All content from January 2017

Spycops and Strikers: From Grunwick to Now

Grunwick pickets in front of policeSpycops and Strikers is a public event in London on 15th February, part of a series of Grunwick 40 memorial events.

In 1976, six workers walked out of Grunwick Film Processing Laboratory in Willesden and ignited an historic two-year dispute which united thousands to demand better rights for poorly treated workers. The workforce had a significant number of Asian women who were at the forefront of the struggle.

The events of 1976-78 are still remembered as an important moment not just in local history, but in the fight for equal rights for women and ethnic minorities. They brought people of different races and backgrounds together in support of the rights of migrant women workers, shattered stereotypes about Asian women in Britain, and changed the face of trade unionism. Grunwick 40 was set up to commemorate this vital moment.

Such a large, diverse and unified movement attracted serious attention from the Metropolitan Police.

Since the exposure of Mark Kennedy as an undercover officer inside the environmental movement in 2010, many more ‘spycops’ have been found out by the activists they spied upon. We now know that since 1968, the Special Demonstration Squad infiltrated political and activist groups that they considered a threat, including the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, anti-apartheid movement and CND.

We also know that prominent supporters of the Grunwick strike were bugged and followed and that there were attempts to infiltrate the strike committee. There is now a judge-led Inquiry into Undercover Policing, the Pitchford Inquiry; should Grunwick strikers and their supporters be involved to find out more?

People supporting the Grunwick Strikers remember the heavy surveillance back in the days. Jack Dromey, secretary of Brent Trades Council at the time of the strike, recalled that:

‘I discovered after the dispute, from good policemen who talked to me in the thirty years since, that I was bugged at home, that the trades and labour hall was bugged, that there was a period that, we were followed, some of us in the dispute, and also attempts were made to infiltrate the strike committee, so there was a high degree of surveillance.

‘It was an extraordinary period of political paranoia, the security services tended to put two and two together and make Moscow.’

In 2006 the Metropolitan Police released an inch-thick file on the Grunwick Industrial Dispute (1976-78), following a Freedom of Information request by journalist Solomon Hughes. The Met confirmed the existence of six relevant files, but decided to only disclose part of the documents. Ever since the Met have tried to bury the papers, even making previously disclosed files secret again.

What was released, is now shared at the Special Branch Files Project, a live-archive of declassified files focussing on the surveillance of political activists and campaigners.

The Grunwick files consist of a collection of Special Branch reports, police reports, and additional memoranda, documenting the policing of the Grunwick pickets, surveillance of strikers and their supporters between June and October 1977.

Join us to discuss political policing and how we should respond to the Inquiry.

SPEAKERS

Eveline Lubbers (Undercover Research Group)
Solomon Hughes (journalist who uncovered secret files on Grunwick)
Harriet Wistrich (lawyer for people spied upon)
Marcia Rigg (Sean Rigg Campaign)
Kevin Blowe (Netpol)

DATE – Wednesday 15 February 2017, 19:00-21:00

VENUE – Malet Suite, Student Central, 2nd Floor, Malet Street London WC1E 7HY

Free entry, though places are limited so it’s advisable to reserve a seat in advance.

Help spread the word with the Facebook event

Organised by Grunwick 40 in co-operation with the Special Branch Files Project, the Undercover Research Group and the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance.

Press Release: Victims of Police Spying Condemn Inquiry

Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance

COPS has issued this press release to the Scottish media:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

08:00, 25 January 2017

Victims of police spies condemn inquiry, demand meeting with Justice Secretary

Victims of police spying in Scotland have condemned the new inquiry into the scandal. They say Justice Secretary Michael Matheson did not speak to any of them before commissioning HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland to investigate infiltration of political campaigns by officers from secret units. The activists targeted have branded the review as a whitewash, saying it lacks transparency and prioritises abusers over victims.

