Content tagged with "Blacklisting"

End the Blacklist – North East Conference

Blacklisted workers outside the High CourtMore than 3,000 people had files on the illegal construction industry blacklist run by the Consulting Association when it was seized in 2009. Most major construction firms used the list yet none have faced any penalty.

The personal files contained information on political activity that came from police. This wasn’t police upholding the law, it was police breaking the law to uphold corporate profit.

Numerous blacklisted workers and activists have been granted core participant status at the public inquiry into undercover policing.

The practice of blacklisting did not end with the closure of the Consulting Association’s list. Blacklisting of construction workers has long been a curse of the industry and in recent years the ‘dirty dealings’ of leading companies through their undercover Consulting Agency has been widely exposed and they have condemned in the courts. But the issue is much more widespread and the battle between big business and union activists is still to be won.

This first North East conference is organised by Tyne & Wear CATUC and the Construction Safety Campaign, and sponsored by Unite North East, Yorkshire and Humberside Region.

Speakers include Dave Smith, co-author of ‘Blacklisted‘, and Kate Parker, director of a film looking at the wider implications.

Free entry, although booking tickets is advisable. Refreshments and lunch provided.

For further information or to register please contact twcatuc@aol.co.uk

Spread the word with the Facebook event.

Spycops Victims Boycott Scottish Inquiry

HMICS whitewashPeople spied upon by Britiain’s political secret police in Scotland are boycotting the forthcoming Scottish review of the issue, saying ‘it cannot be trusted’ and branding it ‘pointless’.

The review by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) was commissioned by the Scottish government. Although most known officers from the disgraced units were active in Scotland, the Home Office has limited the full-scale public inquiry to events in England and Wales. The Scottish government – supported by every party in Holyrood – formally asked for inclusion but were rebuffed in July last year.

The Scottish government responded by asking HMICS to do a review, but only of events in Scotland since 2000.

Now eighteen people have written to HMICS, decrying both the remit and the choice of the body itself.

Most of them were so heavily spied upon that they are among the 200 people designated core participants at the London-based public inquiry. They include several women who were deceived into relationships by undercover officers and have received an abject apology from the Metropolitan Police.

Others were only targeted in Scotland and so cannot be part of that inquiry. Among them are former MSP Frances Curran and climate activist Tilly Gifford who is bringing a case to force a judicial review of Scotland’s exclusion.

Many were also on the illegal construction industry blacklist, despite never having worked in that trade. Several hundred activists were on the list as every constabulary’s Special Branch illegally supplied it with the details of people who were politically active.

‘The HMICS review has none of the muscle it takes to bring the truth to light, even if it were within the remit and was so disposed.

‘There is little point in another report that simply says things were wrong but it has all changed now. We and the Scottish public need proper answers. We want to know the truth of who spied on us, how we were targeted and why police thought they could get away with it. Without that truth there is no path to justice.’

The group add that they ‘do not want to be complicit with measures that treat a violation as less serious if it occurs on Scottish soil’.

Citing earlier reviews in England as inadequate, they call for an entirely different approach that puts the abused first, rather than leaving everything to the abusers and their colleagues;

‘the HMICS review should be scrapped and replaced by something that is credible to all sides and to the public at large’.

 


The full text of the letter:

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland
1st Floor West
St Andrew’s House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

27 April 2017

Dear HMICS,

Re: Review of Undercover Policing in Scotland

We were spied upon by undercover political secret police officers in Scotland. Some of us were spied on to such a significant extent that we are core participants at the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI), yet the same officers committing the same acts against us in Scotland will not be considered by the UCPI. Some of us were only spied upon in Scotland and so are ignored by the UCPI. We all deserve the truth, as do the Scottish public whose democratic rights have been interfered with.

In 2011, when the truth of what had been done to us came to public attention, we were met with denials from senior police, and sham inquiries that were narrow investigations by police officers. We have no faith in police investigating themselves. We said these reviews were not sufficiently transparent, robust or independent to satisfy public concern and would not come close to addressing all of the issues raised. We were proven right.

As the scale of what went on became clearer and the content of many of these reports – including one from your sister body HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) – were discredited, more serious action was taken. Mark Ellison’s reviews were followed by the announcement of the UCPI. Its exclusion of events in Scotland is a serious limitation. Most of the exposed officers were active in the country and the truth of what happened in Scotland is just as important as it is in England.

For the Scottish Government to commission a review by HMICS is a retrograde step. It is much like the response we had in 2011; police self-investigating a tiny part of what happened, a fob-off to give the appearance of doing something.

We are far beyond that now. We are not dealing with allegations, but proven abuses. This includes officers initiating and furthering intimate relationships with women in Scotland, which the Metropolitan Police has conceded was a violation of human rights and an abuse of police power. It warrants comprehensive and impartial investigation, which we have no faith HMICS is capable of delivering.

