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.
And still they come. The tide of revelations about the extent of spying by Britain’s political secret police is still flooding in.
When the scandal first broke four years ago, the breadth of groups spied on astonished us. It appeared that the units regarded any political activity outside the sliver of the spectrum represented in parliament as a threat. But we now know it was even broader than that.
In June last year we learned that the Green Party’s Jenny Jones had a file opened on her after she was elected to the Greater London Assembly, and it ran for at least eleven years. A fellow Green, councillor Ian Driver, was also spied on, with his file noting his support for such subversive terrorist causes as equal marriage.
Two weeks ago it went further with whistleblower Special Demonstration Squad officer Peter Francis naming ten MPs who he saw files on, including three that he personally spied on.
The list includes Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone, Dennis Skinner, Joan Ruddock, Peter Hain, Diane Abbott, Bernie Grant and Labour’s current deputy leader Harriet Harman.
The two other targets have particular resonance. One is Jack Straw who, as Home Secretary, was ultimately in charge of the police. The other is Jeremy Corbyn who was spied on by Francis in the 1990s. Francis was deployed by his manager at the Special Demonstration Squad, Bob Lambert.
Protest against Bob Lambert’s employment at London Metropolitan University, March 2015
Ten years later Lambert was running the Muslim Contact Unit (quite why the intelligence-gathering Special Branch would send its most experienced infiltrators and spies into an outreach project is a question for another time).
Shortly after leaving the police he published a book on police efforts to deal with Muslim extremism in London. His parliamentary booklaunch was hosted by Jeremy Corbyn MP, the man Lambert had sent spies to watch, in September 2011, a month before Lambert was exposed by activists.
In a further twist, Lambert is now controversially employed as a lecturer at London Metropolitan University in Corbyn’s constituency of Islington North.
I was interested in his book at the time and I was involved in the launch. But for all I know he could have had me under surveillance.
Like so many corrupt state officials around the world who’ve been caught and are facing an inquiry, Lambert’s memory has become conveniently selective. He does not deny tasking Francis to spy on Corbyn but says he can’t remember.
The MPs attended parliament the day after the revelations and had a forty minute debate (full transcript here). The Home Secretary wasn’t there, so the government spoke in the form of the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims, Mike Penning.
The one bit of positive new information was the assurance that Peter Francis, and any other whistleblowers, will be given immunity under the Official Secrets Act at the public inquiry. It’s notable that the inquiry was singled out – the long standing threat against Francis and, by extension, others who speak elsewhere still stands, apparently.
Challenged on the sexual relationships that officers deceived women into, Penning said that
the Met police apologised
Perhaps he knows a different Met to the rest of us. The Met who deployed all the spies have only admitted that three out of an estimated 200 were actually police officers.
They are still spending huge amounts of public money resisting the plain, established truth in court. The partner of John Dines, Helen Steel, is back in court next month trying to get the Met to drop their absurd, insulting obstruction tactics.
Back in parliament, Jack Dromey made the bold claim that
Labour has for years pressed for much stronger oversight of undercover policing
This flies in the face of the fact that every one of the political police spy units was set up under Labour who, in the early 2000s, handed control of three of them to the Association of Chief Police Officers, a private company exempt from Freedom of Information legislation.
Peter Hain led the targeted MPs’ charge and was the first of several who demanded to see their full files. Penning steadfastly refused.
Penning did say more than once that there would be a release of whatever wasn’t needed to be redacted for reasons of security. One of the affected MPs, Joan Ruddock, immediately put in a request to the Met for her file. In the days that followed, the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow underlined the seriousness of the scandal. The following week Ruddock was told that the Met would ‘neither confirm nor deny’ that there was any file on her.
The MPs should certainly get to see the information that was collected about them, but they should not have it as a privilege. It is clearly established that the spy units were extraordinarily intrusive, with a paranoid vision of political activism and scant regard for the rights and wellbeing of citizens.
Most of the official reports such as Operation Herne are self-investigations and have thus been self-discrediting. We cannot trust the words of proven liars. Everyone who was spied on by these units should be told and given proper access to their file to judge for themselves what was recorded and why.
On 5 March COPS held a meeting at the University of St Andrews, where former Special Demonstration Squad officer (and later boss) Bob Lambert now lectures. As with the meeting in November at his other employer, London Metropolitan University, we wanted his students and colleagues to know who they are dealing with.
Here is video and a transcript.
One of your lecturers is Dr Robert Lambert. I would like to take a few minutes to tell you what is known about him.
He joined the Metropolitan police in 1977 when he was 25. In 1983 he was deployed by the secret unit within Special Branch, the Special Demonstration Squad. He took the identity of Bob Robinson from a child close to his own age who had died aged 7 of a heart condition. The theft of the identities of dead children was mandatory in the unit at the time.
