All content from January 2015

Report into Spycops Wrongful Convictions Postponed

Mark Ellison

When Mark Ellison QC produced last year’s report into undercover police officers spying on Stephen Lawrence’s family, he also found that officers appeared to have engineered miscarriages of justice.

Several undercover officers, including Bob Lambert and Jim Boyling, went through court cases under false identities, swearing to tell the truth and then do nothing but lie.

Boyling was on trial as part of a group, meaning that this police officer was party to defence meetings with their lawyers. One of his comrades was convicted. This was eventually overturned last year, though it does leave the question hanging of how many other wrongful convictions have been left to stand.

After his report into the Lawrence spying, Mark Ellison was tasked to produce a new report on the miscarriages of justice. He was due to report in March, but on 13 January a written parliamentary answer revealed that there will merely be a ‘progress report’. The final item has no projected completion date.

This will set some people’s alarm bells ringing. Two years after the Home Affairs Select Committee’s ‘interim report‘ into undercover policing we are still waiting for the full thing. With the Chilcott report fossilising in the vaults it would be easy to see Ellison’s delay as too convenient for those with something to hide. However it seems more likely that the scale of the job is significantly larger than anticipated.

When police pre-emptively arrested 114 climate activists at a 2009 meeting to plan the shutdown of a coal fired power station, one of them was Mark Stone, aka police officer Mark Kennedy. Charges were brought against 26. A first trial of 20 activists saw all of them convicted.

The remaining six pointed out before their trial that, in the meantime, they’d uncovered Kennedy’s true identity. They asked to see his undisclosed evidence but, rather than hand that over, prosecutors dropped the charges. It turned out Kennedy had recorded the meeting, securing evidence that exonerated the six but which the prosecutors and police had withheld from the defence. The initial 20 had their convictions quashed afterwards.

Sir Christopher Rose’s now discredited report said that the case was anomalous and there was no systemic problem. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Kier Starmer, dodged Jeremy Paxman’s repeated question about whether there might be other cases.

Then an earlier,  similar case in which Kennedy had participated in stopping a coal train on its way to Drax power station was highlighted. Another 29 convictions were overturned. It was clearly systemic.

We have information on less than 10% of the officers who have worked for Britain’s political secret police since the formation of the Special Demonstration Squad in 1968. If, like Kennedy, they each secured around 50 wrongful convictions then there are about 8,000 miscarriages of justice being left to stand. Even if we conservatively assume there was only one wrongful conviction per officer per year of service, it’s around 600.

It is no exaggeration to say that we could be looking at the biggest nobbling of the judicial system ever exposed. Let’s hope that, in contrast to the undercover officers, Mark Ellison will reveal the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

University Tries to Defend Bob Lambert

Bob Lambert then and nowBob Lambert was an undercover officer who spied on animal rights organisations in the 1980s. In that time, he:

On this last point, three devices were simultaneously planted. The other two activists were convicted (though as Lambert’s evidence was withheld from court, they have launched an appeal). Although he has been named in parliament as planting the third incendiary device that burned down Debenhams in Harrow, Lambert has repeatedly denied it.

But if it was not Lambert, who was it? Was there really a fourth person who neither the others nor Lambert have mentioned before and who Lambert – despite getting the other two caught red handed in the crowning achievement of his deployment – allowed to get away unmentioned? He has yet to explain.

If all this were not enough, he then went on to run the Special Demonstration Squad. He oversaw officers who did similar things: lying in court to secure wrongful convictions and having long-term relationships with activists. His officers spied on numerous black justice campaigns including Stephen Lawrence’s family. Lambert was recently singled out for condemnation by the Ellison report into spying on the Lawrence family.

And yet he is employed by the University of St Andrews and London Metropolitan University on the basis of his ‘counter terrorism’ experience. As Nick Cohen said in the Observer,

he instructs graduates on how to be police officers, a task for which he is uniquely unqualified.