Firstly, there is a mater of trust. HMICS is a body of career police officers investigating their colleagues. On that basis alone, it cannot be trusted.

The proposal to look at two disgraced units that were, at the time in question, overseen by the current chief constable of Scotland (whose wife works for your sister organisation, HMIC). This makes it even harder to feign independence. Additionally, the review is being led by Stephen Whitelock who has been working in and alongside the posts that deployed undercover officers, including authorising Strathclyde’s deployments of the abusive Met officers this review examines. The decision to choose him and HMICS gives the appearance of corruption. We cannot think of anyone less appropriate to be doing this.

Secondly, there is a matter of scope. The HMICS remit is limited to events since 2000, a fraction of the lifetime of the units. Among the many outrages committed was the targeting of women through intimate relationships, the use of stolen identities of dead children and the illegal blacklisting of construction workers, environmental and community campaigners. All of these took place in Scotland before 2000 but the investigation will treat them as if they did not happen. To ignore such a significant part of the pattern of abuses makes the investigation unable to see anything like the whole picture and renders it pointless.

Thirdly, there is the element of HMICS’ power to investigate. We have battled for years to get as far as we have, faced by a police culture that will do anything it can to avoid accountability. We have some hope that the UCPI, with its power to compel witnesses who give testimony under oath, might elicit some truth. The HMICS review has none of the muscle it takes to bring the truth to light, even if it were within the remit and was so disposed.

There is little point in another report that simply says things were wrong but it has all changed now. We and the Scottish public need proper answers. We want to know the truth of who spied on us, how we were targeted and why police thought they could get away with it. Without that truth there is no path to justice. There is also no means for the Scottish public to learn how these undemocratic abuses came about and so put steps in place to ensure they do not happen again.

No police report to date has offered anything like that and there is no reason to believe HMICS could, let alone would, do so.

We believe the Justice Secretary should have spoken to those of us abused by these officers in Scotland before deciding on an appropriate course of action. Instead, he spoke only to police and their satellite bodies and then hired them.

We do not want to be complicit with measures that treat a violation as less serious if it occurs on Scottish soil. The HMICS review should be scrapped and replaced by something that is credible to all sides and to the public at large.

The Scottish public and those abused in Scotland deserve a proper Inquiry into the abuses committed by political undercover policing units, just as those in England and Wales deserved one.

Andrea
Alison
Claire Fauset
Donal O’Driscoll
Dr Nick McKerrell
Frances Curran
Harry Halpin
Helen Steel
Jason Kirkpatrick
John Jordan
Kate Wilson
Kim Bryan
Lindsay Keenan
Lisa
Martin Shaw
Merrick Cork
Olaf Bayer
Tilly Gifford

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.’

Spycop Boss Sues Blacklisted Workers

Gordon Mills, one of the spycops chiefs, is suing workers who spycops helped to illegally blacklist.

The extraordinary move follows a letter from John McDonnell MP to Home Secretary Theresa May concerning Mills giving a Powerpoint presentation to a meeting of corporate bosses and an illegal blacklisting firm.

BLACKLISTING

The Consulting Association ran an illegal blacklist of over 3,000 construction workers until it was raided and closed by the Information Commissioners Office in 2009. It helped firms to filter out job applicants who had a history of being ‘trouble makers’ wanting proper health and safety equipment, union membership, or other things that are their protected rights.

Most of the big name construction firms illegally used the list – Skanska & McAlpine were invoiced for around 14,000 vetting checks in the blacklist’s final year 2008-09 when they were both building Olympic venues – but no firm has yet faced any charges or censure apart from a solitary letter telling them not to do it again.

In 2012 it was realised that some of the information on the files must have come from the police or MI5. The following year the Independent Police Complaints Commission said it seemed every constabulary’s Special Branch had supplied the blacklist with information.

Some of this information bore no relevance to the job, and instead concerned the person’s political opinions or friendships. Around 200 environmental activists had their details given to the Consulting Associationj by police. Another person, a teacher by trade, was on the list for having been seen by police at an anti-racist demonstration.

This is not police officers upholding the law, it is police officers breaking the law to uphold something they presumably feel is more important; upholding corporate power.

NETCU

After the second British political secret police unit, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, was established in 1999, a sister unit was devised in 2004 to support companies that were the subject of protests. The National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU) was born.

NETCU was established during the drafting of the 2005 amendment to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act which made it illegal to ‘interfere with the contractual relations of an animal research organisation’ or to ‘intimidate’ employees of an animal research organisation. Run from Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, NETCU’s remit was defined as ‘prevention’ and it was tasked with helping companies such as Huntingdon Life Sciences frustrate campaigns waged against them by animal rights activists.

NETCU didn’t just advise corporations about threats to their profits from campaigns, it took a proactive political role in discrediting and undermining those campaigns. Its website linked to the pro-vivisection Research Defence Society, and the unit issued several press releases boasting of activists being prevented from doing street collections.

