All content from January 2018

New Spycops to Be Named But Still Hidden

Table of 12 undercover officers with 'HN' numbers, rfleleased by Inquiry 15 January 2017

The public inquiry into Britain’s political secret police has issued brief notes on applications for anonymity by another cluster of officers. As usual, these former spycops who invaded people’s lives want to have their true identities kept from their victims.

The Inquiry intends to release the cover names of most of them. After last week’s announcement concerning five officers whose real and cover names the Inquiry intends to keep secret, this is a bit of improvement. However there are still some fundamental flaws that undermine the Inquiry’s stated desire of uncovering the truth.

Known by their HN-numbers, there are 12 ex-spycops in the new list. The Inquiry is still looking into officers HN9 and HN66. Officers HN61 and HN819 are backroom staff, so there are no cover names involved, and presumably we will get their real and cover names.

As for the other eight, the Inquiry does not intend to release any of their real names, but wants to release the cover names of seven. They are all men. Here’s the rundown:

NEW NAMES COMING

HN13 is now dead. He was deployed 1974-78, thought to be infiltrating the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) though the name of the group may be wrong. He was prosecuted twice under his false name, one of these leading to conviction. His widow wants her husband’s memory left in peace. However, the police risk assessor thinks there is no chance of the cover name leading to the real name, so the Inquiry intends to release that.

HN109 is a mystery. Neither the real nor cover name will be made public and we cannot be told why. We just have to trust the veracity of what the police told the Inquiry.

The Undercover Research Group have done a characteristically meticulous job of cross-referencing the new information with what’s already known, and have found that HN109 was around the spying on Stephen Lawrence’s family.

The Inquiry’s Chair, John Mitting, has said getting definitive answers about spying on the Lawrences ‘is one of the central issues which the Inquiry must investigate’, yet he intends to keep this officer completely hidden.

HN296 infiltrated an unnamed left wing group from 1975-75.

HN304 infiltrated ‘a number of non-violent groups’ from 1976-79.

HN339 infiltrated two unspecified groups between 1970 and 1974.

HN340 was deployed against an unnamed group from 1969-72, and reported on others.

HN354 infiltrated an unspecified group 1976-79 and admits to ‘two fleeting relationships’ with women he spied on.

HN356/124. This one was accidentally given two numbers. Now dead, he infiltrated the Socialist Workers Party from 1977-81. He was on the April 1979 anti-racist demonstration in Southall where Blair Peach was killed by police.

NO NAMES, NO TRUTH

Time and again in the new list, the Inquiry says that publication of these officers’ cover names

‘may serve a purpose: to prompt former members of the group against which he was deployed to provide information about his deployment.’

Indeed, it is the only way those who were spied upon can be prompted to come forward. Without a cover name, an officer remains in the dark forever. This is why we are so insistent that all cover names be released.

We have no faith in the self-reporting of officers about their abuses, nor in their ex-colleagues who are carrying out the risk assessments on behalf of the police for the Inquiry. Any public servant should be publicly accountable, let alone one from a covert institution guilty of so many serious abuses that it needed a public inquiry into its misdeeds.

Even those who still find the Met a trustworthy body must accept that the spycops units have no credibility left. Since the scandal broke we have been subjected to a flurry of desperate lies from everyone involved, from the officers themselves right to the top ranks. As one lie gets exposed, they change their story until that, too, falls under the weight of new evidence. So the more they want to hide an officer, the more suspicious the public becomes.

POLICE PERJURY

The Inquiry has said that people who were deceived into sexual relationships by officers deserve the fullest answers, and it will be seen as a reason to release an officer’s real name as well as the cover name. They appear to take a less stringent approach to officers who deceived the judicial system and orchestrated miscarriages of justice.

The one in the new list, HN13, was far from the only spycop to be arrested. The five spycops the Inquiry spoke of two weeks ago – and whose real and cover identities the Inquiry intends to withhold – included two who admit being arrested whilst undercover, one of whom was prosecuted under their false identity. 

There is plenty of evidence that this was common practice throughout the era of the spycops units. When they were arrested alongside people who were convicted, it means their evidence was withheld from the court and the conviction is unsafe.