He was sent into the animal rights movement, which was a new frontier for the SDS. Early in 1983, he was at a demonstration outside Hackney Town Hall that lobbied to get the council to sign up to a charter against animal cruelty. There he approached an activist called Jacqui who, at 22, was ten years younger than him. They soon began a relationship, her first serious one.
Like many in the group, Jacqui was teased by Lambert for not being committed enough and not doing direct action. As with so many other officers before and since, he made a personality trait of encouraging a more confrontational approach that would bring those involved into conflict with the police.
He joined London Greenpeace – a small group whose action mostly involved meetings and leafleting – and he co-wrote the famous What’s Wrong With McDonald’s leaflet that triggered the McLibel trial where McDonald’s sued two activists for distributing the leaflet. The trial became the longest in British legal history. His involvement, and the fact of undercover officers being in the group, was kept from the court.
He would leaflet and harangue customers at butchers’ shops, and was arrested and prosecuted for it. He says he can’t remember if he was convicted. Either way, it is alarming that somebody can swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth then lie and lie and lie to the court. If the court did not know his real identity then it raises serious questions about perverting the course of justice and perjury.
He moved in with Jacqui and she became pregnant. She had no idea that he was already married with children. And of course, she had no idea that he was only in her life as a paid agent to undermine her and the values she held most dear. He was by her side as she gave birth and he held their son before she did.
Given the prevalence of the relationships – 13 out of the 14 officers exposed had them – it tests credulity to see it as anything other than a strategy. The love letters from the various officers read remarkably similarly. In 2013 Lambert was asked by Channel 4 News if his managers knew about his relationships. He refused to answer, and then refused to explain why he was refusing to answer.
THE DEBENHAMS ARSON
Animal Liberation Front activists had been using small incendiary devices to target department stores that sold fur. They were placed under items of furniture that would ignite in the night which, in turn, would set off the sprinkler system. As with almost all other ALF actions, they were aiming to maximise property damage rather than to hurt any people.
Nonetheless, it was major criminal damage and the use of fire introduces a dangerous and uncontrollable element that has to be taken very seriously indeed.
Lambert was one of a cell of three, with Geoff Shepherd and Andrew Clarke, who planned simultaneous attacks on three branches of Debenhams in July 1987. Shepherd and Clarke went to Luton and Romford, Lambert’s job was to target the Harrow store. All three stores had devices planted and eight million pounds of damage was caused.
Two months later, acting on Lambert’s intelligence, police raided a flat where Shepherd and Clarke were assembling another round of incendiary devices. They were both jailed.
Both are bringing cases to have those convictions quashed because, as with the 50 other convictions recently overturned in similar cases, prosecutors withheld evidence from undercover police officers that may have been helpful to the defence. If, as seems likely, their convictions are quashed it means that the self-declared pinnacle of Lambert’s career, the thing he uses to justify the deceit and damage done to others, was a miscarriage of justice.
Perhaps more serious is the allegation that Lambert planted the devices at the Harrow store. It is a charge he has strenuously denied. Of course his accuser Geoff Shepherd, a man who spent years in prison because of Lambert, cannot be seen as an impartial figure.
But the question remains; if it was not Lambert, who was it? Was there really a fourth person who neither Shepherd nor Lambert have mentioned before and who Lambert – despite getting the other two caught red handed in the crowning achievement of his deployment – allowed to get away unmentioned. It’s that, or else it was Lambert. I can see no third option. I leave it up to you to decide which you believe.
With the benefit of hindsight I can now see how he orchestrated breakdown of our relationship. It was very hard time for me. He continued to visit our son after he moved out and we continued an intimate relationship until one day when he said he had to “go on the run” to Spain, owing to him being involved in the firebombing at the Debenhams store in Harrow. He promised he would never abandon his son and said that as soon as it was safe I could bring our baby to Spain to see him.
He abandoned me to support our son alone and to explain to him the disappearance of his father. I felt guilty. At that time I blamed myself a lot for the break up and for the fact that my son had lost his father. I tried to track Bob down countless times over the years but those efforts were doomed to failure as I did not even know his real name.
In the final period of his deployment he began a relationship with Belinda Harvey. He also had brief sexual relations with two other women he spied on. Belinda Harvey wasn’t even an activist yet was not only targeted for emotional intrusion by Lambert, but he also had her flat raided by Special Branch saying they were looking for the hardcore animal rights activist Bob Robinson. You don’t need to be an activist to be a target of these squads.
Lambert told Belinda and Jacqui – who was oblivious to his relationship with Belinda – that the police were on his trail and he needed to flee the country. He told them, separately, that they could come and join him once he’d settled in. He spent a week with Belinda in Dorset in December 1988.
