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.

2 comments on “University Tries to Defend Bob Lambert”

  1. I don’t see what Robert Lambert did in his past bears any relation on him teaching criminology and terrorism studies at University level. I am sure he is a real asset to his students – and in fact, having met one of them, he seems a really good lecturer. I am doing an MSc in Policing and its invaluable to have ex-coppers teaching us, with their experience. You say it would be fine if Dr Lambert taught Russian Literature – but you’d no doubt scoff if he taught ‘Crime and Punishment’ or ‘War and Peace’. Whatever he has done in the past – and I am the last person to condone him – to attack a man’s professional career on the basis of it, is absurd. If you’ve done your research you’d know that Dr Lambert has – like every academic – a PhD and wealth of publications, without which, he certainly wouldn’t be a senior lecturer. The fact he worked for the MPS will be an asset but not the reason he got the job. He specialises in Al-Qaeda and Islamic terrorism – I suppose that’s wrong too? There are plenty of people who have and are currently being harmed by the police system, by surveillance measures etc none of whom have anything to do with Bob Lambert and everything to do with the Home Office, College of Policing and an establishment whose indifference to human rights and the British public is really quite shocking. Why don’t you use your energy to challenge what is happening now, rather than bay for some professional to lose his job. I can name plenty of others whose life skills are less ethical – most of them sit in the House of Commons!

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