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Spycops Demand Freedom from Accountability

Demonstration against Andy Coles, Peterborough Town Hall ,11 Oct 2017

Demonstration against Andy Coles, Peterborough Town Hall, 11 October 2017

Former undercover officers from Britain’s political secret police are demanding anonymity from the public inquiry.

They claim having their real names published puts them at risk of harassment and physical harm from those they spied on, and also presents ‘a real risk to employment and reputation’.

Though police give the media details of countless accused but unconvicted citizens every day, they seem to feel officers from these disgraced units are a breed apart who deserve much greater privacy.

The spycops say they fear they may become the target of the kind of harassment experienced by exposed officers Bob Lambert, Andy Coles and Jim Boyling. Except this is not harassment.

Boyling has not been subjected to any organised campaigning. Rather, he complains that on two occasions people he spied on have bumped into him and briefly remonstrated with him, and even he says that isn’t actually intimidation, let alone violence. He suggests that when two cars in his street got damaged it might have been the work of vengeant activists, even though there was nothing to indicate who did it or that it was aimed at him.


Bob Lambert and Andy Coles have both been the subjects of organised campaigns. The focus has not been them as individuals, but them being in roles which are wholly inappropriate – the list of incidents compiled by the police’s own lawyers plainly shows this.

Meanwhile, Lambert complains that he has been called a rapist. Whether his, and other spycops’, sexual abuse amounts to rape is something that is still untested in law. However, many of the deceived women have made it clear that they did not and could not give informed consent.

Jacqui, who was deceived by Lambert into a two year relationship and having a child, said:

‘I was not consenting to sleeping with Bob Lambert, I didn’t know who Bob Lambert was… it is like being raped by the state. We feel that we were sexually abused because none of us gave consent.’

The rest of the things on Lambert’s list of supposed intimidation he’s suffered all happened to him in his public roles, with the possible exception of two incidents of being ‘confronted by hostile activists while travelling to work’. He says himself that, like Boyling, he has not been subjected to any violence.

It seems both Lambert and Coles failed to tell their employers about their past, implying that they knew the people hiring them would take a dim view of it. In other words, they know the reasonable citizen is likely to see them as abusers. As soon as he was exposed in May this year, Coles resigned as Cambridgeshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner without any prompting.

This is not about officers being hounded by rabid activists out for revenge, it’s an unwillingness to face the justified shame and scorn they would receive as people who have committed appalling acts.

We don’t see people in other walks of life even attempting this sort of thing. No bank robber has been found guilty and then asked to be kept anonymous as it will upset them if their neighbours find out or it might make future employers think they’re untrustworthy. The spycops aren’t asking for protection from harassment, they are really demanding immunity from accountability.


When he was exposed in 2011, Lambert was teaching a new generation of police managers at universities (he resigned in 2015). Coles, who sexually groomed a teenager whilst undercover, is a City Councillor and school governor.

Another one is John Dines, who abused Helen Steel whilst undercover in the 1990s. Because she knows his real name, Steel discovered he is training political undercover police in Australia.

Helen Steel confronts John Dines, 2016

Helen Steel (right) confronts ex-spycop John Dines, March 2016

These men all grossly abused their positions of power to violate the citizens they are supposed to protect and undermine the democracy they are supposed to serve. No other public servant could act so shamefully, so far from the intended purpose of their agency, and expect to be shielded from the discomfort of public opprobrium.

The other exposed officers, despite having perpetrated similar abuses which many would think justifies their being confronted, have been not challenged like this at all – quite the opposite.

The activists who exposed Mark Kennedy went to great lengths to protect the identities of his family (which Kennedy then published when he sold his story to the Mail on Sunday). The group who exposed Carlo Neri withheld his real name to protect his children. They have even withheld the full cover names of officers ‘RC‘, Gary R and Abigail L.

Numerous officers’ current whereabouts are known to activists and researchers. As far as we know, none of them have been threatened with any physical harm and no effort has been made to confront them in their private life. They have only been targeted if they are in roles for which, as one journalist put it, they are ‘uniquely unqualified‘. 

If anything, the campaigners have engaged in the lawful democratic processes that the spycops sought to suppress and undermine. The institutions Lambert and Coles are involved in have been leafleted and spoken to, dealing in facts. Since Lambert resigned from his teaching roles he appears to have been left alone. The same is likely to happen to Andy Coles once he bows to the inevitable and relinquishes his remaining positions of civic trust.


Publishing a spycop’s cover name still leaves the officer hidden, but it lets those who knew them while undercover come forward and tell us what happened. It is the essential prerequisite to getting the truth.

Just having a cover name published does not lead to an officer’s real identity being known. Indeed, that is the whole point of a fake identity. Long-exposed officers such as Rod Richardson and Lynn Watson are still living in anonymity because, unlike the others, they did not give their real names. But when an officer remains unknown to the public, what else is being hidden?

Without the real names, we would never have known that Lambert was using his disgraced past as a platform to pass on his ideas to his successors. We would not know that Andy Coles, who groomed a naive teenager for sex, has positioned himself in inappropriate roles in which he’s endorsing agencies trying to protect older teenagers at risk of sexual exploitation. Who knows how many other ex-spycops are still perpetuating their abuses?

The Catholic church has been condemned for its former practice of dealing with abusive priests by paying off victims and moving the offender to a new parish where the unaware congregation was left vulnerable to further abuse. Withholding spycops’ real names has a similar effect. 

Even if we believe exposing them really would put them at risk, it is still not necessarily a reason to grant them anonymity. As Phillippa Kaufmann QC pointed out to the Inquiry last month, the state is used to dealing with such things in witness protection schemes, providing assured security for people at far greater risk – and a lot less guilty – than spycops.

Doreen Lawrence, whose family’s campaign was spied on, said:

‘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.’

Those officers who have done nothing wrong have nothing to fear. Those who have done wrong should be held to account. It cannot begin to happen without the release of the cover names. It cannot properly happen without the release of the real names.

Report: Undercover Policing Inquiry’s First Mitting Hearing

'Undercover is No Excuse for Abuse' banner at the Royal Courts of JusticeA long account of Mitting’s first hearing: legal arguments

by Dónal O’Driscoll, Undercover Research Group

The 20th & 21st November saw the first open hearing of the Undercover Policing Inquiry before the new Chair, Sir John Mitting, who succeeded Christopher Pitchford earlier this year.

Prior to this hearing, Mitting released several ‘minded-to’ documents that indicated his intention to restrict details of undercover officers, and said he would provide an opening statement on the future conduct of the Inquiry under him. The victims of the spycop scandal approached the hearings with trepidation and scepticism.

