All content from April 2016

Bob Lambert Investigated by Police Over Firebombing

Bob Lambert then and now

Bob Lambert then and now

Former Special Demonstration Squad officer – and later unit chief – Bob Lambert is to be investigated by police over allegations he firebombed a department store.

Stealing the identity of a dead child called Bob Robinson, Lambert went undercover to infiltrate animal rights groups in the mid-1980s. In 1986 he co-wrote the McLibel leaflet that triggered the longest trial in English history, though his involvement was kept secret from court throughout.

The following year Lambert was part of a small, secret group of animal rights activists who planted incendiary devices in branches of fur-selling department store Debenhams. They were set to ignite during the night, triggering the sprinkler system and dousing the stock – it was designed to be economic sabotage rather than an attack on people.

One night in July 1987, three Debenhams stores were targeted simultaneously. The other two activists, Geoff Sheppard and Andrew Clarke, went to target the Luton and Romford stores. Lambert was to plant devices in Harrow.

The three shops were visited and £9m of damage was done. Acting on Lambert’s information, police caught Sheppard and Clarke red-handed making the next round of devices and they were both jailed.

After Lambert’s 2011 exposure as a police officer, in June 2012 Sheppard made a statement – read out in Parliament – claiming Lambert was the third firebomber.

Lambert denied it, saying

It was necessary to create the false impression that I was a committed animal rights extremist to gain intelligence so as to disrupt serious criminal conspiracies. However, I did not commit serious crime such as ‘planting an incendiary device at the [Debenhams] Harrow store

This raises the question of who did actually plant the Harrow devices. There appear to be only two explanations. Either:

  • There was a fourth firebomber. Though this person was part of the group, neither Lambert, Sheppard nor Clarke mentioned them at the time, nor at any time since. Despite getting the other two jailed, Lambert let this one get away scot free, unnamed and unaccused; or
  • Lambert is lying and he planted the devices at Harrow.

Whichever, it undermines the resulting court case. In the cases of climate campaigners the Ratcliffe 20 and the Drax 29, people were convicted despite crucial evidence from undercover officer Mark Kennedy being kept from the court. After Kennedy’s exposure, it was clear these were miscarriages of justice and all 49 have now had their convictions overturned.

Lambert’s involvement in the convictions of Sheppard and Clarke is an identical situation. It has been more than two years since the convicted men submitted their appeal against conviction, yet still no decision has been made.

It is not clear why it has taken the Metropolitan Police four years to get round to investigating Lambert’s involvement in burning the Debenhams store. It is difficult to imagine any other person being left alone so long after being credibly accused of causing hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage for animal rights.

Perhaps the Met were previously unwilling to look critically at someone with thirty years’ service in their force, and who collected an MBE for services to policing on his retirement. But maybe the time has come when even the Met cannot fight the rising tide of opprobrium.

In 2014 they paid record compensation to an activist Lambert deceived into a relationship and had a child with.

Last year, another woman similarly deceived by Lambert was one of the group who received compensation and an unprecedented apology from the Met.

There is perhaps no more toxic issue for the Met than their treatment of the family of Stephen Lawrence. Earlier this year, the Independent Police Complaints Commission report into spying on the Lawrence family – an activity overseen by Lambert as Special Demonstration Squad manager – found that if he were still in the force he would be facing misconduct charges.

With this growing catalogue of abuse, as outrageous as it is undeniable, it seems the Met may finally be ready to face the truth over Bob Lambert, even if Lambert himself is not.

Subversion, sabotage and spying: Political policing and racism in the UK

The Monitoring Group logoThe full line up and timetable of April’s crucial spycops conference has been released.

Building on a hugely successful conference in 2015,  The Monitoring Group and the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies have teamed up again to produce an impressive line up of speakers to examine the role and impact of undercover policing and the surveillance of protest groups and ‘suspect communities’.

Hosted by London South Bank University School of Law & Social Sciences, the conference is supported by Imran Khan and Partners and Tottenham Rights.

About the conference

Government policy continues to invent and punish ‘suspect and targeted communities’ and frustrate genuine attempts to hold its agencies to account. This event will examine the history and disastrous impact of the policing of social and justice movements. It will open a dialogue on ‘accountability’ so that a long-awaited ‘momentum for change’ can be driven by those directly affected by disproportionality and discrimination.

In light of the upcoming Undercover Policing Inquiry the conference will seek to develop a strategic alliance between those directly affected by undercover policing (so far 170+ non-state individuals have been granted core participant status at the Inquiry), civil society and the public so that the Inquiry adopts a broader, open and more rigorous approach.

Register now

Registrations are now open. Please help spread the word about the conference via your networks, using this link.

Agenda and Speakers

Saturday: Policing of black, asian and ‘suspect communities’ – spying, lying, dying and racism

09.30   Registration

10.00   Welcome

10.15   Political policing: Setting the context — Mark McGovern, Tony Bunyan, Colin Prescod

11.15   Question and answer session

11.30   Break

11.45   Policing of ‘suspect communities’  —  Paddy Hill, Salma Yaqoob (TBC), Patrick Williams, Gareth Peirce, and John McDonnell MP, the Shadow Chancellor

12.45   Question and answer session

12.55   Introduction to the workshop leaders

13.00   Lunch

13.45   Workshops

Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance, Undercover Research Group, Blacklisted Trade Unionists, Black Justice Campaigns; JENGbA

14.45   From ‘suspect communities’ to targeting of campaigns against injustice – Suresh Grover and Deborah Coles

15.15   Question and answer session

15.30   Break

15.45   Why the Undercover Policing Inquiry is important –  Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Imran Khan, Kate Wilson, Stafford Scott

16.45   Question and answer session

17.00   Close

Sunday: Spycops and the Undercover Policing Inquiry – is accountability possible or a pipe dream?

10.00   Registration

10.30   History of the Special Demonstration Squad and Spycops, Hearne and Ellison – Rob Evans

10.50   Question and answer session

11.00   Spycops – The spied upon speak out –  Baroness Jenny Jones, Piers Corbyn, Helen Steel, Dave Smith, John Monerville, Mark Wadsworth

12.00   Question and answer session

12.30   Spycops – the hidden voices –  Janet Alder, Alastair Morgan

13.00   Lunch

The post lunch session will focus on the challenges posed by the Undercover Policing Inquiry and how to address them

13.45   Spycops – a voice that should be heard —  Statement from Peter Francis Ex-Special Demonstration Squad

14.00   An overview of the Undercover Policing Inquiry to date

Speakers to be announced

14.30   Holding the Inquiry to account —  Shamik Dutta, Courtenay Griffiths QC, Imran Khan, Harriet Wistrich, Michael Mansfield QC

15.00   Break

15.15   Workshops on the Undercover Policing Inquiry

Workshops to be announced

16.20   Feedback from workshops

16.45   Conclusions and next steps

17.00   Close

The timetable may be subject to change due to developments around the Inquiry. Delegates will be informed of any changes.