That shocking allegation caused the Home Secretary to order a full public inquiry into undercover policing.
Lambert told Channel 4 News, ‘I left in 1998 which was round about the time of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry’ and he says at no time was the SDS concerned with smearing the Lawrence family or their campaign.
However, the main witness to the murder, Stephen’s friend Duwayne Brooks, was twice prosecuted on trumped-up charges after Francis says he spent hours trawling footage to get something useable. Brooks walked free from court without uttering a word, and received an apology and record compensation from the Metropolitan Police. If they tried to assassinate Brooks’ character, why would they not try with others around the campaign?
Despite Lambert saying that the SDS was not concerned with spying on the Lawrence campaign, in March last year the Ellison Report – commissioned by the Home Secretary after the allegations of spying were made – made reference to nine different officers who gathered intelligence on the campaign.
Where is the threat to life and limb from these campaigns? What terrorists might there be hanging round the Lawrence family and others like them? The only threat they posed was one of embarrassment. They would discredit the police, not by any libellous means but simply by showing them up for what they had actually done.
It is grossly unprofessional. It is a diversion from what they are there to do. It is morally wrong because people have been put there to do a particular task and people have got trust in them. It is never acceptable under any circumstances … for them to engage in sex with any subject they come into contact with.
Last year the Met’s self-investigation Operation Herne, usually known for its defensive approach, nonetheless condemned it in powerful and unequivocal terms, saying
there are and never have been any circumstances where it would be appropriate for such covertly deployed officers to engage in intimate sexual relationships with those they are employed to infiltrate and target. Such an activity can only be seen as an abject failure of the deployment, a gross abuse of their role and their position as a police officer and an individual and organisational failing.
It is of real concern that a distinct lack of intrusive management by senior leaders within the MPS appears to have facilitated the development and apparent circulation of internal inappropriate advice regarding an undercover police officers engagement in sexual relationships.
That last bit is a reference to a memo apparently sent round by Bob Lambert when he was the unit manager, advising the use of condoms.
If Lambert did think of fathering children with activists and lying in court as bad ideas rather than good tradecraft, it seems he did little to inculcate these feeling in his underlings.
Jim Boyling was deployed by Lambert into an environmental group called Reclaim The Streets. He not only fathered children with an activist he spied on, like Lambert he also went through a prosecution under his false identity. This police officer was in lawyer-client meetings with the defence. Whilst Boyling was acquitted, one activist, John Jordan, was convicted. That conviction was a miscarriage of justice and was finally quashed earlier this year.
AS WITH MCLIBEL, SO WITH THE LAWRENCES
Shortly after, the MacPherson inquiry into the Stephen Lawrence case published its report, famously declaring the Metropolitan police as ‘institutionally racist’. Despite the inquiry being supposed to shed light on the Met’s response to the case, there had been no mention of the SDS intelligence-gathering. Just like the McLibel trial which concluded a year earlier, Lambert and the SDS’ important role were kept hidden from the state officials tasked to find the truth and administer justice.
A team at the Met were crafting the Commissioner’s response to the Lawrence inquiry. On 14 August 1998, Lambert brokered a meeting between an SDS officer under his command who had gathered intelligence on the Lawrence campaign and Detective Inspector Richard Walton from the team formulating the official response. There was a lot of pressure at the time as calls came from many people, including Doreen Lawrence, for the Commissioner to resign.
The Ellison Report’s findings reserve some of their strongest criticism for this action, calling it ‘wrong-headed and inappropriate’. They found that the SDS officer that Lambert deployed
was, at the time, an Metropolitan Police spy in the Lawrence family camp during the course of judicial proceedings in which the family was the primary party in opposition to the Metropolitan Police…. for a meeting to then be arranged to enable an in-depth discussion to take place about the Lawrences’ relationship with groups seeking to support their campaign, in order to help inform the… submissions to the Public Inquiry, was, in our assessment, a completely improper use of the knowledge… gained by the deployment of this officer.
Though Lambert had overseen the spying and brokered the ‘wrong headed’ meeting, Ellison notes that he was probably not the instigator. ‘Mr Lambert has claimed that he was asked to arrange it by senior management within the SDS.’ Nonetheless, he played a pivotal role and the officer’s work shows that this was no aberration but rather the culture of the squad that Lambert devoted fifteen years to.
Lambert retired from the force in 2006, collecting an MBE for ‘services to policing’ in 2008.
In October 2011, Lambert was speaking at a conference where he was confronted by activists he had spied on in London Greenpeace many years earlier. He refused to respond. Afterwards he issued an apology for spying on London Greenpeace. He also apologised to Belinda, the woman he had a relationship with in the final months of his time undercover.
His apology made no mention of the far more involved relationship with Jacqui, nor of their son. It appeared to be merely dealing with the things that he’d been exposed for and ignoring other obviously far greater, but still secret, misdeeds.
