All content from July 2016

Women Speak Out on Spycops

We’ve just uploaded video on our Youtube channel of four women speaking about their different involvement in the undercover police scandal at a seminar in Manchester earlier this year.

‘Alison’ gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee on her experience of having been deceived into a five year relationship by undercover officer Mark Jenner, and previously told her story to Newsnight in 2014. As she emphasises here, the overwhelming majority of Jenner’s time was not spent on political work, but on domestic time with Alison and her family.

 


Harriet Wistrich, Human Rights Lawyer of the Year 2014, represents numerous women (including Alison and Helen Steel) who had relationships with officers and successfully brought legal cases and obtained an apology from the Metropolitan Police. She also represents others that will be giving evidence to the Undercover Policing Inquiry.

 


Dr Eveline Lubbers is a member of the Undercover Research Group who do a peerless job of researching and exposing Britain’s political secret police, and has published research on the activities of undercover police officers. She is also the author of Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark: Corporate Spying on Activists and Battling Big Business: Countering Greenwash, Front Groups and Other Forms of Corporate Deception.

 


Helen Steel was deceived into an imtimate relationship by ‘John Barker’, aka Special Demonstration Squad officer John Dines. Her story follows a startlingly similar trajectory to those of Alison and the other women, showing that this was no aberration by rogue officers but a long-term deliberate strategy by an institutionally sexist police force.

 

Tlks given at Undercover Policing, Democracy and Human Rights seminar, University of Manchester school of law, 14 April 2016. Video by Reel News.

No Hiding Place for Spycops in Scotland

SaltireGuest blogger Harvey Duke with the view from Scotland:

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Support is growing for a Public Inquiry into the activities of undercover police in Scotland. Victims of blacklists, fellow trade unionists, environmentalists, Amnesty International, and politicians across the spectrum believe there should be some kind of Inquiry.

The main demands from campaigners are for an expansion of the Pitchford Inquiry (which is currently limited to England and Wales); or, for the Scottish government to launch a parallel Inquiry. Even the Scottish Tories support the call!

So, if all that were required was broad verbal support from politicians and others, then an Inquiry would be underway. Yet, so far, there is nothing; and former Home Secretary, and now recently crowned Prime Minister, Theresa May is at the stodgy heart of the inaction.

Left wing Labour MSP Neil Findlay has led the charge within the Scottish Parliament to get the issue of undercover policing in Scotland recognised as a priority for public examination. He has organised two debates in Holyrood.

SATURATION SPYING IN SCOTLAND

At the first of these, in January this year, he made a clear case for action:

We know that at least 120 undercover officers have been deployed by the Special Demonstration Squad since its formation in 1968, but so far only 12 have been exposed, half of whom worked in Scotland. The most infamous of these is Mark Kennedy, who was deployed here 14 times in his seven-year career.

Police officers have been operating in our country under the identity of a dead child to victimise people whose only crime is to want a fairer, cleaner and more just society.

Potentially, there are decades of such activities waiting to be uncovered in Scotland. At the June debate in the Scottish Parliament, Neil Findlay also referred to another spy in Scotland: “We also know of the involvement during the 1984 miners’ strike of Stella Whitehouse, now Dame Stella Remington, the former head of Mi5, who was regularly on the picket line at Polkemmet colliery, not 3 miles from my house, during that period.

Were spycops also on miners picket lines?

Former MSP Tommy Sheridan took up this same theme. His name is on the notorious Blacklist compiled by the Consulting Association, which is known to have used information from spycops. He told us:

The State has always been determined to infiltrate and spy on the labour and trade union movement, peace campaigns and socialist parties. If anyone doubts it, they should waken themselves up by reading the excellent book The Enemy Within.

It is therefore imperative that either the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing be extended to Scotland or a separate and independent enquiry involving labour movement figures be established. The Establishment protects its vast interests by constantly undermining and destabilising anyone or anybody which threatens it.

 

The majority of known spycops worked in Scotland. Mark Kennedy, ‘Lynn Watson‘, ‘Marco Jacobs‘, ‘Jason Bishop’ and Dave Evans – another suspected Special Demonstration Squad officer – were all at the G8 protests in Scotland in 2005.

