All content from February 2018

More Spycops Named, But Who Was Spied On?

Morning Star front page 21 February 2018There are two new names on the list of known officers from Britain’s political secret police; Christine Green and Bob Stubbs.

The Undercover Research Group published a profile of Christine Green on Sunday. She infiltrated South London animal rights groups from 1994-2000, seemingly as a replacement for Andy Coles.

She became a regular hunt saboteur and protester, as well as editing London Animal Rights News and helping out at an animal sanctuary.

After her deployment ended, she started living with a man she had spied on called Tom, who had served a prison sentence for violence against a hunter (which he emphasises was an act of self-defence). More than a decade later, they are still together.

She is the first woman officer known to have had a long-term relationship with someone she spied on, although it is unclear if the relationship began whilst she was still undercover.

WEASEL WORDS

This story, already odd even by the standards of the spycops scandal when it was published on Sunday, took a swift turn for the bizarre.

On Tuesday the Metropolitan Police issued a public apology to Hampshire police. It turns out Christine Green had been authorised by the her Met Special Demonstration Squad managers to take part in a raid on a Hampshire mink farm in 1998.

Around 6,000 mink were released into the wild. Hampshire police launched an investigation at the time, though no charges were ever brought. With their new information they’ve looked into it again but decided there is still no chance of a successful prosecution.

The Morning Star gave it the glorious headline Spycop Sprung Mink From The Clink, which could only be bettered by BristleKRS’ comment:

‘STOATS AMAZE BALLS-UP: How the Met kept a (muste)lid on its spycop’s involvement in a huge mink release from a site on a neighbouring police force’s patch’

BOBBING UP

With a little less drama, the Undercover Policing Inquiry added another name to the list on Tuesday: ‘Bob Stubbs’ infiltrated International Socialists/ Socialist Workers’ Party 1971-76. The Inquiry decided in November not to publish Stubbs’ real name.

It can be very difficult to do anything with sparse information such as this. Asking people if they remember a bloke called Bob from 40 years ago is often met with an understandably hazy reply. If the Inquiry really wanted the people who knew an officer to come forward, it would locate and publish a photo of the officer along with the cover name.

It would not significantly increase any risk to the officer. With the passage of time, whatever they looked like then will be substantially different to their present appearance. There is no chance of someone seeing a picture from the mid 1970s on the Inquiry website then recognising that person in the street.

WHO ELSE WAS SPIED ON?

The Inquiry has finally instated a list of officers on its website. It gives their cover names, the groups that may have ‘encountered’ the officer, and the dates it happened. So far 16 are named, with an average of two groups each.

However, the Inquiry has admitted that the Special Demonstration Squad spied on more than 1,000 groups. These groups were targeted (according to the National Police Chiefs Council) by 118 undercover officers of the SDS.

This means there should be an average of more than eight groups per officer, rather than just two.

Who else did the named officers spy on? Why isn’t the Inquiry telling us? Is it because they are withholding names, or are the police not supplying the full facts to the Inquiry? If it’s the latter then we have to wonder what else the police are not revealing.

Whistleblower SDS officer Peter Francis is listed as spying on two groups, Youth Against Racism in Europe and Militant (now called The Socialist Party).

As soon as he appeared on the list, Francis tweeted

Activists may have also “encountered” me as spycops from 1993 to 97 as a part time student at Kingsway College Anti Fascist Group (KAFG) Which whilst I was spying er sorry ‘encountering’ on it, became the Movement for Justice (MFJ)

Every one of the thousand-plus groups has a right to know. If the inquiry would publish the full list of groups, those spied upon could be contacted and asked about infiltration. Until that happens we cannot get to the truth of what was done.

Which Justice Campaigns Were Spied On?

Tile pictures of 12 people whose justice campaigns were targeted by spycops, chequered ith silhouettes overlaid with question marksIn July 2014, police admitted there was proof that undercover officers from the Special Demonstration Squad had spied on 18 grieving groups of families and friends seeking justice for their loved ones. They did not publish a list, but said that ‘the majority’ were black. This is institutional racism. 

These people were campaigning for their truth. They only wanted to know what really happened, and for people to see the police for what they actually are and what they had actually done. But people of colour self-organising is perceived as a threat in itself. This was compounded by the threat of embarrassment to the police, the brand damage that would occur if these campaigns became popular.

The combined threat was enough to have them actively befriended by paid betrayers. Officers took active, pivotal roles in campaigns. Undercover officer Mark Jenner was a long-term activist at the Colin Roach Centre, chairing meetings and editing newsletters.

Just as the infiltration of protest groups shows the counter-democratic remit of the spycops, so their infiltration of justice campaigns over a period of 26 years proves a key part of their purpose was to take an active role in obstructing justice.