In this long read, we unpick the hearing in detail, in particular how the new Chair is likely to approach the release of information on spycop deployments and their supervisors. We look at Mitting’s opening remarks and how he dealt with a protest. With much of the hearings focusing on ‘restriction order’ applications for spycops’ anonymity, we look at how he handled the various challenges thrown up by them.

It is worth noting how much the discussion has shifted. Arguments around releasing cover names have advanced considerably in favour of publishing, with debates now focusing on the degree to which real names should be revealed.

Nevertheless, Mitting has put down markers on the subject – his concerns are where there is a real risk to the officers or crucial factors relating to their health and expectations of anonymity. However, the stand out point is the moral right of those deceived into relationships to know real names.

Since the hearing, Mitting has handed down a number of rulings in response.

Note: this is the author’s own impressions from sitting through both days. There may be other readings / interpretations of how things went.

The opening statement

The Chair opened with a prepared statement on how he was planning to conduct the Inquiry. To a packed room at the Royal Courts of Justice, he acknowledged the work of his predecessor, Christopher Pitchford, in setting up the necessary infrastructure, legal and otherwise, to prepare for hearing evidence.

He reiterated Pitchford’s own statement and added his own support:

“The Inquiry’s priority is to discover the truth.” That is my priority. It is only by discovering the truth that I can fulfil the terms of the Inquiry. I am determined to do so.

He focused on the two key issues which led to the Inquiry being founded in the first place – the spying on the Stephen Lawrence campaign and undercover officers conducting sexual relationships with the women they spied on.

For the women targetted for relationships, he declared they were entitled to true accounts. This included the real names of the who deceived them, and which superior officers knew about, sanctioned or encouraged such behaviour – something, he noted, may require an exhaustive finding of facts. This went beyond mere legal reasoning, as he says the women have a compelling moral claim to know the full truth. This is a profound shift which impacted on subsequent matters.

Regarding the targeting of those connected to murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence – not just his family, but also his friend Duwayne Brooks – Mitting acknowledged the ongoing anguish still caused by the lack of definitive judgement on the events of 25 years ago. Evidence would be tested in public, insofar as possible, so releasing the cover names of undercovers involved essential. He also promised that more senior officers would have to answer publicly what they knew and how they used the intelligence gathered.

Finally, he noted that for a number of undercover officers, the risks to them arising from their deployments meant that if their evidence was to be heard, it would have to be done in closed hearings – at which the public and non-state core participants would be excluded.

For the Chair, this was preferable in order to ensure he did actually hear their evidence. He emphasised that in complex situations he would err towards solutions that got him to hear the evidence, an approach he demonstrated during one of the specific applications addressed later during the hearing.

Mitting then made ‘forecasts’, setting out his broad intentions. Everything being equal, the Inquiry would publish cover names of undercover officers unless there was sufficient ‘public interest’ not to, or it would cause risk to an officer. Their real names would, for the most part, be restricted. This commitment to a degree of openness was welcome, but how it played out in practice, in the face of the police’s arguments for secrecy, took up a significant proportion of the hearing’s second day.

Finally, senior officers (as opposed to the managers within the spycop units) should expect to give evidence in their real names unless there was risk to them or national security issues. Interestingly, Mitting noted that in most cases, national security issues were unlikely to arise, and arguments would mainly focus on the human rights of the officers concerned.

Mitting assured those spied upon that he shared the determination to uncover the wrongdoing and mistakes, and if that disrupted the lives of former undercovers at times, then so be it. However, as he reiterated several times over the two days, each application would be taken on its own specific facts, and nothing was fixed in stone.

What remained to be learned, then, was where he would set the thresholds of risk to an officer, and of the public interest to maintain secrecy, especially given that his minded-to notes indicated a large proportion of officers would be granted anonymity.

The protest

At this point, not an hour into the hearing, chants of ‘No Justice, No Peace’ came from the gallery, mostly populated with victims of spycops. Several people stood up and gave a direct response to Mitting’s words, expressing fully the anger of those spied upon. Dave Smith, a long standing campaigner from the Blacklist Support Group, gave a calm but passionate speech.

He spoke about how the emphasis in the Inquiry so far was meeting the needs of the police, and in this the rights of the victims were being forgotten. He spoke of how they were constantly being told to leave it to the British justice system and maintain a dignified silence, but feared they would end up with no justice at all and the Inquiry looked increasingly like an establishment cover-up.

Smith pointed at the imbalance of power, that on the benches before the Chair were eight barristers on behalf of the police and state. Meanwhile 180 core participants spied upon by police had just one barrister to speak for them and there was no funding for their individual lawyers to attend. It was a stark reminder, he declared, of the Inquiry’s structural bias in favour of those who carried out the abuse, and an issue that needed redressing.

Smith went on to reiterate the core demands of those spied upon: a complete release of all cover names of the undercover police from the political units, the names of all groups targeted, and providing core participants with their personal police files so they could see how they had been targeted.

Others added their voices. Helen Steel, a long term campaigner on this issue, rose to point out that while the police had three years to prepare so far, the victims had been given information in only the last week and it was a struggle for one person to prepare, let alone for the views of the many non-state/police core participants be brought together. It felt like if they were ‘being told to shut up and go away’, when it was in fact time to respect the rights of those abused.

After several more people had contributed, the protest concluded with further chants of ‘No Justice, No Peace’.

During this, Mitting sent for security guards, who took time to arrive and were unable to do much in any case. The protest, though determined, was peaceful and the Chair heard it out in the end. He acknowledged it, saying he understood their feelings, but if there was further disruptions like it, people would be removed. The gallery gave a collective shrug and settled down to hear the rest of his opening remarks.

Opening remarks continue

Mitting went on to address the task facing the Inquiry, noting that the amount of evidence facing him was formidable. Progress was being made on processing applications to restrict release of real and cover names of police, though much more work was still to be done. Open and closed hearings relating to officers from the Special Demonstration Squad were expected to complete by May 2018 – a two month slip on the previously revised timetable.

His hope was that restriction orders dealing with early deployments would finish soon and the Inquiry would being taking witness statements there. It would not wait for all restriction order applications being decided upon before starting on that side of things.

Sir John Mitting

Sir John Mitting

The Chair acknowledged a concern of the core participants, saying they would not be expected to give statements until after the police had. This had previously angered non-state/police core participants (NPSCPs), as it expected them to put their personal lives into the open, while the police continued to hide – a reversal of the normal course of things.

