Content tagged with "Bernard Hogan-Howe"

Union Leaders Call for Hogan-Howe to Explain Shredding

Bernard Hogan-Howe

Bernard Hogan-Howe

Last week the Independent Police Complaints Commission confirmed that the Metropolitan Police destroyed ‘a large number of documents’ from the spycops’ files.

It took place in May 2014, shortly after the Home Secretary had announced the public inquiry into undercover policing, and Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe had promised full co-operation.

It’s well established that, despite being legal, democratic organisations, trade unions were a prime target of spycops. Special Demonstration Squad officer Mark Jenner joined construction union UCATT under his false identity of Mark Cassidy and was a regular on picket lines. This Wednesday sees our Spycops & Strikers event in London, marking the 40th anniversary of the iconic Grunwick strike and the prolonged repression of unions then and since.

Every constabulary’s Special Branch has routinely supplied the construction industry blacklist with personal information about political activists. That activity, like the shredding is police officers actively breaking the law to uphold things they appear to feel are more important, corporate profit and police power.

Bernard Hogan-Howe has a history of covering up the spycops scandal. It’s time he told the truth.

This open letter from union leaders was released this morning.


We the undersigned are outraged at the news that despite court orders to the contrary, the Metropolitan Police Service has destroyed evidence required for use in the Undercover Policing Public Inquiry. State spying on trade unions and political campaigns is a human rights scandal that affects millions of British citizens.

Despite continued reassurances, the Pitchford Inquiry has failed to secure the documents that will be central to the investigation. Trade union core participants are beginning to question whether the Inquiry team has the ability to stop the police from obstructing the pursuit of justice. Lord Justice Pitchford needs to act now to restore our faith.

We are calling on Lord Justice Pitchford to announce an urgent Inquiry hearing to examine the destruction of evidence by the police. The Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe should be forced to give evidence under oath to explain why, how and under whose authority documents have been destroyed.

Lord Justice Pitchford needs to take immediate measures to secure all documentation held by the police, in order to prevent future destruction and avoid the entire inquiry descending into a hugely expensive cover-up on the part of the Metropolitan Police.

SIGNED:

Len McCluskey (General Secretary) and Gail Cartmail (Acting General Secretary) UNITE the Union, incorporating UCATT

Matt Wrack (General Secretary) Fire Brigades Union

Chris Kitchen (General Secretary) National Union of Mineworkers

Tim Roache (General Secretary) GMB union

Mick Cash (General Secretary) Rail Maritime and Transport union

Dave Ward (General Secretary) Communication Workers Union

Michelle Stanistreet (General Secretary) National Union of Journalists

Dave Smith and Royston Bentham (joint secretaries) Blacklist Support Group

Dave Smith, blacklisted construction worker and himself a core participant in the undercover policing inquiry commented:

‘The Pitchford inquiry has been running for nearly two years and so far not a single document has been disclosed to our lawyers and not a single witness has given evidence. The delay is entirely due to police attempts to try and keep their dirty secrets away from public scrutiny. The police are no longer just obstructing justice, by shredding evidence they are in contempt of court.

We demand to know who gave the order and whether criminal charges will be brought against them. The more this scandal unfolds, the more apparent it is that the Met Police think they are above the law. This has got to stop.’

Spycops Stealing Dead Children’s Identities

Barbara Shaw, holding the death certificate of her son Rod Richardson

Barbara Shaw, holding the death certificate of her son Rod Richardson

Parents who want to know if their dead child’s identity was stolen by undercover police officers have been invited to ask the Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing.

Anyone whose child was born between 1938 and 1975 can do it, as long as they have somehow stumbled across the invitation (www.ucpi.org.uk  > Preliminary Issues > Deceased Children’s Identities > scroll to the bottom of a list of 16 PDFs > click the last one) .

The issue came to light when activists exposed their comrade ‘Rod Richardson’ in 2013. The people who had unmasked Mark Kennedy had become suspicious of someone else they had known who now appeared to have been Kennedy’s predecessor. They found that the real Rod Richardson had died as a baby.

How common was dead child identity theft?