Eight months later, in June 2012, Jacqui came home and opened the newspaper and saw a headline about an undercover police officer called Bob Lambert being named in parliament as the bomber of a Debenhams store. It had a vintage picture of her long-lost partner from 24 years earlier, Bob Robinson. The impact devastated her. She says ‘I was not consenting to sleeping with Bob Lambert, I didn’t know who Bob Lambert was,’ going on to say it feels ‘like being raped by the state’.
He only extended his public apology to her after she went on television. But as she pertinently says, what if she hadn’t seen that article? She believes that Lambert would have taken the secret to his grave.
True contrition would look very different. It would involve apology of his own volition, rather than waiting to be caught. It would involve full disclosure, rather than having to respond to each new revelation, and even then refusing to answer key questions. His avoidance of the truth did not end when he left the police. It continues to the present.
WHAT MORE IS THERE?
The SDS was closed down in 2008 after counter terrorism officers came on board and realised what had been going on. It stands thoroughly discredited. Doreen Lawrence, victim of a swathe of appalling and despicable police practices, has said that the SDS’ spying on her family tops it all.
If all of this isn’t enough to damn a person and make them unfit as a role model, I wonder what else you need. Whatever it is, I suspect you may well get it. The Met is mired in the SDS scandals that, despite their best efforts to conceal, are still emerging.
Bob Lambert was a serial abuser of women. He had fathered a child knowing he would soon abandon it. Then there is the question of whether he planted an incendiary device in a department store – again, I stress that he denies that. He had made a personality trait of encouraging others to take more confrontational illegal action.
This is not a one-off error, nor the actions of a young naïve person. This was years of deliberate, strategic abuse of citizens and undermining of legitimate campaigns. He told Channel 4 News that we mustn’t think his behaviour was typical; yet we know that most officers behaved similarly, notably those in his charge as manager where he seems to have used his methods as a blueprint. So he not only committed but for years he directed a raft of officers whose actions were – to use the words of police who’ve looked into it – morally wrong, completely improper, gross abuses of their role in deployments that were abject failures.
The blame for this litany of inexcusable intrusion into people’s lives and counter-democratic undermining of campaigns must lie either with the managers who authorised and ran it or, if officers were acting on their initiative, then the officers must take the blame along with managers for their negligence. In all cases, as both an officer and manager, Bob Lambert stands guilty.
Every one of us has done things we are rightly ashamed of. Though Lambert’s are on a scale that few people reach, he is nonetheless entitled to his private life and also to not have it affect some of his other activities. Were he at academic institutions as a lecturer in microbiology or Russian literature, or as a cleaner or gardener, it could be argued that his past should have no bearing on his position.
But Bob Lambert is at the London Metropolitan University and the University of St Andrews based on what he calls his ‘counter terrorism’ experience. It appears that he failed to tell his employers about the true nature of his past. He deceived the universities the same way he deceived the activists, his family and everyone else around him.
Officers and managers from the Special Demonstration Squad should be part of such courses only as case studies in how it can go wrong.
On this last point, three devices were simultaneously planted. The other two activists were convicted (though as Lambert’s evidence was withheld from court, they have launched an appeal). Although he has been named in parliament as planting the third incendiary device that burned down Debenhams in Harrow, Lambert has repeatedly denied it.
But if it was not Lambert, who was it? Was there really a fourth person who neither the others nor Lambert have mentioned before and who Lambert – despite getting the other two caught red handed in the crowning achievement of his deployment – allowed to get away unmentioned? He has yet to explain.
If all this were not enough, he then went on to run the Special Demonstration Squad. He oversaw officers who did similar things: lying in court to secure wrongful convictions and having long-termrelationships with activists. His officers spied on numerous black justice campaigns including Stephen Lawrence’s family. Lambert was recently singled out for condemnation by the Ellison report into spying on the Lawrence family.
he instructs graduates on how to be police officers, a task for which he is uniquely unqualified.
As the pressure mounts on Lambert’s academic positions, one of his employers has defended him. Yesterday BBC TV’s London Tonight reported on the growing controversy. Having issued a statement to the local press last month, for the first time London Met gave an interview.
Tim Parsons, Senior Criminology lecturer, managed an extraordinary feat of euphemistic skill, saying
He has extremely rich experience in professional practice, accepting that some of that is now controversial.
It’s not controversial, strictly speaking. It’s pretty much universally criticised.
And professional? Quite the opposite. ‘Grossly unprofessional’ was the phrase used by the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Jon Murphy for the sexual relationships of officers like Lambert and his proteges.
can only be seen as an abject failure of the deployment, a gross abuse of their role and their position as a police officer and an individual and organisational failing
If there is a gross abuse, there is a gross abuser. Bear in mind that Lambert not only had four such relationships himself but, aware of what it caused, was responsible for others who inflicted it on more women.