Undercover officer Mark Kennedy was arrested and involved in cases that led to 49 wrongful convictions that have now been quashed due to his exposure by activists. The detail of his actions also made it clear that the police and Crown Prosecution Service colluded to orchestrate these miscarriages of justice.

Mark Ellison QC’s 2015 report into the issue found many more among the Special Demonstration Squad’s remaining records.

‘Using the SDS Annual Reports it has now been possible to identify 26 SDS officers who were arrested on a total of 53 occasions.’

That’s just what can be deduced from the SDS annual reports. The true total is likely to be higher. It’s notable that Mark Kennedy was from another unit entirely, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, and other officers there, such as as Rod Richardson and Lynn Watson, were repeatedly arrested as well.

All of this contravened strict instructions from the Home Office that officers should be withdrawn if they risked misleading a court.

In 1969, the year after the Special Demonstration Squad was set up, the Home Office issued Circular 97/1969, and it was clear and unequivocal.

‘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. This must always be regarded as a prime consideration when deciding whether, and in what manner, an informant may be used and how far, if at all, he is allowed to take part in an offence.

‘If his use in the way envisaged will, or is likely to result in its being impossible to protect him without subsequently misleading the court, that must be regarded as a decisive reason for his not being so used or not being protected.’

The officers cannot feign ignorance. They knew the gravity of the situation and they chose to lie.

Either courts were told it was an agent – meaning it was an unfair trial for other defendants – or else this was perverting the course of justice and perjury. The Inquiry and the wider public should treat this as a negation of police duty and an affront to justice.

Protecting Abusers from Embarrassment

Excerpt from officer HN23’s risk assessment

The Undercover Policing Inquiry has announced five new applications for anonymity from former undercover police officers. The police want the real and cover names to be withheld in all five cases, and the Inquiry intends to comply.

The officers’ risk assessments, published in heavily redacted form, cover a number of elements of their deployment. 

The controversial use of dead children’s identities for cover names is addressed, and none of the officers say they did it (one says they didn’t even have a cover name). They are all asked if they had relationships with people they spied on, and none of them admit to this either.

PROFESSIONAL LIARS

The problem is that we’ve seen this before. Officer HN297‘s risk assessment said he didn’t have any known relationships.  His cover name, Rick Gibson, was brought to the attention of the Undercover Research Group by people from the groups he infiltrated. Their subsequent joint investigation found that he had sexual relationships with at least four women that he spied on.

Exceprt from HN297 risk assessmentWithout us knowing the cover names, we cannot check the veracity of their claims. It is the key prerequisite of us being able to get to the truth of what these trained liars did yet, despite proof of lying, the Inquiry is believing them and keeping cover names from us.

Once again we see inexcusable exceptionalism being granted to police. No other group of proven miscreants gets their answers taken at face value, in secret, then used as the basis for whether their victims get told the truth.

No other institution is allowed to be the custodian and archivist of the files that incriminate them. The Met are asked by a public inquiry to do searches and provide the results. It would be unacceptable even if there wasn’t, as in this case, a history of them destroying the files to avoid culpability.

But with the police we not only take their word, the Inquiry seeks to protect them from feeling upset at being caught. This trait is startlingly clear in the statement of officer N348. In a searing dissection, The Canary described it as ‘already a contender for the most ridiculous thing you’ll read in 2018’.

PROTECTION FROM EMBARRASSMENT

Deployed in 1972-73, N348 is now in her 70s. She says she cannot remember the cover name she used, but is confident it had the first name of Sandra.

She infiltrated the Women’s Liberation Front (affiliated to the Women’s Liberation Movement). A group of no more than 12 people, they met at a member’s house in North London to discuss women’s rights and Maoist ideas.

It seems the infiltration of these groups may have been prompted by an incident mentioned repeatedly in the paperwork, the direct action taken against the 1970 Miss World contest when it was broadcast live from the Royal Albert Hall.

‘N348 described the faction as vocal but aspirational only and taking part in demonstrations with placards and banners. She witnessed no violence displayed by the group’

N348 says she would be ’embarrassed’ if one of the group she spied on found out she was a spycop. Her current work worries her, too.

