All content from October 2016

Spycop Boss Sues Blacklisted Workers

Gordon Mills, one of the spycops chiefs, is suing workers who spycops helped to illegally blacklist.

The extraordinary move follows a letter from John McDonnell MP to Home Secretary Theresa May concerning Mills giving a Powerpoint presentation to a meeting of corporate bosses and an illegal blacklisting firm.

BLACKLISTING

The Consulting Association ran an illegal blacklist of over 3,000 construction workers until it was raided and closed by the Information Commissioners Office in 2009. It helped firms to filter out job applicants who had a history of being ‘trouble makers’ wanting proper health and safety equipment, union membership, or other things that are their protected rights.

Most of the big name construction firms illegally used the list – Skanska & McAlpine were invoiced for around 14,000 vetting checks in the blacklist’s final year 2008-09 when they were both building Olympic venues – but no firm has yet faced any charges or censure apart from a solitary letter telling them not to do it again.

In 2012 it was realised that some of the information on the files must have come from the police or MI5. The following year the Independent Police Complaints Commission said it seemed every constabulary’s Special Branch had supplied the blacklist with information.

Some of this information bore no relevance to the job, and instead concerned the person’s political opinions or friendships. Around 200 environmental activists had their details given to the Consulting Associationj by police. Another person, a teacher by trade, was on the list for having been seen by police at an anti-racist demonstration.

This is not police officers upholding the law, it is police officers breaking the law to uphold something they presumably feel is more important; upholding corporate power.

NETCU

After the second British political secret police unit, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, was established in 1999, a sister unit was devised in 2004 to support companies that were the subject of protests. The National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU) was born.

NETCU was established during the drafting of the 2005 amendment to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act which made it illegal to ‘interfere with the contractual relations of an animal research organisation’ or to ‘intimidate’ employees of an animal research organisation. Run from Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, NETCU’s remit was defined as ‘prevention’ and it was tasked with helping companies such as Huntingdon Life Sciences frustrate campaigns waged against them by animal rights activists.

NETCU didn’t just advise corporations about threats to their profits from campaigns, it took a proactive political role in discrediting and undermining those campaigns. Its website linked to the pro-vivisection Research Defence Society, and the unit issued several press releases boasting of activists being prevented from doing street collections.

NETCU’s rapid ‘mission-creep’ saw it move to encompass environmental and climate activists.

SUPPORTING CORPORATIONS IN COURT

After the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 came into force, enterprising lawyer Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden realised that, as well as its intended purpose of protecting vulnerable women from dangerous ex-partners, it could also be used to defend multinational corporations from protest. A large number of injunctions were served against various campaigns, and Lawson-Cruttenden was behind most of them. He developed strong relationships with police officers.

Regfarding the campaign against arms manufacturers EDO and Caterpillar, the Guardian reported that in 2005,

‘Private emails show that Inspector Nic Clay and Jim Sheldrake of NETCU gave Lawson-Cruttenden the names and contact details of officers at two other police forces as he was “keen” to obtain statements about the activities of the campaigners at a third firm.’

On that occasion, the arms firm lost and the judge severely criticised Lawson-Cruttenden for ignoring a court order against receiving confidential police documents. By the time of the Guardian report in 2009 the head of NETCU, Superintendent Stephen Pearl, who had testified in court for many of Lawson-Cruttenden’s corporate clients seeking injunctions, denied that NETCU were involved in any way.

BLACKLISTERS FIGHT BACK

John McDonnell MP has supported the blacklisted workers’ campaign for justice from the start – he hosted the inaugural meeting of the Blacklist Support Group. His prominence meant that he was the chosen recipient for a document leaked in 2014.

It was two handwritten pages from the man who ran the Consulting Association blacklist, Ian Kerr. It documented a meeting at the Bear Hotel, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, attended by Kerr, directors of construction firms using the blacklist and DCI Gordon Mills of NETCU (The Canary has published the original notes). At the meeting, Mills delivered a talk complete with Powerpoint presentation. The police have not released the contents of the presentation.

McDonnell wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May demanding publication of all relevant NETCU files, and an independent inquiry into blacklisting

‘DCI Mills was head of Police Liaison at NETCU and it is alleged that his role was to provide information from the police to companies. NETCU was subsequently subsumed into the National Domestic Extremism Unit of the Metropolitan Police, but despite numerous requests under the Freedom of Information Act for documents relating to NETCU’s activities, the response has been that no documents relating to the meeting of DCI Mills with the association exist.