There is a peculiar conflict in London Metropolitan University. Whilst its criminology department employs Lambert, much of the institution defines itself with a strident social justice remit. It is a dark irony that a university department (and the public relations) defend this gross abuser of women at an institution that is home to the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit.
Yet Tim Parsons told the BBC
If you look at the things that we’re always championing such as human rights there is no reason whatsover why Bob shouldn’t have been offered employment at this university.
Human rights form a significant part of the legal case against the Metropolitan Police by women who had relationships with undercover officers – including Lambert personally and some of his later underlings.
The women assert that the actions of the undercover officers breached their rights as protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, including Article 3 (no one shall be subject to inhumane and degrading treatment) and Article 8 (respect for private and family life, including the right to form relationships without unjustified interference by the state)
What the undercover officers did was either the fault of the individual (and a failing of managerial oversight), or it was an overt failing of management for authorising it. Wherever the blame lies, as both spy and manager, it must lie with Lambert.
His actions have caused the Met to pay out record compensation and – a genuine rarity – apologise for their officer’s behaviour. The unit he devoted decades to stands utterly disgraced and discredited, its methods disowned by senior officers, the subject of numerous investigations with a view to criminal charges, and the subject of a forthcoming full-scale public inquiry.
If Bob Lambert were at academic institutions as a lecturer in microbiology or Russian literature, or as a cleaner or gardener, it could be argued that his past should have no bearing on his position. But Bob Lambert is at the London Metropolitan University and the University of St Andrews on the basis of his indefensible past. They hired him before this was public knowledge – it appears that he deceived these universities just as he deceived those he spied on.
Officers and managers from the Special Demonstration Squad should be part of such courses only as case studies in how wrong it can go.
Islington Against Police Spies have called a picket of London Metropolitan University (opposite Holloway Road tube) on Friday 30 January, 12-2pm.
Islington Against Police Spies (IAPS) have called a picket of London Metropolitan University, where former Special Demonstration Squad officer (and later boss) Bob Lambert lectures in criminology.
As reported in the Guardian, the university is under increasing pressure on its employment of Lambert to train tomorrow’s police managers, a role which Observer columnist Nick Cohen said Lambert is ‘uniquely unqualified’ to have.
Join us to demand the removal of Bob Lambert from London Metropolitan University.
Picket London Met Friday January 30th 12.00 – 2.00pm LMU Tower, 166-220 Holloway Road, London N7 8DB
Bring placards, banners, anything to make noise.
In November Islington Against Police Spies (IAPS) held a lively picket of London Metropolitan University in Holloway, launching our campaign to demand the sacking or resignation of Bob Lambert. Former police spy, Special Branch manipulator, abuser of women, agent provocateur, Lambert is now lecturing at London Met on policing and criminology.
As local residents we feel it is totally inappropriate for London Metropolitan to be employing a man with Lambert’s record in such a position where he has influence and power over the lives of students, who may be young or vulnerable. Most particularly Lambert has shown he cannot be trusted not to abuse and lie to women.
Islington Against Police Spies have committed ourselves to holding events every month at least, to keep putting pressure on the University and raising awareness of Lambert’s past, until he is forced to leave London Met. We know this CAN be done – but it’s not necessarily going to be easy. Hopefully this campaign will get stronger until it’s irresistible. BUT WE NEED HELP – we call on anyone who thinks Bob Lambert should not be working in a supposedly progressive university to support our campaign.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Come down and join the picket on January 30th. The bigger and noisier our protest, the more notice London Met will have to take of us.
Protest to the following in the London Met hierarchy, and demand that they sack Bob Lambert:
• John Raftery, Vice-Chancellor; email: email@example.com Tel: 020 7133 2001
• Peter McCaffery, Deputy Vice-Chancellor; email: P.McCaffery@londonmet.ac.uk Tel: 020 7133 2401
• Jonathan Woodhead, Executive Officer; email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 020 7133 2042
• Paul Bowler, Deputy Chief Executive; email: P.Bowler@londonmet.ac.uk Tel: 020 7133 2031
• Peter Garrod, University Secretary and Clerk to the Board; email: email@example.com Tel: 020 7133 2004
You can also email Bob Lambert directly and let him know what you think of his activities: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: 020 7133 4692/2911
Spread the word – tell others about this campaign, raise the issue in your networks, communities, union, etc – the more people know about Bob, the more pressure we all put on the university, the more likely it is that he will have to go.
This campaign is being organised by Islington Against Police Spies, a group of local residents and activists.
