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What is the Spycops Inquiry Hearing About?

Royal Courts of JusticeDónal O’Driscoll from the Undercover Research Group explains the Undercover Policing Inquiry preliminary hearing on 20-22 November 2017 about the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

Though attention around this week’s hearing in the Undercover Policing Inquiry is dominated by attempts to keep the details of undercover officers buried, the first day will actually be focused on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

The two issues are closely connected. The new chair, John Mitting, has set out his approach and this is being contested by the victims’ group known as Non-Police/State Core Participants (NPSCPs).

POLICE SEEKING ANONYMITY

As part of their evidence to support former undercover officers’ ‘restriction orders – requests to keep their real and cover identities anonymous – the police are privately presenting the convictions of activists in the groups that were spied on. They’re doing this even though some of these convictions are considered spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. The police’s argument is that it shows that officers will be in physical danger if they are named.

However, it is being argued that under Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA), there is an expectation that offences that are spent should not be used unless strictly necessary and that there are appropriate safeguards. Furthermore, it is wrong to deny those whose convictions are spent from having input on how they are being used.

This and other issues have caused a legal quagmire, and throughout this year they have produced a slew of some of the most technical legal documents I’ve ever had the misfortune to read – known as ‘eye bleeders’, as that is the effect you are left with when finished reading them.

However, having simmered away, the arguments have reduced down to a proposal by the Inquiry Chair that he will:

(i) Admit spent convictions as evidence for restriction orders if justice cannot otherwise be done.
(ii) Will not at that stage afford the people who have the convictions any ability to know or make representations.
(iii) Ask the Justice Secretary to create an exemption in the ROA 1974, whereby it is possible to designate any inquiry held under the Inquiries Act 2005 (as this one is) as exempt from the ROA – and designate the Undercover Policing Inquiry as so exempt.

The language of (i) reflects that set out in the 1974 Act, and is not particularly contentious. Indeed, the NPSCPs, as represented by Philippa Kaufmann QC & Ruth Brander, argue this is the correct approach.

Rather, it is (ii) and (iii) which they contend are problematic, and it is for this reason they have asked for an oral hearing on the matter.

UNSPENDING CONVICTIONS

Before we get to the NPSCPs full argument, it is worth quickly summarising what Mitting and the Metropolitan Police have said.

Mitting has noted that a prominent element in his decision not to allow those with spent convictions to know or make representations at the restriction order stage is the time that this would take and the costs that would be incurred. He says he wants the person with the spent convictions to have a chance to respond, but only during the substantive, evidential phase of the Inquiry if it’s necessary. As far as he is concerned, this is the safeguard open to them, as any restriction order can be revisited later in proceedings.

‘What fairness requires is the person affected [i.e. whose spent conviction is being used] should, if practicable, have the opportunity to make representation and to give evidence about the spent conviction and circumstances ancillary to it in the substantive phase of the Inquiry.’
– (Mitting, Minded-To note of 2nd August 2017, para 9)

However, there is a logical gap here. How is an individual to learn their spent conviction has been used secretly to justify hiding someone’s identity? If you don’t know it’s been used, you can’t make a representation around it. All power remains in the Chair’s hand to recognise the moment and inform the affected person.

Or worse, in the situation where a restriction order prevents the release of a cover name, the individual may never learn that they were spied on in the first place and therefore will be denied the chance to make any representations. In effect, the Chair will have made a finding of fact.

Mitting has already held a number of secret closed hearings in which he considered spent convictions. In one note he tells us he has already been considering spent convictions but such that he has ‘no regard for spent convictions’ for those whose convictions are all unspent.

However, where someone has unspent convictions he has been considering all their convictions, spent and unspent equally. He justifies this on the grounds they appear to evidence a pattern of conduct relevant to the issue. He has already done this in a small number of cases on the grounds of being fair to the undercover officers. Thus, he summarises, it is a small but necessary part of the assessment, though minimal in the overall process.

WHAT THE POLICE WANT

The Metropolitan Police’s position is that once someone is told their spent convictions are being used, the cat is out of the bag, the person will be able to guess which of their comrades was an undercover police officer, and it will totally undermine any restriction order. Fairness to the undercover officers is the more important aspect in their assessment.

They make no mention of the fact that undercover police officers are known to have orchestrated wrongful convictions of dozens of activists and the true total is likely to be in the hundreds, possibly the thousands. These miscarriages of justice will cause a second injustice if they are used by police to deny their victims the truth about what was done. Essentially, a police officer can have falsely labelled an activist as a violent villain and now use that label to avoid accountability.

The police noted that whether a conviction is unsafe or not, it does not necessarily change the end assessment of risk, but that the Inquiry is able to loosen the restriction order at a later date. As such, they are content they can rely on the Chair to conduct things fairly.

The police who have already spent years delaying the Inquiry say they are also concerned the timetable will be jeopardised by the extra work notifying people whose convictions are being used, and are mindful of Mitting’s need to avoid unnecessary cost.

WHAT THE VICTIMS SAY

The Non Police/State Core Participants take issue with this, particularly (ii) and (iii) above. These arguments can be summarised as:

For part (ii);
(a) It undermines the Inquiry’s ability to get to the truth and allay public concern.
(b) They are contrary to Article 8 (rights to privacy) of the European Convention on Human Rights with regards to spent convictions.
(c) They are unfair with respect to duties under the Inquiries Act 2005 and the Data Protection Act.
(d) The Inquiry is at risk of applying the wrong test in law for admission of evidence of spent convictions.

For part (iii);
This proposal is an unnecessary and disproportionate interference with Article 8 rights of those who would otherwise enjoy protections under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

The NPSCPs legal counsel have developed these arguments further in a substantial response to the Chair.

Thus, for objection (a), they note that it compromises core participants’ ability to participate in the inquiry, not least as they have been granted core participant status on the grounds that they themselves may be subject of criticism and should have the right to respond. It fails to allow for conflicts in evidence to be resolved. It likewise fails to allay public concern on how secrecy around undercover policing led to abuses in the first place.

Significantly, it precludes evidence from emerging that may actually undermine the basis for seeking anonymity for the undercover officer. This is particularly iniquitous as one of the key purposes of the Inquiry is to look at where such injustices may have arisen. This needs open hearings where it can be learned, and must not simply rely on assuming police claims that it didn’t happen are automatically true.

In fact, in adopting this approach, the Inquiry is assuming the truth of what the police are saying in the first instance, and thus preventing the exposure of miscarriages of justice. In doing this, the Inquiry undermines its own purpose.

Objection (b) is argued on the grounds that the courts have maintained that it is unlawful for spent convictions to be used in this way, precisely because it is an unwarranted interference with Article 8 rights. The risk is that convictions will be used disproportionately, especially where there is a question over their lawfulness.

As such, the NPSCPs note that a fundamental rule of fairness is that a person who may be adversely affected by a decision should have an opportunity to make a representation, and this unfairness cannot be rectified after a decision is made, because the Inquiry process may effectively end up excluding them from doing so.

The exception to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act being sought is a blanket one, an argument based on expediency and efficiency. However, the Inquiry is ignoring other options for affected participants to feed in, which undermines the restriction order process in that sense as well. And a consequence, it again prevents a person from learning of important information affecting their private life they are otherwise entitled to under Article 8.

Not least, as objection (c) notes, the person whose spent conviction is being used in this way needs to be able to challenge the process where the information being being used. A blanket approach ignores wrongly the case-by-case specific approach which the Act envisaged.

LET JUSTICE BE DONE

The remaining points require a bit more legal technicality. Under section 7(3) of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, there is an exception for using spent convictions where it is necessary for justice to be done. The NPSCPs accept this is the correct test and that the case law around it applies. This case law requires that exceptions are on a case by case basis with specific evidence submitted; generalities are not permitted as that would undermine the purpose of the Act.

However, under the Inquires Act 2005, section 19(3) gives powers to the Inquiry to take into account those matters necessary for fulfilling its Terms of Reference. Counsel to the Inquiry has argued this amounts to the same thing (‘co-extensive’), but the NPSCPs disagree. They point out that the Inquiries Act is only concerned with the Inquiry’s work, where as the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act has wider public interest matters that need to be taken into account.

Justice for the individual concerned needs to be placed in the wider context of the Inquiry, regardless of whether it is admitted in private or not. Section 7(3) of the Act gives affords the greater protection of the individual as rehabilitated after a period determined by Parliament. Thus, the Inquiry is in danger of going behind the will of Parliament in this.