The resources that should have established the truth and brought the guilty to justice  were instead spent on undermining the grieving loved ones.

Which Campaigns Were Spied On?

But which campaigns were known to have been spied on? The Guardian reported that the police’s 2014 list of 18 included:

1. Harry Stanley
2. Wayne Douglas
3. Michael Menson
4. Jean Charles de Menezes
5. Cherry Groce
6. Stephen Lawrence
7. Ricky Reel

Other reports from the time added:
8. Rolan Adams
9. Joy Gardner

The Undercover Policing Inquiry later confirmed the list included:

10. Trevor Monerville

Beyond the ten we can be sure of, it’s notable that the families of Roger Sylvester and Blair Peach are core participants at the inquiry.

Additionally, whistleblower SDS officer Peter Francis has cited the ‘moral low point’ of his time undercover as his infiltration of the Brian Douglas campaign.

It’s not clear if the Brian Douglas, Roger Sylvester or Blair Peach campaigns are on the list of 18. These are just the named ones they have admitted to spying on. There are eight unnamed and there must surely be many more besides.

We can be confident that police units devoted to secrecy – who institutionally avoided documentation and have shredded incriminating files since the Inquiry was announced – will have spied on many more justice campaigns than there is proof of.

How Many More?

We recently learned of two SDS officers from the early 1970s. Alex Sloan infiltrated the Irish National Liberation Solidarity Front at a time when they were in a demonstration against the police’s killing of Stephen McCarthy.

John Clinton infiltrated the International Socialists (forerunner of the Socialist Workers Party), 1971-74. Was he at the International Socialists-supported demonstration in June 1974 where police killed Kevin Gately outside Conway Hall in London?

There are so many other people killed by police in London whose justice campaigns seem highly likely to have been spied upon. These include Winston Rose, Cynthia Jarrett, Oluwashiji Lapite, David Ewin, Ibrahim Sey, Richard O’Brien, Sean Rigg, Derek Bennett, Azelle Rodney, Paul Coker, Frank Ogburu and Mark Duggan. There are also campaigns by loved ones of people who died in unexplained circumstances with police involvement, such as Nuur Saeed, Colin Roach and Smiley Culture.

Additionally, there are organisations who are racial justice advocates and co-ordinate justice campaigns who were spied on in their own right. Several have already been given core participant status at the public inquiry, including the Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign, Hackney Community Defence Association, Youth Against Racism in Europe, Newham Monitoring Project and the Monitoring Group.

All these are just in the London area, and thus are likely targets for the Met’s spycops. There are many others beyond the capital such as Christopher Alder, Clinton McCrubin, James Ashley, Liddle Towers, Leon Patterson, Giles Freeman and Alton Manning. Then there are the victims of racist killings that were not properly investigated, leaving killers free to do it again.

As with learning the spycops’ names, we have only identified a fraction of the number of spied-upon justice campaigns. We have so much more to learn than the police and public inquiry have admitted to.

Here are brief details of the 13 people’s deaths whose campaigns police have confirmed they spied on.

The 13 Confirmed Campaigns

Wayne Douglas

Wayne Douglas

In December 1995, Wayne was being questioned in Brixton police station. Police said he collapsed during questioning and died of heart failure. The inquest showed that Wayne, who suffered from heart disease, had been held face-down with his hands cuffed behind his back on four different occasions.

Though at the inquest the jury acknowledged police action caused Wayne’s death, by majority verdict they said it was accidental. The family’s appeal for a second inquest was refused with Lord Woolf saying:

‘little more could be achieved by subjecting all concerned to the considerable expense and stress of a further inquest.’

Wayne’s sister Lisa Douglas-Williams said:

‘We are particularly upset by the judge’s remarks about the expense of holding a further inquest. A proper verdict on my brother’s death is far more important than money.’

Michael Menson

Michael Menson

Musician Michael Menson was racially abused and had his coat set on fire set on fire by three men in February 1997, who then went to get flammable liquid and returned to burn him more severely. In hospital, he told family and police he had been attacked. He died several days later from his injuries. Police treated it as suicide.

After two botched police investigations, the inquest verdict of unlawful killing forced a third which ended in three people being charged.

A three-year investigation for the police complaints authority by Cambridgeshire police found evidence of negligence and racism including an officer telling a pathologist:

‘I don’t know why they’re worried – this only concerns a fucking black schizophrenic.’

The CPS decided not to prosecute any officers.

Michael’s elder brother, Kwesi, said

‘I don’t have any doubt that had a white man been set on fire in a street in north London that there would have been an active and vigorous investigation’

Jean Charles de Menezes

On 22 July 2005, Jean Charles, a 27 year old electrician, lived in South London flats that were being watched by police trying to trace people responsible for failed bombings the day before.