Redaction of material, he noted, is still a major problem, with not all IT issues resolved, meaning that redactions were still being done manually in some cases. The Metropolitan Police are in charge of the processes, and Mitting seemed to be unhappy that discussions were happening on a line by line basis for the restriction orders alone, due to their excessive desire for redaction. That was not sustainable.

At this point he sent a warning shot – if the Met continued on this route, the Inquiry would take over the process. This would potentially places a greater burden on the Inquiry itself, but for the core participants, frustrated with the endless delays, it offered some hope that police intransigence was would be tackled. It seems that Mitting, though relatively new to the job, has already built up a degree of frustration with the Metropolitan Police obstruction.

Finally, Mitting seems prepared for the Inquiry to be somewhat more accessible than under the previous Chair, seeking to have more regular meetings with the lawyers of core participants who were spied up on, and having meetings with the media.

So, all in all, it was not a statement announcing a move to greater secrecy as many had feared.

Substantive matters

Next on the agenda were the two substantive issues the hearing had to deal with: the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and a number of actual restriction orders. This was a chance to go beyond the words and get a feel for the Chair actually in action.

Over the two days, several overarching things became apparent abut Mitting. He prefers working at the level of specifics, and, unlike Pitchford, he is much more prepared to engage with the discussion in the moment. He regularly engaged with the barristers before him, whether conducting debates or clarifying his own thoughts, particularly with Phillippa Kaufmann, the lead counsel for the non-state/police core participants.

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

The first issue addressed was that of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. The police are relying on past convictions of the people they spied on to illustrate why spycops were deployed and what risks the officers might face if named. However, the Act says that after set periods of time, various types of convictions are ‘spent’, and the person convicted has the right to have them ‘forgotten’. Thus, if Mitting uses ‘spent’ convictions in any of his decision-making, he has to do it in a way that does not contravene the Act or undermine its intention (and thus the rights of those people with the convictions).

How that is done is not trivial, and though a legally technical point, it is a significant one for those spied upon. Not least as they argue the spycops engineered miscarriages of justice, so the convictions being cited by police might be miscarriages of justice of their own making.

We have explained the more technical points of discussion in a previous article so will not go into depth here. Before the hearing Mitting issued a note saying spent convictions had played little role to date when reviewing anonymity applications.

He elaborated on this in the hearing, saying that in the few cases where he had considered them, it was when an individual also had unspent convictions which went to establish a pattern of behaviour. Where a person’s convictions are all spent, then he is not taking that person’s record into account.

The NPSCPs, however, had specifically wished to respond to Mitting’s minded-to. In particular, where spent convictions were being relied on, to be able to make submissions on the those convictions. Ms Kaufmann’s argument boiled down to: Mitting may order restrictions orders on the basis of convictions that themselves would be challengeable as miscarriages of justice due to the role played by undercover police in securing those convictions. This was why the NPSCPs should be able to make submissions in each case.

Another potential consequence was that if a cover name was prevented from being released because of this, then potential miscarriages of justice would be prevented from being discovered. In such a case, the Inquiry would have made effectively made a finding of fact that there was nothing to be discovered on the incomplete evidence provided by the police.

It was argued by the police, and noted by Mitting, that it would put the Inquiry in a position of finding of facts at an early stage. The police objected to this, saying it was ‘unworkable’ and would lead to mini-trials that pre-empted the substantive, evidence stage.

The Metropolitan Police’s position was also that at this stage of proceedings there was no prejudice to those whose spent convictions were being considered, and Mitting has the power to inquire if a conviction he’s being asked to consider involved the undercover officers.

Mitting’s responded, saying he was primarily interested in convictions that indicated issues of safety and harassment to undercovers, but was proceeding on a case-by-case base. The evidence phase of the Inquiry is the appropriate place to examine miscarriages of justice.

Note: Mitting has since issued a ruling on this, whereby he effectively stuck to the position set out in his minded-to. See also our earlier article on this particular point.

Restriction order applications

Then it was on to the individual applications for ‘restriction orders’, ie anonymity for officers. This being the first public hearing on this, it would give crucial insight into how the Inquiry would proceed.

Mitting was insistent that he wanted only to hear arguments on the specifics of each case, rather than general points, as considerable written submissions had already been filed. He did not get his way on this as there were outstanding matters needing addressing at a relatively high level because they affected all the applications.

In the subsequent to-and-fro complaint was made that the police were seeking to revisit previous legal discussions around openness that had been dealt with by Pitchford. The Chair said he was not having this, reiterating that the use of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ would not be a factor in the cases before him. Likewise, alleged promises of lifetime confidentiality to officers would play little part in his decisions except in specific cases.

However, care needs to be taken when applying Mitting’s words here as they applied in the main only to the handful of applications being considered at the hearing. These focused for the most part on deployments in the 1960s and 1970s.

Likewise, he noted that while ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ would not play a role in his handling of these Special Demonstration Squad undercovers in the way it had been used in civil cases, it could still play a part in his consideration of later operations.

During these discussions Mitting declared he was not starting from the position that real names of undercovers shouldn’t be released, and not making presumptions on the release of officers’ real names in general. He asked of those before him – the core participants being kept in the dark about so many aspects of the heavily redacted material – to put their trust in him, saying they would accept he had to make the pragmatic decisions.

He also addressed material submitted by the police being used to justify fears by undercovers that they would be unlawfully harassed. This including witness statements from former spycops Jim Boyling and Bob Lambert. The Chair said he didn’t find this material persuasive, possibly as NPSCPs submitted a statement that shone a considerably different light on Boyling’s allegations.

Day One concluded once Ms Kaufmann finished setting out the non-state/police core participants general points on the restriction order applications.

Day Two

Restriction orders – general points

The opening of the second day saw general submissions from the other parties. Maya Sikand spoke on behalf of former undercover officer, the whistleblower Peter Francis.

She made plain that if there was a balance to be struck over releasing details of undercover officers then it needed to come down on the side of cover names being made public. Real names should be released where there was a moral right or in very limited circumstances.

Peter Francis

Peter Francis

Sikand also warned that an eye needed to be kept on the practical consequences of releasing real names, including that it might deter some former undercovers from coming forward.

She made the point that there is a difference between senior officers and SDS managers, the latter often having been undercovers themselves. Mitting said, however, that while this might have been the situation later on, it was not so for early managers of the unit and he would handle it on a case-by-case basis.

Sikand then challenged police material on a number of inaccuracies and wrongful allegations, including what seemed to be an attempt by the police to smear Peter Francis by claiming he stood in a ‘camp’ with The Guardian and the media, with the implication he was bringing a dubious agenda. She responded it was nothing of the sort, that Peter Francis was his own person in all of this.

