceed the damages awarded. In that position who could afford to push onward for disclosure and justice?

The claimants – many of whom would surely forego any money if they could have answers – will have to take the money (then vicious newsmedia comments sections will fill up with accusations of them being gold-diggers all along).

Effectively, the police are buying their way out of a damning court case. Those in charge retain their promotions and pensions whilst those they abused are left to rely on their own fortitude to repair the damage that was done to them for having the temerity to campaign for a fairer world.

As eight other women bringing similar cases reiterated

we have no reason to believe that these abhorrent abuses have stopped, or that the police acknowledge their actions are wrong, and that they must change.

There can be no excuse for undercover officers having sexual relationships whilst in their undercover persona. It is already illegal in Germany and there is no detrimental effect to German society. After all the damage done and, at long last, admissions from the police of it, it is surely time to change the law.

COPS Public Meeting

On 12 November there will be ‘The Truth About Britain’s Political Secret Police’, a COPS public meeting at London Metropolitan University, hosted by LMU’s Unison branch.

Three people targeted by the spy units will be speaking.

Helen Steel has been a social justice activist in North London all her adult life. She was a defendant in the McLibel trial – the longest in English history. She later found out that her partner who lived with her for several years at the time of the case was an undercover police officer. She is one of the women in the Police Spies Out of Lives campaign and legal case.

Dave Smith was a construction worker who was a victim of an industry blacklist. A private company ran an illegal database of over 3,000 people known to raise health and safety issues, be involved in union activities or be politically active outside work. This illegal activity was built on information supplied by employers and police officers. He is now a lynchpin of the Blacklist Support Group.

Merrick Badger is an environmental and social justice activist. He was one of the group who became suspicious of their friend Mark Stone, confronting and exposing him as police officer Mark Kennedy in 2010. He has since helped to expose other police spies, researching and campaigning on the political policing issue.

The speakers will talk about their experience and the wider issues. There will be plenty of time for questions and discussion.

FREE ENTRY.
General public welcome.

Wednesday 12 November 2014, 6pm-8pm

Henry Thomas Lecture Theatre
London Metropolitan University Tower Building
166-220 Holloway Road
N7 8DB

Nearest tube: Holloway Road

Facebook event

No to Police Spying, Corruption and Racism – demo 21 October

Earlier this year the Ellison report found that Britain’s secret police unit the Special Demonstration Squad had spied on the family of Stephen Lawrence. They have subsequently admitted spying on another 17 similar family justice campaigns.

One was that of Ricky Reel, found dead after a racially motivated attack in October 1997.

His mother Sukhdev launched a petition that has already had over 75,000 signatures. She said:

My son Ricky was just 20 years-old when he was found dead in the River Thames after being racially abused by two men. The police said that they were never able to establish exactly how he died, that it must have been an accident. We spent years pushing for a proper investigation, to get justice for our son. We’ve now found out that because we were questioning their investigations, they spied on us.

There are no words to explain the pain me and my family were feeling, a time when we needed to be left alone to grieve for our son. We thought the police would be on our side and help our grief by finding out the truth.

We know that it wasn’t just us. Other grieving families who were seeking justice after being let down by the police were also spied on. These include the families of Stephen Lawrence, Cherry Groce, Rolan Adams, Michael Menson, Joy Gardner, Jean Charles de Menezes, Harry Stanley and many more. All of these families were spied on because they were pushing for the police to investigate the murder or suspicious deaths of loved ones.

It is devastating to feel betrayed by the people you are expected to trust. Police spy on criminals, what crime did we commit?

We have no faith or trust left in the police. In March this year, the Home Secretary Theresa May announced that there will be a Judge led Public Inquiry into undercover policing but this will not take place for another year, maybe after the next election when we may even have a new government.

I’m calling on the Home Secretary to immediately:

1. Seek a public apology from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to all the families affected by police spying and take action against police officers for any wrong doing

2. Assure us that that the family justice campaigns would be consulted when drawing the terms of reference for the Public Inquiry into undercover policing

3. Assure us that affected families will be provided with legal aid so that they can be properly legally represented at the Public Inquiry

4. Assure us that the practice of police “spying” of family justice campaigns has stopped”

The Monitoring Group have called for a peaceful vigil on Tuesday 21 October at New Scotland Yard from 5-7pm.

