All content from November 2015

Spycops in Scotland Exempt from Inquiry

Undercover police officer Mark Kennedy was deployed in Scotland 14 times

Undercover police officer Mark Kennedy was deployed in Scotland 14 times

Six of the exposed undercover political police were in Scotland, yet they are excluded from the Pitchford inquiry and the Scottish government is uninterested.

Today’s Sunday Herald reports that not only was Mark Kennedy the transport co-ordinator at the 2005 anti G8 protests in Scotland, but fellow officer Lynn Watson was there as part of the Action Medics team and Marco Jacobs is reported to have driven a minibus of activists up from England. Special Demonstration Squad officer Jason Bishop is also known to have attended.

Additionally, two of the women who received the extraordinary apology from the Metropolitan police earlier this month for being deceived into relationships with officers were taken to Scotland. Ostensibly going on holiday, John Dines was on paid duty when he took Helen Steel to Barra in 1990, and the same applied to Mark Cassidy’s visits to the country with a woman known as Alison.

The Met’s Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt frankly admitted that the way Dines and Jenner treated Helen Steel and Alison was

abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong. I acknowledge that these relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma.

 

Either the Scottish police were complicit in this by authorising the visits, or else they were mistreated by the Met who are obliged to get local police’s authorisation. Whichever, it is surely a serious issue for the Scottish police that such gross abuses took place in their jurisdiction.

But at First Minister’s Questions [scroll to 26:30] in the Scottish Parliament earlier this week, Nicola Sturgeon belittled the issue as mere “allegations of police impropriety” and dismissed a call for a Scottish inquiry.

A Scottish government spokesperson told the Sunday Herald they will

carefully consider the conclusions of the Pitchford Inquiry and, if there are measures over and above these safeguards which could sensibly be delivered in Scotland, we will discuss with Police Scotland and other interested parties how they might best be implemented.

The Pitchford Inquiry is limiting itself to actions in England and Wales, and is not expecting to report until summer 2018. Any recommendations would come somewhat later than that. Safeguards are only useful if they are implemented. One of the things the Met highlighted in their apology was that new, tougher rules were as blithely ignored as the old ones.

It is of particular concern that abuses were not prevented by the introduction of more stringent supervisory arrangements made by and pursuant to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

But more to the point, this is not just about preventing similar abuses in future. Pitchford is concerned with uncovering the truth of what happened in the past.

As well as the known five, how many of the hundred-plus unknown officers were in Scotland too? What campaigns were stymied? Which Scottish citizens were abused?

It’s absurd that the Pitchford Inquiry says its priority is to find the truth yet wilfully blinds itself to a place of prolonged and intensive operations. It’s baffling that the Scottish government doesn’t want to know about ‘violations of human rights and abuse of police power’ perpetrated by English officers on Scottish soil.

Speaking for COPS, Lois Austin told the Herald

A dozen officers from these disgraced units have been exposed, and five of them worked in Scotland. If the English victims of the political secret police deserve justice, so do the Scots. The Scottish government should be demanding inclusion in Pitchford. If they don’t trust the UK government inquiry – or if it continues to slam the door in their face – then Scotland must surely have their own public inquiry.

 

Police Apology for Relationships: Where Next?

L-R: Kate Wilson, Helen Steel, Belinda Harvey and their lawyer Harriet Wistrich at their press conference, 20 November 2015 (Pic: Danny Shaw, BBC)

L-R: Kate Wilson, Helen Steel, Belinda Harvey and their lawyer Harriet Wistrich at their press conference, 20 November 2015
(Pic: Danny Shaw, BBC)

It’s an extraordinary statement by any standards. Even when the police pay large compensation, they usually do so with no admission of culpability for anything. But last Friday they issued a detailed, unreserved apology for the abuse of women who had relationships with undercover police officers.

Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt even made a video of the admission, bluntly stating for the record that the relationships were

abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong. I acknowledge that these relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma…

Most importantly, relationships like these should never have happened. They were wrong and were a gross violation of personal dignity and integrity.

 

The outrageousness and severity of how these women were treated is finally an acknowledged, settled fact.

MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS

Some of the harrowing, heart wrenching impacts were spelled out by Lisa Jones – partner of Mark Kennedy for six years and whose discovery of his true identity brought the issue to light – when she gave her first ever interview on Friday.

