All content from August 2016

The Met’s Chaotic and Dysfunctional Record Keeping

Shelves full of disordered filesStorage facilities with most documents missing or misfiled, systems repeatedly described as ‘chaotic’ by the police themselves – internal documents reveal that the Met is having big problems sorting out its records management before it can even tell the Pitchford Inquiry what’s gone on.

Guest blogger Peter Salmon of the Undercover Research Group unpicks recent statements from the force.

The issue of police disclosure and how public it can be is a matter taxing all involved in the Pitchford Inquiry. We know that behind the scenes there has been considerable discussion between the Inquiry team and the Metropolitan Police over how the Inquiry accesses the vast amount  of police material.

Recently, the Inquiry website published two statements from Det Supt Neil Hutchison, responding to questions from the Inquiry team. With dozens of supporting documents, they shed some light on what has been happening within the Metropolitan Police. The first statement deals with conflicts of interest and the prevention of the destruction of relevant records. The second focuses on the state of the Met’s record keeping and what is being done about it through Operation FileSafe. In this post we look at the latter issue.

Inadequate record management

What jumps out is just how much embarrassment was caused at the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) by Mark Ellison’s seismic 2014 report, the Stephen Lawrence Independent Review, in which he criticised the force’s inadequate record keeping.[1]

Ellison’s concern was that part of the difficulty in getting to the truth was the necessary records were not available. The force’s own internal follow-up reviews of record keeping used the word ‘chaotic’.[2] A supporting document states, remarkably, that the reviews had: identified wholesale dysfunctional, inconsistent handling of unregistered material across the MPS.[3]

Another document notes that of the material held in ‘deep storage’ on a site controlled by logistics contractors TNT, 54% of the records supposedly there were missing or misfiled.[4]

And all that before one gets to the actual material of concern. The importance of locating police records impacts not just on the inquiry into undercover policing, but on historical anti-corruption / child abuse cases, the related disclosure required by the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel and the  Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry and any similar investigations in the future.

As a result, since late 2014 the Metropolitan Police Service has been doing a ‘clean sweep’ of all its buildings and systems, in what is known as Operation FileSafe, not expected to be complete until 2018.

FileSafe is an off-shoot of the catchy acronym AC-PIT (Assistant Commissioner – Public Inquiry Team), formerly known as Operation Beacon. Headed by Neil Hutchison, AC-PIT was set up to co-ordinate responses to the issues raised by the various public inquiries. It answers to the Assistant Commissioner for Professionalism, Martin Hewitt, and is a sister unit to the Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) which provides most of the team for Operation Herne, the police’s own investigation into the spycop abuses, and which would oversee any future disciplinary cases if they were happen.

AC-PIT, working with the Directorate of Legal Services, is the Met’s point of contact for the Pitchford Inquiry and has responsibility for disclosure: it is they who will do the actual searches for material and redact it before passing it to the inquiry, via Legal Services.[5] Thus, its first job was to understand what the Met actually has – leading to the realisation that the records system needs cleaning up and sorting out if disclosure obligations are to be met. So, according to Hutchison, AC-PIT was split into two strands; the first dealing with Pitchford and Op FileSafe, the second with anti-corruption issues, such as the Daniel Morgan murder.[6]

Hutchison spends a lot his statement and its exhibits detailing how much effort is being put into FileSafe and the clean up of records across the Metropolitan Police. For example, they’ve identified ’83 different digital and paper based archives of potential relevance’.[5]

He also emphasises how much training and briefing is being given to relevant officers at all levels on retention of relevant documents. This focuses on Counter Terrorism Command (now in charge of the spycop units) and the Covert Intelligence Unit / SC&O35, but also encompasses every local police station.

Preventing destruction of documents

Following the publication of the Ellison Review in July 2014 there was a temporary halt on file disposal, which was lifted when new protocols were put in place in January 2015.[7][8]

These new protocols require that the heads of units give permission before any files relevant to issues covered by AC-PIT are destroyed. Where there is doubt, AC-PIT should be consulted directly. Hutchison mentions a number of examples of these requests being passed to him for final decision.

But what happened prior to January 2015? We learn that the when it comes to Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) which now has responsibility for the legacy of the spycop units, that he asked whether any relevant documents may have been destroyed. He talked directly to two of heads of SO15, Duncan Ball and Dean Haydon, but interestingly failed to ask Richard Walton, in charge for a key bit of this period and who retired from the police following criticism of his role the saga.