Email us: email@example.com
(Please note our new email address)
Most of the revelations about Britain’s political secret police have involved Bob Lambert. As an undercover officer in the Special Demonstration Squad, Lambert infiltrated London Greenpeace and co-wrote the leaflet that triggered the McLibel trial – a fact which, like his existence, was kept from the court. He had a long-term relationship with Jacqui, fathering a son that he abandoned and had a second serious relationship. He went through a prosecution under his false identity. He has been named in parliament as the firebomber of a department store whilst in his animal rights activist persona, though he has strenuously denied the charge.
At the COPS meeting at London Met earlier this month a local group, Islington Against Police Spies, announced their intention to campaign for Lambert to be removed from his post. They have organised a picket of the university (Tower Building, 166-220 Holloway Road, London N7 8DB) for this Friday, 28 November, from noon until 2pm.
See their post for more details on Lambert and the campaign.
More than a dozen women who were deceived into relationships with undercover police officers are known to be bringing cases against the Metropolitan Police. Last week, the first case was settled.
Jacqui was a 22 year old animal rights activist in 1984 when she met Bob Robinson, ten years her senior. They lived together for several years and had a son. Robinson was actually police officer Bob Lambert who knew that he would abandon his child as a toddler. Jacqui is certain that Lambert kept tabs on her after he left. Nonetheless, he had no contact, paid no maintenance.
After Lambert was outed by activists in 2011, he issued an apology. It mentions another partner, Belinda Harvey, but not Jacqui with whom he had a much more involved relationship. Lambert’s children with his wife had both died, yet he had not contacted Jacqui to warn her to get her son tested and treated.
Undercover officers went to elaborate lengths to ensure they weren’t suspected after they left. It was essential to maintain the vulnerability of campaigns to future infiltrators. The most powerful trick in the spies’ spellbook was the ignorance of their targets. Put simply, nobody would believe that they did it. So they would feign mental breakdown over a period of months and disappear to get their heads together, never to be seen again.
If we maximise the benefit of the doubt for Bob Lambert we might say he couldn’t have dropped a one-line card to Jacqui to warn of their son’s medical risk as it would have compromised the undercover method. This excuse evaporates once he was outed. If he had any concern for her and their son he would have run to their door. But still he did not tell Jacqui, a decision that could have cost their son his life.
Jacqui only found out the truth by chance eight months later, seeing it in a newspaper. She described it as ‘like being raped by the state’ and has since been receiving psychiatric care. She also says that, had she not stumbled across the truth and made all the effort to find Lambert, she believes he would have taken the secret with him to his grave.
When her son was young she initiated a bid to have him adopted by her new partner. Getting a child adopted without a still-living parent’s agreement isn’t easy. Adoption services made efforts to find him but their report says
I made several attempts including letters and telephone inquiries to contact Mr Robert Robinson… but I was unsuccessful. An informant, Mrs Moseley who shared the same flat with him at Nightingale Estate, Hackney, East London, told me that Mr Robinson’s whereabouts are unknown. She maintained he is unlikely to surface in the future because of his intense political involvement with the Animal Liberation Movement activities.
The address Lambert lived at appears to have been demolished several years before ‘Mrs Moseley’ made her comment. Jacqui is convinced that this person was a Special Branch plant. The name, Moseley, may well be a warped joke on their part. How it must have seemed to Special Branch that all the loose ends were being tied up.
Jacqui’s new partner died not long after, the second dad her son had lost in his seven years. She returned to bringing him up as a single parent, a few miles from where the well-remunerated Lambert worked.
Considering the full cost of bringing up a child plus her ongoing care, even on purely financial terms the payout of £425,000 seems paltry.
From the outset we have dealt with this lengthy case with professionalism and sensitivity, completely understanding the gravity of the circumstances.
Jacqui brought her case in 2012. Numerous other women brought theirs earlier. The Met refused to even admit that Lambert had been an undercover officer until two months ago despite the fact that, as Jacqui said, there was the absolute proof in the form of six foot of Lambert’s DNA walking round. The Met still won’t admit most of the well-established officers such as John Dines and Mark Cassidy were, in fact, undercover officers.
The settlement is testament to the tenacity of Jacqui and her lawyer Jules Carey. It comes despite the unprofessional, insensitive attitude of the Met. No amount of money will buy back Jacqui’s capacity to trust. Looking beyond that to a wider view of justice, as she said, money is an irrelevance.
There is the money, but there is no admission by the police that what they did was wrong, there is no meaningful apology and most importantly there are no answers.
But the legal system effectively forced her to take the money. If she had continued to court and won, but the damages awarded were below the police’s previous £425,000 offer, then she would have had to pay the police’s legal bill.
The women whose cases are still ongoing are likely to get lower amounts as they did not unwittingly have children to raise. This means the police costs could even exceed the damages awarded. In that position who could afford to push onward for disclosure and justice?