As he left for work he was followed by police who, failing to comply with instructions to stop him entering the tube system, followed him into Stockwell station and executed him on the train.

Spurious details appeared in the press to make him appear deserving of his fate – he was in the country illegally, wearing a bulky jacket on a hot day, his clothing had wires coming out, he vaulted the station barrier and ignored police shouts to stop – all of which were found to be untrue.

His mother told the press

‘I want the policeman who did that punished. They ended not only my son’s life, but mine as well.’

Though the inquest uncovered a host of serious failures by police, and found the officer who shot Jean Charles did not tell the truth, no officer was charged.

The coroner had instructed the jury not to return a verdict of unlawful killing. The jury rejected the police account and returned an open verdict.

Cherry Groce

Dorothy ‘Cherry’ Groce was shot in the chest by police while they were searching her home in Brixton, south London, looking for her son Michael in September 1985. Anger erupted into rioting that evening.

Cherry survived the shooting but the bullet had passed through her spine, leaving her paralysed from the waist down. She reached a settlement with the police but they accepted no liability. Detective Inspector Douglas Lovelock was prosecuted for the shooting but acquitted.

Her son Lee Lawrence described the harassment that followed.

‘When I was in my teens I used to get picked up by the police for things I hadn’t done. They would tell me I fitted the description of someone who had just committed a crime and that sort of thing. Once when I was 17 I was put into a police cell. A police officer opened a flap in the cell door and said: “Are you Cherry Groce’s son?” When I replied that I was he said: “Pity she didn’t die”.’

Cherry died in 2011, and pathologists concluded the injuries from the shooting were causal. An inquest – for which the family were denied Legal Aid until a campaign got the decision overturned – lambasted police failings in the raid and arrogance in refusing to take responsibility afterward.

Stephen Lawrence

Stephen Lawrence

Eighteen year old Stephen Lawrence was murdered by a racist gang in Eltham, south London, in April 1993. The swathe of police failings meant that, although everyone knew who the killers were, none were prosecuted.

Five years later the Macpherson Inquiry examined the case and famously concluded that the Met were institutionally racist.

Rev David Cruise said the case showed that it was race, not behaviour, that defined treatment by the police.

‘The irony is that the Lawrences behaved exactly how every black family is supposed to behave. They were law-abiding, close, stable, relaxed and upwardly mobile.’

Stephen’s friend Duwayne Brooks, the main witness to the murder, was repeatedly prosecuted on trumped up charges that were thrown out of court.

Two of the five killers were finally convicted in 2012. Stephen’s mother Doreen responded

‘Now that we have some sort of justice I want people to think of Stephen other than as a black teenager murdered in a racist attack in south-east London in April 1993. I know that’s the fact, but I now want people to remember him as a bright young man who any parent of whatever background would have been proud of. He was a wonderful son and a shining example of what any parent would want in a child.’

Ricky Reel

Ricky was last seen in Kingston-Upon-Thames. He had been harassed by racists who chased him towards the river. His body was found downstream a week later on 21 October 1997.

When his parents reported him missing, the police officer mockingly suggested Ricky had run away because to avoid an arranged marriage or because he was secretly gay. They have consistently refused to consider the death as foul play, let alone a racist murder. When Ricky’s clothes were returned to the family, his mother Sukhdev found a big rip in the shirt. Police accused her of making it.

A report by the Police Complaints Authority concluded there had been ‘weaknesses and flaws’ in the initial investigation and criticised three officers for neglect of duty. Sukhdev became an ardent fighter for justice.

‘I became a lawyer because it was my way of processing everything that had happened to me. I just kept seeing how a normal family like ourselves, not rich, can be turned upside down overnight. You can be completely normal and secure to completely vulnerable in a heartbeat and then you’re reliant on people like the police in authority to help you.’

She remains a committed and moving campaigner for justice for her son.

Rolan Adams

Rolan AdamsFifteen year old Rolan was with his brother Nathan in February 1991 when they were attacked by a large racist gang. Telling Nathan to run, Rolan was chased, cornered and fatally stabbed in the neck.

Though there were 15 attackers only one, Mark Thornburrow, was convicted of the killing. Four others were found guilty of public order offences and given 120 hours’ community service.

Two years later, Stephen Lawrence was murdered nearby. Two of the four convicted over Rolan’s death were named in the Macpherson report into Lawrence’s murder as individuals the police should interview.

Rolan’s father Richard Adams said:

‘There is no doubt that had Rolan’s murder been investigated properly, Stephen Lawrence may still have been alive today.’