As the pressure mounts on Lambert’s academic positions, one of his employers has defended him. Yesterday BBC TV’s London Tonight reported on the growing controversy. Having issued a statement to the local press last month, for the first time London Met gave an interview.

Tim Parsons, Senior Criminology lecturer, managed an extraordinary feat of euphemistic skill, saying

He has extremely rich experience in professional practice, accepting that some of that is now controversial.

It’s not controversial, strictly speaking. It’s pretty much universally criticised.

And professional? Quite the opposite.  ‘Grossly unprofessional’ was the phrase used by the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Jon Murphy for the sexual relationships of officers like Lambert and his proteges.

Chief Constable Mick Creedon said last year that such activity

can only be seen as an abject failure of the deployment, a gross abuse of their role and their position as a police officer and an individual and organisational failing

If there is a gross abuse, there is a gross abuser. Bear in mind that Lambert not only had four such relationships himself but, aware of what it caused, was responsible for others who inflicted it on more women.

There is a peculiar conflict in London Metropolitan University. Whilst its criminology department employs Lambert, much of the institution defines itself with a strident social justice remit. It is a dark irony that a university department (and the public relations) defend this gross abuser of women at an institution that is home to the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit.

Yet Tim Parsons told the BBC

If you look at the things that we’re always championing such as human rights there is no reason whatsover why Bob shouldn’t have been offered employment at this university.

Human rights form a significant part of the legal case against the Metropolitan Police by women who had relationships with undercover officers – including Lambert personally and some of his later underlings.

The women assert that the actions of the undercover officers breached their rights as protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, including Article 3 (no one shall be subject to inhumane and degrading treatment) and Article 8 (respect for private and family life, including the right to form relationships without unjustified interference by the state)

What the undercover officers did was either the fault of the individual (and a failing of managerial oversight), or it was an overt failing of management for authorising it. Wherever the blame lies, as both spy and manager, it must lie with Lambert.

His actions have caused the Met to pay out record compensation and – a genuine rarity – apologise for their officer’s behaviour. The unit he devoted decades to stands utterly disgraced and discredited, its methods disowned by senior officers, the subject of numerous investigations with a view to criminal charges, and the subject of a forthcoming full-scale public inquiry.

If Bob Lambert were at academic institutions as a lecturer in microbiology or Russian literature, or as a cleaner or gardener, it could be argued that his past should have no bearing on his position. But Bob Lambert is at the London Metropolitan University and the University of St Andrews on the basis of his indefensible past. They hired him before this was public knowledge – it appears that he deceived these universities just as he deceived those he spied on.

Officers and managers from the Special Demonstration Squad should be part of such courses only as case studies in how wrong it can go.

Islington Against Police Spies have called a picket of London Metropolitan University (opposite Holloway Road tube) on Friday 30 January, 12-2pm.

Sack Bob Lambert – Picket Friday 30 January

Bob Lambert then and now

Islington Against Police Spies (IAPS) have called a picket of London Metropolitan University, where former Special Demonstration Squad officer (and later boss) Bob Lambert lectures in criminology.

As reported in the Guardian, the university is under increasing pressure on its employment of Lambert to train tomorrow’s police managers, a role which Observer columnist Nick Cohen said Lambert is ‘uniquely unqualified’ to have.

The IAPS callout says:

Join us to demand the removal of Bob Lambert from London Metropolitan University.

Picket London Met
Friday January 30th
12.00 – 2.00pm
LMU Tower, 166-220 Holloway Road, 
London N7 8DB

Bring placards, banners, anything to make noise.

In November Islington Against Police Spies (IAPS) held a lively picket of London Metropolitan University in Holloway, launching our campaign to demand the sacking or resignation of Bob Lambert. Former police spy, Special Branch manipulator, abuser of women, agent provocateur, Lambert is now lecturing at London Met on policing and criminology.

As local residents we feel it is totally inappropriate for London Metropolitan to be employing a man with Lambert’s record in such a position where he has influence and power over the lives of students, who may be young or vulnerable. Most particularly Lambert has shown he cannot be trusted not to abuse and lie to women.