The over-redaction of material by police, a point of contention, had led to it needing to be specifically asked who were the experts being relied upon – whereas in the normal course of things this would automatically be disclosed.

This eventually revealed that one police expert conducting evaluations of the undercovers is psychiatrist Dr Walter Busuttil of the The Priory clinic. This led Francis to be able to reveal that The Priory was regularly used by the Metropolitan Police. Indeed, when he was pursuing his own case against the Met, he and a fellow undercover had been referred there by them, and Busuttil was co-director at the time.

When these questions had arisen, the Metropolitan Police responded with a letter saying they were upset that aspersions were being cast against Busuttil, missing the point that the potential conflict of interest should have been disclosed up front rather than having to be teased out through questions.

Following Sikand, Ben Brandon spoke on behalf of the Metropolitan Police. He accused the NPSCPs of shifting position from earlier hearings with regards revealing real names, and argued that the public interest in having the real names of undercovers and managers was only there in some cases. Revealing them was not necessary for the success of the Inquiry.

He spent much of his time countering two particular positions Ms Kaufmann had advanced to justified releasing real names. The first was that having real names could also lead to whistleblowers coming forward to reveal other incidents of sexism and racism by those officers. Mr Brandon said that such extra evidence would make the Inquiry become unmanageable.

The second was on ‘corporate police progression’, where undercovers had gone on to more senior police ranks bringing with them their knowledge of the SDS and its malfeasance. This went to the issue of policy decisions. Mr Brandon argued this was a false assumption and needed to have the allegations of wrongdoing while undercover out in the open first before examining this point. That is, before an officer’s real identity was revealed, it had to be shown that they had done something wrong in the first place.

On both points, Mitting indicated he agreed with the police barrister, though these points were of limited consequence at this stage.

Next up was Oliver Saunders, the barrister supplied by the Metropolitan Police to represent the interests of undercovers and their managers – the ‘Designated Lawyers’ team. This is a role distinct from the Metropolitan Police as an organisation, which has its own representation – Mr Brandon, mentioned above. It is this sort of proliferation of legal representation for police that has considerably upset NPSCPs.

Mitting who wanted to know of Mr Saunders why his submissions had sought to re-open the discussions on openness which Pitchford had dealt with. He replied that the Designated Lawyers had not been in place at the time those arguments were being heard, and that regardless, some weight still had to be given to promises of confidentiality as it fed into wider aspects such as expectations in the right to privacy.

The Chair accepted this to the extent that the effect of promises of confidentiality would play some role in his decision-making. While saying this, he did acknowledge that he was not swayed by Ms Kaufmann’s argument that matters of risk should only consider physical and psychological harm, but consider it all on a case-by-case basis.

Mr Saunders elaborated on the point, arguing that officers had made choices when undertaking undercover work which had significant impacts on their lives, including building it around the need for some secrecy. There was also a mutual expectation of the state – the undercover will not talk about their deployment, and the state will not expose it. Having constructed their life around this, it then exercised their Article 8 rights to privacy. He claimed it would be wrong to change this, especially where there was no existing allegations of wrongdoing.

Mr Saunders also addressed the impact on the state’s ability to recruit further undercovers, a matter returned to at the end when it was addressed by Counsel to the Inquiry, David Barr (see below).

Individual restriction order applications

Only once the general points had been made was it possible to move on to consideration of the individual restriction order applications over the real and cover names of undercover officers, who are known by code numbers beginning ‘HN’.

There was considerable frustration by the non-state/police representatives, who were fighting their corner with one hand tied behind their backs given the amount of material that had been redacted and not even gisted. Indeed, in some cases they could make no substantive points, though Mitting was occasionally able to provide in general terms the types of reasons prominent in his decision-making.

This first tranche of officers were all Special Demonstration Squad, either from the early days of the unit in the 1960s and 1970s, or connected to the spying on the Stephen Lawrence campaign.


First up was HN16. In this case restriction on real and cover name were sought due to sensitivity of the deployment. Mitting was concerned about the risk to N16’s current employment, and wanted to deal with both cover and real name together. This was opposed by the NPSCPs who said the cover name could still be disclosed. The police responded saying it was better to make complete decisions rather than bit by bit. Mitting replied that ideally all decisions regarding restriction orders for a particular officer would be made at once, but that was subject to provisos and all decisions were subject to review – a real possibility in this case of HN16.

  • Mitting has subsequently ruled that HN16’s cover name will released but not his real name.


HN58 is not only a former undercover, but also a leading SDS manager at the time of the spying on the Lawrences. The issue here was whether both the cover and real name should be revealed given the different positions he had held within the SDS. This meant resolving the tension between revealing the names of managers who had overseen spying on the Lawrences, and cover names in case there were earlier relationships or miscarriages of justice that needed to come to light.

The initial discussion revolved around the point of releasing cover names into the public in the first place. Jonathan Hall, for the Met, argued that the Inquiry shouldn’t disclose simply on the chance that something might turn up; that closed hearings should be treated as being of value and did not shut down the effectiveness of the Inquiry as the Chair was in a position to test material.

Mitting responded that his predecessor had rightly rejected a closed Inquiry and needed to look at individual officers. He also reiterated that if material on relationships were to come out then real names had to be released.

Hall continued to object, saying it was dangerous to release all cover names on the off-chance of revealing a relationship, and that some information may never come to light. The Chair partially agreed here, saying that the Lawrence issue was more important than a potential undercover one.

Ms Sikand said that Peter Francis believed that if it came down to it, then the choice should be to release the cover name in the first instance, but senior officers needed to account for their decisions. Hence, there was an additional public interest in the real identify being revealed.

She also pointed out that the risk assessment put the threat to N58 as low, something Peter Francis agreed with. Mitting answered that saying it was not possible to resolve in open hearing, but the tension between the principles he had set out would require a closed hearing. He told Ms Kaufmann that the NPSCPs could not know if there was no significant risk to N58, but that though the risk assessments were helpful, they were not determining his views.

  • Mitting has subsequently ruled that there will have to be a closed hearing to determine his how he would rule on HN58.


Next was HN68, deceased, who had been a manager as well as an undercover. The argument here focused on the rights of his widow who had concerns over her husband’s name being revealed. Again the police returned to confidentiality issues, that the Inquiry could proceed without the real name and it would be unfair to cause the widow upset on speculative grounds. Mitting noted that as N68 was dead, he couldn’t be called on to account for his actions in any case so revealing his real name would not be particularly helpful. The Inquiry could rely on his personnel records if needed.