Harry Stanley

Harry Stanley

Harry Stanley was a 46 year old painter and decorator, brought up in Glasgow but living in London all his adult life. In September 1999 he was returning home with a bag containing a table leg that had been repaired by his brother.

Police had received a call about “an Irishman with a gun wrapped in a bag”. Two armed officers challenged Harry from behind. As he turned to face them, they shot him dead at a distance of 15 feet.

The coroner only allowed a verdict of lawful killing or an open verdict, and the jury opted for the latter. Harry’s family managed to get a second inquest which returned a verdict of unlawful killing. The officers involved were suspended, but after more than a hundred of their colleagues handed in their firearms authorisation cards in protest, the suspensions were lifted.

Harry’s son Jason said

‘If this can happen to my dad, it can happen to anyone. It just proves that nobody is safe on the streets.’

In 2005 the High Court the High Court decided that there was insufficient evidence for the verdict of unlawful killing and reinstated the original verdict, with the judge saying a third inquest should not be allowed. The Stanley family said

‘families cannot have any confidence in the system. They feel they cannot get justice when a death in custody occurs’

Joy Gardner

Joy GardnerMature student Joy Gardner had her north London house raided by immigration officials in June 1993.

When she resisted attempts to put her in a 4-inch wide restraint belt with attached handcuffs she was shackled, gagged, and 13 feet of adhesive tape was wrapped round her head. She rapidly suffered respiratory failure and died four days later without regaining consciousness.

Joy’s mother, Myrna Simpson, said the police were in denial about their racism.

‘[Met chief] Paul Condon said it was not about race. Well, I say, how many white women have they done that to? Look at [serial killer] Rose West and look at what she did. But they still treated her as a human being. They didn’t go into her house, truss her up and kill her. What they did to Joy was terrible, terrible. I just keep asking why? Why? Why?’

Three police officers were charged with manslaughter. Though four pathologists agreed on the cause of death, police – as they would do later with Ian Tomlinson – found one who would give an alternative cause. The suggestion that it was a head injury, rather than complete blockage of airways, that caused the lack of oxygen gave a grain of doubt and all three officers were acquitted.

The use of gags was banned shortly after, but no admission has ever been made that it was part of the cause of Joy’s death.

Special Demonstration Squad boss Bob Lambert oversaw the spying on Joy’s family campaign. At the time of her death, Joy was studying Media Studies at London Metropolitan University, which would later coincidentally employ Lambert as a lecturer.

Trevor Monerville

Trevor Monervill campaign posterIn January 1987, 19 year old Trevor Monerville was taken to the notorious Stoke Newington police station. Two days later his father John reported him missing and the police still didn’t say he was in custody.

Trevor had been severely beaten, with extensive injuries to his face and brain which left him with permanent brain damage. Police had then taken him to hospital where he had to have emergency brain surgery. 

The Police Complaints Authority refused to release the custody record, and Trevor’s doctors were told not to speak to the family’s lawyers.

Afterwards, Trevor was repeatedly arrested and charged for various offences, and was repeatedly acquitted.

Trevor was murdered in an apparent street robbery in 1994. Nobody was ever charged.

Trevor’s 73 year old grandmother was assaulted by police so badly that she eventually received £50,000 compensation.

In 2013, Trevor’s brother Joseph Burke-Monerville was shot in a case of mistaken identity. The three main suspects were so implicated that they were forced to attend the inquest and eventually charged only for the Crown Prosecution Service to offer no evidence on the day of the trial. In 2017 they lodged a 15-page complaint about police failings over the murder.

After more than 30 years fighting for justice, father John Burke-Monerville said

‘It would be a real joy to the family to have a conviction. Twice around and we have had no result whatsoever. We are in limbo, waiting.’

At Joseph’s inquest, the family wondered why Trevor hadn’t had one. Their lawyer discovered in August 2017 there had in fact been an inquest for Trevor but the family hadn’t been told about it.

Roger Sylvester

Roger SylvesterIn January 1999, police were called as Roger Sylvester was outside his house and shouting. Thirty year old Roger had bipolar disorder and wasn’t himself that day. Eight police restrained him and took him away for detention under the Mental Health Act.

Though officers are trained not to restrain people face down, they did this with Roger. He suffered serious brain damage and cardiac arrest, and fell into a coma.

The Met’s press office issued a statement claiming that someone had called 999 and described Roger as acting in an ‘aggressive and vociferous manner’. They were later forced to admit this wasn’t true and apologise for it. Roger died eight days later without regaining consciousness.

Police coroner Freddy Patel told the media Roger was a crack user, something his family denied. Patel later performed the autopsy on Ian Tomlinson that favoured the police version of events and led to Tomlinson’s killer’s acquittal. In 2012 Patel was struck off by the General Medical Council who found that he was not only incompetent but also dishonest.