NETCU’s rapid ‘mission-creep’ saw it move to encompass environmental and climate activists.

SUPPORTING CORPORATIONS IN COURT

After the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 came into force, enterprising lawyer Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden realised that, as well as its intended purpose of protecting vulnerable women from dangerous ex-partners, it could also be used to defend multinational corporations from protest. A large number of injunctions were served against various campaigns, and Lawson-Cruttenden was behind most of them. He developed strong relationships with police officers.

Regfarding the campaign against arms manufacturers EDO and Caterpillar, the Guardian reported that in 2005,

‘Private emails show that Inspector Nic Clay and Jim Sheldrake of NETCU gave Lawson-Cruttenden the names and contact details of officers at two other police forces as he was “keen” to obtain statements about the activities of the campaigners at a third firm.’

On that occasion, the arms firm lost and the judge severely criticised Lawson-Cruttenden for ignoring a court order against receiving confidential police documents. By the time of the Guardian report in 2009 the head of NETCU, Superintendent Stephen Pearl, who had testified in court for many of Lawson-Cruttenden’s corporate clients seeking injunctions, denied that NETCU were involved in any way.

BLACKLISTERS FIGHT BACK

John McDonnell MP has supported the blacklisted workers’ campaign for justice from the start – he hosted the inaugural meeting of the Blacklist Support Group. His prominence meant that he was the chosen recipient for a document leaked in 2014.

It was two handwritten pages from the man who ran the Consulting Association blacklist, Ian Kerr. It documented a meeting at the Bear Hotel, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, attended by Kerr, directors of construction firms using the blacklist and DCI Gordon Mills of NETCU (The Canary has published the original notes). At the meeting, Mills delivered a talk complete with Powerpoint presentation. The police have not released the contents of the presentation.

McDonnell wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May demanding publication of all relevant NETCU files, and an independent inquiry into blacklisting

‘DCI Mills was head of Police Liaison at NETCU and it is alleged that his role was to provide information from the police to companies. NETCU was subsequently subsumed into the National Domestic Extremism Unit of the Metropolitan Police, but despite numerous requests under the Freedom of Information Act for documents relating to NETCU’s activities, the response has been that no documents relating to the meeting of DCI Mills with the association exist.

It appears odd that no report of such an important meeting was written and that no evidence of the meeting is now held by the Metropolitan Police.’

Blacklist Support Group secretary Dave Smith, whose Consulting Association file was 36 pages long, and who recently co-authored the Blacklisted book, added

‘We have been saying for five-and-a half years that the state was involved in blacklisting and we have been told time and time again that is not true and been accused of being paranoid. It is a cover-up. We have a name of a senior police officer, not a rogue constable, who was meeting with them. There must be documentation held by the police and correspondence between the police and the association.’

Many blacklisted workers, and the Blacklisted Support Group itself, are among the 200 people designated core participants at the Undercover Policing Inquiry.

SUING THE PROTESTERS

So it comes as something of a surprise that Mills has, like his NETCU colleague Superintendent Pearl before him, chosen to deny everything. He told the Evening Standard

‘This attack on my integrity by John McDonnell has blighted my life, leaving me unable to move job and fearful for the safety of my family. In the past year I have been called a blacklister, a spy cop, a colluder and an undercover operative — all of which are untrue.’

That’s a bold stance for someone who was one of the officers who ran a spycop unit. The fear for his family is also a somewhat overblown. In five years since the spycops scandal hit the headlines we have learned the names and locations of many officers. Nothing untoward has happened to any of them.

Mills says the ‘highly damaging and serious allegation’ was ‘simply not true,’ adding that he had not even heard of the Consulting Association and its blacklist until he read about it in a newspaper in 2014. He singled McDonnell out for criticism

‘Mr McDonnell has never asked me for my account. I was named with what appears to be no consideration to my personal safety or the safety of my family against an extremist backlash…

With power comes responsibility. Mr McDonnell should think about the horrendous impact this has had on me and my family and apologise for initiating this campaign on an ex-police officer who was simply doing his job.’

A spokesperson for McDonnell replied that he

‘was well within his right to raise with the Home Secretary the matter of a serving police officer meeting an organisation that was involved in the illegal blacklisting of trade unionists, while this officer was working for a unit that kept union activists under surveillance’.

However, Mills is not suing McDonnell. Nor is he suing The Times, who published an interview with Consulting Association boss Ian Kerr (now deceased) who spoke of his links with police and the ‘two way information exchange’.

The sole target of Mills’ legal action is the GMB, who have given extensive legal support to blacklisted workers and helped to organise protests against blacklisters.

A CHANGE OF PLAN

In his claim against the GMB, Mills say it had been his

‘intention to develop and pursue an academic, teaching career exploiting his police experience and training’

In 2013 he published a candid essay aimed at fellow police strategists in entitled The successes and failures of policing animal rights extremism in the UK 2004–2010 as part of his work towards a doctorate. He gained this qualification at London Metropolitan University on a course run by a team including former spycop boss Bob Lambert.