  • Mitting has subsequently ruled that HN68’s cover name will released but not his real name.


This was followed by HN81, a key officer given his role in spying on the campaigns around Stephen Lawrence’s murder. Mitting made it clear that what was in his mind was not the physical risk to the undercover, but the state of his mental health. Ms Kaufmann complained that this has not been sufficiently revealed, to which the Chair said it had been explored in a previous closed hearing including ways to mitigate the risk. Ms Kaufmann asked that the release of the real name was kept under review, but was rebuffed on the grounds that even saying this may exacerbate N81’s issues.

It was conceded by the Metropolitan Police that the cover name needed to come out. They would not seek to protect their own interest in this, but maintained HN81’s real name should not be revealed.

Mitting took the position that the cover name and the group targeted would be revealed, but time would be given to HN81 to prepare for this. He subsequently ruled to this effect.


Following HN81 was HN104, better known as Carlo Neri. This was a whole different type of discussion as the real name is actually known to many of those he spied upon. The point put to the Inquiry by the NPSCPs was that the real name needed to come out – basically, if you don’t do it, it will be done in any case. Ms Kaufmann maintained the point that though the family of HN104 had its own interests, HN104 had multiple relationships with those he targeted and there was a strong interest in accountability.

Mitting stated that he respected and commended the decision to not make his real name public to date, but asked if there could be cooperation on managing the revealing of the real name. Ms Kaufmann indicated yes, but had to take further instruction. Mr Hall asked for a closed hearing on the matter.


HN123 is another Lawrence-connected case where it was being proposed to restrict real and cover name. Mitting said that though all the material was not public this was quite an unusual and difficult case, based on the mental health issues of the officer (apparently not connected to their deployment), and that if the cover name was released publicly it might hamper the Inquiry’s ability to get HN123’s evidence, something Mitting was keen to ensure he had.

It was notable, in this application, how little weight the Chair appeared to be giving to the police’s risk assessments of officers.

There did seem to be a question as to how much this applied to the Lawrence aspect, though Ms Sikand, on behalf of Peter Francis, explicitly said that the group HN123 targeted did interact with the Lawrences, and thus the cover name was needed.

  • Mitting has subsequently ruled that neither HN123’s real or cover name will released on the grounds of HN123’s ill health, and that he appears to be only indirectly connected to the spying on the Lawrences, despite the evidence of Peter Francis to the contrary. This ruling will be revised if new facts emerged.

From here, the applications moved on to a tranche of older undercovers who had been deployed in 1960s and 1970s. Mitting was quite dismissive of this, saying that too much energy was being expended on what was ‘ancient history’ as they would not assist in learning what went wrong with the SDS. He wanted to know why elderly spouses couldn’t be left in peace.


This changed somewhat when the application over the real name of ‘Rick Gibson’ (HN297) came up. There was a bombshell in court when Kaufmann was revealed ’Gibson’ had a number of sexual relationships, something otherwise seemingly unknown to either Mitting or the police’s lawyers. The Chair noted that this changed things considerably, and was in the period when it was suspected that bad practice in the unit was becoming routine.

For him, publishing the real name became a matter of timing and further information was needed with regards to the women targeted who he wanted statements from if possible, including if they needed to be told privately first. The interests in not publishing the real name did not counter their right to know, but he wanted to learn more as this was information that had just come to light. As a result, a decision would be postponed.


HN321 offered another challenge. This undercover was abroad and threatening not to return if his real identify was revealed.

The police ran several arguments here. They focused on the fact that, as yet, no wrongdoing was being alleged and therefore expectations of privacy were that much greater. Mr Hall addressed the point that real names were being sought in order to confront the officers. He argued that all the officers were being tainted together, and this was wrong as the entire barrel was not rotten, the desire to confront should not be in the mix. Mitting responded that they just have to put up with it, and that it was not always confrontation that was being referred to, but unwelcome attention, something quite different.

  • Mitting has ruled that HN321’s cover name will released but not his real name.

For HN321 and other undercovers, the police made an elaborate point that the officers had built their lives around the need for secrecy on this aspects of their lives and with that went to the need to respect issues of confidentiality and Article 8 (the right to private and family life), and so the disruption from the breaking of that confidentiality and how they’d shaped their lives was a violation the right to private life. The Chair responded that secrecy itself was attractive and could give something importance it would not otherwise have.


The final application of note was HN333, which was not much covered in the hearing, but was notable in that both cover and real name were to be restricted, despite the low risk – in part on grounds of the officer’s subsequent career and reputation, though what this was has not been elaborated on. In his ruling, Mitting also relied on the expectation of confidentiality. It is hard to say more on such incomplete material, but this case stands out for the quite different tack that Mitting took here and the keenness he showed to protect a particular person’s reputation.

The other applications were dealt with in a pro forma fashion, partly out of desire to complete the full hearing within a day rather than run into a third one. This left only a few outstanding issues.

  • In his Ruling of 5 December 2017, Mitting has given restriction orders over the real names of nine undercover officers considered during the hearing, but said their cover names will be released where they are known (some were previously released). For two undercovers, HN123 and HN333, their cover names will also be restricted. The cases of ‘Carlo Neri’ and ‘Rick Gibson’, and HN58 require further hearings and evidence before a final ruling made.

Deterring recruitment of new undercovers

Counsel to the Inquiry, David Barr, addressed the statement of Chief Constable Alan Pughsley, the national lead on undercover policing, which had been submitted by the police as part of their evidence. Pughsley was arguing that the Inquiry itself and its openness was deterring applications by police officers to undergo training as undercovers. In this, Pughsley sought to reinforce a point made by a police officer known only by the cypher: ‘Cairo’ – who had previously submitted generic evidence on the risks to ex-undercovers and undercover policing in general.

Barr noted that Cairo had also noted there were alternative reasons why this might be the case but there was not enough to go on. So, to attempt to answer this, the Inquiry had released part of a statement from Louise Meade, who oversaw the recruiting process for undercover training at the College of Policing. She had noted that a great deal of change in the recruiting process had taken place, with a focus on getting the most suitable officers, and that there was no statistical basis to support Pughsley’s assertions.

There then followed an exchange between Mitting and Mr Hall for the Metropolitan Police. The Chair said that Pughsley and Cairo’s thoughts on the matter were not influencing his approach, that he had to get to the truth and if that deterred new officers then so be it. Mr Hall responded, saying undercover work was needed and the Inquiry needed to consider its effect on recruitment and retention. Mitting stated that he would not pull his punches based on future deployments.