Though it took four years to get an inquest for Roger, it took the jury only two hours to reach a unanimous verdict of unlawful killing. The officers responsible for the killing had the verdict overturned on appeal.

Roger’s brother Bernard Renwick said

‘From day one we were told to expect openness, accountability and transparency. We merely wanted truth and where necessary justice. Instead we have had obstacles, delays, anguish, smoke and mirrors and ‘just-ice’. Where is the justice?’

Blair Peach

Blair PeachTeacher Blair Peach went on an Anti-Nazi League demonstration in Southall, South London on 23 April 1979. It was a few weeks ahead of the general election and the National Front were having an election meeting at the Town Hall.

Having broken away from the main demonstration into a side street, Peach was confronted by a vanful of Special Patrol Group riot officers, one of whom fractured his skull with an unauthorised weapon. Eleven witnesses gave testimony.

The coroner dismissed the possibility of an officer killing Peach, discounted accounts from Sikh witnesses, and tried to prevent a jury being instated. A misadventure verdict was returned.

Crucially, the inquest ignored the report by Commander John Cass which found the SPG officers had a range of unauthorised weaponry and Nazi memorabilia. The officers refused to co-operate with the inquiries and many changed their appearance to impede witnesses ability to identify them. The Cass report was published 30 years later. It identifies ‘Officer E’ as ‘almost certainly’ being Peach’s killer.

Blair’s partner, Celia Stubbs, reflected on Blair and his measure of justice after so long.

‘He was a dedicated teacher, a committed trade unionist and anti-fascist. He was a good, funny and loving person to his family and friends. He was a socialist who believed passionately in fairness and equality.

‘He supported the Bengali community in their protests against the National Front selling their newspapers in Brick Lane, demonstrated outside a pub that would not serve black customers, and had been instrumental in getting the National Front headquarters closed in Shoreditch.

‘It was his socialist beliefs that took him to Southall, and it is amazing that he is remembered by so many people.’

Officer Alan Murray – who lied to investigators and refused to take part in identity parades at the time – has identified himself as the officer in question (though he denies killing Peach). Neither he, nor anyone else, has ever faced any charges.

Brian Douglas

Brian DouglasPolice stopped Brian Douglas while driving in May 1995. Witnesses say that PC Mark Tuffey used a then-new extendable baton to strike a downwards blow on Brian’s head. Tuffey said it was aimed at the upper arm but slid up over the shoulder.

Three pathologists later said Brian had received hard blows to the back of the head. Brian suffered massive and irreversible brain damage. Despite vomiting in his cell, he was left for 12 hours before finally being transferred to hospital where he died.

Brian’s brother Donald Douglas said

‘I fear that the numbers killed in police custody over recent years without redress may have helped to shape the attitude that informed those officers when they brought down that baton on my brother’s skull.’

The campaign was spied on by Special Demonstration Squad officer Peter Francis who has described his subsequent shame.

‘By me passing on all the campaign information – everything that the family was planning and organising through Youth Against Racism in Europe – I felt I was virtually reducing their chances of ever receiving any form of justice to zero. To this day, I personally feel that family has never had the justice they deserved.’

 

50 Years of Resistance: a Celebration

50 Years of Resistance callout poster1968-2018:

A Celebration of 50 years of Resistance, Campaigning and Alternatives for A Better World

– despite 50 years of police opposition, spying and repression

Sat 7th / Sun 8th July 2018

Sat 7th: Anniversary Roll Call / Commemoration / Celebration in Grosvenor Square, London W1 @ 1pm – 3pm

Sun 8th: London Gathering and Exhibition

1st to 8th July – week of local events and activities around the UK

* * * * * *

Next planning meeting for the above:

Sunday 11th March, 5pm @ Housmans, 5 Caledonian Road, N1 9DX

* * * * * *

MOVEMENTS FOR A BETTER WORLD GROW – POLICE REACT WITH REPRESSIVE TACTICS

In 1968, following demonstrations against the Vietnam War in London’s Grosvenor Square, the police set up a Special Demonstration Squad (SDS). Since that time, 50 years ago, over 1,000 groups campaigning in the UK for a better world have been spied on, infiltrated and targeted by political policing. Their protests and demonstrations are also subjected to ongoing police opposition and control to try to limit their effectiveness.

This targeting has included groups campaigning for equality, justice, the environment and international solidarity, for rights for women, LGBTQ, workers and for animals, for community empowerment, and those campaigning against war, racism, sexism, corporate power, legal repression and police oppression and brutality. Such groups have represented many millions of people throughout the UK who want to make the world a better, fairer and more sustainable place for everyone.