Islington Against Police Spies have committed ourselves to holding events every month at least, to keep putting pressure on the University and raising awareness of Lambert’s past, until he is forced to leave London Met. We know this CAN be done – but it’s not necessarily going to be easy. Hopefully this campaign will get stronger until it’s irresistible. BUT WE NEED HELP – we call on anyone who thinks Bob Lambert should not be working in a supposedly progressive university to support our campaign.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Come down and join the picket on January 30th. The bigger and noisier our protest, the more notice London Met will have to take of us.

Protest to the following in the London Met hierarchy, and demand that they sack Bob Lambert:

• John Raftery, Vice-Chancellor; email: j.raftery@londonmet.ac.uk Tel: 020 7133 2001
• Peter McCaffery, Deputy Vice-Chancellor; email: P.McCaffery@londonmet.ac.uk Tel: 020 7133 2401
• Jonathan Woodhead, Executive Officer; email: j.woodhead@londonmet.ac.uk Tel: 020 7133 2042
• Paul Bowler, Deputy Chief Executive; email: P.Bowler@londonmet.ac.uk Tel: 020 7133 2031
• Peter Garrod, University Secretary and Clerk to the Board; email: p.garrod@londonmet.ac.uk Tel: 020 7133 2004

You can also email Bob Lambert directly and let him know what you think of his activities: r.lambert@londonmet.ac.uk
Tel: 020 7133 4692/2911

Spread the word – tell others about this campaign, raise the issue in your networks, communities, union, etc – the more people know about Bob, the more pressure we all put on the university, the more likely it is that he will have to go.

This campaign is being organised by Islington Against Police Spies, a group of local residents and activists.

Email us: islingtonagainstpolicespies@riseup.net
(Please note our new email address)

Police corruption, spying, racism and accountability

CCJS conference flier

Over Friday and Saturday, 6 and 7 February 2015, an impressive line-up of speakers will offer powerful accounts on contemporary policing.

The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and The Monitoring Group, in partnership with Imran Khan and Partners and Tottenham Rights, have organised a two-day conference at Conway Hall in London to seek common ground between families, community workers, journalists, academics, lawyers and affected communities, to understand and challenge the problem of police corruption, spying and racism.

The conference takes as its starting point that there is a profound crisis in policing across the UK that requires us to share information and experiences, develop ideas and create new partnerships that will spur a momentum for genuine state accountability.

Speakers on Friday will include:

  • Rosa Curling, Leigh Day Solicitors
  • Rebekah Delsol, Open Society
  • Rob Evans, Guardian journalist
  • Dr Jules Holroyd, University of Nottingham
  • Professor Gus John, Honorary Fellow, Institute of Education
  • John McDonnell MP, Hayes and Harlington
  • Rebecca Roberts, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies
  • Dr Mike Shiner, London School of Economics
  • Helen Steel, spied on environmental activist
  • Mark Thomas, political satarist and reporter
  • Dr David Whyte, University of Liverpool
  • Dr Patrick Williams, Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Harriet Wistrich, Birnberg Pierce and Partners solicitors

Speakers on Saturday will include:

  • ​​Janet Alder, sister of Christopher Alder
  • Raju Bhatt, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors (TBC)
  • Professor Ben Bowling, King’s College London
  • Richard Garside, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies
  • Courtenay Griffiths QC
  • Suresh Grover, The Monitoring Group
  • Lee Jasper, formerly Mayor of London’s Adviser on Policing
  • Imran Khan, Lawyer to the Stephen Lawrence family
  • Dame Doreen Lawrence
  • Lee Lawrence, son of Cherry Groce
  • Paul O’Connor, Director of Pat Finucane Centre, Derry
  • Sukdev Reel, mother of Ricky Reel
  • David Rose, Investigative journalist
  • Stafford Scott, Tottenham Rights

You can book for Friday, Saturday or both days.

The full programme and booking information are on the event’s page on the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies’ site.