All content from August 2017

Police Demand Money From Compensated Spycops Victim

Helen Steel at the Royal Courts of Justice

Helen Steel at the Royal Courts of Justice

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

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

POLICE SPIES AND CORPORATE SPIES

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

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

NEITHER CONFIRM NOR DENY

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

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

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

MET POLICE CONTINUE TO HIDE THE TRUTH

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

As Steel said at the time

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

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

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

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

COURT GRANTS APPEAL, MET CLAIMS DECEPTION

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

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

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

STEEL DROPS APPEAL, MET CLAIMS £10,000 COSTS

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

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

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

PARTIAL CONFIRMATION, MORE DENIAL

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

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

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

Why is Spycop Andy Coles Still Silent?

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

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

She described it in a statement:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 – He deceived Jessica into a relationship

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

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

‘it has become apparent that some officers, acting undercover whilst seeking to infiltrate protest groups, entered into long-term intimate sexual relationships with women which were abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong.

‘I acknowledge that these relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma. I unreservedly apologise on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Service… relationships like these should never have happened. They were wrong and were a gross violation of personal dignity and integrity…

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

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

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

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

COUNCIL CANCELLED

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

Human Rights Abuser Andy Coles banner, Peterborough Town Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three New Spycops Named – But Others Get Hidden

Troops Out Movement demonstration at military recruitment office

Troops Out Movement demonstration at military recruitment office

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

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

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

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

THREE NEW SPYCOPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He continues

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

He says

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

But then he immediately backtracks with

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

 

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

DOORS CLOSING BEFORE THEY OPEN

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

Of the 25 still unnamed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE LAWRENCE FAMILY SPY

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

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

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

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

Inquiry core participant Carolyn Wilson told Pitchford Watcher

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

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

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