In the same week as ‘Richardson’ was exposed, Pat Gallan – Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Met and, at that point, head of its spycops investigation Operation Herne – gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee. She said that they had only found one case of dead child identity theft and the combined efforts of Herne’s 31 staff had failed to find any more in the subsequent five months until activists exposed ‘Richardson’.

The select committee insisted on the truth about the issue and demanded all parents be told and given an apology by the end of 2013. We’re still waiting.

Later in 2013 Herne reported that, contrary to Gallan’s claim of it being isolated and unauthorised, identity theft of dead children was commonplace, and mandatory in the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), with instructions laid out in the SDS Tradecraft Manual.

The practice began soon after the formation of the SDS in 1968 and continued until the mid-1990s. Herne reported that, of 106 fake identities used by SDS officers, 42 were of dead children, 45 were fictitious and 19 were unknown.

Known as ‘the Jackal run’, after its use in Frederick Forsyth’s 1971 novel The Day of the Jackal, new recruits would trawl the death registers looking for a child with their first name and a similar date of birth. There is some indication that other state agencies such as Customs, also used the practice.

It has been criticised as being ghoulish, but it’s more than that. As Anthony Barker – whose brother John died of leukaemia aged 8 and had his identity stolen by SDS officer John Dinespointed out, it puts bereaved families at risk. After Dines ended his deployment and disappeared, his worried and bereft activist partner Helen Steel traced John Barker and went to the house listed on the birth certificate.

‘Now, imagine that policeman had infiltrated a violent gang or made friends with a volatile person, then disappeared, just like this man did. Someone wanting revenge would have tracked us down to our front door – but they wouldn’t have wanted a cup of tea and a chat, like this woman says she did.’

Why did spycops steal children’s identities?

Time and again we were told that it was done to give officers a credible back story. Operation Herne said

‘As outlined in the SDS Trade Craft Manual, the practice of using a genuine deceased identity was developed to create a plausible covert identity that was capable of frustrating enquiries by activists’

It later reiterates

‘the subject chosen had to have an ‘existence’ to show up in case of basic research by suspicious activists’

Met police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe said

‘At the time this method of creating identities was in use, officers felt this was the safest option’

But, as one of the activists who exposed ‘Rod Richardson’ explained, it actually posed a significant risk.

‘How many times have you looked up a friend’s birth certificate because you thought they were actually someone else? It is the rare act of someone with a deep distrust. A real birth certificate wouldn’t allay the reasons for that suspicion. More than that, if an activist is suspicious enough to look for a birth certificate, they can find a death certificate too.

‘There are many reasons why someone might not have a British birth certificate. They may have been born abroad, they may have been adopted. There is, however, no reason for someone who comes round to your house to have a death certificate… Having found Rod Richardson’s birth certificate, the next thing I did was search for and find his death certificate and I immediately knew my friend had in fact been a fraud.’

In truth, the spycops stole these identities for the same reason most other thieves do it. Before passports were commonplace, a birth certificate was the primary proof of identity. Using a real one enabled them to open bank accounts, get tenancies and various other bits of officialdom that construct an ordinary functional life.

More brass monkeys at the Met

Brass monkeys

The Met responded to the revelations with their typical secrecy and cavalier attitude to the damage they have done to citizens they’re supposed to serve.

A number of bereaved families contacted police to ask if their child’s identity had been used. The Met refused to answer. A Freedom of Information request was made asking for the ages of the dead children, not even the exact dates or their sexes. At least with that barest detail, many worried families would be able to rule out their children if there wasn’t a match. The Met refused to do even that.

In August 2014 the Information Commissioners Office declared that the police must release the list of ages. Five months later, the Met admitted they had stolen the identity of dead children of every age between 0 and 17 except for 2, 3 and 15.

Bernard Hogan-Howe personally issued an apology of sorts. It was addressed to nobody in particular, refused to give any names or contact any affected families, and basically said he was sorry he got caught.

‘It was never intended or foreseen that any of the identities used would become public’

Years after the exposure of ‘Rod Richardson’ and John Dines, the Met still ‘neither confirm nor deny’ that either was an officer. The real Rod Richardson’s mother, Barbara Shaw, made a complaint to the police. It was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission in February 2013 and they handed it back to the police but said it would be a ‘supervised investigation’. It was then downgraded to a straightforward unsupervised police self-investigation known as Operation Riverwood.