It appears odd that no report of such an important meeting was written and that no evidence of the meeting is now held by the Metropolitan Police.’

Blacklist Support Group secretary Dave Smith, whose Consulting Association file was 36 pages long, and who recently co-authored the Blacklisted book, added

‘We have been saying for five-and-a half years that the state was involved in blacklisting and we have been told time and time again that is not true and been accused of being paranoid. It is a cover-up. We have a name of a senior police officer, not a rogue constable, who was meeting with them. There must be documentation held by the police and correspondence between the police and the association.’

Many blacklisted workers, and the Blacklisted Support Group itself, are among the 200 people designated core participants at the Undercover Policing Inquiry.

SUING THE PROTESTERS

So it comes as something of a surprise that Mills has, like his NETCU colleague Superintendent Pearl before him, chosen to deny everything. He told the Evening Standard

‘This attack on my integrity by John McDonnell has blighted my life, leaving me unable to move job and fearful for the safety of my family. In the past year I have been called a blacklister, a spy cop, a colluder and an undercover operative — all of which are untrue.’

That’s a bold stance for someone who was one of the officers who ran a spycop unit. The fear for his family is also a somewhat overblown. In five years since the spycops scandal hit the headlines we have learned the names and locations of many officers. Nothing untoward has happened to any of them.

Mills says the ‘highly damaging and serious allegation’ was ‘simply not true,’ adding that he had not even heard of the Consulting Association and its blacklist until he read about it in a newspaper in 2014. He singled McDonnell out for criticism

‘Mr McDonnell has never asked me for my account. I was named with what appears to be no consideration to my personal safety or the safety of my family against an extremist backlash…

With power comes responsibility. Mr McDonnell should think about the horrendous impact this has had on me and my family and apologise for initiating this campaign on an ex-police officer who was simply doing his job.’

A spokesperson for McDonnell replied that he

‘was well within his right to raise with the Home Secretary the matter of a serving police officer meeting an organisation that was involved in the illegal blacklisting of trade unionists, while this officer was working for a unit that kept union activists under surveillance’.

However, Mills is not suing McDonnell. Nor is he suing The Times, who published an interview with Consulting Association boss Ian Kerr (now deceased) who spoke of his links with police and the ‘two way information exchange’.

The sole target of Mills’ legal action is the GMB, who have given extensive legal support to blacklisted workers and helped to organise protests against blacklisters.

A CHANGE OF PLAN

In his claim against the GMB, Mills say it had been his

‘intention to develop and pursue an academic, teaching career exploiting his police experience and training’

In 2013 he published a candid essay aimed at fellow police strategists in entitled The successes and failures of policing animal rights extremism in the UK 2004–2010 as part of his work towards a doctorate. He gained this qualification at London Metropolitan University on a course run by a team including former spycop boss Bob Lambert.

Mills had a part time post at Anglia Ruskin University around that time. The GMB planned a series of demonstrations about blacklisting in March 2015, including one at Andrea Ruskin University. The university’s lawyers wrote to the GMB saying Mills’ employment there had ended in 2014 and there were no plans to renew it. The union framed this in terms of Mills being sacked and alluded to a blacklisting connection, which stretches the truth.

However, it’s clear that any future academic employer of Mills’ policing experience would be subject to demonstrations. Bob Lambert’s post at London Metropolitan University was, at the time, the subject of a campaign of monthly protests, and spycops campaigners had held meetings there and at Lambert’s other employer, the University of St Andrews. These were continued until Lambert resigned from both posts in December 2015. It seems likely that Mills and Lambert discussed all this.

As with Lambert, Mills fears the toll on his prestige and salary if he is held responsible for the unlawful actions of disgraced spycops.

No date has been set for the defamation hearing.

[The Undercover Research Group have produced a profile of Gordon Mills.]

Video: Voices of the Spied Upon

New on our Youtube channel – video of the speakers at our ‘Voices of the Spied Upon’ meeting at the University of London, 10 October 2016.

Lisa Jones was an environmental and social justice activist. In 2010 she discovered that her partner of six years, Mark Stone, was actually Mark Kennedy of Britain’s political secret police unit, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.

She gathered evidence, confronted and exposed him. This began a slew of revelations that dragged the murky world of the political secret police into the light.

Eschewing media exposure, Jones was one of eight women who took legal action against the police and, after a gruelling four years, received an unprecedented apology in November 2015.

In this, her first public speech, she talks about Kennedy, the court case, political policing, the forthcoming public inquiry and her hopes for the future.