Mills had a part time post at Anglia Ruskin University around that time. The GMB planned a series of demonstrations about blacklisting in March 2015, including one at Andrea Ruskin University. The university’s lawyers wrote to the GMB saying Mills’ employment there had ended in 2014 and there were no plans to renew it. The union framed this in terms of Mills being sacked and alluded to a blacklisting connection, which stretches the truth.

However, it’s clear that any future academic employer of Mills’ policing experience would be subject to demonstrations. Bob Lambert’s post at London Metropolitan University was, at the time, the subject of a campaign of monthly protests, and spycops campaigners had held meetings there and at Lambert’s other employer, the University of St Andrews. These were continued until Lambert resigned from both posts in December 2015. It seems likely that Mills and Lambert discussed all this.

As with Lambert, Mills fears the toll on his prestige and salary if he is held responsible for the unlawful actions of disgraced spycops.

No date has been set for the defamation hearing.

[The Undercover Research Group have produced a profile of Gordon Mills.]

No Hiding Place for Spycops in Scotland

SaltireGuest blogger Harvey Duke with the view from Scotland:

——

Support is growing for a Public Inquiry into the activities of undercover police in Scotland. Victims of blacklists, fellow trade unionists, environmentalists, Amnesty International, and politicians across the spectrum believe there should be some kind of Inquiry.

The main demands from campaigners are for an expansion of the Pitchford Inquiry (which is currently limited to England and Wales); or, for the Scottish government to launch a parallel Inquiry. Even the Scottish Tories support the call!

So, if all that were required was broad verbal support from politicians and others, then an Inquiry would be underway. Yet, so far, there is nothing; and former Home Secretary, and now recently crowned Prime Minister, Theresa May is at the stodgy heart of the inaction.

Left wing Labour MSP Neil Findlay has led the charge within the Scottish Parliament to get the issue of undercover policing in Scotland recognised as a priority for public examination. He has organised two debates in Holyrood.

SATURATION SPYING IN SCOTLAND

At the first of these, in January this year, he made a clear case for action:

We know that at least 120 undercover officers have been deployed by the Special Demonstration Squad since its formation in 1968, but so far only 12 have been exposed, half of whom worked in Scotland. The most infamous of these is Mark Kennedy, who was deployed here 14 times in his seven-year career.

Police officers have been operating in our country under the identity of a dead child to victimise people whose only crime is to want a fairer, cleaner and more just society.

Potentially, there are decades of such activities waiting to be uncovered in Scotland. At the June debate in the Scottish Parliament, Neil Findlay also referred to another spy in Scotland: “We also know of the involvement during the 1984 miners’ strike of Stella Whitehouse, now Dame Stella Remington, the former head of Mi5, who was regularly on the picket line at Polkemmet colliery, not 3 miles from my house, during that period.

Were spycops also on miners picket lines?

Former MSP Tommy Sheridan took up this same theme. His name is on the notorious Blacklist compiled by the Consulting Association, which is known to have used information from spycops. He told us:

The State has always been determined to infiltrate and spy on the labour and trade union movement, peace campaigns and socialist parties. If anyone doubts it, they should waken themselves up by reading the excellent book The Enemy Within.

It is therefore imperative that either the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing be extended to Scotland or a separate and independent enquiry involving labour movement figures be established. The Establishment protects its vast interests by constantly undermining and destabilising anyone or anybody which threatens it.

 

The majority of known spycops worked in Scotland. Mark Kennedy, ‘Lynn Watson‘, ‘Marco Jacobs‘, ‘Jason Bishop’ and Dave Evans – another suspected Special Demonstration Squad officer – were all at the G8 protests in Scotland in 2005.

Also, as the Undercover Research Group has explained:

Two SDS undercovers John Dines and Mark Jenner were in Scotland as part of their relationships with women being targeted. Kennedy is known to have conducted relationships with at least three women in Scotland, including long term partners. In all cases, this amounts to a breach of their human rights being as well as abuse of police power being committed on Scottish soil.

Addtionally, the recently exposed officer Carlo Neri also travelled to Scotland with his unwitting partner ‘Andrea’.

One of the spycops’ leaders, Bob Lambert, was rewarded with a teaching position in Scotland at the University of St Andrews – until he resigned after pressure from campaigners. Whilst a boss of spycops, Lambert authorised officers who travelled to Scotland as spies.

FACING STASIS

In December last year the Scottish Government, responding to demands raised by supporters of the Blacklist Support Group and others, asked then-Home Secretary Theresa May to expand Pitchford to include Scotland.

Now PM, May is still sitting on the issue seven months later. Yet, waiting for a response seemed to be the main focus of the Scottish Government at the latest debate in Holyrood, on 30th June.