The claimants – many of whom would surely forego any money if they could have answers – will have to take the money (then vicious newsmedia comments sections will fill up with accusations of them being gold-diggers all along).
Effectively, the police are buying their way out of a damning court case. Those in charge retain their promotions and pensions whilst those they abused are left to rely on their own fortitude to repair the damage that was done to them for having the temerity to campaign for a fairer world.
As eight other women bringing similar cases reiterated
we have no reason to believe that these abhorrent abuses have stopped, or that the police acknowledge their actions are wrong, and that they must change.
There can be no excuse for undercover officers having sexual relationships whilst in their undercover persona. It is already illegal in Germany and there is no detrimental effect to German society. After all the damage done and, at long last, admissions from the police of it, it is surely time to change the law.
The attention paid to the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute undercover police officers focused, rightly, on the invasion of privacy and bodily integrity in their sexual contact with women they spied on.
In order to prosecute misconduct in public office, the prosecution would have to show that an officer knowingly abused their position in order to bring a sexual relationship about
The police have readily and unequivocally admitted such relationships are abhorrent and an abuse of their position. Speaking for the Association of Chief Police Officers, a body that ran several of the political policing units, Jon Murphy said
It is grossly unprofessional. It is a diversion from what they are there to do. It is morally wrong because people have been put there to do a particular task and people have got trust in them. It is never acceptable under any circumstances … for them to engage in sex with any subject they come into contact with.
there are and never have been any circumstances where it would be appropriate… Such an activity can only be seen as an abject failure of the deployment, a gross abuse of their role and their position as a police officer and an individual and organisational failing
So there we have a police report saying it’s a gross abuse of the officer’s position, but the CPS said there’s insufficient evidence that any officer knowingly abused their position.
Everyone admits the relationships happened and they were a gross abuse. If it is a gross abuse then there is a gross abuser. That must be either the manager who authorised it or the individual undercover officer who did it.
Whichever one it is, former officer Bob Lambert is culpable. He was an undercover officer who had a prolonged relationship including fathering a child with a woman he targeted. After he was promoted to running the squad he mentored Jim Boyling who did the same thing.
If Operation Herne is right and it is both an individual and organisational failing then we should see several officers held responsible for each relationship. Even if they blame the individual officer and claim they disobeyed their guidance, it is negligence on the part of the managers.
But if this came to court, we could expect to see officers from both roles blaming each other. That would be a whole lot of dirty laundry being done in public, and would be likely to point to further abuses. This scandal has already become far too large for establishment comfort. It’s no surprise that the CPS – who helped ensure Mark Kennedy’s evidence was kept from court in the Ratcliffe case, leading to a miscarriage of justice and 20 wrongful convictions – has decided to defy the police’s own admissions of misconduct and keep these officers away from court as well.
BREACH OF THE OFFICIAL SECRETS ACT
The CPS also said that
In order to prosecute a breach of the Official Secrets Act the prosecution would have to prove that the suspect in question disclosed information that would, or would be likely to, damage the work of the security and intelligence services
This is thought to be because officers have named colleagues to civilians. Jim Boyling told the activist he married about several other officers’ identities. This led her to tell Helen Steel that her partner John Barker had in fact been police officer John Dines.
Additionally, when Mark Kennedy was confronted by activists who had discovered his true identity, he confirmed activist Lynn Watson had actually been a fellow police officer.
Whistleblower officer Peter Francis has been threatened with prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. The fact that neither Boyling nor Kennedy are to face charges for naming colleagues to the activists they targeted implies Francis faces something of an empty threat. The CPS appear to have declared it’s open season for him, and for any other officers who want to right some of their wrongs, to step forward and name names.
For the first time ever, the Metropolitan Police have named undercover officers. Following last month’s court hearing, the Met have been compelled to admit that two Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) officers who deceived women they spied on into long-term relationships were, indeed, police officers.
The Met claims the relationships took place against the guidance of managers and were women were the result of ‘mutual attraction and genuine personal feelings’.
Belinda Harvey, who had a relationship with Lambert, said
How can a relationship be genuine when it is based on a massive web of lies? He pretended to be a man with noble ideals and political commitments, when in reality he was a police officer spying on our friendship network.
He pretended he was committed to the future when he always knew he would go back to his real job and wife and kids. That doesn’t show genuine feelings; it is abuse and I would never have consented to such a relationship had I known.
After his deployment, Lambert went on to run the Special Demonstration Squad’s operations. He was Boyling’s mentor and overseer, the very manager who the Met are implying was ignorant of the dangers of sexual relationships. Yet again the Met take a transparently implausible stance and defy the people they abused to disprove it, compounding their already horrific level of personal damage.
