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.


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