For Hutchison, it is sufficient that an unnamed Head of Compliance and Assurance through whom such requests would have supposedly been routed, has said nothing relevant had been destroyed while Walton was in his post.[9] All in all, we are reliant on the word of the commanding officers as given to Hutchison only.

Likewise, Hutchison provides us with a considerable amount of material on the standards officers are expected to adhere to, but given that it’s misconduct in office which is at the heart of this and other inquiries, this rings loud and hollow. If we could blithely trust the probity of Metropolitan Police officers there would be no need for a public inquiry in the first place. No other organisation would allow people who committed serious abuses to be custodians of the evidence against them.

If there is one concern he has met, it is that they are aware of conflicts of interest. To that end they have taken appropriate steps and ensured that no member of AC-PIT has been an undercover or served in the Special Demonstration Squad / National Public Order Intelligence Unit. They are, however, a bit more woolly on whether AC-PIT members have been involved in the management of undercovers.

Disclosure Still Isn’t Happening

So where does this leave us on the all-important issue of the Inquiry getting actual access to the material? Hutchison’s statement provides useful insight on a number of issues.

For a start, there still does not appear to be a formally agreed protocol for the Metropolitan Police to release documents to the Inquiry. Draft versions have gone back and forth between the MPS and the inquiry, which have yet to be circulated for comment to the ‘non-police/state core particpants’ (NPSCPs) – the people admitted to the inquiry because they were significantly targeted by spycops.

This is of considerable concern, not just in terms of time scale, but because the process is not being facilitated by input from the NPSCPs, a key stakeholder in the inquiry, who needless to say have issues with what they have seen so far.

At The Monitoring Group / Centre for Crime and Justice Studies conference in April 2016 attended by many NPSCPs, representatives of the inquiry pointed out that the MPS and the undercover policing Inquiry (UCPI) were still negotiating various obstacles. In particular, the access that the UCPI team themselves would have in order to conduct searches or supervise them.

It remains a very serious concern that there is not oversight to ensure the MPS is delivering all relevant material, and that vast tranches of important material remain in the control of the police rather than being turned over to the Inquiry.

It is also a concern that decisions to restrict evidence may be agreed only between Pitchford and the police, with NPSCPs having to apply retrospectively to have them lifted. This is seen by NPSCPs, and the wider public,as damaging to the transparency of the inquiry. While a lot of effort is going in to meet the needs of the police, there is a growing feeling that the victims in all this are being excluded from important decision-making processes that affect them.

Against Their Nature

Hutchison makes an interesting admission about the way this is challenging to the police instinct for defensiveness and secrecy when he writes:

‘The UCPI should be aware that the extent of disclosure of sensitive material required by AC-PIT is unprecedented and liaison is required to ensure staff comply with disclosure demands which run contrary to their training and previous experience’.[12]

This is reinforced by an alarming note, buried in exhibit D754[10] – an internal briefing on the public inquiry and record keeping by Counter Terrorism Command (which has taken over responsibility for the old spycop units) – that the head of Operation Herne, Mick Creedon, is critical of CTC’s lack of compliance with Metropolitan Police policy on review, retention and destruction of records. The implications of Creedon’s criticism do not appear to be addressed anywhere by Hutchison, implying he seems to think everything is fine. Interestingly, the briefing was signed off by one Richard Walton.

Earlier this year that a police whistle-blower came forward to let leading Green Party politician Jenny Jones know that her files were being wrongfully destroyed. The allegations say a number of officers shredded files they knew should have been retained but whose existence would embarrass the MPS. Hutchison only gives a short paragraph dealing with this concern, raised by the UPCI with him in a separate request. Half the paragraph is redacted; the gist of the rest is that, if substantiated, it will lead to charges. We are not even told if it is subject to an ongoing investigation by AC-PIT.

Hutchison only presented directly to senior managers in the spycop unit (now called National Domestic Extremist and Disorder Intelligence Unity) to brief them on FileSafe on 13 May 2015,[11] yet the whistle-blower came forward six months later, when all the new preservation protocols were supposed to be firmly in place. It does not appear therefore that the NDEDIU is taking this seriously or that AC-PIT is adequately overseeing things.

If that is the case, the Inquiry is failing at its first challenge. If it is prevented from getting the facts about what police have done, it cannot investigate.

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Part two to this article, focusing on other points of interest to those following the inquiry closely and a brief timeline shall appear on the Undercover Research Group blog.