This is the core of objection (d), but also the objection to (iii), the proposal to get a statutory exemption for any Inquiry designated as being exempt from the protections of the Act. In this, the NPSCPs are seeking to prevent a wider undermining of the intentions of the Act.

They argue that Mitting’s proposal in (iii) is too loose in that it will lose individual considerations around relevance and necessity, and that the Inquiry does not sufficiently acknowledge the difference with the test provided under the Act’s Section 7(3). It is also pointed out that it does not matter if there is no public disclosure of the spent convictions, as it is the use of them that engages Article 8 rights.

The proposed amendment to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is to be done simply to remove administrative burden, being done for expediency rather than explore alternative approaches, and so loses the safeguards implicit in S7(3). For this reason the Inquiry should rely on S7(3) only, as it effectively sets out in part (i) of the Chair’s proposed approach.

 


I’m aware that I have brushed over a lot of issues and technicalities in this summary, but for a fuller understanding of where matters stand at the time of the 20 November hearing, it is worth reading the latest NPSCP and Metropolitan Police submissions and the Minded-To note of Mitting. These and all the other documents submitted by all parties on this issue can be found on a dedicated Inquiry page.

Jessica Speaks Out About Sexual Abuse by Andy Coles

Andy Coles then and now

Andy Coles then and now

Whilst Andy Coles was undercover in the 1990s, he groomed Jessica into a sexual relationship.

As soon as the former Special Demonstration Squad officer was exposed in May 2017, he resigned as Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire.

However, he is hanging on to other positions of civic trust, notably as a member of Peterborough City Council. There is now a dedicated Sack Andy Coles campaign in the city.

On 16 September 2017, Jessica travelled to Peterborough to give her first public talk about her experience, and the video is now on our Youtube channel.

Transcript of Jessica’s Speech

I first met Andy when I was 19. I had recently moved to East London and I was involved with a few local animal rights groups and environmental groups. It was within these groups that I first met him.

I can’t remember the initial meeting, but I remember seeing him at various demonstrations and I knew him to say ‘hi’ to. The next thing I remember is he started turning up at our house, uninvited, but you’re polite, you invite people in, and so he was a friend, I thought.

We also know now, after Donal has spoken to lots of other women, that’s actually what he would do. He would turn up around women’s houses, usually in the evenings, and would be quite difficult to get rid of.

One of the other women – I’ve spoken to her, she said it’s fine to read out a statement she actually made – this is Joy’s own words.

‘He made a pass at me with no preamble. As I recall he did not say anything but just lunged at me and tried to kiss me. I pushed him off and he persisted for a while, several minutes, following me around the living room while I avoided contact and repeatedly asked him to stop. I then had to ask him to leave which he eventually agreed to do. I cannot remember exactly what I said, I was upset and angry. I felt a bit stupid for allowing him into the flat in the first place and a bit soiled to be honest.’
– ‘Joy’

Now, Joy was 26 at this time. This is exactly what he did to me, he never actually said anything to me, he just lunged at me and kissed me. I didn’t know what his intentions were, I’d certainly never actually felt that towards him. The only difference between myself and Joy is that I didn’t react as bravely as she did.

I remember feeling shocked, embarrassed, awkward and totally out of my depth. I remember it so clearly because it was so uncomfortable, it has never really felt right. But I put that down to us both being quite young at the time, and it was actually my first proper relationship. Now we know that in actual fact he wasn’t 24 like he told me, but he was actually 32 and also he was married. He had been married for four years at this point.

This has now changed from something that was very awkward and uncomfortable at the time to something that is now very sordid, dirty and manipulative. A much older man leading me into a sexual relationship as a teenager that I wasn’t ready for or confident enough to get out of. I have never said I was underage, I was 19 at the time. But I was no different from lots of people, in that I’d had quite a traumatic childhood, I’d been bullied at school, and those things had left a bit of a mark on me. I had low self-esteem and no confidence, I’d suffered panic attacks and been treated for anxiety. To someone much older, like him, and also a trained police officer I would have been an easy target for being vulnerable.

It’s worth saying at this point that not every undercover officer had a sexual relationship whilst they were deployed. Andy did not have to have a pursue a sexual relationship with me to maintain his cover, he chose to. He absolutely knew that I would have never consented to have sex with a police officer. As far as I’m concerned he did it knowing it would have been against my will.

His bosses also knew it would have been against my informed consent, and yet they allowed it to happen. Where were the police? The people who were supposed to protect me? They were the ones that paid him to do it. They were the ones who arranged the fake birth certificates, the fake driving licences, fake passports, provided him a fake job, his vehicle and his home. They needed to make him convincing and, to me, they did. I never stood a chance, I was a stupid naive teenager now left with the shame of what has happened.

Andy won’t face any charges over what he chose to do to me. I wish there was something I could do about that, but there isn’t. I wasn’t able to stand up for myself as a teenager, so I need to do that now. I need to try and take back some control. All I am able to do now is to sue his employers, the Metropolitan Police. The four ‘torts’, as they call them, for suing them are; assault, deception, negligence (on behalf of his bosses for allowing it to happen) and misfeasance (or wrongdoing) in public office. Also I am also now a part of the Undercover Policing Inquiry, I’m a core participant.

I have so many questions that I don’t think I will ever know the answers to. Did he despise all of us, people who thought of him as our friend? Is that the way he treated all of women or was that just the way he treated us?

Was he lying to me when he told me he had a two year old daughter? We know it wasn’t with his wife at the time, his first daughter with her was born the year after he and I split up. But we don’t know exactly when he was deployed so whether he did have a two year old child with another activist, we don’t know.

Why did he choose such public roles when he knew the danger of his being discovered? Does he feel even the tiniest bit of guilt for what he did to me? I wasn’t a criminal, I don’t have a criminal record, so why did it happen to me? How much did he share with the other undercover officers about me? What did he put in his reports about us and our relationship? He came to my parents’ house on several occasions, was there a file on them?

How did he know about my being adopted? It’s unlikely I would have told him, it was something I had been bullied about and was deeply ashamed of, so it was unlikely I’d tell him but people remember him saying it was a great match that he and I were together, what with both of us being adopted. Did he use something so private and painful to me just as a ploy to ingratiate himself? I will never know.

I wake up in the early hours every morning with these questions running through my head. I can’t get a moment’s peace from any of this. It’s twisting the knife that he remains in a trusted public position, as though what he did to me means nothing.

He stepped down from the DPCC role, and if he had a shred of decency he’d step down from this role too.

16 September 2017

Sorry Paul, Spycops Haven’t Stopped

Paul Mason article mastheadGuardian columnist Paul Mason has picked up on former MI5 boss Stella Rimington’s admission that security services have spied on people who are now advisors to Jeremy Corbyn, the person likely to be the next prime minister.

Mason lists a catalogue of counter-democratic outrages by the Met’s Special Branch in the 1980s and 90s; undermining union disputes, spying on families of victims of racist murders, deceiving women into long-term relationships.

Then he boldly asserts

‘that world is gone. Corbyn, who himself was targeted by MI5 and Special Branch, could soon be prime minister. With the Human Rights Act, the creation of a Supreme Court and the operational policing changes in the aftermath of the Macpherson report, the legal framework around policing and intelligence has tightened.’

Where does he get this idea from? The Human Rights Act was passed in 1998 and the Macpherson report was published in 1999. Far from ending the era of political policing, they came just as it began a period of expansion.

The second major political policing unit, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, was founded in 1999 to deploy the likes of Mark Kennedy and extend the worst of the spycops’ abuses. More spycops units were established in the 2000s.

Political policing has not ended. In 2013 HM Inspectorate of Constabulary explained that the old spycops units have been subsumed into the Met’s Counter-Terrorism Command (known as SO15), and that

‘All deployments of undercover officers which target the activity of domestic extremists are coordinated either by the SO15 Special Project Team (SPT), or by one of the regional SPTs’

There is no reason to think that the known abuses by political policing units have stopped.

In mentioning undercover officers deceiving women into intimate relationships, Mason links to a report on the recent letter from a group of them to the public inquiry. These women include those who were in relationships with officers as recently as 2009, far beyond his cutoff of 1999.

A LAW UNTO THEMSELVES

Mason continues;

‘From top to bottom, the UK’s armed forces, security services and police are acutely aware of constraints on their activities by the rule of law.’