As “Rosa”, who had children with undercover officer Jim Boyling, said,

This has affected my whole view of the state and it went as deep as my womb

 

Kate Wilson’s description of what was done to her was similarly powerful, and her highlighting of the continuing lack of transparency – “the police have made no effort whatsoever to provide any kind of answers” – shows that all this is far from over.

It echoes what was said a year ago when the Met settled the first such case. Jacqui, who had a child with Bob Lambert, received £425,000 compensation but said

The legal case is finished but there is no closure for me. 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.

 

Although Friday’s apology is a major historic victory, it is only confirming that what the women already know to be true. There is so much more still hidden from view.

TIME TO TAKE CHARGE

The Met’s admission of their officers’ serious abuse must surely mean that the Crown Prosecution Service have to revisit last year’s extraordinary decision not to bring charges against these officers for sexual offences.

As Gayle Newland starts her eight year sentence for creating a false identity to deceive someone into a sexual relationship, it’s pretty clear that if this gang of men weren’t police officers they would already be behind bars. Nobody else would get away with just giving an apology and a cheque from public funds.

The CPS also decided not to prosecute them for other offences, explaining

In order to prosecute misconduct in public office, the prosecution would have to show that an officer knowingly abused their position in order to bring a sexual relationship about

 

It is hard to see how anyone could say anything else now. The Met have just conceded that the relationships didn’t just happen but

none of the women with whom the undercover officers had a relationship brought it on themselves. They were deceived pure and simple…. [it was] an abuse of police power


STRATEGIC INSTITUTIONAL SEXISM

But even now, the Met can’t quite admit the whole truth. They

accept that it may well have reflected attitudes towards women that should have no part in the culture of the Metropolitan Police

They still can’t bring themselves to use the word ‘sexism’. The Met is institutionally sexist as well as institutionally racist. This cannot ever change if they refuse to fully face the facts, and in this apology they just shied away once again.

Police say relationships were never authorised in advance and were never used tactically. But the overwhelming majority of known officers – all but two – did it. Most had long-term, committed life-partner relationships. One of them, Bob Lambert, lived with a woman and fathered a child before going on to run the unit, overseeing protegee officers who did the same thing, including ones involved in this week’s settlement. He must surely have known.

Sometimes officers were deployed together. Certainly, Lambert, Marco Jacobs and Lynn Watson saw colleagues having relationships. So, did they fail to report this ‘grossly unprofessional, never allowed’ behaviour to their seniors (thereby placing themselves at risk if they were ever found out)? Or did they report it but their bosses didn’t intervene? Or was it, as it appears, an established, accepted tactic?

PULLING BACK THE SHROUD OF SECRECY

Three years ago police lawyers said relationships weren’t authorised, trying to blame individual ‘rogue officers’ and shield managers from responsibility. But then it was pointed out that if this was unauthorised behaviour then it wasn’t covered by the rules governing surveillance in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. If that were so then any case would be heard in open court instead of a secret tribunal where the womens’ side weren’t allowed. So those same lawyers went back to the same court and argued that relationships were actually authorised after all.

That was just one twist in the course of the four years and hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ pounds police spent trying to stop these women bringing the facts to light. The blanket use of “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” to refuse to even admit anyone was a police officer was an additional insulting hurdle to make the path to truth more gruelling.

It’s a pattern familiar from so many other justice campaigns – there’s the injustice of what the police did, then the double injustice of the cover-up, smearing and legal obstacles that follow.

The apology statement rightly mentioned the extra distress caused by the protracted legal case and paid tribute to the tenacity and mettle of the women.

Even now, having just paid compensation and apologised to the women abused by John Dines and Mark Jenner, the police have not actually confirmed they were Special Demonstration Squad officers.

Nonetheless, the apology, like the agreement to be liable for damages paid to people spied on by Marco Jacobs, is effectively an admission that these men were police. It is another hammer blow to the devious, farcical tactic of Neither Conform Nor Deny. With the public inquiry still to come, that is significant.

A GRAIN OF TRUTH – TIME FOR THE HARVEST

All the appalling abuse these women suffered came from just five police officers. Even this isn’t the end of it – there are several other similar cases are still ongoing, including more partners of Mark Kennedy and Marco Jacobs.

We only know of the exposed officers due to the investigations and luck of activists and journalists. These are not necessrily the worst of them, merely what chance has revealed. There is so much more beyond. We have the names of around a dozen officers, less than 10% of those known to have worked undercover in the political secret police units.