Also, as the Undercover Research Group has explained:

Two SDS undercovers John Dines and Mark Jenner were in Scotland as part of their relationships with women being targeted. Kennedy is known to have conducted relationships with at least three women in Scotland, including long term partners. In all cases, this amounts to a breach of their human rights being as well as abuse of police power being committed on Scottish soil.

Addtionally, the recently exposed officer Carlo Neri also travelled to Scotland with his unwitting partner ‘Andrea’.

One of the spycops’ leaders, Bob Lambert, was rewarded with a teaching position in Scotland at the University of St Andrews – until he resigned after pressure from campaigners. Whilst a boss of spycops, Lambert authorised officers who travelled to Scotland as spies.

FACING STASIS

In December last year the Scottish Government, responding to demands raised by supporters of the Blacklist Support Group and others, asked then-Home Secretary Theresa May to expand Pitchford to include Scotland.

Now PM, May is still sitting on the issue seven months later. Yet, waiting for a response seemed to be the main focus of the Scottish Government at the latest debate in Holyrood, on 30th June.

Annabelle Ewing MSP, Scottish Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, said:

we are focused at this point on having the (Pitchford) inquiry extended to activities of the Met in Scotland, if that is where the evidence leads.

This was exactly the type of response given by Annabelle Ewing’s Ministerial predecessor, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, six months previously. There is no commitment yet to a Scottish Inquiry by the Scottish Government should the call for an expanded Pitchford fail.

In January, this led to some goading of the Scottish Government by then-Independent, now Green, MSP John Finnie, who said:

Uniquely on this issue, the Scottish Government seems keen to cede any involvement or control to the UK Government.

It would indeed be a huge lost opportunity to allow the new Tory Prime Minister to have the final say on which cases of injustice are investigated in Scotland.

Following the most recent Scottish debate, Neil Findlay told us:

The debate showed wide-ranging support for a stand alone Scottish inquiry in the event that Theresa May refuses to include Scotland in the remit of the Pitchford inquiry. We now have Labour, Green, Liberal and Tory MPs, MSPs and MEPs supporting this call.

SNP MPs offered support in a motion at Westminster yet not one of their MSPs spoke in my debate or supported my motion at Holyrood. We now need the Justice Secretary to step up to the plate and confirm that he will not allow Scots victims to be denied access to justice.

The current Scottish Government demand is for Pitchford to ‘take account of any activity by Metropolitan Police units that took place in Scotland.’ This could be a step forward – certainly as long as Scottish Police Officers who signed off on such ventures and forces which collaborated with these anti-democratic activities are not shielded or prevented from giving evidence.

The Undercover Research Group has identified four top Scottish police officers who also played key roles in managing spycops. They include:

Phil Gormley, now Scotland’s Chief Constable (who) was in the Met from 2003 to 2007. From 2005, he was head of Special Branch and was on the committee who oversaw the NPOIU (National Public Order Intelligence Unit) and the Special Demonstration Squad.

These were the main political secret police units.

BUILDING THE PRESSURE

Nick McKerrell, a law lecturer in Glasgow, was active in an anti-poverty campaign during the G8 protests in 2005. He recently found that his name was on the Consulting Association’s blacklist, purely because of these activities. We asked him for his views on attempts to gain a public inquiry into undercover policing in Scotland. He said:

Every day seems to throw up a new revelation on the undercover policing scandal. It is clear the Special Demonstration Squad operated way beyond their jurisdictional boundaries of England and Wales.

The setting up of the Pitchford Inquiry was a major concession by the British state but currently its remit is very limited. For us in Scotland it has been shown that people were monitored (and blacklisted) for at least 20 years.

Further actual undercover cops were actually on active duty in Scotland throughout the same period, for example in the G8 demos in Perthshire in 2005.

Pitchford needs to be expanded into Scotland – where the links between Scottish police forces and the undercover work can be fully explored. Neil Findlay MSP has been campaigning hard on this issue as have MPs in Westminster and nominally the Scottish Government also support this position. It needs to be pushed though and if not carried through we urgently need a Scottish Inquiry.