Speakers include:

New Scotland Yard
8-10 Broadway
London SW1H 0BG

New Report, Same Old Whitewash

HMIC logoA massive new report on undercover policing from police satellite body Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary was published yesterday.

As with the huge stack of similar reports on the issue, it gives us quite a few dry facts and criticises some administration but fails to tackle the key, shocking issues.

It reveals that 1,229 officers are trained for undercover work. However the police’s National Undercover Index only lists 568 of them. This ‘renders the database unsuitable to the task for which it was created,’ says the report.

Seven types of deployment are listed, but there is no mention of the political spycops. For a report commissioned as a response to the revelation that the Stephen Lawrence campaign had been spied on, after several years’ groundswell following the exposure of Mark Kennedy in 2010, this is no mere oversight. It’s a dodge.

Campaigning for social justice or for the proper investigation of the death of a loved one due to incompetent or malevolent police is left entirely unmentioned in all 206 pages, unless they somehow count among ‘those who seek to commit serious crimes, eg acts of terrorism’.

The report is only critical of administration, training and support for officers, rather than the impacts on citizens and the sinister intent of certain undercover operations. It essentially saying that a little bit more oversight and authorisation will make everything alright.

The authors find it ‘reassuring’ there is apparently ‘a universal understanding by the undercover officers and those managing them’ that intimate relationships aren’t allowed and ‘there are good safeguards in place’ to prevent it.

But out of the 14 spycops so far exposed, 13 had sexual relations with citizens they spied on. Three had kids. One – Bob Lambert –  became a manager overseeing a new crop of officers who did it. Citizens have not been ‘protected’ from the most complete invasion of privacy that it is possible for the state to enact. They have been subjected to it in such a comprehensive way that it can only be seen as accepted standard practice and strategy.

It shows a staggering amount of gall to even suggest that there is ‘universal acceptance’ of it being wrong and there is therefore no problem.

There are 49 recommendations at the end of the report. None are about the known outrages of these relationships, let alone others such as undermining family justice cases and political campaigns, and the police collusion with illegal corporate activity.

We need a simple law that bans sexual relationships whilst undercover outright. It is already illegal in Germany for spies to have sexual relations in their undercover persona and German society is not suffering because of that restriction. It is needless, inexcusable institutionalised sexism.

But the report tells us that

if society wants the police to identify & apprehend some of its most dangerous criminals, it has to allow individual police officers to “get their hands dirty”.

The report does concede that the ‘neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND) policy “is not grounded in legislation” & mustn’t be used if it risks a miscarriage of justice. This is to be welcomed. But as words in isolation, it is meaningless. Police lawyers are obstructing a legal bid for justice by a group of women, saying that NCND is essential.  Those same lawyers also argued that the supposedly safeguarded-from sexual relationships are actually legally authorised. The women’s group has already condemned the new report.

This report is yet another bucket of bitter whitewash written by police and their associates. It insults those who’ve been abused by the undercover officers from the counter-democratic political police units. Beyond that, it insults anyone who believes in the right to make a stand for environmental and social justice.

It is another decoy, papering over deep cracks in a rotten architecture. It must not distract from the need for a full, open, public inquiry that examines each aspect of undercover political policing in detail and takes testimony from all those impacted by it. COPS will continue to campaign for such an inquiry.

We will continue to host events and support those organised by the various groups and individuals who have been targeted. You can support our campaign by coming to those events and getting your trade union, campaigning organisation or other group to affiliate to us.

Prosecutors and Police Engineering Miscarriages of Justice

Prosecutors have finally admitted that a defendant in a court case was an undercover police officer. Jim Boyling was a Special Demonstration Squad officer, deployed under the name Jim Sutton.

In 1997 he was on trial with a group of other Reclaim The Streets activists after being arrested a protest at a London Transport office. Having sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, he lied and lied and lied.

Whilst most, including Boyling, were acquitted, John Jordan was convicted. Last year the conviction was quashed but the Crown Prosecution Service refused to say why. Their given document of reasons was literally a blank sheet of paper.