They have always been aware of these constraints, and duly ignored them. In 1969, a year after the Special Demonstration Squad was formed, the Home Office issued unequivocal instructions:

‘The police must never commit themselves to a course which, whether to protect an informant or otherwise, will constrain them to mislead a court in subsequent proceedings.’

Dozens of SDS officers were arrested whilst undercover, many of them multiple times. They infiltrated defendants’ meetings, gave false testimony to courts, and some were even prosecuted under their false identity. These actions fit most people’s definition of perjury and perverting the course of justice.

With only a small fraction of the officers exposed, we have already had 50 wrongful convictions quashed, many from the late 2000s. The true total could be in the thousands.

Many of these officers committed crimes, organised illegal activity and made a personality trait of mocking activists who weren’t prepared to participate in their plans. Compliance with the law was irrelevant to them.

UNION BUSTING

Without supporting evidence, Mason instructs us to make a startling assumption.

‘The law enforcement culture that allowed undercover cops to perpetrate abuses is, we must assume, gone. Likewise, by implication, the culture that allowed MI5 to “destabilise and sabotage” an entirely legal trade union must be assumed to have gone.’

Undermining unions isn’t limited to MI5 and the specialist deep-cover units of the Met. The Independent Police Complaints Commission concede that every constabulary’s Special Branch illegally supplied information about political activists to the Consulting Association, a company who ran an illegal blacklist of construction workers.

Those on the blacklist were mostly targeted for their union organising, though others were on it for asking for proper personal protective equipment at work, or being spotted by police on environmental or anti-racist demonstrations.

The Consulting Association was active until it was raided in 2009 by the Information Commissioners Office. Although most major construction firms illegally used the list, none has faced any charges or even any censure beyond a letter asking them not to do it again. No police have been held to account. Why would they have stopped?

As workers – not only in construction but healthcare and numerous other sectors – can testify, blacklisting is clearly still going on. We know that the Met’s spycops unit still uses other blacklists of trade unionists and political activists. There is no reason to assume that the long-term, routine police collusion has suddenly ended.

TRUTH ISN’T PARANOIA

Mason cites undercover officers’ spying on Stephen Lawrence’s family, and the power of the Macpherson Inquiry report into the murder. He ignores the fact that the police deliberately withheld any mention of the spying from Macpherson. It was this very revelation in 2013 that led to the setting up of the public inquiry into undercover policing.

The secret state does not play by the rules. Those abused by it deserve answers. Yet Mason, echoing President Trump’s condemnation of Charlottesville ‘violence on many sides’, says

‘Amid the social warfare of the 80s, there are people from both sides who could say, as Rutger Hauer does in Blade Runner: “I’ve done questionable things.” Unless we’re going to have a South African-style truth and reconciliation process, the challenge is to bury the paranoia and move on.’

It’s not paranoia when the spying and methods are documented, established facts.

More than 1,000 political groups have been targeted by spycops in the last 50 years. Put simply, there aren’t that many who’ve done questionable things, and even the Met agree none of them deserved to be treated like like the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of women subjected to psychological and sexual abuse. This is a victim and perpetrator situation.

A glance at those targeted, even among the 200 significantly affected people designated core participants at the public inquiry, shows the breadth of this counter-democratic policing. Everyone targeted by spycops should should be told what was done to them and given access to their files. Only the police, and seemingly Paul Mason, want to bury the facts.

CHANGE AT THE TOP

Mason’s belief that a Labour government will do away with spycops’ activity is contradicted by the historical evidence. The secret state is run by people who are not hired by the government of the day. Governments come and go, but they endure.

Mason points to MI5’s plotting against Harold Wilson’s government in the 1960s, but there is more to it than that. As lawyer David Allen Green wryly noted,

‘ “Former Labour Home Secretary” is one the most illiberal phrases in British politics.’

All the major spycops units – the Special Demonstration Squad, National Public Order Intelligence Unit, National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit, National Domestic Extremism Team – were set up under Labour governments.

This mirrors the fact that the worst eras of detention without trial and our most repressive anti-terrorism laws are also Labour creations. Just this this week we learned of a political activist being victimised thanks to police powers granted by the Terrorism Act 2000, a law so draconian that you can get six months in jail for wearing the wrong T-shirt. It was created by Labour’s Jack Straw.

The current Labour party is very different to its predecessors, and it’s reasonable to hope that having a Prime Minister and Home Secretary who were themselves targeted by spycops would lead them to equally different approaches to political policing.

Whether the secret state complies is another matter. The spycops don’t even obey their own superior officers.

DON’T DO WHAT YOU’RE TOLD

The political secret police started spying on the Green Party’s Jenny Jones after she was democratically elected. They continued for over a decade, whilst she was a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, the Met’s scrutiny body.

After they said they had destroyed her files, she asked them to check. This was in 2014, after senior police had ordered the preservation of files for the pending public inquiry, in line with the demands of the Inquiries Act. 

At this point, a whistleblower reports, officers hurriedly shredded the bulk of Jones’ records so a sanitised version could be presented.

Whilst the campaigns Mason mentions were over in the 1990s, the spying and repression they were subjected to has continued with other targets. If it is to be ended, there must be disclosure and accountability.

We know Britain’s political secret police have been active long after Mason’s imagined cut-off date and that his wishful naivety has no basis in fact. There is no indication that it has abated.

Those of us subjected to political policing, including Paul Mason, and the wider public all deserve truth and justice.

Victims of Undercover Policing Call on Public Inquiry to Come Clean

Protesters outside New Scotland Yard demand deatils of political police spies, 2011Over 100 people affected by political policing, frustrated by the Undercover Policing Inquiry’s lack of openness, are demanding answers and action.

Their concern about the direction and state of the Inquiry centres on the need for it to come clean over three crucial factors that would enable victims of police spying to understand the extent to which their lives have been invaded.

The necessary measures have not yet been taken by Inquiry Chair, Sir John Mitting, despite being more than three years into the process.

As Kim Bryan, speaking on behalf of the Spycops Communications Group, said:

‘Unless Mitting orders the release of the names of the undercover officers, the names of the 1000-plus groups that have been spied upon and allows the victims of police spying to gain access to evidence about them that is controlled by the MPS, there is no hope that this Inquiry can set out what it said it was going to do: discover the truth. It is time for the Inquiry to come clean.’

The Inquiry was set up in 2014 to investigate and report on undercover police operations conducted by English and Welsh police forces in England and Wales since 1968.

It was called by the then-Home Secretary, Theresa May after revelations from victims of undercover policing revealed widespread abuse of human rights and miscarriages of justice and the now notorious spying on family and friends of Stephen Lawrence.

The Inquiry has designated less than 200 significantly affected people as core participants. They are mostly political activists drawn from a wide range of political groups including those campaigning for equality, justice, community empowerment, the environment, workers’, civil, women’s, LGTBQ, human and animal rights; and campaigning against war, racism, sexism, homophobia, government policies, corporate power, and police brutality.

A majority of them have signed the letter expressing their grave concerns.

Kim Bryan explained:

‘As Core Participants we are rapidly losing confidence in the Inquiry and in the abilities of John Mitting. He is rowing back on commitments made by the previous Chair, Christopher Pitchford, who stated the inquiry’s priority is to discover the truth and recognised the importance of hearing from both officers and their victims along with the need for this to be done in public as far as possible.’

In August, Mitting made a notable departure from the approach of the previous Chair, Justice Pitchford, who resigned for health reasons.

The August rulings and ‘Minded-To’ notes prevent a thorough investigation and give non-state core participants no right to reply – without any justification.

The letter asks that Sir John Mitting respond to the five following questions:

1.What steps will be taken to ensure that all undercover identities are released as soon as possible, and when can we expect that to happen?

2. What steps will be taken to ensure that the names of the 1,000 or so groups spied upon by undercover police officers are released as soon as possible, and when can we expect that to happen?

3. What steps will be taken to conserve, and speed up disclosure of the evidence controlled by the MPS, in order to allow the victims of undercover policing to understand the extent to which their lives have been affected?

5. What measures will be taken to the tackle the significant financial and power imbalance between the MPS and victims of police spying within the Inquiry?

6. Most importantly, what steps will be taken to ensure that the Inquiry is open and transparent, so that the public and NSCPs can have confidence in its findings?

Copies of the letter have also been sent to Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, and Diane Abbott, Shadow Home Secretary.