Numerous officers from the disgraced undercover units infiltrated political groups and events in Scotland, and the police admit that English officers who operated on Scottish soil committed human rights abuses. Several of them deceived women into sexual relationships, a practice that led to abject apology by the Metropolitan Police.[1]

After officer Mark Kennedy was exposed in 2010, a slew of revelations led to the establishing of the Pitchford Inquiry into spying in England and Wales. A Scottish government request to be included was denied, despite the fact that most of the known officers from the spy units have been in the country. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) announced their review earlier this month.[2]

Now fourteen of the 200 campaigners designated ‘core participants’ by the Pitchford Inquiry have written to the Justice Secretary attacking the Scottish inquiry in harsh terms.[3] They say, ‘we, all people who were spied upon in Scotland, do not understand how this can be a step towards resolution when we are being excluded from a process that should revolve around us and those in our position. For this reason, we must go further than not simply supporting this review, but condemn it as a betrayal of all those deceived.’

One of them, communications consultant Kim Bryan, explained:

‘I am bitterly disappointed by the terms of reference set out for the HMICS review of undercover policing. It makes a mockery of the justice process if the review examining undercover policing in Scotland does not take into account the evidence of those that were spied on, and as such I would seriously question its legitimacy.’

Social justice campaigner Merrick Cork was spied upon during one of Mark Kennedy’s fourteen visits to Scotland.[4] He said:

‘We’re not dealing with suspicions or allegations but what the Metropolitan Police have admitted is an abuse of police power and a violation of human rights. This review is designed to fail, it’s just police self-investigating the last few years of the abuses. Michael Matheson should explain how he thinks anyone could take his corrupt decision seriously.’

A number of women have brought claims against the Metropolitan Police after discovering their partners were undercover police officers. A group representing them noted that the HMICS review would exclude some of their cases.[5] The women also issued a condemnation of the HMICS review this week, calling instead for a full inquiry.[6]

The office of the Cabinet Secretary for Justice has acknowledged to the victims’ meeting request by stating, ‘we aim to reply within 20 working days’.

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS
Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance is an alliance of people known to have been targeted by Britain’s political secret police.

The full text of the letter: http://campaignopposingpolicesurveillance.com/2017/01/18/spycopstargets-demand-meeting-with-scottish-government/

1. ‘Claimants in civil cases receive MPS apology’, Metrpolitan Police Service, 20 November 2015
http://news.met.police.uk/news/claimants-in-civil-cases-receive-mps-apology-138574

2. ‘Strategic Review of Undercover Policing in Scotland – Terms of Reference’, HMICS, January 2017
http://www.hmics.org/sites/default/files/publications/HMICS%20Strategic%20Review%20of%20Undercover%20Policing%20in%20Scotland%20-%20Terms%20of%20Reference.pdf

3. A full list of core participants is on the Pitchford inquiry’s website
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/160614-list-of-core-participants-v7.pdf
4. ‘A review of national police units which provide intelligence on criminality associated with
Protest’, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, p27
https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic/media/review-of-national-police-units-which-provide-intelligence-on-criminality-associated-with-protest-20120202.pdf
5. ‘Woman deceived by undercover police attacks inquiry into tactics’, The Scotsman, 14 January 2017
http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/woman-deceived-by-undercover-police-attacks-inquiry-into-tactics-1-4339746
6. ‘Women spied on in Scotland, demand full investigation’, Police Spies Out of Lives, 17 January 2017
https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/women-demand-scot-investig/

Official: Simon Wellings was a Spycop

Simon Wellings, Special Demonstration Squad officer

Simon Wellings, Special Demonstration Squad officer

Simon Wellings was an undercover police officer in the Special Demonstration Squad, the Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing confirmed today.

It comes as the latest in a flurry of admissions of spycops’ identities in recent weeks. However, it still leaves the majority of the 17 known officers unconfirmed.

They still ‘neither confirm nor deny’ Mark Jenner was in Britain’s political secret police, even though his profile, including photo and real name, have been in the mainstream media for years and the Met have paid damages for his abuses.

PHONE A FRIEND

Simon Wellings infiltrated anti-capitalist group Globalise Resistance from 2001-2005. In a farcical moment that rivals his colleague Carlo Neri instinctively standing for God Save The Queen, Wellings accidentally rang one of his target activists whilst he was in a police meeting.