‘It makes my heart sink to think of my colleagues there knowing.’

The risk assessor concludes that there is no concrete threat from anyone in the Women’s Liberation Front in any way.

‘The risk would likely be confined to harassment and/or intrusion, but would be effective enough to potentially adversely affect her employment status and standing in the community; both would affect her income.’

Why would it affect her employment, unless she is in a job that her employer would think is unsuitable for someone with her history? Why would the community think less of her, unless she has done something wrong?

The risk assessor doesn’t think police can justify what N348 did.

‘It could be argued that the deployment of N348 into such a non-violent group was disproportionate and may feed a media angle.’

N348 says

‘I think we live in a time of an intrusive media… I worry about not being in control of this situation.’

The media attention they fear is the justified interest in the actions of a public servant. Her wish to be shielded from that is not a valid reason to hide her identity.

The risk assessor concedes that if her true identity were disclosed there would be no risk of physical threat and a low risk of interference with her family and personal life, yet they still want her name to be withheld. This is all a further example of spycops seeking freedom from accountability.

There is no human right to protection from embarrassment, yet N348 is effectively being granted one.

PROTECTION FROM PRIDE

Conversely, HN23 says

‘I am very proud of the work that I did and acted with integrity throughout my career. I believe that the work I did had a significant positive impact and I did it knowing that it was not something I could boast about or reveal.’

At last your chance has come to step up and receive the acclaim you so rightly deserve for your flawless and exemplary work, HN23. Let your friends and family see the glory of your true life and share in your pride.

‘I am worried that they will not understand the reasons for this and will see it as a betrayal which will affect both friendships and relationships with family.’

That’s the opposite of HN348’s embarrassment, yet arguing for the exact same secrecy.

POLICE RIGHTS BEAT HUMAN RIGHTS

The police applications for anonymity include a cut & paste paragraph saying that releasing an officer’s name would ‘amount to a disproportionate interference with his/her right to a private and family life,’ and even in one instance adding ‘risk of loss of life or torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment’.

These are the same two human rights the Met admitted were breached by spycops themselves in these deployments.

The police who invaded the lives, homes and families of active citizens are seeking anonymity to avoid intrusion into their own lives and families. They are saying ‘it would breach my right to a private life to be known as the person who breached your right to a private life’. If the arrogance is gobsmacking, the hypocrisy is sickening.

The Met go further, saying it is not only for the benefit of their officers but ‘in the public interest’. The state infiltrating political groups who pose no threat to public safety is not just abuse of the citizens that were spied on. It is a counter-democratic attack on freedom of association and expression. It is plainly against the public interest.

Naming anyone for anything obviously increases the chance of press interest and vigilante action, yet the media (often supplied by police) give out people’s details every day. It is not seen as a breach of the right to a private life.

TIME TO ANSWER

Officers from secret police units around the world have been reluctant to come clean. None imagined having to face the people they undermined and betrayed.

But their desire for comfort pales beside their victims’ right to the truth and the public’s right to justice. They did this in our name. We all deserve answers.

It’s been a long time coming and the officers of the Special Demonstration Squad know that better than anyone. Though it was never on the scale of the Stasi, Britain’s political secret police’s purpose and methods were startlingly similar to their East German counterparts.

As Paul Lewis & Rob Evans described in Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police

‘A team of undercover police officers had spent the evening drinking and chatting in the London apartment. It was late one night in 1994.

‘They turned on the television to catch a news report from Germany. Tens of thousands of Germans were trawling through secret files compiled on them before the Berlin Wall came down… The TV report showed the distraught face fo a woman in Berlin who had discovered the man she had loved for years was a spy.

‘There was a silence in the lounge. Then one of the undercover police officers said what the others must have been thinking. “You do realise, this is going to happen to us one day,” he said.’

The Undercover Policing Inquiry is not here to extend the abusers’ belief that they would never get caught. It exists to reveal the truth. Police officers act as public servants and should be publicly accountable.

A cloak of anonymity for the officers would also fall across the facts and justice itself. It’s absurd for them to ask for such secrecy, and outrageous that the Inquiry wants to grant it.