Annabelle Ewing MSP, Scottish Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, said:

we are focused at this point on having the (Pitchford) inquiry extended to activities of the Met in Scotland, if that is where the evidence leads.

This was exactly the type of response given by Annabelle Ewing’s Ministerial predecessor, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, six months previously. There is no commitment yet to a Scottish Inquiry by the Scottish Government should the call for an expanded Pitchford fail.

In January, this led to some goading of the Scottish Government by then-Independent, now Green, MSP John Finnie, who said:

Uniquely on this issue, the Scottish Government seems keen to cede any involvement or control to the UK Government.

It would indeed be a huge lost opportunity to allow the new Tory Prime Minister to have the final say on which cases of injustice are investigated in Scotland.

Following the most recent Scottish debate, Neil Findlay told us:

The debate showed wide-ranging support for a stand alone Scottish inquiry in the event that Theresa May refuses to include Scotland in the remit of the Pitchford inquiry. We now have Labour, Green, Liberal and Tory MPs, MSPs and MEPs supporting this call.

SNP MPs offered support in a motion at Westminster yet not one of their MSPs spoke in my debate or supported my motion at Holyrood. We now need the Justice Secretary to step up to the plate and confirm that he will not allow Scots victims to be denied access to justice.

The current Scottish Government demand is for Pitchford to ‘take account of any activity by Metropolitan Police units that took place in Scotland.’ This could be a step forward – certainly as long as Scottish Police Officers who signed off on such ventures and forces which collaborated with these anti-democratic activities are not shielded or prevented from giving evidence.

The Undercover Research Group has identified four top Scottish police officers who also played key roles in managing spycops. They include:

Phil Gormley, now Scotland’s Chief Constable (who) was in the Met from 2003 to 2007. From 2005, he was head of Special Branch and was on the committee who oversaw the NPOIU (National Public Order Intelligence Unit) and the Special Demonstration Squad.

These were the main political secret police units.

BUILDING THE PRESSURE

Nick McKerrell, a law lecturer in Glasgow, was active in an anti-poverty campaign during the G8 protests in 2005. He recently found that his name was on the Consulting Association’s blacklist, purely because of these activities. We asked him for his views on attempts to gain a public inquiry into undercover policing in Scotland. He said:

Every day seems to throw up a new revelation on the undercover policing scandal. It is clear the Special Demonstration Squad operated way beyond their jurisdictional boundaries of England and Wales.

The setting up of the Pitchford Inquiry was a major concession by the British state but currently its remit is very limited. For us in Scotland it has been shown that people were monitored (and blacklisted) for at least 20 years.

Further actual undercover cops were actually on active duty in Scotland throughout the same period, for example in the G8 demos in Perthshire in 2005.

Pitchford needs to be expanded into Scotland – where the links between Scottish police forces and the undercover work can be fully explored. Neil Findlay MSP has been campaigning hard on this issue as have MPs in Westminster and nominally the Scottish Government also support this position. It needs to be pushed though and if not carried through we urgently need a Scottish Inquiry.

Some of the most horrific aspects of the spycops scandal involve the way in which undercover police deliberately targeted women, and developed intimate relationships to aid their cover story, only to later abandon the women activists, with devastating psychological effects.

We spoke to Sinead Daly about this. Sinead is a leading socialist in Scotland who is also an expert in supporting women victims of abuse. She told us:

As a socialist, trade unionist and women’s rights activist in Scotland, I believe it’s essential that the Pitchford Inquiry is extended to Scotland; or failing that the Scottish Government order a separate independent Inquiry.

I am particularly concerned at the sexual abuse of women by undercover police officers over many years. The trauma that these women must be feeling is unimaginable. The law is very clear about consent with regards to sexual activity. The Sexual Offences Act 1956 states that consent cannot be given if ‘The complainant was deceived as to the identity of the person with whom (s)he had intercourse.’

It is undeniable that these women were sexually assaulted and abused. I truly hope that all of these women who have been sexually violated get the justice and support they deserve.

But we in Scotland also need to be assured that such actions will be investigated thoroughly to ensure accountability and that this never happens again!

In order to push forward demands for justice in Scotland, COPS is working with Scottish activists to organise a series of public events. Lois Austin from COPS (who was spied on by spycops whilst an activist in Youth against Racism in Europe), stressed how important it is to build the campaign in Scotland.

Undercover police who sought to undermine all kinds of campaigns did not care about national borders. They went wherever their targets went: across Europe, and very often in Scotland. Only by having a full Public Inquiry into what spycops did in Scotland, will we get to the truth.

It is hoped that the planned campaign events will give opportunities for people across Scotland to come together and hear about the experience of trade unionists, environmentalists and others who were spied upon by undercover police. We will also discuss the best way to make sure that a Public Inquiry is set up and looks at these issues as soon as possible.