Yet almost any group of any kind that stood up to make a positive difference has been or could have potentially been a target for secret political policing. We now know this because of campaigners’ recent efforts to expose and challenge the SDS and other similar secret units, and their shocking and unacceptable tactics. Individuals within those campaign groups have been spied on, subjected to intrusions in their personal lives, been victims of miscarriages of justice, and many deceived into intimate and abusive relationships with secret police, ie people that who were not who they said they were.

In July 2015 we succeeded in forcing Theresa May (now Prime Minister) to set up the current Undercover Policing Public Inquiry, which was tasked with getting to the truth by July 2018, and insisting on action to prevent police wrong-doing in future. Now, three years on, the public inquiry has achieved very little due to police obstruction.

When the SDS was formed they stated that they would ‘shut down’ the movements they were spying on. But despite disgusting police tactics, movements for positive change are still here and growing, and have had many successes on the way.

CELEBRATE 50 YEARS OF CAMPAIGNS AND STRUGGLES, RESILIENCE AND SUCCESSES

This planned two-day event in London, backed up by a call for a week of actions all around the UK, is in support of those campaigning for full exposure and effective action at the Undercover Policing Inquiry, and against police attempts to delay and undermine it.

We aim to encourage more groups to find out about the Inquiry and how they can get involved and support each other, and to unite the many different groups and organisations who have been victims of our police state because of their efforts to improve society.

Backed by Campaign to Oppose Police Surveillance – www.campaignopposingpolicesurveillance.com

* * * * * * * * * * * *

SIGN UP FOR GROUPS TO SUPPORT THIS PROPOSAL ———————————————————————–

YES we broadly support the proposal. Please add our name to the list of supporting organisations.

Name of organisation ……………………

Name of contact/rep ………………

Position in group ……………………..

Contact details:

Email: ……………………………….

Phone: ……………………………………..

We can:

___ Attend the Grosvenor Square Rally

___ Publicise the event(s)

___ Identify/loan/donate a ‘historic’ item for the exhibition

___ Organise a local celebration/commemoration event that week, and let you know the details when finalised

___ Help with planning the London event(s)

___ Affiliate to the C.O.P.S campaign [PDF]

___ Donate to C.O.P.S. via PayPal (you can add a note specifying its for 50 yrs events if you wish):

 

Return form to: 50yrsevents@gmail.com

Scottish Government Refuses Spycops Inquiry

Michael Matheson MSP

Michael Matheson MSP: Spineless betrayal

The Scottish government has said there will be no Scottish inquiry into the political undercover policing scandal.

The announcement by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson came hours after he finally published a report into undercover policing in Scotland.

The review had been conducted by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland. It had been boycotted by victims as HMICS is a body drawn from the police, including officers personally connected to political spying.

SPYCOPS IN SCOTLAND

When then-Home secretary Theresa May ordered an inquiry into undercover political policing in 2014, many were shocked to see it would only be allowed to examine events in England and Wales. A large proportion of the spycops worked beyond those borders. With only 10% of them exposed, we could list seventeen different countries spied in over a period of 25 years.

These are not suggestions or allegations. It is a plain, established fact that numerous officers were in Scotland including many furthering their sexual relationships with women they spied on. Some came on political actions, other on holidays to deepen the relationships. Carlo Neri was living with Andrea in London but repeatedly came to Scotland to integrate into her family.

This is something the police concede is an abuse of police power and a violation of the human rights to a private life and to freedom from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The Scottish government emphatically agreed. Backed by every party in Holyrood, they formally asked to be included in the Undercover Policing Inquiry. The Home Office refused.

In asking for inclusion, the Scottish government were declaring that these acts warranted a public inquiry. That makes today’s refusal by Michael Matheson not just a betrayal of abused citizens but an act of personal and institutional hypocrisy.

DON’T LISTEN TO VICTIMS

Today’s HMICS report devotes most of its space to describing conteHMICS whitewashmporary undercover policing in the broad sense. Only four of its 62 pages are devoted to the political spycops whose abuses triggered the report to be commissioned in the first place.

It admits that records are incomplete, and thus implicitly admits we cannot know the truth without the testimony of witnesses. It has not spoken to any victims, and Matheson’s contact is scarcely better, limited to half an hour’s meeting at which he gave no concession.

The HMICS report doesn’t consider any events before 2000, event though we know officers were in Scotland before then, and the Special Demonstration Squad had been active since 1968. This omits periods of intense police activity against political campaigns, such as the 1984-85 miners’ strike.

Matheson’s decision is a spineless abdication of responsibility and an affront to justice. It is a brazen, shameless U-turn that serves to protect yesterday’s abusers and thereby embolden tomorrow’s. He is choosing to cover up the counter-democratic undermining of political campaigns in Scotland.