 


 

FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER

Sir John Mitting
Undercover Policing Inquiry
PO Box 71230
London NW1W 7QH

Monday 23rd October 2017

Dear Chair,

RE: The need for openness in the Undercover Policing Inquiry

We are writing to you to express our serious concern over the current state of the Undercover Policing Inquiry and wish to raise a number of issues.

It is clear to us from the materials released at the start of August 2017 i that you are minded to take the Inquiry in a different direction than it has been heading to date, one of far greater secrecy.

For us, this Inquiry is about political policing to undermine groups and organisations campaigning for a better society and world, yet the content of the documents released on 3rd August shows a new course that places the needs of the police, particularly undercover officers, above those of their victims. This approach denies those who have suffered abuse at the hands of undercover police access to the truth and the right to justice. It appears, to those of us who have been targeted and have experienced an unacceptable intrusion of our lives, that police sensitivities are being allowed to trump all other concerns.

Your unilateral decision to grant HN7 complete anonymity on medical grounds ii without allowing those grounds to be examined is a case in point. By putting his needs above any consideration of HN7’s involvement in the issues covered by the terms of reference of the Inquiry, and refusing to release even his cover name, the Chair has negated any possibility of discovering if he engaged in sexual or other inappropriate relationships, caused a miscarriage of justice, or was involved in other abusive or illegal behaviour in his undercover role.

This decision denies any victim in HN7’s case the opportunity to come forward. The fact that the ruling makes no attempt to take this into account demonstrates that the Inquiry has a clear bias in favour of police interests. This is echoed throughout the ‘Minded-To’ notes iii, announcing closed hearings around other officers, particularly N81.

As Non-State Core Participants (NSCPs) we are rapidly losing confidence in the Inquiry. We note that the previous Chair, Lord Justice Pitchford, recognised the importance of hearing from both officers and their victims – and the need for this to be done in public as far as possible. He explicitly noted that any departure from openness must be justified iv; what we are seeing at the moment is quite the opposite. The August rulings and ‘Minded-To’ notes prevent a thorough investigation.

We ask you to remember that this Inquiry was called following a series of very alarming revelations about wrongdoing by police, the scale of political policing, and institutional sexism and racism. There is considerable evidence of the police attempting to destroy evidence and cover up that wrong doing. Undercover officers and staff who acted in public office should not be protected from accountability. That they may be upset or suffer disquiet is not sufficient reason for a Public Inquiry to be kept in secret.

We would also like to register our very deep concern at the tone taken by the “Mosaic effect” v and ‘Jaipur’ vi, ‘Karachi’ vii and ‘Cairo’ viii assessments, where anonymous officers, in some cases personal friends of undercover officers, make explicit and unfounded attacks against the victims of these undercover officers, particularly those who have brought to public attention the grievous abuses committed – at no little personal pain to themselves. This is simply inexcusable and it is an embarrassment to the Inquiry.

Furthermore, we would like, once again, to raise the issue of the significant imbalance in financial resources and power between the State and Non-State Core Participants in this Inquiry. This means that Non-State Core Participants (NSCPs) are often prevented from making submissions on issues of concern to them, while the MPS remains in complete control of the evidence and is able to bog the Inquiry down with multiple applications of its choosing.

We support the letter delivered to Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, on the 19th of September 2017, by 13 women who were deceived into sexual relationships with undercover officers. The letter highlighted concerns about institutional sexism and the lack of openness in the Inquiry.

We reiterate the need for answers to the following questions to restore faith in the Inquiry. In the absence of clear answers to these questions, we, as NSCPs feel that we are being asked to participate blindly in an Inquiry that is not fulfilling its own terms of reference, and may not even really intend to do so.

1. What steps will be taken to ensure that all undercover officers’ identities are released as soon as possible, and when can we expect that to happen?

2. What steps will be taken to ensure that the names of the 1000 or so groups spied upon by undercover police officers are released as soon as possible, and when can we expect that to happen?

3. What steps will be taken to conserve, and speed up disclosure of the evidence controlled by the MPS, in order to allow the victims of undercover policing to understand the extent to which their lives have been affected?

4. What measures will be taken to the tackle the significant financial and power imbalance between the MPS and victims of police spying within the Inquiry?

5. Most importantly, what steps will be taken to ensure that the Inquiry is open and transparent, so that the public and NSCPs can have confidence in its findings?

Yours

Advisory Service for Squatters
‘AJA’
Albert Beale
Alex Hodson
Alice Cutler
Alice Jelinek
‘Alison’
‘AN’
‘Andrea’
‘ARB’
Belinda Harvey
Ben Leamy
Ben Stewart
Blacklist Support Group
Brian Healy
Brian Higgins
‘C’
Carolyn Wilson
Celia Stubbs
Ceri Gibbons
Chris Dutton
Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army
Claire Fauset
Claire Hildreth
Climate Camp Legal Team
Colin Roach Centre
Dan Gilman
Dan Glass
Danny Chivers
Dave Morris
Dave Nellist
Dave Smith
Debbie Vincent
Dr. Donal O’Driscoll
Duwayne Brooks OBE
Emily Apple
Frances Wright
Frank Smith
Geoff Sheppard
Dr. Graham Smith
Guy Taylor
Hackney Community Defence Association
Hannah Lewis
Hannah Sell
Dr. Harry Halpin
Helen Steel
Indra Donfrancesco
Jacqueline Sheedy
‘Jane’
Jason Kirkpatrick
Jennifer Verson
Jesse Schust
‘Jessica’
John Jones
John Jordan
Kate Holcombe
Kate Wilson
Ken Livingstone
Kim Bryan
Kirk Jackson
Kirsty Wright
Leila Deen
‘Lindsey’
‘Lisa’
Lisa Teuscher
‘Lizzie’
Lois Austin
London Greenpeace
Reverend Dr. Malcolm Carroll
Mark Metcalf
Martin Shaw
Martyn Lowe
Matt Salusbury
McLibel Support Campaign
Megan Donfrancesco Reddy
Melanie Evans
Merrick Cork
Michael Dooley
Michael Zeitlin
‘Monica’
Morgana Donfrancesco Reddy
‘Naomi’
Newham Monitoring Project
Nicola Benge
‘NRO’
Olaf Bayer
Paddy Gillett
Paul Chatterton
Paul Gravett
Paul Morozzo
Lord Peter Hain
Piers Corbyn
Robert Banbury
Robbin Gillett
Robin Lane
‘Rosa’
‘Ruth’
‘S’
Sarah Hampton
Sarah Shoraka
Shane Collins
Sharon Grant OBE
Sian Jones
Simon Lewis
Smash EDO
Spencer Cooke
Stafford Scott
Steve Acheson
Steve Hedley
Suresh Grover
Thomas Fowler
Tomas Remiarz
Trapese Collective
‘VSP’
William Frugal
Youth Against Racism in Europe
Zoe Young

i UCPI Anonymity applications: Special Demonstration Squad, 3rd August 2017
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/20170803-directions-SDS.pdf
ii UCPI Ruling in respect of HN7 – Undercover Policing Inquiry, 3rd August 2017
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/20170803-ruling-N7-anonymity.pdf

iii UCPI Minded to notes, 3rd August 2017
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/20170803-Minded-to.pdf
iv UCPI Restriction orders (legal approach) Ruling, 3rd May 2016
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/160503-ruling-legal-approach-to-restriction-orders.pdf
v Evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service “The Mosaic Effect”
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Mosaic-report-open-version.pdf
vi Anonymous evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service in the name “Jaipur”
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Jaipur-Risk-Assessment-with-redactions-burned-in.pdf
vii Anonymous evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service in the name “Karachi”
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Karachi-Risk-Assessment-with-redactions-burnedin.pdf
viii Anonymous evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service in the name “Cairo”
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Cairo-Statement-dated-20-July-2017-open-version.pdf

Another Spycop Named: ‘Bill Lewis’

Silhouette of head with superimposed question markA new member of Britain’s political secret police has been named. On 5th October, the Undercover Policing Inquiry released the cover name William Paul ‘Bill’ Lewis, who was undercover in the Special Demonstration Squad 1968-1969.

The announcement follows the Met’s blanket application to keep undercover officers’ names – real and fake – secret.

The inquiry is working through the list of names and said in August that it was minded to release the cover name – but not the real name – of this officer. The Met then withdrew their application to keep it secret.

The fake name is about all we have. The inquiry doesn’t even tell us which groups he actively infiltrated, only that

He may have been encountered by individuals involved with the International Marxist Group or the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign in London at that time.