Scottish Parliament Debates Spycops Again

 

Neil Findlay MSP addresses the Scottish parliament, 30 June 2016

Neil Findlay MSP addresses the Scottish parliament, 30 June 2016

Last week the Scottish Parliament had a second debate about Britain’s political secret police.

Although the majority of exposed officers from the disgraced units concerned – the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit – were in Scotland, the forthcoming public inquiry is set to only cover events in England and Wales.

It has been six months since the first debate, which came shortly after the Scottish government formally asked to be included in the Pitchford Inquiry, and nothing seems to have happened.

Once again, the issue was brought to the floor by Neil Findlay MSP. In the intervening time he has marshalled a call from Scottish parliamentarians from the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green parties for the inquiry to include Scotland and, if this doesn’t happen, for Scotland to mount its own investigation. The SNP supports the first but not, as yet, the second point.

Findlay pressed the issue in Parliament

I know that the police, the judiciary and others will pressure the cabinet secretary to resist. Those are the very same forces that pressured politicians not to go near the Lawrence case, the Birmingham and Guildford cases, and the Hillsborough case, but brave decisions were made in the interests of truth and justice.

So, I urge the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs and the cabinet secretary to do the right thing: take the brave and right decision to initiate an independent public inquiry in Scotland, should it prove to be not possible to extend Pitchford.

The call was endorsed by Green and Conservative MSPs. Speaking for the government, the SNP’s Annabelle Ewing affirmed

the Scottish Government absolutely agrees that the inquiry should look at events that took place in Scotland if that is where the evidence leads. A single, comprehensive inquiry that was able to gather all the evidence in a coherent manner would best serve the public interest on this occasion. An inquiry that was limited to England and Wales would risk doing a disservice to those who believe that they have been adversely affected by the operations of Metropolitan Police units in Scotland.

However, she simply ignored the issue of the Home Office stalling for six months and what to do if Scotland is shut out of the inquiry. Neil Findlay seized on the omission, asking

Is the minister saying that, if the Home Secretary does not expand the Pitchford inquiry, there will be no Scottish inquiry? If that is the case, can she say very clearly today that victims in Scotland will have no route to justice? Let us be up front and straight about it. Let us not be choosy with our language; let us make it very clear what she means.

But, again, Ewing avoided answering the question and repeated that they were concentrating on inclusion in Pitchford. Conservative MSP Douglas Ross asked the question for a third time, and Ewing simply repeated her previous point once more. Labour’s Claire Baker asked it a fourth time and was also subjected to repetition of a point that did not answer the question.

The session was not entirely fruitless, however. Findlay didn’t just highlight the stasis regarding the Pitchford Inquiry, he also put sensational new information into the public domain.

Today, under the privilege that this Parliament gives me, I can name Gayle Burton, who is a former head of human resources at the Costain construction company, who now works for the Jockey Club and who has been identified as the key link between the construction industry, the Consulting Association and Special Branch. Her name is identified as the source of information on files of blacklisted Scottish workers.

We also know of the involvement during the 1984 miners’ strike of Stella Whitehouse, now Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, who was regularly on the picket line at Polkemmet colliery, not 3 miles from my house, during that period.

The illegal links between police, private surveillance and big business underpin much of the spycops’ targeting of political activists. It is as great an injustice whether perpetrated in England or Scotland, so all its victims deserve the truth.

As we said last month, it does not take six months to make a simple alteration to the terms of the Pitchford Inquiry. The start date looms ever closer and it is beginning to look like the Home Office is stonewalling and that the lack of a response will effectively become a refusal once the inquiry begins.

If the Scottish government – along with the German, Northern Irish and others who have made similar demands – do not set a deadline soon, they are effectively accepting this. They are running the increasing risk of being left behind, unable to secure the truth for their citizens abused by English spycops.

Video of Thursday’s debate is on our Youtube channel, and a full transcript can be found here.

 

Blacklisted Workers Win Payout

Blacklisted workers outside the High CourtMore than six years since the construction industry blacklist was exposed, firms involved have paid out millions to affected workers.

More than 3,000 people were on the illegal list run by the Consulting Association and most of the big construction companies would use it to vet applicants for jobs. Trade unionism, political activity, even just wanting the legal minimum health and safety standards was enough to get people barred from work.

Every constabulary’s Special Branch assisted by routinely supplying the blacklist with details of political activists.

In the 2000s the spycop unit NETCU – National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit – met with the Consulting Association. The exact nature of the meetings has yet to be confirmed, but it clearly wasn’t to criticise or arrest the people running it.

The total compensation for blacklisting was about £75m for 771 claimants, with legal costs on both sides estimated at £25m. It will be paid by eight companies; Carillion, Balfour Beatty, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci.

Dave Smith, secretary of the Blacklist Support Group which has spearheaded the campaign for justice, said

‘Despite all of the denials and attempts to cover up their secret conspiracy, the largest multinationals in the construction sector have been forced to pay out millions in compensation.