This is certainly not the first time spycops victims have had obstacles thrown in their path by the state, but we had expected more from someone who had consistently said that it warranted the fullest level of investigation.

He has decided not to let Scottish people know what was done to them, whilst the English are entitled to answers. The fight is far from over.

LEGAL AID FIGHT

Spied-upon activist Tilly Gifford has already brought the Scottish and UK governments to court over the decision to exclude Scotland from the public inquiry. The Scottish Legal Aid Board refused to fund the case, saying it had no merit – even though a similar case in Northern Ireland is going ahead.

Gifford crowdfunded the money, and courts said the case did, after all, have merit and should proceed. The Scottish Legal Aid Board then moved the goalposts, saying they still wouldn’t fund the case as they felt it was unlikely to succeed.

It’s hard to see this as anything other than political interference, something of a piece with today’s decision not to investigate the known, sustained, strategic serious abuse of citizens in Scotland.

You can add your voice to the clamour for justice by demanding Matheson investigate the Scottish Legal Aid Board’s decisions – the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers have set up a handy online form with suggested text.

As The Scotsman said in May 2017

‘those spied on by police in Scotland face the prospect of being the only ones unable to get accountability for what happened to them.

‘Scotland cannot be left behind. Should the English inquiry not be extended north of the Border, then Scottish ministers must act to fill the void.’

What is the Undercover Policing Inquiry Hearing About?

'Undercover is No Excuse for Abuse' banner at the Royal Courts of JusticeThis week sees another preliminary hearing of the public inquiry into Britain’s undercover policing scandal.

BACKGROUND

On 6 March 2014, after more than three years of increasingly shocking revelations about Britain’s political secret police, then-Home Secretary Theresa May ordered a full scale public inquiry. It’s a vast undertaking, involving hundreds of officers spying on thousands of campaigns over fifty years.

It takes in numerous issues – officers deceiving women into life-partner relationships, collusion with industrial blacklisting, theft of identity, undermining democratic rights, spying on elected politicians, undermining campaigns for justice of victims of police killing – any one of which deserves its own inquiry.

The police have tried to obstruct the process at every turn, going so far as applying for it to be held in secret, even though the clue to the fundamental nature of a public inquiry is in the name.

Four years on, the Inquiry has still not properly begun.

WHEN?

On Monday 5 February 2018 the Inquiry will hold another preliminary hearing to decide on elements of its process and approach. The hearing will begin at 10am and will conclude at 4pm at the latest.

WHERE?

It will be held in Court 73 of the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL.

WHAT?

Specifically, it is concerned with:

  • Anonymity applications by seven former undercover officers of the Special Demonstration Squad that the Inquiry intends to grant in full – ie to withhold their real and cover names. They are known by the code numbers HN23, HN40, HN58, HN241, HN297, HN322 and HN348
  • The Inquiry’s consultation on a proposal to change the process for determining anonymity applications by undercover officers
  • Submissions relating to images of undercover police officers

The Chair of the Inquiry, Sir John Mitting, has said he is not inclined to release the real names or the cover names of any of the seven officers (except for one, HN297, as his cover name has already been known to activists).

Withholding the cover names means the Inquiry cannot perform its most basic function; without them, victims cannot know who among their comrades was an undercover officer, and so we cannot begin to learn from the victims what that officer did.

Without the real names, we will not be in a position to discover if that officer has furthered their abuses by training others in the same methods or by doing the same kind of spying for a private company, both of which are common among the exposed former spycops.

Both police and the victims – referred to as ‘Non-Police Non-State Core Participants’ (NPNSCPs) – have submitted paperwork on their intentions and arguments.

WHO ARE THE SEVEN OFFICERS?

H23 was deployed against one group and reported on other groups in the 1990s. They fear their friends and family will feel betrayed that they kept their spycop past a secret. This is not a valid reason to grant this person anonymity. There is no human right to freedom from embarrassment.

HN40 was deployed against two groups in the last decade of the existence of the SDS (ie 1998-2008). They were prosecuted under their false name. Despite this evidence of perjury and perverting the course of justice, the Inquiry seeks to fully protect the officer.

HN58 was an undercover officer who went on to become a Detective Chief Inspector in charge of the SDS from 1997-2001. This was at the time that the SDS sought to undermine the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, held five years after the teenager was murdered.

At the last Inquiry hearing Sir John Mitting described how various processes had failed to establish the full truth about the police’s reaction to the murder of Stephen Lawrence, and that his Inquiry must succeed where others have failed. Hiding the identity of this officer contradicts that, and that’s before we consider what they might have done in their earlier undercover career.

For more information, see the Undercover Research Group’s profile of HN58.