We have no photo, no detail on whether he, like so many of his colleagues, deceived women into sexual relationships or orchestrated miscarriages of justice.

Whilst any information is better than none, this announcement doesn’t move us onward. To understand what these disgraced units did, we need to hear from those who witnessed it.

We need the list of cover names used by officers and the list of over 1,000 groups that they spied on so that the activists may be contacted and speak about what they saw. Until this happens the inquiry cannot begin to do its allotted task.

At a preliminary hearing on 1st November the Inquiry Chair Sir John Mitting is going to ‘make a statement on the future conduct of the Inquiry’. It’s not clear exactly what this means, but his recent compliance with much of the Met’s desire for secrecy does not give cause for great optimism.

We now have details on 24 of 144 undercover officers. ‘Bill Lewis’ is the first new one identified in three months, and even then in such scant form as to be practically useless. This glacial pace, driven by the Met’s stonewalling, denies justice to those who have already waited too long.

Spycops Inquiry Slammed by Targeted Women

'Undercover is no Excuse for Abuse' banner at the High CourtToday, thirteen women who were deceived into intimate sexual relationships with undercover policemen, over a period spanning nearly 30 years, have written to the Home Secretary to raise their concerns about the progress and recent direction of the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing.

The women noted that, two years into the Inquiry, the names of the 1000+ groups spied on by political policing units have still not been made public, nor have the cover names used by officers while undercover.  These two steps are critical to allow non-police witnesses to come forward and give evidence to the inquiry. 

The women also raised concerns about the recent appointment of Sir John Mitting as Inquiry Chair.

Institutional Sexism

“We are very concerned that Sir John Mitting is a member of the Garrick Club which has consistently voted to exclude women from membership and to remain a men-only club. How can someone who accepts the principles of membership of such a club be suited to a role that will involve making judgements on evidence of institutional sexism within the police and wider legal system?”

“In the ‘Two Year Update’ produced by the Public Inquiry in July, the word ‘women’ does not appear at all, despite the seriousness of the abuses committed against women by undercover police officers. The timeline in that document also failed to include the public apology issued by the MPS which acknowledged that undercover police officers entering into intimate sexual relationships is a human rights abuse.”

“It is clear from these omissions that the serious abuses we suffered at the hands of the police are not taken seriously by the Inquiry.”

“In light of all these matters it is extremely difficult for us to have any confidence that the Inquiry will properly investigate the abuses we have been subjected to, or put in place measures to ensure that they never happen again to anyone else.”

Openness

The Metropolitan Police Service has been allowed to set the pace of the Inquiry with severe and ongoing delays and applications for secrecy.  They also continue to hold the evidence which could demonstrate wrongdoing, and have refused to share any records with victims of abuses despite the need for victims to understand the events they were subjected to.

“We are alarmed by the imbalance in resources between victims of police spying and the fact that the Metropolitan Police Service is currently using public money to impugn those who were spied on and abused. This is a similar tactic – now thoroughly condemned – to that used by the police at Hillsborough, and it must not be allowed to continue.”

“It is critical that the cover names of the officers are released, along with the names of the groups spied upon.  Without this information the public will not be able to come forward to give evidence to the Inquiry and it will be impossible to identify the scale and nature of the abuses perpetrated.”

“In order for us and the public to have confidence in the inquiry the principles of transparency and openness need to be upheld.”

 

The letter in full:

c/o Birnberg Pierce Solicitors
14 Inverness Street
London
NW1 7HJ

19th September 2017

Dear Amber Rudd,

Undercover Policing Public Inquiry

We are writing to request a meeting with you to discuss our serious concerns about the progress and recent direction of the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing. We are women who were deceived into long-term intimate sexual relationships with undercover police officers over a time span of nearly thirty years. Our experiences may only be the tip of the iceberg. We are aware of other women who have been similarly deceived and believe it extremely likely that there are still more women, and possibly also children, who have yet to find out. The extent and nature of this practice amounts to institutional sexism.

As you know, the Inquiry was set up in response to revelations about the conduct of undercover police officers in political policing units such as the Special Demonstration Squad and National Public Order Intelligence Unit who had committed serious human rights abuses. These abuses were brought to light not by the police, but through the investigations of women who suffered at the hands of these officers, combined with the actions of the whistle-blower Peter Francis, and investigations by journalists.

In correspondence with the previous Home Secretary, (letter sent 11.2.15 through our solicitor, Harriet Wistrich), we stressed the importance of transparency in the Public Inquiry. This is essential in order for the truth to be known, the victims of undercover police abuses to understand and come to terms with what happened, and for the public to have any confidence in the Public Inquiry. We are alarmed, therefore, that two years into the Inquiry, the public has learned nothing new about the extent of these abuses or how they were allowed to happen. Even the names of the 1000+ groups spied on have still not been released.

In addition we are alarmed by the appointment of Sir John Mitting as Inquiry Chair, and by the fact that this was announced on August 2nd when many lawyers and/or their clients were on holiday making it difficult to raise any objections. We feel that this demonstrates again a lack of respect for those abused by the police. Since Sir John Mitting became Inquiry Chair it appears that there has been a significant shift towards greater secrecy.  We believe that his background as Vice President of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal since 2015 is likely to have influenced this shift and we are concerned that steps need to be taken immediately to rectify this and increase transparency.

Institutional Sexism
We also understand that Sir John Mitting is a member of the Garrick Club which has consistently voted to exclude women from membership and to remain a men-only club.  We question how someone who accepts the principles of membership of such a club can be suited to a role that will involve investigating sexist practices and making judgements on what we consider to be clear evidence of institutional sexism within the police and wider legal system.

It is noteworthy that in the ‘Two Year Update’ produced by the Public Inquiry in July, the word ‘women’ does not appear at all, despite the seriousness of the abuses committed against us and other women by undercover police officers.  While there are references to the sensitive issue of dead children’s identities being used for cover purposes, there are no such references to the long-term abuse of women.  We also note that the recently published timeline in that document failed to include the public apology issued to us by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) which acknowledged that we were subject to human rights abuses by undercover police officers. We attach a copy of this apology in case you are not familiar with it. It is clear from these omissions that the Inquiry is failing to take seriously the grave abuses we and other women suffered at the hands of the police.

In light of all these matters it is extremely difficult for us to have any confidence that the Inquiry will properly investigate the abuses we have been subjected to, or put in place measures to ensure that they never happen again to anyone else.

We seek a meeting to resolve the following concerns:

1. What steps will be taken to ensure that the Inquiry has sufficient knowledge and understanding of sexism and its effects to be able to identify and address the clear institutional sexism which has been revealed by the repeated use and abuse of women (over the course of several decades) who were deceived into intimate sexual relationships by undercover police officers.

2. What steps will be taken to ensure that the Inquiry is open and transparent, so that the public can have confidence in its findings?  In the recent indicative and final rulings by Sir John Mitting on restriction order applications by the MPS, he has repeatedly come down in favour of secrecy for the police at the expense of truth for the victims and public; the secrecy approach taken by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal of which he is Vice President is definitely not an appropriate approach to bring to a public inquiry.

3. Cover names must be released, otherwise it will not be possible to identify the true scale nature of the abuses perpetrated. Women and children may be left unable to make sense of events in their lives, and witnesses will not be able to come forward to give evidence to the inquiry.

4. The MPS has been allowed to set the pace of the Inquiry with severe and ongoing delays and applications for secrecy, and despite a huge budget have been allowed every latitude to delay still further. What steps will be taken to ensure that cover names are released as soon as possible?

5. The Inquiry is an investigation into serious wrongdoing by the MPS yet this same body maintains control of much of the evidence, including that which could demonstrate the guilt of officers and their managers, how can this be appropriate?

6. Evidence controlled by the MPS is not being disclosed to those spied upon. This both impacts on our ability to process what happened and hampers the Inquiry’s progress and likely success: since our investigations were instrumental in bringing human rights abuses to light, clearly if we had access to these documents we could assist with identifying areas for investigation and with correcting inaccuracies. What steps will be taken to speed up the release of material, especially of material over twenty years old, in line with the government’s twenty-year rule?

7. It is wrong that the MPS has unlimited resources to impugn those who were spied on and abused. This is a similar tactic – now thoroughly condemned – to that used by the police at Hillsborough, and it must not be allowed to continue. We are concerned in any event at the significant financial and power imbalance between the MPS resources and those of the victims of police spying. As a result of this imbalance, the non-state core participants (NSCPs) are, in practice, prevented from making submissions on issues of concern to them, whereas the MPS is able to make multiple applications of its choosing.