References

  1. Ellie Pyemont & Penny Coombe, MPS Progress in the field of Information Management since the publication of the Stephen Lawrence Independent Review (exhibit D759), Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police Service, 13 July 2015.
  2. Penny Coombe & Ellie Pyemont, Operation FileSafe – Information Management: briefing for the Information Assurance and Security Board (exhibit D758), Metropolitan Police Service, 15 July 2015 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  3. Penny Coombe & Ellie Pyemont, An overview of activities undertaken as part of Operation FileSafe between July 2014 and March 2015, hightlight key milestone and future risks (exhibit D786), Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police Service, 6 March 2015 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  4. Penny Coombe & Ellie Pyemont, Operation FileSafe – Options Paper regarding MPS unregistered archives – Version 8 (exhibit D788), Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police, 2 March 2015 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  5. Neil Hutchison, Briefing to Management Board on Public Inquiry into undercover policing (exhibit D748), Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police Service, 10 July 2016 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  6. Neil Hutchison, Witness Statement on Rule 9-12 (PARTIALLY REDACTED) to Undercover Policing Inquiry, Metropolitan Police Service, 17 June 2016.
  7. Jeremy Burton, FileSafe Update (exhibit D777), email of 10 September 2014, Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police Service (accessed 20 July 2016).
  8. Following the paper trail (exhibit D780), Metropolitan Police Service (intranet article), 26 January 2015.
  9. Neil Hutchison, Witness Statement on Rule 9-10(a) to Undercover Policing Inquiry, Metropolitan Police Service, 6 June 2016.
  10. Counter Terrorism Command, Management of Information within SO15 version 1.0 (exhibit D754), Metropolitan Police Service, 11 June 2015.
  11. Neil Hutchison, Briefing note re Records Management (exhibit D767), Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police, 30 June 2014.
  12. Neil Hutchison, Witness Statement on Rule 9-12 (PARTIALLY REDACTED) to Undercover Policing Inquiry (paragraph 46), Metropolitan Police Service, 17 June 2016.

Kennedy in Scotland and Denmark, Working for USA?

Harry Halpin, graduating from Edinburgh University

Harry Halpin, graduating from Edinburgh University

A call for a proper spycops inquiry in Scotland has illustrated how the scandal also goes well beyond British shores.

Writing in The Scotsman, Chris Marshall reports that the Scottish government is ‘extremely disappointed’ events in its country are to be excluded from the public inquiry, and he has a blunt response.

If the UK government is to remain implacable about Scotland’s role in Pitchford, then the Scottish Government has no other option – it must set up its own inquiry.

The article points further afield. American citizen Dr Harry Halpin was spied upon by Mark Kennedy in Scotland. This surveillance continued when they travelled to Denmark together for a meeting of climate activists ahead of a UN Climate Change Summit in 2009.

Harry Halpin was a student at Edinburgh University when he believes undercover police officers began spying on him. Mr Halpin, now a respected computer scientist, says he was badly beaten by Danish police after travelling to a 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen and placed on “domestic extremist watch list” in the UK.

A 2012 report into Kennedy by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said he disobeyed orders twice during his seven year deployment.

BEATEN INTO DISOBEDIENCE

Mark Kennedy's injuries after being beaten by police, 2006

Mark Kennedy’s injuries after being beaten by police, 2006

The first occasion was in 2006 when he refused to leave the care of activists after being beaten up by uniformed officers.

Kennedy had been a key organiser of the first Climate Camp, held at Drax power station in North Yorkshire, the UK’s largest single source of carbon emissions.

Amongst the activists, he was part of a group of people attempting to breach the perimeter fence. Somewhat ironically, the vast numbers of police were there due to information provided by Kennedy.

Kennedy’s machismo escalated the sitation and a group of officers set upon him.

They kicked and beat me. They had batons and pummelled my head. One officer repeatedly stamped on my back. I had my finger broken, a big cut on my head and a prolapsed disc.

The incident left him with numerous injuries and needing surgery for the prolapsed disc in his back.

ON WHOSE ORDERS?

The HMIC report says his second breach of orders came when

he defied instructions and worked outside the parameters set by his supervisors by accompanying a protestor abroad in 2009

The only known instance of Kennedy traveling abroad with anyone in 2009 was that trip to Denmark with Harry Halpin.