The fact that Metropolitan police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe had already publicly declared that ‘Sutton’ was an undercover officer made no odds. They admitted that Boyling was a police officer but – farcically sticking to the crumbling policy of ‘neither confirm nor deny’ – would not concede that he was an undercover officer, as if he might have had the full time activist persona of Jim Sutton of his own volition as some sort of hobby.

But in August police were forced to say that Boyling and his former boss Bob Lambert had both been undercover officers. Late last month the Jordan case was back in court and prosecutors finally admitted that Boyling had been deployed as an undercover police officer throughout the trial.

To have a police officer be party to all the defence meetings, in a position to help formulate that defence, is an extremely serious breach of lawyer-client confidentiality. That the trial went ahead is a serious abuse of the judicial system.

A fortnight ago the Crown’s QC, Richard Whittam, told the court

Had the Crown Prosecution Service known that ‘Jim Sutton’ was an undercover police officer, there is a strong likelihood that John Jordan would not have been prosecuted.

Note the careful wording – the CPS is not saying that it didn’t know Boyling was an officer, just implying it. The court was specifically told that this wasn’t actually an admission of anything at all.

WE’VE SEEN THIS BEFORE

Certainly, we know that the CPS have colluded with police to hide the existence of undercover officers from courts before, and that they’ve insisted that arrested officers are primed for being charged alongside bona fide activists.

On 12 April 2009 a group of 114 climate activists gathered in Nottingham to prepare to occupy Ratcliffe on Soar coal fired power station, but they were all pre-emptively arrested. One of their number was Mark Stone, aka police officer Mark Kennedy.

After he was exposed 18 months later, two official reports looked into collusion between the CPS and police in the Ratcliffe case. The Independent Police Complaints Commission’s report [PDF] found the CPS knew about the activists’ plan before it happened, before many of the activists themselves.

Ex-judge Sir Christopher Rose’s was also asked to investigate the Ratcliffe case. His report [PDF] quotes an email to police from the CPS about how ‘we will always be vulnerable on disclosure, especially matters covert’ and that even the lowly local CPS office ‘are aware there is an asset involved’. The CPS’ Case Management Review Panel of senior lawyers discussed

risks regarding the “right” questions being asked by the defence regarding covert practices.

 

Tellingly, while many of the activists were told that they would not be prosecuted, Kennedy was still retained in the ‘charging pool’. In early July 2009, Nick Paul – the Domestic Extremism Co-ordinator in the CPS Special Crime Unit – was asked by a Detective Chief Inspector not to charge Kennedy, but Paul rebuffed him.

To feel able to overrule such a high ranking police officer shows the level of confidence in Nick Paul and illustrates the degree to which this CPS official was controlling matters. Three months after Kennedy’s arrest the CPS were stubbornly intent on on charging him, which indicates that the CPS are not as averse to such things as their recent claim about Boyling would have us believe.

Of the initial 114 arrested, 26 were called for trial (Kennedy was not among them). It was split into two hearings. Twenty admitted participation but said their actions were justified. A further six said they had not participated in the plan.

As ‘the justifiers’ court date approached, prosecutor Felicity Gerry was told about the existence of an undercover officer. She knew Mark Kennedy’s real identity a week before any activists did. For the six weeks before trial, and every second she was in court, she knew that a police officer had filed evidence on the case that the defence were unaware of, yet she failed to mention it to the court. The twenty were wrongfully convicted.

When ‘the deniers’ came to court in January 2011, they asked to see Kennedy’s evidence that they knew exonerated them. Rather than disclose it, the Crown dropped the charges and the trial dramatically collapsed.

In a further display of shadiness, the CPS were said they had found

Previously unavailable information that significantly undermined the prosecution’s case

but specifically said it was

not the existence of an undercover officer.

This is now known to be a lie. If they lie about that, what else do they lie about?

It’s a pattern we’ve seen again this week as the case against British Guantanmo detainee Moazzam Begg was dropped at the last minute because MI5 had failed to hand over relevant documents. Although, again, the CPS refuses to actually admit its reasons for not going to trial.