‘Lisa Jones’ is a pseudonym. She has been granted an anonymity order by the courts to protect her identity, and this video has been made without breach of that.


Duwayne Brooks was the main witness to the murder of his friend Stephen Lawrence in 1993. This began a campaign of persecution by the Metropolitan Police.

Special Demonstration Squad whistleblower Peter Francis has described spending hours combing footage of demonstrations, trying to find anything to get Brooks charged. He was arrested numerous times and on two separate occasions he was brought to court on charges so trumped up that they were dismissed without him even speaking.

The Met have admitted that, years after Stephen Lawrence’s murder, police were bugging meetings with Brooks and his lawyer.

A veteran of the machinery of inquiries, a repeated victim of spycops, as the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing looms, Brooks’ experience and perspective is especially important and pertinent.


Tamsin Allen has represented many clients who were spied on by political secret police. She is a partner at Bindmans, a law firm who were monitored by the Special Demonstration Squad.

She has represented victims at the Leveson Inquiry into tabloid newspaper phone hacking and improper relationships between police and journalists. She is representing members of parliament who were monitored by spycops.

Her experience of public inquiries held under the Inquiries Act puts her in an invaluable position as we prepare for the Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing. Here, she talks about the issues with setting up the inquiry and what we can expect from it.


Ricky Tomlinson, before we knew him on TV as Jim Royle or Brookside’s Bobby Grant, was a construction worker and trade unionist.

In 1972 he took an active part in the first ever national building workers’ strike. Tomlinson was among 24 people subsequently arrested for picketing in Shrewsbury. Government papers now show collusion between police, security services and politicians to ensure these people were prosecuted. Six, including Tomlinson, were jailed.

He is one of several high-profile figures who, despite concrete evidence of being targeted by spycops, has been denied ‘core participant’ status at the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing.

Ireland Commissions Another Police Self-Investigation

Mark Kennedy (centre) at Shell to Sea protest in Co Mayo

Mark Kennedy (centre) at Shell to Sea protest in Co Mayo

The Irish government has ordered a report on British undercover officer Mark Kennedy’s activity in the Republic. Any hope that this might be useful is obliterated by the most cursory look at the detail.

The police will investigate this police wrongdoing. They will only look at Kennedy, even though three of the other 16 known officers – John Dines, Jim Boyling and Mark Jenner – were also in Ireland. Who knows how many of the remaining 100+ unknown officers went there too?

This self-investigation mirrors the Scottish government’s recent announcement – get implicated police to investigate, give them a narrow remit that is incapable of seeing the full picture, nobody gets disgraced by their systematic human rights abuses being exposed.

The same pattern was followed in Britain five years ago. A year after Kennedy was exposed in 2010 there were 12 separate inquiries going on, all of them run by police or their satellite bodies such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission. None of them were allowed an overview to see systemic issues, even if they had been that way inclined. It was designed to protect the people in charge and portray Kennedy as a rogue officer.

Ireland’s justice minister Frances Fitzgerald asked the gardai to investigate this month. However, the Department of Justice already have a report. In 2011 they got the gardai to investigate Kennedy’s actions. They’ve had the completed report for over five years but are refusing to publish it.

WHAT WAS KENNEDY DOING THERE?

Ms Fitzgerald gave some detail of the secret report to the Dail last month, responding to questions from Sinn Fein.

Refusing to even name Mark Kennedy, she said

‘The report indicated that An Garda Siochana was aware of the presence of the person in question on a number of occasions between 2004 and 2006. They had established no evidence that while in this jurisdiction the person in question was involved in criminal activities’

The claim is somewhat tenuous. Kennedy was arrested during the 2004 Mayday demonstration in Dublin. In his excruciating 2011 documentary he points himself out in a newspaper clipping of black bloc demonstrators.

‘There’s a photograph of me in one of the Sunday newspapers, the headline says something like “Anarchist Terrorists Come to Dublin”, and there’s like five of us in this picture linking arms.’

Mark Kennedy at Dublin May Day protest, 2004

Mark Kennedy at Dublin May Day protest, 2004

Kennedy was back in the Republic in June 2004 for protests at George Bush’s presence in the country.

He visited several more times over the following two years, including participating in the Shell to Sea gas pipeline protest in Co Mayo.

Commissioning the new report is proof that the Irish government is under pressure and feels it must respond. But, as with the Scottish investigation, and the heap of earlier ones from the same mould, it is not credible.