Disobeying orders was clearly a rare and serious decision. Did he do it to travel to Denmark on a whim? Or at the request of someone whose orders trumped those of his bosses? Could that have been the American authorities asking him to watch Harry Halpin? Was Halpin’s beating by Danish police at the behest of Kennedy? Or the Americans? Or just a coincidence?

To know the whole truth, we clearly have to look far beyond events in England and Wales. If the Pitchford Inquiry is to have a hope of achieving its stated aim, it must work with the governments of other countries affected by Britain’s political secret police.

Chris Marshall observes

While the activities of Kennedy et al may have taken place more than a decade ago in Scotland, they are continuing to be felt to this day by those who were targeted.

The HMIC report tells us Kennedy professionally visited 11 countries on more than 40 occasions, including 14 visits to Scotland. He was responsible for 49 wrongful convictions and had significant relationships with five women who have taken legal action.

He is the just the best documented of the estimated 140 officers who worked for these units. If those he spied on hadn’t stumbled upon the truth all this would still be unknown, as is the case with 90% his colleagues.

Until we have the cover names of all the officers, and until the foreign authorities are allowed to contribute as fully as possbile, the Pitchford Inquiry will continue to appear to be merely firefighting revelations of victims.

Scotland Excluded from Pitchford Inquiry

Most Known Spycops Worked Outside England & Wales

After months of stalling, the Home Office has finally decided to exclude spycops activities in Scotland from the Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing.

In a letter to Neil Findlay MSP on 25 July 2016, Policing Minister Brandon Lewis said that Theresa May had taken the decision as one of her final acts as Home Secretary.

Rather like an American president’s cluster of controversial pardons or David Cameron’s showering of honours on undeserving acolytes, it appears to be the act of pulling the pin out and running, knowing they will be out of the blast radius when it goes boom.

Scotland was not merely incidental to the Special Demonstration Squad and National Public Order Intelligence Unit. The majority of known officers worked there. Officials admit Mark Kennedy made 14 authorised visits to the country. During these, he had numerous sexual relationships that the Met themselves have described as ‘abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong’ and a breach of human rights. He was far from the only one – Mark Jenner, Carlo Neri and John Dines all did the same.

The letter confirming Scotland’s exclusion goes on at length about how the Inquiry is unable to change the terms of reference. We know, that’s why we didn’t go to the Inquiry but instead addressed the Home Secretary who made up the terms of reference and can change them at will. This isn’t the law of gravity we want altering.

The Home Office say the Inquiry will get the general idea of undercover policing from only looking at events in England and Wales. This is an outright betrayal of the people and campaigns abused by spycops in Scotland and elsewhere.

The Pitchford inquiry should not be about getting a rough idea of what happened in order to ‘learn lessons’. It should give the public and victims the truth and, from there, the chance of justice.

The spycops committed crimes in England and Wales, some of them serious. They were agents provocateur, lied in court and set people up for wrongful convictions. They are known to have engineered dozens of miscarriages of justice, and the true figure may be in the thousands. They systematically sexually and psychologically abused women, in some cases fathering children with those they spied on. They stole the identities of dead children from unwitting bereaved families.

Every instance of these things should be exposed wherever it happened, every officer should be held accountable. Every person affected deserves to know what was done to them and the state should give them all the support and opportunity for redress that they need.

It was the same officers doing the same things in Scotland. No other organisation would be allowed to say ‘we have apologised to a few of the people we harmed, so let’s keep all the rest secret’.

The Home Office letter says the inquiry may choose to take information about miscarriages of justice seriously and pass them on to other agencies. It says nothing about the inquiry seeking out such information as part of its inquisitorial role. Given that events in Scotland are outside its remit, Pitchford may even feel bound to deny the chance for such evidence to be given.

The Home Office refer to the lack of time to fit any change in, even though the Scottish government formally requested inclusion seven months ago and the inquiry hasn’t started yet.

This is also a constitutional issue. The snub will appear to many in Scotland as further proof of Westminster treating the nation as a second class part of the United Kingdom.

In the Scottish Parliament debate a month ago, all parties were united in their desire for inclusion in the Pitchford inquiry. The SNP were repeatedly asked if, as the four opposition parties desired, there would be a separate Scottish inquiry in the event of exclusion. The spokesperson for the government dodged the question on the grounds that there was no exclusion yet. That time is over.

Seen in tandem with the recent denial of ‘core participant’ status to people who have been intensively targeted by spycops, the refusal to include Scotland suggests a worrying trend in the inquiry’s organisation, shutting out essential elements before it has even begun.