Mr Hall came back saying that a possibility of an allegation being made was all it took for there to be a deterring fear, which counted for a lot at this stage. Mitting dismissed this, calling it speculation as the position was not that clear cut. Hall concluded weakly that Cairo should be treated as authoritative on this point.

Helen Steel

Helen Steel at the Royal Courts of Justice

Helen Steel at the Royal Courts of Justice

The last remarks of the hearing went to Helen Steel, representing herself as a core participant. She addressed the general evidence, noting how it presented the victims of the spycops was insulting and added to their pain.

She pointed out in Pughsley’s statement how her search for the truth was listed under ‘harm to individuals’ (i.e. undercovers), without acknowledging the background to why she had spent years trying to track down the man who had invaded her life. It was insulting to read about the ‘poor police’ when they had left such damage in their wake.

She put into context that, while the undercovers were putting forward mental health issues as a reason for privacy, they were trained in precisely such tactics, in that many had used feigned breakdowns as part of their exit strategies.

Steel also noted that there were many inaccuracies and lies in the generic statements. Additionally, she asserted that the excessive redactions, where they talked of core participants such as herself, all fed into the ongoing sense of personal invasion. The delays caused by the redactions and applications were part of the general imbalance where by the police held the power even though the Inquiry was into those same police, and this only impacted further on their victims’ own mental wellbeing.

Her final points addressed the need for the list of groups spied upon to be released immediately. The spycops units that were not involved in criminal policing, but political policing. It is vital for all that it is made clear who was being spied upon and why. The list of groups is known, it is already sanitised of material relating to actual deployments, so there is no reason to not release it.


A long two days with a substantive amount of material and points raised and discussed. If a point was to be taken from it, is that Mitting’s sparse minded-to notes indicate not that he has ignored a bunch of the arguments and material, but that he is discarding much of it as not impacting on his decision making process, and this includes the police’s risk assessments.

For now, much of his concern is on mental health issues and intrusion on elderly family members. This is likely to change for officers of more recent periods.

Related documents:

Help Victims of Police Spying Get Access to Justice

Spycops Campaigners at Inquiry HearingThe Undercover Policing Inquiry was announced nearly four years ago and still has not begun. Around 200 significantly affected victims have been designated ‘core participants’. At the recent preliminary hearing, the state had 11 lawyers whilst the victims were only allowed one.

The Spy Cops Communications Group was established to help keep the core participants informed and to let the wider public know what is going on with the Inquiry.

Victims have to take time out of their lives and pay for their own costs to attend hearings and other vital meetings. This is adding to the imbalance of power, tilting the Inquiry to favour the police and other perpetrators who have access to effectively unlimited public funds.

The Spy Cops Communications Group had started a crowdfunder appeal to increase people’s access to justice in a practical way, through:

– Funding travel to attend meetings & hearings 

– Offering legal support

– Providing fortnightly updates

They are aiming to raise £15,000 through this Crowd Justice Campaign so the spied-upon campaigners, and the public, can get the truth they deserve.

Please share the Crowdfunder link and, if you can afford it, donate too.


The Home Office called the Inquiry in 2014 as result of pressure from people targeted by police spies, after campaigners exposed the level of police infiltration into political groups. The undercover operations invaded people’s lives, committing human rights abuses for decades. Systematic spying was aimed at controlling political dissent in the UK, undermining what should be a healthy democracy.

The police have admitted that they spied on more than 1,000 political groups including those campaigning for equality,  justice, community empowerment and the environment, those fighting against war, racism, sexism, homophobia, government policies, corporate power, and police brutality. 

The Inquiry offers a unique opportunity to hold the police and those responsible to account in the fight for transparency and justice. However, the process is obstructed by police intransigence and weighted down with legal jargon and processes. There is an urgent need to make it easier for people to get involved.

What we will do

£15,000 will enable us to:

  • Fund travel and expenses to attend court hearings and meetings with lawyers
  • Organise quarterly meetings to help core participants follow the Inquiry, and network with each other
  • Maintain a secure online discussion forum to discuss interventions and submissions to the Inquiry
  • Liaise with  lawyers to keep taps on what is happening, and understand legal process
  • Have a legal observer present at the hearings at all times
  • Share a fortnightly email of legal information 
  • Provide media training and support people in engaging with the media. 
  • Prepare people for appearing in court and giving witness statements

Kim Bryan, Tom Fowler, Chris Dutton, Terence Evans,  Emily Apple, Kirsty Wright, Paul Gravett, Morgana Reddy, Kirk, Jessica and Kevin Blowe.

Women Deceived by Spycops Launch UN Case

CEDAW logo: UN Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against WomenSeven women deceived into long-term intimate relationships by undercover police officers have lodged a complaint with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

All were targeted by officers from Britain’s political secret police units for relationships that were psychologically and sexually abusive, the most complete invasion of privacy it is possible for the state to enact.

In 2015 the Metropolitan Police apologised to the seven and agreed that the practice

caused significant trauma… it was a gross violation and also accept that it may well have reflected attitudes towards women that should have no part in the culture of the Metropolitan Police… some officers may have preyed on the women’s good nature and had manipulated their emotions to a gratuitous extent

The fact that they were abused in very similar ways by five different officers over a period of 25 years indicates that this was not rogue officers but was a conscious strategy on the part of the spycops units. Despite receiving the Met’s apology in 2015, the women still have not had any real answers or explanation of why they were targeted. 

This has been compounded by the government’s protection of the abusers. They have failed to prosecute or discipline any of the officers concerned or their managers, and refused to amend UK law to unambiguously make such relationships an offence. They have also failed to name other officers from the units who may have also abused women in this way.

The UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly.  A Committee of 23 independent experts on women’s rights from around the world monitors its implementation. 

In 2004, the UK ratified the Optional Protocol to CEDAW, which allows people who have been subjected to discrimination under the convention and exhausted all domestic remedies to make complaints (since ratification, only three complaints have been made to the CEDAW committee and all have been held to be inadmissible).

Helen Steel, one of the women bringing the case, explained their motivation.

‘Our central aim in bringing this case is to make sure that these abusive relationships are not allowed to happen again. The repeated use of women in this way by undercover policemen is a form of discrimination against women and a barrier to women’s rights to participate in protest activity.’

Another of the women, Lisa, emphasised that the claim is only asking the government to live up to the values it professes to hold.

‘In signing up to this Convention, the UK has committed itself to work to end discrimination against women. If the committee finds against the UK it will be a huge embarrassment and will shine a spotlight on the institutional sexism in the police and the government’s ongoing failure to outlaw these abusive practices.’