8. MPS documents served recently, including the Risk Assessment and Mosaic Report, contain multiple inaccuracies and offensive material. They suggest that our motives for searching for our disappeared partners were sinister and malign, rather than acknowledging that the police abuses would not have come to light without our research and that of the Undercover Research Group.

9. MPS reports repeatedly attempt to downplay the abuses committed against us and other women, or even suggest they did not happen, for example Mosaic Effect Report [4.4] uses the word allegedly regarding a woman being deceived into a sexual relationship with Bob Lambert, despite the fact that after women he deceived bravely came forward to report this abuse, even Lambert himself admitted to having four sexual relationships while undercover.

10. Public protests seeking accountability for the actions of police who have committed abuses have offensively been labelled harassment [e.g. Risk Assessment Briefing Note 10.12] despite the fact that protest is a protected right. Furthermore, as none of the officers have been prosecuted or disciplined for the human rights abuses they have committed, the public clearly cannot rely on the state for accountability. What steps will be taken to ensure that this abuse of victims and public resources does not continue?

11. It is insulting that we were required to provide intrusive psychological reports to the MPS which was responsible for the abuse and invasion of privacy we were subjected to, yet neither we nor our lawyers are allowed to see or challenge police psychological reports being used by the MPS to argue for secrecy at the Inquiry.

12. The fact that the Chair is minded to accept secrecy in the Inquiry around the identities and actions of officers and units who committed serious abuses, for fear that openness would cause too much stress or potentially harm those officers, is of grave concern. This is not a privilege generally extended to anyone else accused or under investigation, and looks alarmingly like an attempt to protect the reputation of the police.

13. The disparity between the cavalier approach to the privacy of victims of undercover policing compared to the cautiousness towards the MPS, evidenced by data breaches relating to NSCPs, including the recent publication by the Inquiry of the real name of one of us despite a court order with penal notice prohibiting this.

We request a meeting with you at your earliest convenience to discuss our concerns.

Yours sincerely*,

Alison
Andrea
Belinda Harvey
Helen Steel
Jane
Jessica
Kate Wilson
Lisa
“Lizzie”
Monica
Naomi
Rosa
Ruth

* Names in inverted commas are the pseudonyms by which we are known to the Public Inquiry

Spied-on Activist Demands Answers at European Parliament

Jason Kirkpatrick

Jason Kirkpatrick

Whilst the slow progress of the undercover policing inquiry has left most of the important questions unanswered, it nonetheless offers the possibility of a measure of truth and justice. However, as it is limited to examining events in England and Wales, people targeted by Britain’s political secret police in other countries have no such hope.

One of these is Jason Kirkpatrick. On 6 September 2017 he addressed MEPs at the European Parliament:

One day in late 2010 I came home after a long day, turned on my computer, and opened up an email from a friend asking me: “Have you seen this link?”

I clicked on the link, and an article opened up, with two big pictures of my good friend Mark Kennedy on it. The headline read, “Mark Kennedy exposed as undercover police officer.

I was shocked, I couldn’t believe it. I felt like my head was spinning. I had met Kennedy in Dublin, Ireland, and we had travelled together to Northern Ireland as we gave public lectures about issues of poverty in Africa and climate change, and the coming G8 protests in Scotland. We had met various times in Scotland, and travelled to Germany and Poland together as we shared activist tales and grew closer. He had visited my Berlin home numerous times, and I had visited him in the UK. For a period of five years beginning in 2005, I felt like we were very close friends, and that’s what I was led to believe were his feelings too.

At the time of Kennedy’s outing, I was stunned to find out I had been so intimately targeted for so long. I felt I hadn’t been doing anything worthy of being targeted across European borders by an undercover agent. I had been an activist working on issues of debt reduction for the global south, or issues around the environment and climate change. My background included press and lobby work, and I am a former Vice-Mayor from California.

My activism during the time I was targeted by an undercover officer had consisted mainly of giving public lectures, and writing press releases and giving press interviews. I had never so much as been arrested at any point of the nearly 20 years I’ve lived in Europe, so to this day I’ve wondered why an undercover officer from England targeted me.

I also wonder why Kennedy had intimate relations across Europe with a number of people I knew, and who knew about it? Why is it police repeatedly say they need to use undercover police to catch violent extremist criminals, yet during the five years I was befriended by Kennedy and in the time since, I wasn’t ever arrested for any crime at all.

I currently have lawyers helping me try to get answers to such questions, in European jurisdictions including Germany, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England. So far none of them have even been able to get my police file in any of these countries, which would be the first step to my finding justice.

I’ve written and spoken to Members of Parliament and Government Ministers from many of these jurisdictions about this subject, each time having to explain to them in detail, and educate them from the beginning, just to get them to understand that this is a serious problem. Each time I’m told effectively in the beginning, “That couldn’t happen here, our police wouldn’t do such things.” However, in the end, myself and other campaigners have successfully continued to expose the dirty laundry of these police, to the point where recently even the N. Irish Justice Minister declared that having an Inquiry like the English Undercover Policing Inquiry is “imperative” for Northern Ireland.

Because of this, I have a case coming to the N. Irish High Court in mid-October. Yet, these issues need to be examined at the European level. Cross border operations are informally coordinated at the EU level by secret groups such as the ECG, European Cooperation Group on Undercover Activities, or the IWG, the International Working Group on Police Undercover Activities. These groups were not even publicly known in my current home in Germany, until a series of Parliamentary Questions exposed the groups in 2012.

Not only were these organisations unknown to German parliamentarians, but when I’ve spoken to MPs of other nations, they’ve never heard of them either. That’s because the police have successfully and clandestinely organised a way for their undercover officers to operate totally without transparency, accountability, or political oversight.

Whistleblower undercover officer Peter Francis revealed that UK secret police units, at least from his experience, received “absolutely zero schooling in any law whatsoever” before crossing national borders. Not only was Francis not properly informed about differing foreign laws before crossing borders, but he stated,

“I was never briefed, say for example, if I was in Germany I couldn’t do, this for example, engage in sexual relationships or something else.”

Most of the exposed undercover officers from these units had intimate relationships with their activist targets, included taking these unknowing partners across European borders, possibly violating further European Union or other national human rights protections. The British police have unreservedly apologised to women abused in this way, saying that

‘these relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma’.

Yet these same officers did the same thing to other women across Europe and beyond. Those other women deserve answers and justice just as much as their British counterparts.

When the state wants to tap someone’s phone or search a home, usually a judge’s permission is needed. But police agencies across Europe have found a trick to avoid all oversight and accountability by requesting the use of foreign undercover police to cross borders to act as political police, entering the homes and lives of political campaigners. They are acting as a counter-democratic secret police.

The truth we have recently exposed is just the tip of the iceberg. Barely 10% of the officers who worked in these units have been exposed, yet we already know of dozens of visits to 16 different countries outside the UK. We know that German undercover police have been in the UK. How many more European citizens have been spied on and violated by unaccountable agents of other states?

If these police are going to be held to account, this problem will have to be solved by Members of the European Parliament taking concrete action to find out what is going on, and to change the situation. Cross-border undercover political policing operations must not be allowed to continue completely ignoring the European Human Rights protections that make up the backbone of the European Union, and define core European values.


Jason Kirkpatrick is directing the documentary Spied Upon.

Police Demand Money From Compensated Spycops Victim

Helen Steel at the Royal Courts of Justice

Helen Steel at the Royal Courts of Justice

The Metropolitan Police are demanding £7,000 from a woman they paid damages to after she discovered that her long-term partner was a police spy. The claim is part of their ongoing campaign for secrecy around political undercover police units who have committed human rights abuses.

Helen Steel has been a lifelong social justice campaigner. In the 1990s she was one of the defendants in the McLibel trial, which arose after McDonald’s sued campaigners for libel over a leaflet produced by London Greenpeace. McDonald’s spent millions on the case, but a public support campaign meant the trial was dubbed ‘the greatest corporate PR disaster in history’.