When it was completed the police announced that no action would be taken against any officer. They are still refusing to publish the investigation’s report.

Barbara Shaw’s lawyer Jules Carey said

‘The families of the dead children whose identities have been stolen by the undercover officers deserve better than this. They deserve an explanation, a personal apology and, if appropriate, a warning of the potential risk they face, in the exceptional circumstances, that their dead child’s identity was used to infiltrate serious criminal organisations.

‘The harvesting of dead children’s identities was only one manifestation of the rot at the heart of these undercover units which had officers lie on oath, conduct smear campaigns and use sexual relationships as an evidence-gathering tool.’


What happens next?

Last week’s announcement from the Pitchford Inquiry says it may publish names used by spycops. However, it actively warns that it, too, may join in with the Met’s cover-up practice of Neither Confirm Nor Deny.

‘the Inquiry may be unable to give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to your question, even after the Inquiry has concluded its work and knows the answer. The reason for this is that in order to protect the rights of other individuals or in the public interest the Chairman of the Inquiry may have to make a restriction order under section 19 of the Inquiries Act 2005 that prevents the Inquiry from releasing information in its possession.’

Bear in mind that this is not disclosing the identity of an officer, just the identity of someone else that they stole and stopped using years ago. But still, they say that your right to know what was done to your family without consent can be trumped by a desire to stop people knowing something that isn’t even about the police officer.

The Inquiry says that it will, later, attempt to contact all families whose children’s identities were stolen. This is a significant step forward and raises the real prospect of names being published.

If the Inquiry decides not to publish, will it also gag the families? Has it considered how secrecy may compound the damage to a family? As we’ve learned from countless justice campaigns, public acknowledgement of state wrongdoing is vital for victims to be able to come to terms with what was done to them.

The Inquiry also says that any families applying will be initially contacted by the police. Once again, we see the police as being placed as trustworthy independent arbiters. The police are the subject of the Inquiry because we proved they ran a sustained, systemic, strategic campaign of counter-democratic subterfuge and brazen abuse of citizens.

The Inquiry’s increasing tendency to side with police perspective and norms is deeply alarming for anyone hoping for truth and justice. We know from other cases of police wrongdoing that ‘liaison officers’ were not friendly faces but actually evidence gatherers used to undermine attempts to find justice. We know that police lied to the family of Ian Tomlinson, telling them a protester may have been their father’s attacker, and warned against contact between the family and journalists seeking the truth.

The Inquiry must recognise that what limited light falls on this murky abuse has been shed by the hard work of victims. The Inquiry should seek to emulate and expand on this approach rather than copying the acts of the perpetrators.

The police have attempted to frustrate justice and cannot be trusted. Although the police have all the files and the answers, they choose to withhold them. Their refusal to tell their victims what was done is an arrogant intensification of torment. They are acting as an enemy of justice.

Hogan-Howe: A Legacy of Cover-Ups

Bernard Hogan-Howe

Bernard Hogan-Howe

Bernard Hogan-Howe is to resign as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Among the numerous dubious areas of his career (see the Undercover Research Group’s profile for more), he cultivated the Met’s cover-up and obstruction in the spycops scandal.

When Mark Kennedy was exposed in 2010, Hogan-Howe was working for HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC). As we detailed last week, he drafted their report into the scandal, which was pulped just hours before publication because new revelations proved it was untrue.

Even the second version, completed by Denis O’ Connor, was essentially a whitewash that blamed Mark Kennedy and absolved management.

By the time that report came out, Hogan-Howe was Commissioner of the Met. He set up Operation Herne, the Met’s self-investigation into spycops, appointing Pat Gallan as its head.

MARKING THEIR OWN HOMEWORK

In February 2013 Gallan testified at a Home Affairs Select Committee hearing on spycops. Repeatedly pushed on the fact that officers stole the identities of dead children, she refused to apologise for the practice (or anything else). She said there had only been one instance that she knew of until the Guardian had exposed another the day before the hearing. In actual fact, the practice was mandatory for Special Demonstration Squad officers from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Gallan’s performance was so outrageous that she was rapidly removed from her post. In an attempt to make Operation Herne appear more independent, her replacement was Mick Creedon, a senior officer from outside the Met but who, in all probability, personally authorised some of Mark Kennedy’s deployments.