The institutional sexism of the Met is apparent in looking at who was targeted; most of the known officers were men, and all of the long-term intimate relationships were male officers abusing female citizens. 

Harriet Wistrich, solicitor for the women, explained:

‘CEDAW has a complaints procedure which is broad in reach, enabling the women to cite gender based violence, gender stereotyping and the impact on reproductive rights, as part of a pattern of institutionalised discrimination by the State in this case.’

The case has been launched to coincide with the 16 days of action called by the United Nations that commenced with International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25th November and culminates in Human Rights Day on 10th December. It comes a few days after the Met conceded that the relationships amounted to ‘torture, inhuman or degrading treatment’ of the women concerned.

You can read the details of the women’s complaint and background details in their press release.


Son Abandoned by Spycop Sues Police

Bob Lambert then and now

Bob Lambert, then and now

A man who was born as part of an undercover officer’s deployment is suing the police.

The 32 year old man, known as TBS, was the planned child of ‘Bob Robinson’ and an animal rights activist known as Jacqui.

‘Robinson’ was in fact undercover police officer Bob Lambert of the Special Demonstration Squad. He knew at the time he would be abandoning his new family a couple of years later to return to his real identity, wife and children.

As with cases brought by women deceived into relationships, the Met have tried to have the man’s case thrown out entirely. The Met won’t even meet TBS, according to his legal representative Jules Carey. However, at the High Court on Monday, Mr Justice Nicol rejected the police’s demands.

TBS was born in September 1985, when Lambert was two years into his relationship with Jacqui and they were living together. She told the BBC in 2014

‘He watched me give birth remember and, to me, he was watching his first child being born. He was there throughout the labour. And that is something so intimate between a man and a woman. And I shared that with a ghost, with someone who vaporised.’

Lambert was an undercover officer in the Special Demonstration Squad from 1983-88, infiltrating animal rights groups. Whilst undercover he:

  • stole the identity of a dead child
  • was arrested & prosecuted under a false identity
  • co-wrote the leaflet that led to the McLibel trial
  • was part of a group that firebombed shops

Our detailed overview of his career was given as a talk at the University of St Andrews when he was still a lecturer there in 2015, and there is also an extensive profile by the Undercover Research Group.

When Lambert was exposed in October 2011, he made an apology to another woman he had later deceived into a relationship, Belinda Harvey, but made no mention of Jacqui or his son. They only found out the truth when Jacqui stumbled across it in a newspaper in June 2012, as she detailed in harrowing testimony to parliament. She told the Guardian ‘it is like being raped by the state’.

TBS was 26 at the time and the revelation has caused him to suffer Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood since. He told the Guardian of his shock

‘It kind of messes with your identity and who you think you are.’

He continued, saying that finding out that the chance of a father figure

‘was denied to me because of the actions of the police is even more distressing because they are supposed to be upholders of the law… But they quite clearly are not… It is quite scary to me just how the police can dip in and out of people’s lives. They still seem to struggle with realising the impact of what they have done.’

TBS is not suing Lambert, but the Met for their failures of supervision. The Met have already reached settlements with a number of women deceived into relationships – Jacqui was the first of these – so the principle of their institutional responsibility for abusive officers is surely established.

The long list of TBS’s damning assertions about his father is startling, including:

  • a knowing or reckless abuse of the power entrusted to him as a public officer, which he knew was likely to cause the Claimant psychiatric injury, or was recklessly indifferent to this consequence.
  • he was not and/or could not lawfully have been authorised to commence a sexual relationship with Jacqui, to father a child with her, to fulfil a father’s role under his false identity and/or to present a false explanation for his abandonment of the Claimant or was reckless as to the same, and that doing so was in plain breach of his obligations as a police officer and such guidance that was or should have been given to him.
  • The circumstances of the Claimant’s conception, early life and abandonment by BL carried with it an obvious risk that the Claimant would suffer psychiatric harm.

The police’s defence is, if anything, even more astonishing. They claim abandoning a three year old who doesn’t retain an clear memory of their parent cannot cause harm. That is to say, a child isn’t bonded enough with a parent by the age of three to be seriously distressed by that parent’s disappearance.

They then defend Lambert’s leaving as a positive action, saying if he had stayed with Jacqui the damaging deception would have gone on longer and ‘would have made matters worse’.

TBS’ placing the blame on the Met rests on the fact that Lambert’s managers knew about the relationship and were complicit, or if they didn’t then they were negligent.

In 2013 Lambert was asked by Channel 4 News if his managers knew about his relationships. He refused to answer, and then refused to explain why he was refusing to answer.

This might be because he is in a difficult position. Lambert was later promoted to running the Special Demonstration Squad, where he deployed officers such as Jim Boyling, Andy Coles and Mark Jenner who also deceived women into long-term intimate relationships. So, whether the blame comes down to the individual officers or their managers, Lambert is guilty. 

Whatever Lambert’s managers knew of his various abuses, they didn’t mind. Abusing women and deceiving courts was textbook stuff for the spycops units and, rather than Lambert being reprimanded for his behaviour, whistleblower officer Peter Francis says Lambert’s colleagues felt

‘He did what is hands down regarded as the best tour of duty ever’

As well as going on to run the Special Demonstration Squad, overseeing the spying on Stephen Lawrence’s family, Lambert was later rewarded with an MBE ‘for services to policing’.

TBS is, as far as we know, in a unique position. But with the vast majority of officers from the political secret police units still completely unknown, there may be more people like him, abandoned children of mothers abused by spycops.

With the Met admitting that their sexual abuse of women constitutes ‘torture, inhuman or degrading treatment’, it is past time for them to end their obstruction of justice. They must stop their obstruction of justice for people like TBS. They must name names so the victims can get answers and the wider public can know the truth of what has been done in their name.

Spycops Relationships Amount to Torture, Met Admit

Kate Wilson and Mark Kennedy

Kate Wilson and Mark Kennedy

The Metropolitan Police have admitted that undercover officers deceiving women into relationships breaches human rights.

Specifically, it breaches the right to freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, and also the right to a family and private life.

The shock revelation came this week in the latest legal hearing for social justice activist Kate Wilson, who was deceived into a two year relationship by undercover officer Mark Kennedy from 2003 to 2005.


Kate is one of eight women, all deceived into intimate relationships by undercover officers, who sued the police in 2011. They alleged deceit, assault, misfeasance in public office and negligence.

They also claimed the relationships breached their human rights, including Article 3 (no one shall be subject to inhuman and degrading treatment) and Article 8 (respect for private and family life, including the right to form relationships without unjustified interference by the state).