Some of the most horrific aspects of the spycops scandal involve the way in which undercover police deliberately targeted women, and developed intimate relationships to aid their cover story, only to later abandon the women activists, with devastating psychological effects.

We spoke to Sinead Daly about this. Sinead is a leading socialist in Scotland who is also an expert in supporting women victims of abuse. She told us:

As a socialist, trade unionist and women’s rights activist in Scotland, I believe it’s essential that the Pitchford Inquiry is extended to Scotland; or failing that the Scottish Government order a separate independent Inquiry.

I am particularly concerned at the sexual abuse of women by undercover police officers over many years. The trauma that these women must be feeling is unimaginable. The law is very clear about consent with regards to sexual activity. The Sexual Offences Act 1956 states that consent cannot be given if ‘The complainant was deceived as to the identity of the person with whom (s)he had intercourse.’

It is undeniable that these women were sexually assaulted and abused. I truly hope that all of these women who have been sexually violated get the justice and support they deserve.

But we in Scotland also need to be assured that such actions will be investigated thoroughly to ensure accountability and that this never happens again!

In order to push forward demands for justice in Scotland, COPS is working with Scottish activists to organise a series of public events. Lois Austin from COPS (who was spied on by spycops whilst an activist in Youth against Racism in Europe), stressed how important it is to build the campaign in Scotland.

Undercover police who sought to undermine all kinds of campaigns did not care about national borders. They went wherever their targets went: across Europe, and very often in Scotland. Only by having a full Public Inquiry into what spycops did in Scotland, will we get to the truth.

It is hoped that the planned campaign events will give opportunities for people across Scotland to come together and hear about the experience of trade unionists, environmentalists and others who were spied upon by undercover police. We will also discuss the best way to make sure that a Public Inquiry is set up and looks at these issues as soon as possible.

Core Participant? Your Name’s Not Down, You’re Not Coming In

BouncersIn the early 1990s it seemed like every dance track needed to have a sample. The Prodigy – the now stadium band famous for ‘Firestarter’ and ‘Invaders Must Die’ – started out with a track that sampled Charlie the Cat from a government safety information advert.

It was probably this track that launched a thousand copies of that sampling template. Another ‘memorable’ track was one called The Bouncer. This again had a typical dance backing track of the 1990s era – and it sampled a bouncer saying ‘your name’s not down you’re not coming in’. Hard to believe this was a big hit.

The reason why this is mentioned is that recently COPS held its monthly meeting and discussion. Our concern is based on recent decisions being pumped out from the Inquiry particularly regarding those who have applied for Core Participant (CP) status and the fact that despite a supposed ‘open door’ policy, the Inquiry is increasingly turning applications away. Not just any applications – but extremely compelling applications. We are worried.

Let us remember that the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) and its later manifestations have been involved in undercover policing of political activists since 1968. The Met themselves admit the SDS spied on over 460 groups at one time or another. The Inquiry’s Terms of Reference refers to undercover policing and does not restrict itself to the SDS. It therefore should, we believe, have a remit to look at how police forces have used undercover policing in the classic sense – that is, the way in which Mark Kennedy, Peter Francis and Marco Jacobs operated – with a new identity and ‘deep swimming.’ Yet it is not just that.

Terms of reference and an open approach?

The Terms of Reference prefers a broad definition of undercover policing. This would, it seems, include undercover policing carried out by non-SDS Special Branch and also regional police authorities. It should and could even refer to that type of state policing by MI5

A core participant broadly speaking is an individual or an institution that played, or may have played, a direct or significant role in relation to the matters to which the Inquiry relates; has a significant interest in an important matter to which the Inquiry relates; or may be subject to explicit or significant criticism during the Inquiry proceedings or in a report prepared by the Inquiry.

When the Inquiry was established there were over 200 applications for CP status. Most were accepted. A judgement made in October 2015 illustrates the open character of the Inquiry.

Based on this initial ruling we felt that the Inquiry was going to do two things, listen to those of us who were spied upon and investigate undercover policing of political groups who were engaging in their right to protest.