TWO BUCKETS OF WHITEWASH

Sir Christopher Rose’s inquiry did not speak to interview the man at the centre, CPS Special Crime Unit Domestic Extremism Co-ordinator Nick Paul. Rose – who, as a Surveillance Commissioner had the ultimate sign-of on the validity of Kennedy and co’s deployment and thereby suffered a conflict of interest – concluded that mistakes had been made but there was nothing untoward and ‘the failures were individual, not systemic’.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Kier Starmer, went on Newsnight to defend the report. Paxman’s opening question was

Are you absolutely certain there are no other cases in which people have been convicted on the basis of the evidence of undisclosed undercover police officers?

He repeats the question three times in the opening minute and a half of the exchange but still doesn’t get an answer. Starmer merely says that Rose has decided there’s no systemic problem.

Yet, as was already well known, there had already been the Drax 29 case. In June 2008 another group of climate protesters halted a coal train bound for Drax power station in Yorkshire. Again, Mark Kennedy had been involved and, again, this had been kept from the court and another miscarriage of justice was engineered with all 29 convicted. This involved a completely different team of CPS prosecutors. The reality is that the problem is systemic.

That said, both cases were overseen by the same Domestic Extremism Co-ordinator, Nick Paul, in the London CPS office. He shared that office with the Director of Public Prosecutions, Kier Starmer, yet Starmer appears not to have asked Paul about the systemic problems of prosecutors and police withholding evidence in these cases. Soon after the Ratcliffe debacle was exposed, Paul left the CPS, going into private law practice at Doughty Street Chambers. After Starmer stepped down as DPP, he joined Paul there.

HOW MANY MORE? AND WHO DID IT?

The recent admission of Jim Boyling not merely supplying withheld evidence but actually being a defendant takes it all to another level.

If all this is what we know from the handful of secret police officers so far exposed, how big could the problem be? When Mark Ellison QC looked into the spying on the family of Stephen Lawrence, it was immediately apparent to him that wrongful convictions were a serious issue and what was known could be but a tiny fraction of what has occurred. He is currently investigating.

Whistleblower officer Peter Francis praised Ellison’s initiative and criticised

the so called ‘independent’ inquiry being undertaken by Operation Herne, which has so far proved ineffective and appears to be a damage limitation and containment exercise, rather than a proper investigation into past wrongs.

These miscarriages of justice were conducted because of the actions of my former colleagues in the SDS and also officers in the NPOIU and their superiors. I hope that the second inquiry being undertaken by Mr Ellison QC will prove far more robust and transparent in its investigation and findings.

Jim Boyling went through a trial in his undercover persona. He also gave a witness statement for another trial under his false identity (ironically the defence barrister was Kier Starmer). His mentor Bob Lambert admits that he was also prosecuted under his false identity (but says he can’t remember if he was convicted). If that isn’t perjury and perverting the course of justice, it would be interesting to know what is.

But more importantly this collection of cases, spanning different constabularies and eras, surely fits anyone’s definition of a systemic problem and indisputably rubbishes the conclusion of the Rose report.

Who is to blame? The police themselves or the Crown prosecutors who waved it through and, it appears, actively retained officers for prosecution against police wishes?

The CPS are still not saying why they quashed John Jordan’s conviction. It had previously been guessed that they were protecting the identity of Jim Boyling. Now that is known not to be the case, what possible reason is there for not saying what really went on in that case? Is this just force of habit, refusing to disclose anything until compelled? Or is there some other, more sinister and corrupt, reason?

Legal action by the Guardian, BBC and Press Association continues to try and force disclosure.

JUSTICE FOR A FEW, WHAT ABOUT THE MANY?

The Drax and Ratcliffe convictions have now been quashed. Had activists not exposed Kennedy, these convictions and the 20 from Ratcliffe would stand. The six ‘deniers’ would surely have also been convicted. Mark Kennedy was responsible for 49 wrongful convictions that we know of.

If the other political secret police officers have done the same, it means around 7,000 miscarriages of justice since these counter-democratic spy units were formed in 1968. Even if we conservatively estimate one per officer per year of service, it will be around 600. We could well be looking at the largest corruption of the judicial system in history.