It went to voicemail and so he was recorded being shown photos of protesters and identifying them. He could be heard giving personal details that were nothing to do with politics such as

‘She’s Hanna’s girlfriend – very overt lesbian – last time I saw her, hair about that long, it was blonde, week before it was black.’

Wellings even took his spying to Glastonbury Festival, as Mark Kennedy would later repeatedly do. One of the people he targeted there was Globalise Resistance’s Guy Taylor who was astonished to find out the truth, saying

‘If they need to know the plans and schemes of anti-capitalists, the worst place to look is Glastonbury as we were rarely in a fit state to plan the downfall of a parish council, let alone the world financial system.’

Though it sounds far removed from the horrific psychological and sexual abuse spycops inflicted on citizens, it’s yet another of the ways in which the spycops went much further than anyone could justify, a result of their impunity and unaccountability.

TELL US SOMETHING WE DON’T KNOW

Whilst the ending of state stonewalling is a minor relief, there is nothing welcome in today’s announcement. It merely admits something that was all over the mainstream media six years ago. They are telling us what everyone already knows because the people who were spied on discovered it.

If the Inquiry is to be worth anything it must release the cover names of all the officers from the spycops units, and the names of the groups that were targeted too. Only then can people realise they were spied on and come forward with the truth of what happened.

All the horrors we’ve heard of come from around 10% of the officers, the ones who have, by chance, been unmasked. We can be sure the 100+ others worked in similarly abusive and counter-democratic ways. We need the whole truth.

Spycops Activists Demand Meeting with Scottish Government

SaltireThere has been emphatic condemnation of the terms of the Scottish inquiry into undercover policing. Not only is it a self-investigation by senior police, it is limited to the last few years of abuses. Although the Special Demonstration Squad was formed in 1968, the Scottish review will not examine anything before 2000.

This comes despite and there are documented cases of officers committing what the Metropolitan Police admit were ‘an abuse of police power’ and ‘a violation of human rights’ in Scotland earlier than 2000.

The Scottish Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson, has commissioned this blatant whitewash without asking anyone targeted by spycops about their experience or what they wish to see done.

The forthcoming Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing in England and Wales has designated around 200 of the most significantly impacted people as ‘core participants’.

Today, a group of the core participants who were also spied upon in Scotland have written to Michael Matheson requesting a meeting. Here is the text of their letter.

 


 

To:
Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson
St. Andrew’s House,
Regent Road
Edinburgh EH1 3DG

18 January 2017

 

Dear Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson,

 

Request to meet in light of release of terms of reference for the HMICS review of undercover policing in Scotland.

We note with dismay the terms of reference set out for the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland review of undercover policing announced last week – a review you commissioned. They singularly fail to address the many abuses of which we have complained, and exclude the abuses experienced by many more.

The terms of reference exclude transparency and accountability; worse still, they prioritise the abusers over the victims, by giving only the police a voice in the process – an intolerable situation, devoid of any justice.

On top of this, it is simply impossible to have faith in the HMICS team given their closeness to those they are supposed to be investigating. The assurances of independence ring hollow and are not borne out by the facts.

We, all people who were spied upon in Scotland, do not understand how this can be a step towards resolution when we are being excluded from a process that should revolve around us and those in our position. For this reason, we must go further than not simply supporting this review, but condemn it as a betrayal of all those deceived.

As there is clearly a lack of understanding of these issues, we ask that you meet with a group of us at the earliest possible convenience.

Yours,

Andrea
Alison
Claire Fauset
Dónal O’Driscoll
Harry Halpin
Jason Kirkpatrick
John Jordan
Indra Donfrancesco
Kate Wilson
Kim Bryan
Martin Shaw
Merrick Cork
Olaf Bayer
Zoe Young

The above individuals were spied upon in Scotland and are core participants in the Pitchford Inquiry into Undercover Policing. A number of them were decieved into relationships which were partially conducted in Scotland, including prior to 2000.

Scottish Inquiry – Reputation Before Justice

HMICS whitewashThe announcement of the terms of reference for HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland’s review into undercover policing manages to go beyond being meaningless, insulting those demanding answers for historical abuses by spycops, explains Dónal O’Driscoll

Last week Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) announced the terms of reference for its Review of undercover policing. Though campaigners were not holding their breath, the terms were more offensive than we expected.