POLICE SPIES AND CORPORATE SPIES

At the trial it was revealed that London Greenpeace had been infiltrated by several corporate spies hired by McDonald’s. But it was only years later that it emerged the group was also infiltrated by undercover police officers from the now-disgraced Special Demonstration Squad. One of them, Bob Lambert, co-wrote the What’s Wrong With McDonald’s leaflet that caused the trial, though this fact was kept from the court. Another officer in the group, John Dines, deceived Steel into a two-year relationship. They lived together, discussed starting a family and planned to spend the rest of their lives with one another. Then Dines feigned a breakdown and disappeared from Steel’s life back into his police career.

In 2011, Steel was one of a group of eight similarly deceived women who brought a legal case against the Metropolitan Police for abuse by five undercover officers. The Met spent many years and huge sums of public money obstructing the case.

NEITHER CONFIRM NOR DENY

After almost three years of the Met claiming they could ‘neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND) that anyone was an undercover officer – a tactic Steel forensically dismantled at a later public inquiry hearing – in 2014 the courts forced their hand.

The women challenged the police use of NCND. In July 2014 they won an important victory when the High Court ruled that there was no legitimate public interest in the Met Police asserting NCND in respect of the allegations that officers had engaged in long term intimate sexual relationships while undercover.

The Court also ruled that as Bob Lambert and Jim Boyling had already been publicly confirmed as undercover officers, the police could no longer maintain NCND in respect of their identities.

MET POLICE CONTINUE TO HIDE THE TRUTH

However, regarding Mark Jenner and John Dines, the Judge said that although the evidence amassed by the women was overwhelming, and it was surely only a matter of time until they were confirmed, he could not force the naming of people who hadn’t outed themselves.

As Steel said at the time

‘It is very disappointing that despite the overwhelming evidence our former partners John Dines and Mark Jenner were also undercover SDS officers, the Judge has allowed the Met to continue to hide the truth about them.’

Steel put in an appeal against this decision. These men were not private individuals, they had been acting as public servants, so the public had a right to know.

A few months after this appeal was lodged the Met held talks with the women to seek a settlement for their civil claims. Just before Christmas 2014 the Met agreed to apologise to the women, though it wasn’t finalised and published for another 11 months.

On 31st December 2014, the Appeal Court agreed that NCND was an important issue and Steel’s argument was well-grounded. They granted her leave to appeal.

COURT GRANTS APPEAL, MET CLAIMS DECEPTION

The Met, with their tactic of trying anything to undermine those they have victimised, attempted to get the appeal struck out. They claimed Steel had misled the appeal court by not informing them that a settlement had been agreed. This was an underhanded trick, given that the settlement hadn’t been finalised, she was unrepresented for the appeal, and the events happened over the Christmas period when people are generally not focussed on legal proceedings.

Steel argued that it was in the public interest to name those responsible for the abuses. A hearing for the Met’s strike-out application took place in July 2015. Steel was unrepresented, and mentally exhausted from the long battle for the truth. She reluctantly acceded to the court’s twofold advice.

Firstly, if she lost the appeal she would be liable to pay the Met’s legal costs, which could wipe out her entire damages in the main claim. Secondly, the forthcoming public inquiry would provide a safer route to argue about the use of NCND and the release of spycops’ names as there were no costs risks. 

STEEL DROPS APPEAL, MET CLAIMS £10,000 COSTS

Letter from Metropolitan Police to Helen Steel demanding £7,000Despite the hearing lasting only about an hour, the police then claimed over £10,000 costs. Although later reduced to £7,000, the ludicrous amounts charged act as a deterrent, intimidating members of the public seeking accountability for wrongdoing committed by police officers. The threat of such an award can be used by the police as a means to intimidate people out of seeking redress.

The police’s whole argument – that a settlement was agreed – rested on them issuing an apology admitting these men were Met officers who inexcusably abused women. The Met concede they were wrong, and that the women who were deceived into relationships were blameless. Why should officers who have abused members of the public be allowed to hide behind a wall of secrecy?

The apology came with damages for the harm caused by the extreme deception. The Met are now trying to claw money back from a woman they victimised because she tried to get them to do something that they should have done anyway.

PARTIAL CONFIRMATION, MORE DENIAL

The Undercover Policing Inquiry eventually confirmed that Dines was a police officer in December 2016 – a grudging and minimal admission that Steel excoriated. To this day, the police won’t admit Mark Jenner was the undercover officer Mark Cassidy, even though he’s been publicly identified since January 2011.

Women deceived into intimate relationships by undercover police officers want to ensure that these human rights abuses never happen to anyone else. This requires the Met to stop protecting the identities of the abusers. It also requires a legal system that allows funding to enable those who have been abused to challenge their abusers without the risk of becoming bankrupt or losing their homes.

For the Met to have abused these women is horrific enough. For them to inflict the second injustice of legal tricks and obstructions compounds their cruelty. To then to go after Helen Steel for money is an utterly outrageous further leap into the shameless bullying and corruption that has driven their response to the spycops scandal from the start.

Why is Spycop Andy Coles Still Silent?

Andy Coles wearing a Conservative Party rosetteFormer undercover police officer Andy Coles will not be investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the watchdog announced earlier this month.

He was referred to the IPCC after his exposure as an ex-member of the disgraced Special Demonstration Squad in May, which included details of how he groomed a teenager known as Jessica into a sexual relationship during his time infiltrating animal rights and peace groups.

She described it in a statement:

‘Although I was 19, I had never been in a proper relationship before. Events in my life had taught me it’s best to keep people at arm’s length. So, I didn’t know how to react when he made advances towards me, I was embarrassed, awkward, and what truly makes me feel sick now, is that I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I look back now and realise I was naive, idealistic, unsophisticated and a very young 19.

‘Appallingly I also now know my new “boyfriend” was a 32 year old, married undercover policeman working for the SDS, Special Demonstration Squad. I had believed him to be about 24 at the time…

‘Although not legally underage, I feel that my youth and vulnerability were used to target me. I was groomed by someone much older, and far more experienced (he had been an acting police officer for 10 years) and I was manipulated into having a sexual relationship with him.’

The Undercover Policing Inquiry, which is examining the misdeeds of Britain’s political secret police, recently designated Jessica as a core participant, a status given to less than 200 of the most significantly targeted people.

Three days after being publicly exposed on Channel 4 News, Coles resigned as Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire, despite being less than a year into the £28,000pa part-time role.

But now the Independent Police Complaints Commission, a body largely comprised of people who, like Coles, are ex-police officers, have decided there is nothing worth looking at, just as they did with other abusive spycops. They did not consult Jessica, nor any of the other women Coles sexually abused. Nothing has been investigated.

However, in some ways it does not need to be, because the issue rests on three simple and indisputable facts.

1 – Andy Coles was the Special Demonstration Squad officer known as Andy Davey

2 – He deceived Jessica into a relationship

3 – This was an abuse of police power, a violation of her human rights and far beyond anything police could ever justify

Although that last point is strongly worded, it is the emphatic and unequivocal position of the Met themselves, as explained by Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt [text or video].

‘it has become apparent that some officers, acting undercover whilst seeking to infiltrate protest groups, entered into long-term intimate sexual relationships with women which 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. I unreservedly apologise on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Service… relationships like these should never have happened. They were wrong and were a gross violation of personal dignity and integrity…

‘none of the women with whom the undercover officers had a relationship brought it on themselves. They were deceived pure and simple. I want to make it clear that the Metropolitan Police does not suggest that any of these women could be in any way criticized for the way in which these relationships developed.’

Coles has promoted himself as a figure of civic credibility, becoming governor at two schools, being the opening speaker at this year’s annual conference of Link to Change (an organisation supporting young people facing sexual exploitation). He personally endorsed the Children’s Society’s Seriously Awkward campaign to protect older teenagers from abuse and sexual exploitation.

Andy Coles promoting the Children's Scoiety's Seriously Awkward campaign

He must have known all this was richly hypocritical but hoped that he would be able to keep his past secret. As soon as he was unmasked, his position as Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner became instantly untenable and he resigned.

COUNCIL CANCELLED

Despite all this, Coles is retaining his position as a Conservative member of Peterborough City Council, defying cross-party calls for him to step down from that post too.

Human Rights Abuser Andy Coles banner, Peterborough Town Hall

Human Rights Abuser Andy Coles banner made by Jessica, Peterborough Town Hall, 19 July 2017

Dozens of people attended a protest outside the council meeting on 19 July. Hundreds of leaflets about Coles were given out to those passing or entering the Town Hall. The protest included spycops campaigners alongside LibDem councillors, and representatives of Peterborough’s Labour and Green parties.