BIGGER QUESTIONS

Frances Fitzgerald is meeting British Home Secretary Amber Rudd this month. Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan has asked for Rudd to be questioned about British spycops in the Republic. Specifically:

  • Who authorised Mark Kennedy’s trips to Ireland?
  • Who sanctioned the list of Irish campaign groups that were to be targeted?
  • Were any convictions in Ireland secured by evidence or actions carried out by undercover British police officers?

How much were the gardai involved? They have already admitted they approved Kennedy’s visits in advance (though claim they did not direct him), unlike the Police Service of Northern Ireland who say they were kept unaware of Special Demonstration Squad officers in their jurisdiction.

Did police in the Republic merely rubberstamp all British requests without asking what they were authorising? Or did they – like German police – have a contract and pay for Kennedy to be in their country?

Whose orders was Mark Kennedy acting on? What about the other British spycops? Which Irish citizens were spied on? Which Irish campaigns were stifled? How much Irish taxpayers’ money was spent getting British agents to undermine the work of Irish citizens?

STARTING WITH THE WRONG ANSWER

The Irish government’s decision to keep their 2011 report secret indicates that the new one for public consumption will omit important details. Looking only at Kennedy plays into the myth of him as an isolated figure. The truth is that there’s nothing Mark Kennedy did as a police officer that wasn’t done by others before him. Far from being rogue, he was textbook.

We need to know about the creation of the archtype and the actions of all those who lived it. They were part of a long-term strategy approved from on high. That is now understood as a plain fact. It is why we are having Lord Pitchford’s public inquiry. That only covers events in England and Wales, but the same officers committed the same abuses elsewhere, and it should be taken just as seriously.

We do not need to be insulted by yet another report saying that Kennedy did some bad things but there was no systemic problem. We cannot be placated by more assurances from the abusive organisations that there was nothing malicious in their intent, lessons have been learned and we can all move on. The more they give us decoys and keep secrets, the more guilty they look.

We need to know the names of the groups that were targeted. We need to know who gave the orders and why. Anything less from state agencies is collusion with the counter-democratic deeds of the spycops.

Hogan-Howe: A Legacy of Cover-Ups

Bernard Hogan-Howe

Bernard Hogan-Howe

Bernard Hogan-Howe is to resign as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Among the numerous dubious areas of his career (see the Undercover Research Group’s profile for more), he cultivated the Met’s cover-up and obstruction in the spycops scandal.

When Mark Kennedy was exposed in 2010, Hogan-Howe was working for HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC). As we detailed last week, he drafted their report into the scandal, which was pulped just hours before publication because new revelations proved it was untrue.

Even the second version, completed by Denis O’ Connor, was essentially a whitewash that blamed Mark Kennedy and absolved management.

By the time that report came out, Hogan-Howe was Commissioner of the Met. He set up Operation Herne, the Met’s self-investigation into spycops, appointing Pat Gallan as its head.

MARKING THEIR OWN HOMEWORK

In February 2013 Gallan testified at a Home Affairs Select Committee hearing on spycops. Repeatedly pushed on the fact that officers stole the identities of dead children, she refused to apologise for the practice (or anything else). She said there had only been one instance that she knew of until the Guardian had exposed another the day before the hearing. In actual fact, the practice was mandatory for Special Demonstration Squad officers from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Gallan’s performance was so outrageous that she was rapidly removed from her post. In an attempt to make Operation Herne appear more independent, her replacement was Mick Creedon, a senior officer from outside the Met but who, in all probability, personally authorised some of Mark Kennedy’s deployments.

The Home Affairs Select Committee’s report insisted the Met inform parents whose dead children’s identities had been stolen by spycops. Hogan-Howe – personally and publicly – refused.

Although revealing the names used would only expose an officer’s fake identity, not the real one, Hogan-Howe said it was much too dangerous because activists targeted by the Special Demonstration Squad included

‘criminals behind bars and at large today who would have no qualms in doing serious harm’

This echoes the phrasing in the HMIC report he drafted, firmly asserting that the protesters Mark Kennedy infiltrated

‘were not individuals engaging in peaceful protest, or even people who were found to be guilty of lesser public order offences. They were individuals intent on perpetrating acts of a serious and violent nature against citizens going about their everyday lives.’

ABUSING THE ABUSED

Hogan-Howe was already Met Commissioner when legal action was launched in 2011 by eight women deceived into relationships with undercover officers. The Met’s lawyers threw every obstruction they could at their victims. They tried to have the case struck out. When that failed, they said the Met was not responsible as such relationships were not authorised. When the women pointed out this meant the case could be heard in open court instead of a secret tribunal, those same lawyers said that the relationships were, after all, authorised.