The Home Affairs Select Committee’s report insisted the Met inform parents whose dead children’s identities had been stolen by spycops. Hogan-Howe – personally and publicly – refused.

Although revealing the names used would only expose an officer’s fake identity, not the real one, Hogan-Howe said it was much too dangerous because activists targeted by the Special Demonstration Squad included

‘criminals behind bars and at large today who would have no qualms in doing serious harm’

This echoes the phrasing in the HMIC report he drafted, firmly asserting that the protesters Mark Kennedy infiltrated

‘were not individuals engaging in peaceful protest, or even people who were found to be guilty of lesser public order offences. They were individuals intent on perpetrating acts of a serious and violent nature against citizens going about their everyday lives.’

ABUSING THE ABUSED

Hogan-Howe was already Met Commissioner when legal action was launched in 2011 by eight women deceived into relationships with undercover officers. The Met’s lawyers threw every obstruction they could at their victims. They tried to have the case struck out. When that failed, they said the Met was not responsible as such relationships were not authorised. When the women pointed out this meant the case could be heard in open court instead of a secret tribunal, those same lawyers said that the relationships were, after all, authorised.

The Met then claimed the relationships were based on ‘mutual attraction and genuine personal feelings’. Throughout all this, they tried to avoid giving any information, saying they would ‘neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND) that any officer was in fact an officer, and further lied saying NCND was a ‘long-standing policy’ when it was merely a recent and erratically applied tactic. They would take this as far as referring to Mark Kennedy by code letters.

Eventually, they were forced to concede Kennedy was a police officer and, three years into the case, they were ordered by a court to admit Bob Lambert and Jim Boyling were too. To this day, they block accountability with NCND for all other officers, even those like Mark Jenner who’s been exposed for years and confirmed by a colleague, and John Dines who has even admitted he was an officer and apologised.

After putting their traumatised victims through four gruelling years of these legal obstructions, late last year the Met finally settled seven cases in order to avoid having to go to court and disclose information. As part of the settlement the women negotiated a powerfully worded admission and apology.

How sincere was that apology? The Met are still forcing others with identical cases – in some cases with the same officers as the settled cases – to battle on in court.

In June, people deceived into intimate relationships with undercover officer Marco Jacobs were back in court. One of them, Tom Fowler, said

‘By dragging their heels the police have increased the psychological damage they’ve inflicted on people, made it a lot worse. It just shows that the public statements made by Bernard Hogan-Howe and other police officers… are totally at odds with what they are directing their lawyers to do in court. It shows they can’t really be believed on any of these matters.’

WHEN IS A PUBLIC INQUIRY NOT A PUBLIC INQUIRY?

Earlier this year Met lawyers formally submitted that, at the forthcoming public inquiry, police should not give evidence in public. They alleged that the operations of the political secret police were too dangerous to be revealed, they claimed that being identified might lead to ’emotional unhappiness’ of the officers. By trying to have as much of the public inquiry held in secret, they were attempting to cover up rather than come clean.

This is the true face of Bernard Hogan-Howe’s Metropolitan police. Just as at Hillsborough, it uses the language of concern as part of an armoury to deny truth and justice to its victims and the wider public.

AS AT HILLSBOROUGH, SO EVERYWHERE

Hogan-Howe was personally present at Hillsborough in a role that has been criticised by the families. Hogan-Howe claimed he gave a statement to the 1989 Taylor Inquiry into Hillsborough and claimed to be one of the resolute champions of integrity who refused to change their statement despite being asked by another officer to do so. In real life, Bernard Hogan-Howe never made a statement to Taylor.

The Hillsborough families’ struggle mirrors that of so many bereaved people abused by police for wanting justice. Not only were they smeared, they were also the targets of spycops. Astonishingly, the Hillsborough families have been denied ‘core participant’ status at the forthcoming public inquiry.