It was also said that there would continue to be an open door for those who wish to seek Core Participant status. We now question that initial promise, as recent refusals have thrown it into doubt.

High profile cases rejected

In the last few months a number of high profile, and not so high profile applications have been made. Many have been rejected, or should we say in legal speak they are not rejected but ‘being kept under review’.

Jenny Jones

Jenny Jones

Jenny Jones is a high profile Green Party figure. She has run for London mayor, was a Greater London Assembly member for 16 years and now sits in the House of Lords.

She was spied upon for many years and has been told by a whistleblower that some of her ‘domestic extremist’ files were shredded by the Metropolitan Police.

Apparently this was not good enough to secure Core Participant status.

Tony Mulhearn

Tony Mulhearn

Tony Mulhearn is a high profile member of the Socialist Party (formerly Militant) in Merseyside. Previously he was a Labour councillor and one of the leaders of the Liverpool Labour council that battled the Thatcher government in the 1980s.

In the True Spies documentary undercover officers explain that they spied on Militant. Stella Rimington and David Shayler have also advised that MI5 spied on Militant’s leading figures in Liverpool.

Again, this application for CP status was rejected.

Peter Tatchell

Peter Tatchell

Peter Tatchell is a lifelong campaigner for LGBT equality, starting with the Gay Liberation Front and helping to organise London’s first Pride march in the early 1970s.

The gay rights movement was a new political force, challenging the status quo and with the potential to hugely embarrass establishment figures who were in the closet.

He renewed his commitment to LBGT direct action in the 1990s with FROCS (Faggots Rooting Out Closeted Sexuality) who exposed public figures who made homophobic pronouncements whilst having a secret gay life. He also famously attempted a citizen’s arrest of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe in London.

Ricky Tomlinson

Ricky Tomlinson

Ricky Tomlinson was imprisoned because of his trade union activities. He is one of the Shrewsbury 24, and along with Des Warren was sentenced to 3 years in prison. The first episode of True Spies – ‘Subversive – My Arse’ opens the trilogy about him. A police officer accepts there is a file on Ricky Tomlinson.

He also had a file with illegal blacklisters Economic League file, and it is well established that the Metropolitan Police had close links with them and shared information.

Despite the evidence provided to the Inquiry, these four high profile cases have all had their applications for Core Participant status refused.  An impartial observer would probably be surprised at this. (Core participant rulings can be found here).

Spied on – balance of probabilities? Or beyond doubt?

In the initial period of consideration Core Participants were not only encouraged, but assessed on what can be best described as a balance of probabilities. That is to say, whilst many were able to point to an actual officer who spied on them, some CPs were unable to do so but had sufficient evidence to show that in all likelihood, given membership of a particular campaign, they would have been spied on. The Inquiry appeared to accept it had an inquisitorial function.

Since allowing 200+ people to be CPs, has there been a panic at Inquiry HQ? Recent applications have been given a much tougher time. It would appear that the assessment has gone from one of probabilities to certainty. Now it appears – particularly in the matter of the high profile cases listed above – the weight of evidence showing an overwhelming probability of being spied upon has been replaced by those applicants having to literally name the officer or officers who spied on them. For many targets of political policing, this is impossible.

The Inquiry seems to have moved the assessment goal posts without providing any announcement or guidance.

An Inquiry with an old style bouncer?

There appears to have been a change in emphasis. The Inquiry appears to have forgotten that it is inquisitorial. Its purpose is to uncover police wrongdoing, it should be assisting victims of the political secret police, rather than insisting they do their own detective work before being allowed to hear more.

This Inquiry is an extremely important. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the state to come clean, for the undercover officers of the SDS, National Public Order Intelligence Unit and Special Branch to come clean, and for the upper reaches of government responsible for these abuses to be held properly accountable.

For this to happen the Inquiry needs to be not only open and transparent but comprehensive too. Our fear is that, by insisting that new CP applications prove beyond doubt that they were spied upon rather than on the basis of a reasonable probability, this Inquiry – our Inquiry – is turning away from its true purpose and the demands of justice.