The Met then claimed the relationships were based on ‘mutual attraction and genuine personal feelings’. Throughout all this, they tried to avoid giving any information, saying they would ‘neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND) that any officer was in fact an officer, and further lied saying NCND was a ‘long-standing policy’ when it was merely a recent and erratically applied tactic. They would take this as far as referring to Mark Kennedy by code letters.

Eventually, they were forced to concede Kennedy was a police officer and, three years into the case, they were ordered by a court to admit Bob Lambert and Jim Boyling were too. To this day, they block accountability with NCND for all other officers, even those like Mark Jenner who’s been exposed for years and confirmed by a colleague, and John Dines who has even admitted he was an officer and apologised.

After putting their traumatised victims through four gruelling years of these legal obstructions, late last year the Met finally settled seven cases in order to avoid having to go to court and disclose information. As part of the settlement the women negotiated a powerfully worded admission and apology.

How sincere was that apology? The Met are still forcing others with identical cases – in some cases with the same officers as the settled cases – to battle on in court.

In June, people deceived into intimate relationships with undercover officer Marco Jacobs were back in court. One of them, Tom Fowler, said

‘By dragging their heels the police have increased the psychological damage they’ve inflicted on people, made it a lot worse. It just shows that the public statements made by Bernard Hogan-Howe and other police officers… are totally at odds with what they are directing their lawyers to do in court. It shows they can’t really be believed on any of these matters.’

WHEN IS A PUBLIC INQUIRY NOT A PUBLIC INQUIRY?

Earlier this year Met lawyers formally submitted that, at the forthcoming public inquiry, police should not give evidence in public. They alleged that the operations of the political secret police were too dangerous to be revealed, they claimed that being identified might lead to ’emotional unhappiness’ of the officers. By trying to have as much of the public inquiry held in secret, they were attempting to cover up rather than come clean.

This is the true face of Bernard Hogan-Howe’s Metropolitan police. Just as at Hillsborough, it uses the language of concern as part of an armoury to deny truth and justice to its victims and the wider public.

AS AT HILLSBOROUGH, SO EVERYWHERE

Hogan-Howe was personally present at Hillsborough in a role that has been criticised by the families. Hogan-Howe claimed he gave a statement to the 1989 Taylor Inquiry into Hillsborough and claimed to be one of the resolute champions of integrity who refused to change their statement despite being asked by another officer to do so. In real life, Bernard Hogan-Howe never made a statement to Taylor.

The Hillsborough families’ struggle mirrors that of so many bereaved people abused by police for wanting justice. Not only were they smeared, they were also the targets of spycops. Astonishingly, the Hillsborough families have been denied ‘core participant’ status at the forthcoming public inquiry.

As is established beyond all doubt, the fault at Hillsborough rested squarely with the police. This was the conclusion of the 1990 Taylor report, as well this year’s inquests who ruled that the 96 people were unlawfully killed by police action. Yet even after all this time and the damning conclusions of multiple investigations, Hogan-Howe cannot fully admit what happened.

‘A lot of officers did their best [at Hillsborough] in very difficult circumstances, but the leadership was sadly challenged’

They were not ‘sadly challenged’, they were irresponsible, reckless liars who unlawfully killed 96 people. His instinct to defend officers – especially senior officers, especially himself – overrides any need to acknowledge the plain truth, let alone facilitate justice.

Earlier this year Hogan-Howe said a cover-up like the one that followed the Hillsborough disaster couldn’t happen these days.

‘It’s about making sure we are open and transparent… You’ve got more accountability than you’ve had for 20-30 years. I don’t think we would see today that sort of cover-up in the way we have in the past.’

There are many police cover-ups still happening today, with huge resources devoted to preventing the truth being examined. Moreover, in the case of the spycops scandal, Hogan-Howe has been the one directing it.

His protection of spycops means that most victims still have no clue as to the reason for their abuse. We have information on barely 10% of the officers, and the work has been done by victims themselves in the face of obstruction orchestrated at public expense by Hogan-Howe, whether at the pseudo-independent HMIC or as Commissioner of the Met.

It would have been more convincing if, before he reassured us, Hogan-Howe started by actually condemning the police action at Hillsborough for once and then stopped actively running the spycops cover-up. But that would have necessitated a break with his whole approach to police abuse of citizens, and the culture of the Met itself.