Petition: Protection for Spycops Whistleblowers

Peter Francis

Peter Francis

The undercover political police units did not write much down. Training in the Special Demonstration Squad was in-house, on the job, with someone who’d done it before. Of course, much of what did actually get documented has been shredded. The only way we’ll ever get the truth is by the testimony of those who were there.

Peter Francis was an SDS officer in the 1990s under the management of Bob Lambert. He spied on the family of Stephen Lawrence and has described how he was tasked to ‘find dirt’ to discredit them. When the MacPherson Inquiry into the Lawrence case took place in 1998, Francis advocated testifying about the SDS spying but was overruled by his superiors.

Peter Francis is unique among former officers of Britain’s political secret police. He is the only one to come forward unbidden, rather than after being exposed by other people (his first interview was in 2010, even before the exposure of Mark Kennedy started the slew of revelations). He has volunteered a whole lot of information that has made life harder for the Met as it tries to hide the truth, doing so has made life harder for himself too. This is in stark contrast to other officers who have either lied in self-protecting interviews or not spoken up at all.

The police responded to Francis’ revelations by getting a smear piece in the Mail alleging he was making stuff up to sell the Guardian’s Undercover book (which, back on earth, neither Francis nor any other source got paid for).

The police’s self-investigation into undercovers, Operation Herne, asked him to talk to them but refused to give him immunity from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. So, mindful of the fact that any divulging of his work is a breach of the Act – and presumably also aware of Herne’s cover-up nature – he didn’t co-operate.

The resulting 84 page Herne report about his allegations was such a whitewash that it

will not confirm or deny if Peter Francis was ever an undercover police officer.

He’s continued to speak out and assist those who were spied on to agitate for disclosure and justice. So far, he’s still the only one. Without dispensation from the Home Secretary or the Metropolitan Police, every time he does so, he is committing a criminal offence.

Speaking through his lawyer Rosa Curling, Francis told a recent conference on political policing

I will appear before the new Home Secretary’s public inquiry and I will tell them everything I should have done in 1998 no matter what the legal and personal consequences are to me this time.

 

 

It’s certainly a brave stance, but he should not have to face the threat of prosecution for whistleblowing out about universally acknowledged wrongdoing. Beyond that, others need to be encouraged to come forward and speak up too instead of seeing the sword over Francis’ head and deciding not to step into the same spot.

Two of the organisers of that conference that Curling addresses, Suresh Grover and Stafford Scott of the Monitoring Group, have launched an online petition to the Home Secretary to give Francis permission to speak under the Official Secrets Act.

This is not asking for immunity from prosecution for anything Francis or others did as undercover police officers. This is about allowing them to talk openly about what they saw and did so that we can get the fullest picture and those responsible can be held accountable.

The threat of the Official Secrets Act is an institutional gagging tool to suppress the facts about undercover policing, like throwing the blanket ‘neither confirm nor deny‘ policy over court cases. Far from protecting the nation, it exacerbates the damage done to it by these counter-democratic secret police units.

If you want truth and justice for those targeted by Britain’s political secret police, please sign this petition and share it widely.

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