From the beginning we’ve denounced this Review as police investigating police. We experienced the efforts of the Inspectorate of Constabulary in England & Wales and the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Herne. Each report they produced was irrelevant, and in one case pulped the day before publication for misrepresenting the extent of the scandal.

The reality is that HMICS is staffed with ex-police, some of whom will return to policing the force they are examining. Its limited credibility was already strained to its limits when it was revealed that those conducting the review would not just be ex-police but include those closely linked to undercover policing in Scotland.

In no other situation would it be considered acceptable for abusers to investigate themselves. Yet, according to HMICS they will:

‘provide an independent view of the operation, procedures and safeguards in place by Police Scotland in relation to undercover policing, with the objective of providing assurance to Scottish Ministers, the Scottish Parliament and the public’.

We wonder what opinion Scottish Justice Minister Michael Matheson, who commissioned this review, must hold of the public to believe it would blindly accept such assurances. And this in the week we learn that even the rudimentary oversight provided by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners is being ignored by Police Scotland.

Basic political common-sense would say to provide something tangible to reassure campaigners. There was nothing – no promise of answers, no talk of transparency or even listening to the concerns of those most affected.

The announcement stated:

‘HMICS will be mindful of all time of the wider interest of public safety and and will not reveal information capable of impacting negatively on this interest including covert tactics, operational methods, and material potentially leading to the identification of covert human intelligence sources, including undercover officers’.

It is language we have heard many times before from the police. It leaves no doubt that HMICS will adopt the same policy as the rest of the UK – say nothing and stick to Neither Confirm Nor Deny – because it’s more important to them to shield police from consequences of how they abused people than to actually deliver justice. Given the current Chief Constable of Police Scotland oversaw the Special Demonstration Squad, we are not really surprised, however.

The words ‘justice’ or ‘accountability’ are conspicuously absent from the 16 page announcement. There is no mention at all of those most affected by the spycop scandal, a shameful if unsurprising omission.

The investigation is limited to anything after the year 2000, though abuses were taking place long before then. These are grave injustices; there is no statute of limitation, so no reason to stop investigating. Rather, it is the classic police line of ‘nothing to see, move along’. It merely underlines why we demanded an independent inquiry from the beginning.

When we heard the terms of reference for the HMICS review were being released, it felt irrelevant. There was little doubt it would be meaningless political speak. We did not imagine we would be quite so offended. Yet, according to their statement, the review will:

‘comment on the contribution made by undercover policing operations towards public safety in Scotland’.

In plain language, the review is there to give undercover officers a congratulatory slap on the back. Not a word of the abuse conducted by them, but a big well done to the men who deceived, betrayed and destroyed the lives of people fighting for a better world.

Just read the account of Andrea, targeted by a spycop for a relationship, to see why this leaves a bitter taste in our mouths. They will tell us how undercover policing protects the public yet take no interest in protecting the public from these undercover police.

They are not investigating suspicions or allegations. The police themselves accept that it was morally wrong and ‘an abuse of police power’. The people targeted by spycops have uncovered a small fraction of what went on. The question is how far did it go? Instead of addressing that, the Scottish police and their satellite bodies, like their colleagues south of the border, are intent on glossing over what cannot be denied and keeping the rest firmly hidden.

Derek Penman, head of HMICS, wants to maintain public confidence in undercover policing – if anything, he achieved the opposite, demonstrating that the culture of cover-up where reputation comes before justice is the most important motivating factor. It motivated the police at the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and it is being repeated here.

Mr Matheson, the goal is so wide at this point, that the only possible conclusion is that you are deliberately choosing to miss. This goes beyond ineptitude to intentional collusion with known abusers in covering-up this scandal. It is frankly corrupt. Collaborating in this cover-up stains the entire Scottish Ministry of Justice.

Though these are my views, a group of those of us spied upon in Scotland, shall be writing to the Justice Minister this week, asking for a meeting.


The author was spied upon in Scotland by Mark Kennedy and other undercovers, and is a core participant in the Pitchford Inquiry.

Read Andrea’s description of her relationship with a spycop published last week in two parts here and here.