As is established beyond all doubt, the fault at Hillsborough rested squarely with the police. This was the conclusion of the 1990 Taylor report, as well this year’s inquests who ruled that the 96 people were unlawfully killed by police action. Yet even after all this time and the damning conclusions of multiple investigations, Hogan-Howe cannot fully admit what happened.

‘A lot of officers did their best [at Hillsborough] in very difficult circumstances, but the leadership was sadly challenged’

They were not ‘sadly challenged’, they were irresponsible, reckless liars who unlawfully killed 96 people. His instinct to defend officers – especially senior officers, especially himself – overrides any need to acknowledge the plain truth, let alone facilitate justice.

Earlier this year Hogan-Howe said a cover-up like the one that followed the Hillsborough disaster couldn’t happen these days.

‘It’s about making sure we are open and transparent… You’ve got more accountability than you’ve had for 20-30 years. I don’t think we would see today that sort of cover-up in the way we have in the past.’

There are many police cover-ups still happening today, with huge resources devoted to preventing the truth being examined. Moreover, in the case of the spycops scandal, Hogan-Howe has been the one directing it.

His protection of spycops means that most victims still have no clue as to the reason for their abuse. We have information on barely 10% of the officers, and the work has been done by victims themselves in the face of obstruction orchestrated at public expense by Hogan-Howe, whether at the pseudo-independent HMIC or as Commissioner of the Met.

It would have been more convincing if, before he reassured us, Hogan-Howe started by actually condemning the police action at Hillsborough for once and then stopped actively running the spycops cover-up. But that would have necessitated a break with his whole approach to police abuse of citizens, and the culture of the Met itself.

Scotland Asks Police to Self-Investigate Spycops

John Dines on Barra

SDS officer John Dines on Barra in the Outer Hebrides. His activity is excluded from the Scottish inquiry

The Scottish government has asked a group of senior police officers to investigate spycops activity in their country.

It comes in response to the forthcoming Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing being limited to events in England and Wales. The Home Office refused a request, supported by every party in the Scottish Parliament, to extend the Pitchford remit to Scotland.

As we’ve said previously, Scotland was not merely incidental to the political spying of the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) and National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU). The majority of known officers worked there. Officials admit Mark Kennedy made 14 authorised visits to the country. During these, he had numerous sexual relationships that the Met themselves have described as ‘abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong’ and a breach of human rights. He was far from the only one – Mark Jenner, Carlo Neri and John Dines all did the same.

Having failed to secure Scotland’s inclusion in the main Pitchford inquiry, every party in Holyrood except the SNP backed the call for a separate Scottish inquiry. On Wednesday the Scottish government announced its decision. It has asked Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) to look into it. HMICS is a body of senior police officers.

HMIC’s FIRST BUCKET OF WHITEWASH

Its sister organisation for England and Wales, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), has already got a history of whitewash on the spycops scandal.

The whole issue first hit the headlines in 2011 when Mark Kennedy’s exposure caused the collapse of a trial. Since then, 49 convictions have been overturned due to Kennedy’s involvement. HMIC were asked to look into Kennedy and the two spycops units.

The report was drafted by Bernard Hogan-Howe, on a two year stint at HMIC between his roles as Chief Constable of Merseyside Police and Commissioner of the Met. By the time the report came out he was spending huge sums of Met money deploying lawyers to obstruct justice for spycops’ victims.

The HMIC report was completed by Denis O’Connor, who had been Assistant Commissioner of the Met at the time of the MacPherson Inquiry into the killing of Stephen Lawrence.

The report is believed to have portrayed Mark Kennedy as a rogue officer who had strayed from the purpose of his deployment. It was dramatically withdrawn and pulped just five hours before publication because The Guardian published revelations that another officer, Jim Boyling, had caused miscarriages of justice just as Kennedy did.

It underwent four months of rewriting and, when finally published in 2012, it still came out saying senior officers knew nothing, and basically hung Kennedy out to dry.

‘operational supervision, review and oversight were insufficient to identify that his behaviour had led to disproportionate intrusion.’

Kennedy had been in daily contact with his cover officer, who will have known where he was and what he was doing. Documents released since the HMIC report show that Kennedy was sanctioned from on high and people far up the ladder took a keen and detailed personal interest in his work.