‘Make no mistake, the High Court action is a historic victory for the trade union movement against the vicious face of free market capitalism.’

The legal action was led by the GMB whose general secretary Tim Roache added:

‘For decades household-name construction companies implemented an illegal blacklisting system, which denied a generation of trade union activists and health and safety reps an opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. Finally they have been held to account in public and at great cost to them financially and reputationally.

‘Preventing 3,213 workers earning a living to support their families was a gross injustice, and government and employers’ organisations must never forget this sordid episode. Without strong regulation and penalties holding them to account, employers will always be tempted to put profit above people.’

The settlement comes six months after the companies finally apologised in the High Court. The British legal system only measures damages in money, and so claims can be forcibly settled by wrongdoers with payouts to prevent them having to disclose details of their deeds in court.

It mirrors November’s settlement with women who brought a case against the Metropolitan Police after being deceived into intimate relationships. After years of denials and obstructions from their abusers, there was a cheque and an apology but no answers.

As Jacqui, the first woman to settle such a case with the Met, noted at the time

‘The amount of money [in the settlement] shows there is a cover-up. It says the more we dig the dirtier it gets. All they want to do is concrete it in – put it in a box and make it go away. If I had a choice – less money and more truth, I obviously would have gone for that.

As with other victims of spycops, the truth about blacklisted construction workers has had to be revealed by the victims. It has been comprehensively documented in Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlain’s book Blacklisted: The Secret War Between Big Business and Union Activists.

For the blacklisted construction workers, after October’s apology Dave Smith declared

‘The blacklisting wretches have run up the white flag. They are guilty as sin and this is a desperate attempt to to try and avoid the spectacle of a High Court conspiracy trail. Personally, I want to see the directors of this national scandal given evidence under oath about their involvement in this systematic human rights abuse. Real justice would see those responsible for ruining so many lives sent to jail.

‘Unfortunately the British legal system is unlikely to provide real justice but we will continue to push for full disclosure of the evidence that has been deliberately concealed and a public inquiry to expose the full extent of this national scandal.’

Accountability has been established. The fight for the truth will continue.

MSP Calls for Scottish Inquiry into Blacklisting

Blacklisting meeting at HolyroodBlacklisted activists Dave Smith and Ellenor Hutson spoke at a meeting inside the Scottish parliament at Holyrood on Wednesday last week. They called on MSPs to take action over the issue of blacklisting and the activities of undercover police officers in Scotland.

A large number of MSPs were present including Elaine Smith, deputy speaker of the Scottish parliament.

Ellenor Hutson, an environmental activist from Glasgow who was blacklisted by the notorious Consulting Association, told the MSPs that she had been spied on by a number of undercover police officers over many years.

She relayed the story of those other women activists who had been deceived into having long term sexual relationships with the officers who cynically used the relationships as a way of ingratiating themselves within campaigns. Hutson told how some of the women activists have described this as “like being raped by the state”.

She also explained how during protests against the G8 summit at Gleneagles in 2005, she had worked alongside the undercover police officer Mark Kennedy who while a serving officer was one of the central organisers of the anti-globalisation protests.

Kennedy had been part of the Dissent network for some time and was the Transport Co-ordinator for the ‘Horizone’ – a camp of several thousand anti-G8 activists near the summit itself – which involved hiring flatbed lorries and minibuses to transport materials and people, a key logistical role during the summit protests.

Kennedy wasn’t the only National Public Order Intelligence Unit officer at the camp – Marco Jacobs had driven a minibus of activists from Brighton, and Lynn Watson was part of the medic team.

Dave Smith, secretary of Blacklist Support Group (BSG) and co-author of the book ‘Blacklisted‘ also spoke at the meeting and told how undercover police officers had posed as construction workers even infiltrating trade unions. Smith alongside other blacklisted workers and the Blacklist Support Group have been granted ‘core participant’ status in the Pitchford public inquiry into undercover policing that has just opened.

However, the remit for the public inquiry set up by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, specifically limits the inquiry to undercover policing in England and Wales, so the activities of the police officers playing leading roles in the protests at Gleneagles and who may have spied on trade unions in Scotland appear to be excluded from the investigation.

Smith & Hutson both called for a full public inquiry into the role of undercover police operating in Scotland – either by the Scottish government writing to Lord Pitchford and asking him to extend the geographical scope of his inquiry or else by setting up a separate inquiry.

Dave Smith also called on the Scottish government and other public authorities across not just Scotland but the whole UK to implement the proposal of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into blacklisting and to ban blacklisting firms from publicly funded contracts.

Smith explained how the major construction firms have now fully admitted their guilt and made a public apology in the High Court.

Smith told MSPs, “Blacklisted workers don’t want sympathy from politicians: we’re drowning in sympathy. What we need is action, not just fine words”

The meeting was hosted by Unite the Union with Neil Findlay, Labour MSP for the Lothians, also speaking.