HN241 was deployed against an unspecified group in the early 1970s. The Inquiry says ‘There is a real, but unquantifiable, risk that if the cover name were to be published, the real name could be identified’. It is almost impossible to link the cover name to the real name, unless the officer or other police have given us a link. Indeed, that is the point of having a fake name.

Using this tenuous excuse to relieve an officer of a slight risk of being named means victims of spycops get no information at all and just have to trust the police and Inquiry. Once again, the Inquiry seems to forget that they are here to get the truth about police wrongdoing.

HN297 has already been exposed. He was undercover as Rick Gibson, deployed from July 1974 to July 1976. He infiltrated the South East London branch of the Troops Out Movement (campaigning for British withdrawal from Northern Ireland) and took on roles at the national level in the organisation.

He tried to become a member of socialist feminist revolutionary group Big Flame, but they were suspicious of him. Having discovered he had stolen his identity from a dead child – as was common in the SDS – they confronted him, whereupon he disappeared from their lives.

The officer is now dead. Mitting initially wanted to withhold his real name, lest it upset his widow. However, Mitting has also made a commitment to give the fullest facts to women deceived into relationships by officers and at the last hearing the NPNSCPs’ lawyers dramatically revealed that HN297 had done this to several women. One has now come forward under the name of Mary.

HN322 has no known cover name. He says he was only in the SDS for a few months, probably in late 1968. Records show he was deployed into the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (South East London), though he denies actually doing it.

HN348 was deployed in 1972-73 to infiltrate the Women’s Liberation Front (affiliated to the Women’s Liberation Movement),a group of no more than 12 people. She wants anonymity not because she fears harm – she says the group was non-violent – but because she fears embarrassment if one of the people she spied on found out, and fears her current colleagues might disapprove. 

The Undercover Research Group have produced a helpful table of what’s known about each of the HN-numbered officers.

CONSULTATION ON ANONYMITY

There are somewhere around 200 officers from the spycops units and it is taking an inordinately long time to process them all. The Inquiry wants to limit the amount of supporting evidence it publishes, thus reducing the time spent considering whether it’s safe or appropriate to do so.

The Met have welcomed the proposal. The NPNSCPs say it means taking the police’s word on matters, treating the Inquiry as arbitration rather than investigation into proven police wrongdoing. Granting anonymity orders on the unilateral account of those who seek them, without public scrutiny of the underlying evidence, means we can’t let victims know who spied on them. This means the victims cannot report what the officers did, so the Inquiry cannot command public confidence nor fulfil its purpose.

The NPNSCPs are also calling for more disclosure, with one pointing out that many SDS officers used their skills and methods to encourage or commit similar abuses in the private sector after leaving the police, and only by knowing their real names can we find out which officers have done this.

Harriet Wistrich, lawyer for many of the women deceived into relationships by spycops, has given harrowing details how several officers continued their abuse of the women after their undercover deployment ended.

IMAGES OF OFFICERS

At the previous Inquiry hearing in November, Mitting assured the non-police core participants barrister, Phillippa Kaufmann QC, that they did not have to address the issue of images of officers. As such, it was presumed that pictures of spycops at the time of their deployment could be released when a cover name was.

However, when Mitting’s final orders came out restrictions on the release of images were included. This is outrageous behaviour by Mitting and he should have permitted the issue to be addressed properly when Kaufmann raised it in November.

The NPNSCPs’ lawyers have said that a distinction should be made between pictures that can identify the officer today and those that can identify them when they were undercover. As it was, for most, a long time ago, one would not lead to another. Importantly, photos can be invaluable in jogging the memories of those who were spied upon and thus help them to come forward with their accounts of what happened. Many activists are only known to one another by forenames or nicknames, so images can make the difference in recognition.

The Inquiry has confirmed that any orders made would only apply to pictures issued by the Inquiry, not to those already in people’s possession by any other means.

CAN I GO TO THE HEARING?

The public are welcome, but room is limited. At the last hearing there was an overflow room with a live video link, but this will not be provided this time.

Around 200 significantly affected people have been designated as core participants in the inquiry. Court 73 could only hold a fraction of them, let alone their supporters, so expect a squeeze.

Ten seats are reserved for journalists, if more want to attend they have to take their chances and try for a seat with the rest of us.

HOW CAN I FOLLOW IT ONLINE?

Although it is a public hearing, it is not livestreamed. Several of the activists attending will be live tweeting, including COPS and Tom Fowler, (assuming their batteries are well charged – the room does not have power sockets for core participant/public use). Follow the #spycops hashtag for more.

The Inquiry publishes transcripts of the hearings on the Undercover Policing Inquiry website, usually the same day or the day after.