If these refusals continue for the flimsiest reasons it would appear that the Inquiry and the stewards of it are acting like the worst kind of bouncer –they may be registered and may have passed all the tests to become a ‘proper security’ guard but one that is still old school, still one that refuses entry on a whim – ‘you’re name’s not on the list, you’re not coming in!’.

Scottish Parliament Debates Spycops Again

 

Neil Findlay MSP addresses the Scottish parliament, 30 June 2016

Neil Findlay MSP addresses the Scottish parliament, 30 June 2016

Last week the Scottish Parliament had a second debate about Britain’s political secret police.

Although the majority of exposed officers from the disgraced units concerned – the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit – were in Scotland, the forthcoming public inquiry is set to only cover events in England and Wales.

It has been six months since the first debate, which came shortly after the Scottish government formally asked to be included in the Pitchford Inquiry, and nothing seems to have happened.

Once again, the issue was brought to the floor by Neil Findlay MSP. In the intervening time he has marshalled a call from Scottish parliamentarians from the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green parties for the inquiry to include Scotland and, if this doesn’t happen, for Scotland to mount its own investigation. The SNP supports the first but not, as yet, the second point.

Findlay pressed the issue in Parliament

I know that the police, the judiciary and others will pressure the cabinet secretary to resist. Those are the very same forces that pressured politicians not to go near the Lawrence case, the Birmingham and Guildford cases, and the Hillsborough case, but brave decisions were made in the interests of truth and justice.

So, I urge the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs and the cabinet secretary to do the right thing: take the brave and right decision to initiate an independent public inquiry in Scotland, should it prove to be not possible to extend Pitchford.

The call was endorsed by Green and Conservative MSPs. Speaking for the government, the SNP’s Annabelle Ewing affirmed

the Scottish Government absolutely agrees that the inquiry should look at events that took place in Scotland if that is where the evidence leads. A single, comprehensive inquiry that was able to gather all the evidence in a coherent manner would best serve the public interest on this occasion. An inquiry that was limited to England and Wales would risk doing a disservice to those who believe that they have been adversely affected by the operations of Metropolitan Police units in Scotland.

However, she simply ignored the issue of the Home Office stalling for six months and what to do if Scotland is shut out of the inquiry. Neil Findlay seized on the omission, asking

Is the minister saying that, if the Home Secretary does not expand the Pitchford inquiry, there will be no Scottish inquiry? If that is the case, can she say very clearly today that victims in Scotland will have no route to justice? Let us be up front and straight about it. Let us not be choosy with our language; let us make it very clear what she means.

But, again, Ewing avoided answering the question and repeated that they were concentrating on inclusion in Pitchford. Conservative MSP Douglas Ross asked the question for a third time, and Ewing simply repeated her previous point once more. Labour’s Claire Baker asked it a fourth time and was also subjected to repetition of a point that did not answer the question.

The session was not entirely fruitless, however. Findlay didn’t just highlight the stasis regarding the Pitchford Inquiry, he also put sensational new information into the public domain.

Today, under the privilege that this Parliament gives me, I can name Gayle Burton, who is a former head of human resources at the Costain construction company, who now works for the Jockey Club and who has been identified as the key link between the construction industry, the Consulting Association and Special Branch. Her name is identified as the source of information on files of blacklisted Scottish workers.

We also know of the involvement during the 1984 miners’ strike of Stella Whitehouse, now Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, who was regularly on the picket line at Polkemmet colliery, not 3 miles from my house, during that period.

The illegal links between police, private surveillance and big business underpin much of the spycops’ targeting of political activists. It is as great an injustice whether perpetrated in England or Scotland, so all its victims deserve the truth.

As we said last month, it does not take six months to make a simple alteration to the terms of the Pitchford Inquiry. The start date looms ever closer and it is beginning to look like the Home Office is stonewalling and that the lack of a response will effectively become a refusal once the inquiry begins.

If the Scottish government – along with the German, Northern Irish and others who have made similar demands – do not set a deadline soon, they are effectively accepting this. They are running the increasing risk of being left behind, unable to secure the truth for their citizens abused by English spycops.

Video of Thursday’s debate is on our Youtube channel, and a full transcript can be found here.