Although the relationships were very similar, legal action on human rights could only be taken by the women affected after the Human Rights Act 1998 made the European Convention enforceable in English courts. This ruled out all the women except those who had relationships with Mark Kennedy.

As soon as the women brought their case, the Met began spending vast sums of public money on lawyers who tried every trick to avoid accountability. It’s a pattern familiar to victims of state wrongdoing – the double injustice of what is done, and then the gruelling years of denial, smears and chicanery that compound the damage.

The Met dragged the eight women’s case out for four years before issuing an abject apology in November 2015 (other identical cases still inch onward).

In the apology, the Met admitted

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

However, they did not specify which rights they had violated.

Kate fought on with her human rights claim. It has been sent to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a secret court that deal with state surveillance issues and almost invariably supports the state spies’ side. Of the thousands of cases the IPT has heard – it doesn’t tell us precisely how many that is – only one is known to have found in favour of the citizen.


This week, six years since her case began and more than two years since the Met admitted breaching human rights, Kate was back at a preliminary hearing for her case.

The Met admitted that Kennedy’s actions as a police officer were indeed a breach of articles 3 and 8. Though they denied or declined to admit some of the specific instances Kate cites, this is nonetheless hugely significant.

‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’
– Article 3

There are no excuses or exceptions to article 3. Nothing can ever make it justified under any circumstances.

‘Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

‘There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety, or the economic wellbeing of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others’.
– Article 8

Article 8 is conditional and that, if anything, makes the Met admission all the more important. They have just admitted that it wasn’t necessary for officers to do this in order to protect us from political activists.

This finally flattens the line peddled by senior police who told us in 2012 that Kennedy’s targets

‘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’.

Chief Constable Jon Murphy flapped his arms and shrieked that Kennedy was keeping us safe from people who

‘are intent on causing harm, committing crime and on occasions disabling parts of the national critical infrastructure. That has the potential to deny utilities to hospitals, schools, businesses and your granny’.

It is now agreed that neither your health and morals, the wellbeing of the country nor your granny were under threat from Kate Wilson.

Moreover, if it is true that Kennedy’s relationships breached these rights, it is surely true of the officers who identically deceived other women. This can only increase pressure for the public inquiry to release the cover names of officers from the political secret police.


At last month’s hearing the Chair, Sir John Mitting, gave a clear statement on the women’s right to know the names and the truth.

‘I have listened to some of the accounts, posted on the Internet, of women who entered into intimate relationships with male undercover officers. They are eloquent and moving. Each of them is entitled to a true account of how and why they came to be induced to conduct an intimate  relationship with a man deployed for police purposes with an identity and background which was not his own…

‘When there is material which gives rise to a suspicion that such an intimate relationship may have been formed by an undercover officer in a cover name, there is a compelling practical reason to require the cover name to be published: to reveal to the woman or women concerned that they may have had an intimate relationship with a man in an identity not his own’.

Shortly afterwards, the lawyer for the victims of spying, Phillippa Kaufmann QC, dropped a bombshell. Mitting was dealing with one of the earliest officers – a man known as Rick Gibson who infiltrated left wing and anti-war campaigns – and was dismissing the idea that anything from so long ago could be relevant. Kaufmann stunned the court by revealing that Gibson had at least two relationships with women he spied on.

The information came to light the way it did for the others, indeed the only way it can happen at all. The officer’s cover name was published, people who were spied on were found, they realised the truth and came forward to tell us what happened.

Most known spycops deceived women into relationships. Most of them did it with multiple women. For decades, it was done strategically. This is institutional sexism.

There must be dozens, probably hundreds, more women out there just as abused and just as deserving of the truth as Kate Wilson.


The officers cannot be trusted to account for themselves. They are trained liars. It is their wrongdoing that is under investigation. To this day, Mark Kennedy only admits to two relationships with women he spied on even though the Met have already reached settlements with four.

Mitting’s remit is to discover the truth. He says he holds the abuse of women as a cherished element of this issue, deserving of the full facts. The only way he can deliver on that is to publish the cover names.

As the Undercover Research Group showed with their bombshell at the Inquiry hearing, there is often more to it than the police admit, and it is we activists who are better, faster, more methodical, more ethical and more trustworthy than the police.

The best way to get the truth is to release the cover names, let us have time to do the research and find the victims, then present our findings. The Inquiry cannot begin to do its job until it knows what happened. It cannot know what happened until the victims come forward. Releasing the cover names is a minimum prerequisite for the Inquiry to have a hope of fulfilling its purpose.

This week’s admission that a large proportion of officers breached fundamental human rights emphasises the grave seriousness of the issue. Mitting’s desire to grant officers anonymity out of consideration for their possible hurt feelings is indefensible. Those who did nothing wrong need fear no acrimony, whilst those who subjected citizens to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment must not be allowed to hide for fear of being held accountable.

We have waited long enough. It is time to release the names and let the truth be told.

Kate Wilson’s full hearing is expected to take place in spring 2018.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Update (11 December 2017): The arguments were heard at the 20 November 2017 hearing and he made his ruling on 29 November where he went pretty much with the contents of his previous minded-to.

Mitting reiterated that his taking into account of spent convictions when considering restriction orders was limited, that they formed a small but necessary part of the process. He rejected non-police/state core participants proposal that they should be able to make submissions where convictions were being relied upon, as it would amount to a mini-trial over a finding of fact.

He believes that the correct time to examine whether those convictions where sound in the first place and didn’t not amount to a miscarriage of justice due to the role of a spycop would be during the substantive, evidence phase of the Inquiry. Thus brushing over the point, that were such a conviction is being used to justify restriction of an officers cover name it may prevent such evidence ever coming out in the first place.

While not a significant issue for undercovers dating up to the 1980s, we strongly suspect the issue of spent convictions with potential associated miscarriages of justice is going to be a bigger issue for later deployments, especially in the 1990s and 2000s.

For a full list of documents relating to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act issue, see the dedicated UCPI 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.




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?


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i UCPI Anonymity applications: Special Demonstration Squad, 3rd August 2017
ii UCPI Ruling in respect of HN7 – Undercover Policing Inquiry, 3rd August 2017

iii UCPI Minded to notes, 3rd August 2017
iv UCPI Restriction orders (legal approach) Ruling, 3rd May 2016
v Evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service “The Mosaic Effect”
vi Anonymous evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service in the name “Jaipur”
vii Anonymous evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service in the name “Karachi”
viii Anonymous evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service in the name “Cairo”