The police have been pulled, kicking and screaming, to this first extremely significant development in the litigation brought by the women in their long battle for justice and accountability. It represents a partial victory with the police being forced to acknowledge the identities of undercover police officers who committed serious violations of women’s rights. However, the confirmation does not go far enough, it is mealy mouthed, offensive and lacking in any acknowledgment of the huge abuse of power and harm caused to my clients.
IF LAMBERT GOT IT WRONG, HOW CAN HE BE RIGHT?
Bob Lambert whilst undercover in the 1980s
When the SDS was still a secret unaccountable unit, Bob Lambert was seen as a role model. ‘He did what is hands down regarded as the best tour of duty ever,’ said a former officer. But as their activities get dragged into the light of public scrutiny and mainstream morality, they are seen for what they are. Not even the Met can defend their actions and claim that what happened to those women was in any way acceptable.
Lambert currently holds academic posts at London Metropolitan University and the University of St Andrews, trading on his ‘counter terrorism’ experience. The police proclamation that sexual relationships are unethical further undermines his credibility as an authority on undercover policing. Either he used sexual relationships as a tactic or else he coincidentally got over his ‘mutual attraction and genuine personal feelings’ at the same time as his deployment ended and abandoned his own child without any support from his well remunerated job.
Rather than being trusted to train the next generation of infiltrators, Bob Lambert is more like a case study in how wrong it can go. His continued employment discredits the institutions that hire him.
TWO DOWN, TWO TO GO
Whilst the Met’s admission of undercover officers’ names is historic, it is the minimum they could get away with. They are still refusing to concede the identity of two other officers in the case, behaviour that’s just as absurd as their earlier refusal to admit the identities of Lambert and Boyling.
These guys were saying that they loved us, that they wanted to be in our lives for the rest of their lives and yet they knew that their posting was going to be ending in just a few years time and that they were going to disappear from our lives and leave us bereft. That is not love, that is abuse.
A significant step was taken towards justice yesterday for five women who were deceived into sexual relationships with undercover police officers.
The police have been using an obstruction tactic of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’, claiming they have a long-standing, unwavering policy of not confirming whether anyone was ever an undercover officer. It is nonsense, as the women and their legal teams demonstrated, listing the many exceptions police and other officials have made.
Pointing out that the police have conceded sexual relationships were an abuse of position, Mr Justice Bean’s ruling said
there can be no public policy reason to permit the police neither to confirm nor deny whether an illegitimate or arguably illegitimate operational method has been used as a tactic in the past.
The court gave the Metropolitan Police 28 days to formally admit or deny that:
(a) officers of the Metropolitan Police Service, as part of their work as undercover officers and using false identities, engaged in long term intimate sexual relationships with those whose activities the MPS wished to observe;
(b) this was authorised or acquiesced to by senior management;
If they fail to respond within that time, the court will take it as an admission that all these things are true.
The second point is particularly noteworthy. Despite police attempts to shift all blame on to the individual officers, the court overtly points to the fact that senior management must have known the relationships went on.
All but one of the officers so far exposed had sexual relations with activists they spied on, and most of them had long-term committed relationships. One of the worst, Bob Lambert, had a planned child with an activist he spied on, so he cannot have been ignorant of the possibility of such relationships when he was promoted to running operations.
The fact that his protegés embarked so enthusiastically on their relationships makes it clear that such practices were accepted and quite possibly encouraged, even planned and monitored. Of course, even if managers had been unaware of such relationships, that would have made them negligent and therefore still culpable. But, even with the facts we have so far, it is already a nonsense to pretend that senior management were unaware and disapproved.
That said, the police are not above nonsense to stall attempt at dragging the truth from them. Earlier this year they confirmed in court that Jim Boyling was a police officer but would not confirm he was an undercover officer – as if he might have come up with the Jim Sutton alias and spent years being an anti-capitalist activist as a personal hobby in his spare time.
Returning to yesterday’s ruling, the judge stopped short of compelling police to admit that all four officers named in this case were, in fact, police officers. Jim Boyling and Bob Lambert have both been previously named by officials and have confirmed themselves. Yet the other two are scarcely less public.
It was disappointing to see BBC Home Affairs correspondent Danny Shaw refer to the case as a mere ‘bid for compensation’. The integrity that drips from every word of the womens’ testimony and campaigning makes it plain that this is all about disclosure, truth and accountability. They don’t want money, they want justice.
Despite shortcomings in the judgement and its coverage, it is nonetheless a major victory as it shreds the blanket use of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ which – as the women so comprehensivelyshowed – was never a real policy, merely a convenient shroud for the police to obscure their history as they heap gruelling punishment on their victims for daring to ask for answers.
After three years the first real hurdle has just fallen, a tribute to the tenacity of these women and their lawyers. The outrageous denials from the police are becoming ever more starkly exposed for what they are. More will fall.