How many other women were similarly abused? How many other children searching for their fathers are doomed to failure because it’s a name a police officer made up or stole from a dead child? How many campaigns were stymied? What other outrages have occurred that none of the known officers committed? At least 500 groups and uncountable thousands of individuals were spied on. They all have a right to know.

If these seven women deserve justice, so do the rest. If the public deserves the truth it deserves the whole truth, not somewhere under 10% of it.

Chair of the forthcoming public inquiry, Lord Pitchford, says

The Inquiry’s priority is to discover the truth

The only way we will get the truth is if those who were targeted tell their stories. The only way that can happen is if they know that their former friend and comrade was in fact a police spy. If the Inquiry is to serve its purpose, and if the Met are truly contrite, then they must publish the cover names of all undercover officers from the political policing units.

MSP Calls for Scottish Inquiry into Blacklisting

Blacklisting meeting at HolyroodBlacklisted activists Dave Smith and Ellenor Hutson spoke at a meeting inside the Scottish parliament at Holyrood on Wednesday last week. They called on MSPs to take action over the issue of blacklisting and the activities of undercover police officers in Scotland.

A large number of MSPs were present including Elaine Smith, deputy speaker of the Scottish parliament.

Ellenor Hutson, an environmental activist from Glasgow who was blacklisted by the notorious Consulting Association, told the MSPs that she had been spied on by a number of undercover police officers over many years.

She relayed the story of those other women activists who had been deceived into having long term sexual relationships with the officers who cynically used the relationships as a way of ingratiating themselves within campaigns. Hutson told how some of the women activists have described this as “like being raped by the state”.

She also explained how during protests against the G8 summit at Gleneagles in 2005, she had worked alongside the undercover police officer Mark Kennedy who while a serving officer was one of the central organisers of the anti-globalisation protests.

Kennedy had been part of the Dissent network for some time and was the Transport Co-ordinator for the ‘Horizone’ – a camp of several thousand anti-G8 activists near the summit itself – which involved hiring flatbed lorries and minibuses to transport materials and people, a key logistical role during the summit protests.

Kennedy wasn’t the only National Public Order Intelligence Unit officer at the camp – Marco Jacobs had driven a minibus of activists from Brighton, and Lynn Watson was part of the medic team.

Dave Smith, secretary of Blacklist Support Group (BSG) and co-author of the book ‘Blacklisted‘ also spoke at the meeting and told how undercover police officers had posed as construction workers even infiltrating trade unions. Smith alongside other blacklisted workers and the Blacklist Support Group have been granted ‘core participant’ status in the Pitchford public inquiry into undercover policing that has just opened.

However, the remit for the public inquiry set up by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, specifically limits the inquiry to undercover policing in England and Wales, so the activities of the police officers playing leading roles in the protests at Gleneagles and who may have spied on trade unions in Scotland appear to be excluded from the investigation.

Smith & Hutson both called for a full public inquiry into the role of undercover police operating in Scotland – either by the Scottish government writing to Lord Pitchford and asking him to extend the geographical scope of his inquiry or else by setting up a separate inquiry.

Dave Smith also called on the Scottish government and other public authorities across not just Scotland but the whole UK to implement the proposal of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into blacklisting and to ban blacklisting firms from publicly funded contracts.

Smith explained how the major construction firms have now fully admitted their guilt and made a public apology in the High Court.

Smith told MSPs, “Blacklisted workers don’t want sympathy from politicians: we’re drowning in sympathy. What we need is action, not just fine words”

The meeting was hosted by Unite the Union with Neil Findlay, Labour MSP for the Lothians, also speaking.

Findlay commented after the meeting:

This was an excellent and shocking event at the Scottish Parliament. The meeting heard from two people whose lives have been directly affected by being put on a blacklist. To hear how Dave Smith was prevented from earning a living because of his trade union activity and for questioning health and safety practices and welfare on construction sites was truly scandalous. Likewise to hear from Ellenor how she was placed on a blacklist for the ‘heinous crime’ of caring about our environment, despite having never worked on a construction site, was remarkable.

What compounded the shocking nature of Dave and Ellenor’s testimonies was their description of the role played by undercover police. This speakers explained the central role played by the police in compiling names and passing them on construction companies. Ellenor described how she was an activist alongside Mark Kennedy, who it is now known was an undercover policeman pretending to be an activist. This collusion needs investigating, and I and others will be calling for an inquiry.