The council refused to consider a question, submitted by Jessica, on Coles’ suitability for his role. A banner she made was hung from the public gallery. The Mayor refused to continue the meeting until it was taken down; protesters refused to remove it while Coles was present; he refused to leave. After an hour of this stalemate, the Mayor abandoned the meeting.

IF YOU’VE NOTHING TO HIDE YOU’VE NOTHING TO FEAR

Council leader John Holdich OBE told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire that Coles was ‘not allowed to make a comment about it’, but this is not true. Several exposed spycops have given statements and interviews. It is Coles’ choice not to speak, which is odd if he feels his position were in any way defensible.

Holdich went on to defend Coles’ refusal to resign from the council.

‘Until you’re proved guilty, why should you get out? That’s a sign of your guilt, isn’t it, if you resign?’

But this was two months after Coles had resigned as Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire. What was that then, if not a sign of his guilt?

Coles said he was unable to comment on the matter, pending the IPCC’s decision. But now there is to be no criminal trial that could be influenced, he is free to come forward and explain. If it’s possible for him to exonerate himself in the way his fellow Conservative – and an outlier LibDem – councillors say they expect, why isn’t he doing it?

He knows no denial is possible. He knows there is no doubt that if he had been unmasked sooner, he would have been among those that the Met already condemned and apologised for. He behaved in the same way as other sexually abusive officers. There is no excuse. There is no justification.

He grossly abused a position of trust while in public office. He has no place in a public body with any measure of integrity.

There is a meeting of Peterborough City Council on 11 October. If Coles is still a councillor, there will be a protest outside.

Three New Spycops Named – But Others Get Hidden

Troops Out Movement demonstration at military recruitment office

Troops Out Movement demonstration at military recruitment office

The public inquiry into undercover political policing has published three new names of spycops and, for the first time, they’re new names rather than just confirming what activists, whistleblowers and journalists had already revealed.

However, among the hefty tranche of new papers from Inquiry Chair Sir John Mitting are grave indications of that he is seeking to prevent the full truth coming to light.

Having dragged out the process of beginning the inquiry for years, earlier this year the Metropolitan Police were given a firm timetable for applying for ‘restriction orders’ for the anonymity of undercover officers.

As expected, the Met are pushing for maximum secrecy, arguing that it would make officers worried and sad to be publicly known for what they’ve done. The Met also argue that the officers would be at risk of violent reprisal, despite nothing of the kind happening to the swathe of officers who have been very publicly exposed since 2010. With deadlines passing, the Met have had their hand forced and, finally, we are getting a small measure of new information from the Inquiry.

THREE NEW SPYCOPS

As had been suggested by some victims, the new names are all from the early days of the Special Demonstration Squad in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With those involved being of advanced age, there’s some merit in tackling these cases first. Indeed, one of the three newly named officers is already dead.

We’ve been given only the officers’ cover names, but not their real identity. These three releases have major redactions, including whether the officer had intimate relationships or was arrested. Given the long history of SDS officers having such abusive relationships and instigating miscarriages of justice, these are very serious omissions.

John Graham‘ was deployed in 1968, the first year of the Special Demonstration Squad, to infiltrate the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (Kilburn and Willesden Branch), and says the worst thing anyone in the group ever suggested doing was jumping on the back of a police officer. He also spied on the Revolutionary Socialist Students Federation.

In 1969 his deployment was cut short when he refused a senior officers instruction to attend a certain meeting, feeling it would have exposed him. He was moved to other duties shortly after. The Undercover Research Group have produced a profile of John Graham.

Rick Gibson‘ spied on left wing groups between 1974 and 1976. He infiltrated socialist feminist campaign/newspaper Big Flame, and became a prominent member of the south-east London branch of the Troops Out Movement which campaigns to end British involvement in Northern Ireland.

The police say that in 1976 Gibson was confronted by a Big Flame activist who had become suspicious of him and discovered that he was – as was standard for spycops at the time – using the identity of a dead child. Gibson said that he was indeed using a false identity as he was on the run from the police, and his comrades could not be certain that he was a spy. His deployment was ended shortly afterwards. He is now dead.

Doug Edwards‘ was one of the earliest Special Demonstration Squad officers, deployed between 1968 and 1971. He infiltrated anarchist groups, and says that ‘some of them were quite nasty pieces of work’. He then moved on to the Dambusters Mobilising Committee, a coalition opposed to the huge Cabora Bassa dam project in the then-Portuguese colony of Mozambique, a collaboration between apartheid South Africa, Rhodesia and Portugal to supply electricity to South Africa.

Like so many of his colleagues, he was very active in groups he infiltrated, becoming treasurer of Cuban-founded group Tricontinental. He also describes going to a wedding, showing that ‘collateral intrusion’ into the lives of those around the spied-upon has always been part of how spycops work.

He continues

‘Some of the people in these groups were really nice, pleasant, intelligent people. They were different politically in their views, but in this country you can have different political views.’

He says

‘I think the whole thing has been blown out of proportion… I don’t have anything to hide and I’ll answer all questions, I won’t mind’

But then he immediately backtracks with

‘I don’t want all this dragging up though when it was 50 years ago… I don’t want the interference at my stage of life.’

 

These three bring the total of exposed undercover officers to 23 out of a total of at least 144.

DOORS CLOSING BEFORE THEY OPEN

The three newly named spycops are among 28 whose anonymity has been considered by the inquiry. The Inquiry has published a brief profile of each of them, with a position on their anonymity.

Of the 25 still unnamed:

  • 2 aren’t being named yet but the Chair intends to release the cover names soon
  • 3 are dead with no known cover name, their real names will be published later
  • 2 have no known cover name and the Inquiry won’t release the real name
  • 3 have both cover and real names known and the Chair intends to withhold both
  • 1 has already had the cover name confirmed, and the Chair intends to withhold the real name
  • 3 are undecided pending further information
  • 3 are having secret hearings with the Inquiry before a decision is made
  • 1 has been given more time to apply for anonymity
  • 7 were backroom staff so had no cover name, their real names will be published later

Put another way, they have taken decisions on eight officers and are withholding the cover names of three. This is not a good ratio. Without the publication of the overwhelming majority of cover names we cannot know who was spied on, so we cannot hear from victims and establish the truth.

Mitting is giving a lot of weight to the possible psychological impacts on spycops if they are named, but since when are abusers given protection because exposure would be detrimental to them?

As Pitchford Watcher’s analysis of Mitting’s statement explained

‘In one case, that of ‘HN7’, he has already given a unilateral order for anonymity on the basis of HN7’s mental health. For others, he is accepting that the minimal risk of press intrusion may be sufficient for such anonymity orders, even when there is no risk to safety. In another instance, his main concern is the effect on the widow of an undercover.

‘He also appears to be of the opinion that he can do what he needs to meet the terms of reference of the Inquiry, just by reference to cyphers and cover names, an approach that increases secrecy and further limits participation by those targeted by the undercovers. These core participants believe that in doing this, he is completely disregarding their needs and that they are being denied the right to the truth.’

THE LAWRENCE FAMILY SPY

Of the three officers applying for full anonymity who will have secret hearings before a decision, one is officer N81, who spied on Stephen Lawrence’s family as they campaigned for justice for their murdered son.

Doreen Lawrence has been very clear about the need to know who spied on her, telling the Guardian in 2015

‘They were doing the deception. Why should they be allowed to be anonymous while people like me had their faces all over the newspapers? These people were not innocent. They knew what they were doing.’

This is the key issue at the moment for many of the people targeted. The cover names of the officers and the names of the groups they spied on are not optional or incidental. They are the sole foundation on which the truth can be established. Whether to publish them should not be an issue to wrestle with, it should not be the focus of the discussion, it should be a given.

Inquiry core participant Carolyn Wilson told Pitchford Watcher

‘The police tend to tell us “If you’ve nothing to hide, then you’ve got nothing to fear”. People are trying to come to terms with the very real trauma of finding out they’d been deceived into intimate relationships with cops from these secret units. They are desperate for information so they can deal with what’s happened, and heal their lives.

‘How dare those same cops now have the nerve to claim that they face being “traumatised” by details of their past activities being brought out in public? If they haven’t done anything wrong, why would they be embarrassed about their neighbours and families finding out about it all?’

This inquiry is not about arbitrating between equals. It is about establishing the full truth about the known abuses of power committed by these disgraced units against citizens and democracy. If it does not publish the overwhelming majority of cover names it defies its purpose, protects the guilty and betrays the victims.