Findlay commented after the meeting:

This was an excellent and shocking event at the Scottish Parliament. The meeting heard from two people whose lives have been directly affected by being put on a blacklist. To hear how Dave Smith was prevented from earning a living because of his trade union activity and for questioning health and safety practices and welfare on construction sites was truly scandalous. Likewise to hear from Ellenor how she was placed on a blacklist for the ‘heinous crime’ of caring about our environment, despite having never worked on a construction site, was remarkable.

What compounded the shocking nature of Dave and Ellenor’s testimonies was their description of the role played by undercover police. This speakers explained the central role played by the police in compiling names and passing them on construction companies. Ellenor described how she was an activist alongside Mark Kennedy, who it is now known was an undercover policeman pretending to be an activist. This collusion needs investigating, and I and others will be calling for an inquiry.

 

New video: The Public Inquiry Begins

New on our Youtube channel – a short film made by Reel News, shot outside the Royal Courts of Justice on 7 October, just before the first hearing of the public inquiry. Numerous people who were spied on outline their experiences and what they hope to get out of the inquiry.

The hearing [transcript] was to decide on some cases of ‘core participants’ – those ruled to have been so involved in the political policing scandal that they get greater access and representation at the inquiry. Around 400 people have applied of whom around half have been granted core participant status – mostly activists, some campaigns as bodies, a couple of dozen police officers and some state agencies too.

The Undercover Research Group noted its qualms afterwards.

Suing Private Spycops

Frankenstein's monsterA woman who was Mark Kennedy’s partner in 2010 after he left the police is suing Global Open, the private spy firm he worked for.

Global Open was set up in 2001 by Rod Leeming, the former Special Branch officer who ran the Animal Rights National Index database before going private to do basically the same thing (company profile here by the excellent Undercover Research Group).

Kennedy’s contract with the police formally ended in early 2010. He was immediately hired by Global Open, and at the same time actively targeted the woman (who has been granted legal anonymity for the case) and began a relationship with her.

He continued to live among the same activist community he had spied on, still using his police-fabricated identity of Mark Stone. He went to several animal rights gatherings across Europe in the summer of 2010. If he’d had the nouse to legally change his name to Mark Stone his identity documents would have been in the ‘right’ name and he may still have been spying today – and you would not be reading this.

THE GENERALS NOT THE TROOPS

In October 2010 he was exposed by activists including his long-term partner. Within hours he went to his other partner’s house and told her what had happened. She was devastated. The case she is now bringing mirrors that of around a dozen others who are suing (or have sued) the police for the systematic use of psychologically and sexually abusive relationships.

Like those cases, this one is being brought against the employer rather than the individual officer. The managers either deployed officers to use these tactics, in which case they are directly culpable, or else all these officers separately decided to do the same thing, in which case managers were negligent for not preventing or ending it.

Whilst it would presumably have little legal traction, the police must also bear a serious measure of moral responsibility for Kennedy’s post-police actions in 2010. Having trained him into that one mode of being for many years then withdrawn him with little notice or support, it is hardly surprising that he continued. Frankenstein’s monster may have terrorised the villagers but it was Dr Frankenstein who built it and failed to keep it from its rampage.

NOT JUST KENNEDY

This new case is yet another ray of light on the murky, unregulated world of corporate spying and its tight interweaving with parallel police units. The fact that Special Branch officers take their years of training and contacts to go and do the same job for private profit doesn’t merely raise ethical issues. It raises legal ones too.

The construction industry blacklist was routinely – illegally – given information on political activists by Special Branch officers across the country. Despite the blacklisters’ work being illegal, they had high-level meetings with Britain’s political secret police, including a powerpoint presentation from DCI Gordon Mills, the man who helmed the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit.

The McLibel trial exposed the fact that the entirety of McDonald’s security department were ex-police and that there was an open two-way flow of information between police and private spies. This is not officers upholding the law. This is officers breaking the law to uphold something that they consider more important.

HOW MANY MORE?

How many other political secret police officers continued the same role for a private paymaster, as Kennedy did? The fact that Global Open hired him as he was leaving the police suggests either they had inside information and knew he was becoming available, or else Global Open is known to the secret police as the place to go on to when their contract ends.

We know the names of less than 10% of the officers who worked for the disgraced political units since the Special Demonstration Squad was set up in 1968. Can we really believe that Kennedy was the first one to continue living under the same persona? Or is he just the first one exposed?

POLICE AND PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP

The revolving door between undercover political police and the even less regulated world of private spying means the two groups cannot be separated. As Mark Kennedy proved, the same damage is done for the same reasons, often by the same people, with support from both sectors, irrespective of who signs the cheque.

If the forthcoming public inquiry is to be comprehensive and credible it must examine these documented instances and structural connections, and it must expose more. Police and private political spying are not two worlds, they are one.