Above the spycops units were their authorising officers.

‘it was not evident that the authorising officers were cognisant of the extent and nature of the intrusion that occurred; nor is it clear that the type and level of intrusion was completely explained to them’

What is an authorising officer doing if not asking about the necessity and impacts of the things they authorise?

But the HMIC report, in the classic style of self-investigations, says it was incompetence and ignorance rather than anything more sinister, only the lowlings did any really bad stuff, lessons have been learned and we can all move on.

It is a challenge for anyone to seriously expect anything different from the forthcoming Scottish report.

CHRONOLOGICAL BLINKERS

As if choosing police to self-investigate isn’t bad enough, the Scottish Government’s remit to HMICS is

‘to report on the extent and scale of undercover policing in Scotland conducted by Scottish policing since the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act came into force: and the extent and scale of undercover police operations carried out in Scotland by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit and the Special Demonstration Squad in the same period.’

This means the earlier abuses of officers like Mark Jenner and John Dines – who were committing what their bosses admit were breaches of human rights on Scottish soil – will be ignored.

This isn’t just the police getting to mark their own homework. It is police who have been caught after decades of wrongdoing, with a history of cover-ups on this very topic, being given a narrow section of their misdeeds on which to report. Even if they could see clearly, they are looking at the picture through a toilet roll tube.

The Pitchford Inquiry has designated 200 people who were seriously involved in spycops activity – mostly those who were spied on – as ‘core participants’. A group of 24 of them were also personally targeted in Scotland and demand to know the truth of what was done to them there.

As with the police’s spycops self-investigation Operation Herne, it’s unlikely that victims will lend credibility to HMICS’ inevitably flawed and partisan effort by participating. Not that HMIC asked any victims for the 2012 report anyway.

SCOTLAND’S TOP COP DID IT, HIS WIFE’S AN INVESTIGATOR

Any idea that this will produce mere hopeless bias rather than corruption is largely dispelled by the tangle of personal involvement between Scottish police, the two spycops units and HMIC.

Scotland’s Chief Constable, Phil Gormley, was head of the Met’s Special Branch – and therefore oversaw its sub-unit the Special Demonstration Squad – from 2005-2007. He was also secretary of ACPO-TAM, the committee that oversaw Mark Kennedy’s unit the NPOIU, from 2005-2008.

Gormley supervised both units at the exact time that is under investigation. Beyond the usual bias of police investigating police, will fear of besmirching Scotland’s top cop further influence the report? What about the fact that Phil Gormley is married to Detective Superintendent Claire Stevens who has been at HMIC since 2011 (according to her recently deleted LinkedIn profile)?

If this were happening in some tinpot failed state we would express incredulous outrage. The police chief oversaw disgraced secret units that abused dozens of women, engineered hundreds of miscarriages of justice, illegally gave information on political activists to industrial blacklists, disrupted legitimate campaigns and undermined the struggle for justice by families whose loved ones died at the hands of his constabulary. An inquiry run by his senior officers with links to his wife is touted as credible.

That this is the response of the Scottish government, as it seeks to show itself as a fairer than Westminster, beggars belief.

AN INSULT AND A BETRAYAL

These aren’t suggestions or allegations. They are the established facts of large-scale, systematic sustained abuse of power and violation of the citizens that the police are supposed to serve.

To appoint HMICS to investigate these events places huge trust in those who have emphatically proven themselves unworthy. It is an insult to all those who were abused by spycops in Scotland – the people who have done all the work of exposing these outrages – whilst the police, including HMIC, smeared victims in an attempt to mitigate, justify and deny. It is a betrayal of those who expect truth and justice.

To let HMICS go ahead in light of the facts is frankly corrupt. More than that, it is an acceptance by the Scottish government that abuses serious enough to warrant a public inquiry in England count for less, or even nothing, when done in Scotland.

 

 


COPS Scotland is being launched with two public meetings featuring:

Glasgow, Wednesday 5 October 7.30pm
Jury’s Inn, 80 Jamaica Street G1 4QG

Dundee, Thursday 6 October, 7.00pm
Dundee Voluntary Action, 10 Constitution Road DD1 1LL