Those who know they were spied upon will surely be willing to tell their stories in an arena that takes them seriously. Perhaps a Scottish inquiry would take a more open approach than Pitchford and may even become the more credible of the two.


The full text of the letter to Neil Findlay MSP:

Brandon Lewis MP
Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service

25 July 2016

Dear Neil,

Thank you for your correspondence of 1 June addressed to the former Home Secretary on behalf of your fellow MSPs regarding your position that the scope of the undercover policing inquiry should be extended to include Scotland. I am replying as the Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service.

The current terms of reference for the undercover policing inquiry specify that it should ‘…inquire into and report on undercover police operations conducted by English and Welsh police forces in England and Wales’. This geographical limitation reflects both the police forces involved and the scope of the Home Office’s responsibility for policing.

For a number of reasons, it is not possible to expand the geographical scope of the inquiry without formally amending the terms of reference. The Inquiry chairman has a wide discretion as to which documents he reviews as being appropriate within the terms of reference. However, given the parameters of the inquiry established by the terms of reference, he will not be able to make any determinations or recommendations with regard to activities within any other jurisdiction, even if such evidence is submitted. If the inquiry were  to look at evidence relating to another jurisdiction, for example because it was implied that they should do so, a risk arises that it would be acting outside of its powers, as defined in the terms of reference.

The former Home Secretary carefully considered the representations made regarding the extension of the undercover policing inquiry beyond England and Wales. The inquiry as it stands is extensive and complex, with around 200 core participants. Amending the terms of reference at this stage would require further consultation and delay the progress of the inquiry. In the interests of learning lessons from past failures and improving public confidence, it is important that the inquiry can proceed quickly and make recommendations as soon as possible. The Home Office is confident the inquiry can both gain an understanding of historical failings and make recommendations to ensure unacceptable practices are not repeated without the need to consider every instance of undercover policing, wherever it was under taken. On balance, therefore, the former Home Secretary has confirmed she does not intend to amend the terms of reference.

You may be aware that there have been suggestions that, as an alternative to changing the terms of reference, the inquiry could pass any relevant evidence it receives to another organisation to consider. As the inquiry is independent, it can not be directed to do so – although the Inquiry may, of its own volition, do this if it considers this appropriate (for example, because evidence received reveals a potential miscarriage of justice or criminal conduct). During the lifetime of the Inquiry any material which it receives will only be passed to a third party with the express permission of the supplier of that information.

Once the Inquiry is concluded, all material will be lodged with the National Archives and the usual rules of access to archived material will then apply.

Brandon Lewis MP

 

Core Participants Condemn Scotland Exclusion

Pulling at a door being held shutIn the wake of the Home Office decision not to extend the Pitchford inquiry to Scotland, a group of core participants who were spied on there have issued this statement:

We are core participants at the undercover policing inquiry. We are extremely frustrated that Theresa May decided to exclude events in Scotland from the inquiry.

We have all been personally chosen as core participants because we were significantly targeted by officers in England and Wales. We were also all spied upon in Scotland. We cannot have faith in the ability of the inquiry to deliver an opportunity for truth and justice when it is prevented from fully establishing what happened to us.

The inquiry will focus on the disgraced units the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit. The majority of known officers from these units were active in Scotland for several decades. To ignore that is to prevent the inquiry from dealing with a significant part of its remit. It sets the inquiry up to fail before it begins.

The decision is a flat denial of the Scottish government’s request for inclusion, which was supported by every party in parliament. Scotland has only asked to have the same disclosure about abuses as is promised to people in England and Wales.

We request that the Scottish government work further to ensure Scotland is included in the inquiry. If this is not forthcoming, the Scottish government should set up its own independent inquiry, a proposal that already has cross-party support. We would be happy to participate in this and help reveal the truth that the Pitchford inquiry keeps hidden.

Alice Cutler
Alison (RAB)
Andrea
Chris Dutton
Claire Fauset
Donal O’Driscoll
Harry Halpin
Helen Steel
Indra Donfrancesco
Jason Kirkpatrick
John Jordan
Kate Wilson
Kim Bryan
Lisa (AKJ)
Martin Shaw
Megan Donfrancesco
Merrick Cork
Naomi (SUR)
Olaf Bayer
Oliver Rodker
Sarah Hampton (HJM)
Simon Lewis
VSP
Zoe Young