Content tagged with "Family Justice Campaigns"

Undercover Police Inquiry: Stop the cover up

Stop The Cover Up graphic

STOP THE COVER UP

Parliamentary Meeting

Tuesday 10 October 2017, 5-7.30pm

Committee Room 12,
House of Commons, London SW1A OAA

“The inquiry needs to be open, transparent and accessible to the public. Nothing less will do. All of us must now act to ensure that it doesn’t slide towards a cover-up.”
– Baroness Doreen Lawrence mother of Stephen Lawrence and core participant in the Undercover Police Inquiry.

Chair: Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West

Confirmed speakers include:

The Undercover Policing Inquiry, established by the previous Home Secretary in March 2015 to examine police spying of protest and campaigning groups, is at a crossroads. It can either remain open and transparent or, given the current approach of the new Chair, become secretive and unfair, especially to those directly affected and damaged by unlawful police spying.

Not only has the new Chair made unfair rulings on the identities of some undercover officers but also, in his latest legal note, he has failed to acknowledge and consider the fundamental principles of openness and fairness in a Judicial Inquiry established to allay serious public concerns.

Indeed the decision to establish this Inquiry in the first place was triggered by a combination of damning revelations of an ex-undercover officer turned whistleblower, Peter Francis, and the conclusions of an independent review of his allegations by Mark Ellison QC.

At that time the severity of public concern was acknowledged by the then-Home Secretary when she announced the Inquiry’s terms of reference, describing the undercover policing practices unearthed by Mark Ellison QC as “appalling” and “profoundly disturbing”.

The Ellison review had found the conduct of the Metropolitan Police Service in the context of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry to be of such magnitude that “public disorder of a far more serious kind than anything envisaged by the original undercover deployment could well have resulted.”

There are other consequences too, some of an even more profound nature. Surely even the Metropolitan Police couldn’t justify the ‘unwitting’ nature of institutional racism when they deliberately deployed HN81 (identity number of a SDS police officer) to spy on the Lawrence family and campaign before and during the entire duration of the public Inquiry.

HN81 is known to have provided personal and campaigning information relating to the Lawrence family to a senior member of the Metropolitan Police’s Review team established to submit its response to the McPherson Inquiry. Shamefully, but not unsurprisingly, the Metropolitan Police now want this Inquiry to conduct a secret hearing on the identity of HN81 so that neither his real or covert name can be revealed to the affected core participants.

There are other alarm bells ringing too. Since its inception, over three years ago, it is still stuck at the preliminary stage due to the Metropolitan Police’s obstruction tactics. The delay has had an adverse impact on core participants affected by undercover policing who still haven’t received their police files and remain in the dark on the identities of officers who spied on them. The delay also means that we are two years behind schedule, and as a consequence, are unlikely to hear evidence until the middle of 2019.

The purpose of the meeting is not only to stop the slide towards a cover up in this Inquiry but also discuss the wider consequences for other Inquiries such as those established around the Grenfell Tower fire this year. Both these Inquires need to be open, transparent and accessible to the public in order to deliver real justice for the victims.

Please note that the meeting will start promptly at 5.15pm.

Please allow 30 minutes for security to enter the House of Commons.

If you wish to attend the meeting, please fill in the Eventbrite form and your booking will be confirmed by email.

The meeting has been jointly organised by The Monitoring Group and Black & Asian Justice Campaigns spied upon by undercover policing. Please continue to check our website (www.tmg-uk.org) for updates and confirmed speakers.

Three New Spycops Named – But Others Get Hidden

Troops Out Movement demonstration at military recruitment office

Troops Out Movement demonstration at military recruitment office

The public inquiry into undercover political policing has published three new names of spycops and, for the first time, they’re new names rather than just confirming what activists, whistleblowers and journalists had already revealed.

However, among the hefty tranche of new papers from Inquiry Chair Sir John Mitting are grave indications of that he is seeking to prevent the full truth coming to light.

Having dragged out the process of beginning the inquiry for years, earlier this year the Metropolitan Police were given a firm timetable for applying for ‘restriction orders’ for the anonymity of undercover officers.

As expected, the Met are pushing for maximum secrecy, arguing that it would make officers worried and sad to be publicly known for what they’ve done. The Met also argue that the officers would be at risk of violent reprisal, despite nothing of the kind happening to the swathe of officers who have been very publicly exposed since 2010. With deadlines passing, the Met have had their hand forced and, finally, we are getting a small measure of new information from the Inquiry.

THREE NEW SPYCOPS

As had been suggested by some victims, the new names are all from the early days of the Special Demonstration Squad in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With those involved being of advanced age, there’s some merit in tackling these cases first. Indeed, one of the three newly named officers is already dead.

We’ve been given only the officers’ cover names, but not their real identity. These three releases have major redactions, including whether the officer had intimate relationships or was arrested. Given the long history of SDS officers having such abusive relationships and instigating miscarriages of justice, these are very serious omissions.

John Graham‘ was deployed in 1968, the first year of the Special Demonstration Squad, to infiltrate the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (Kilburn and Willesden Branch), and says the worst thing anyone in the group ever suggested doing was jumping on the back of a police officer. He also spied on the Revolutionary Socialist Students Federation.

In 1969 his deployment was cut short when he refused a senior officers instruction to attend a certain meeting, feeling it would have exposed him. He was moved to other duties shortly after. The Undercover Research Group have produced a profile of John Graham.

Rick Gibson‘ spied on left wing groups between 1974 and 1976. He infiltrated socialist feminist campaign/newspaper Big Flame, and became a prominent member of the south-east London branch of the Troops Out Movement which campaigns to end British involvement in Northern Ireland.

The police say that in 1976 Gibson was confronted by a Big Flame activist who had become suspicious of him and discovered that he was – as was standard for spycops at the time – using the identity of a dead child. Gibson said that he was indeed using a false identity as he was on the run from the police, and his comrades could not be certain that he was a spy. His deployment was ended shortly afterwards. He is now dead.

Doug Edwards‘ was one of the earliest Special Demonstration Squad officers, deployed between 1968 and 1971. He infiltrated anarchist groups, and says that ‘some of them were quite nasty pieces of work’. He then moved on to the Dambusters Mobilising Committee, a coalition opposed to the huge Cabora Bassa dam project in the then-Portuguese colony of Mozambique, a collaboration between apartheid South Africa, Rhodesia and Portugal to supply electricity to South Africa.

Like so many of his colleagues, he was very active in groups he infiltrated, becoming treasurer of Cuban-founded group Tricontinental. He also describes going to a wedding, showing that ‘collateral intrusion’ into the lives of those around the spied-upon has always been part of how spycops work.

He continues

‘Some of the people in these groups were really nice, pleasant, intelligent people. They were different politically in their views, but in this country you can have different political views.’

He says

‘I think the whole thing has been blown out of proportion… I don’t have anything to hide and I’ll answer all questions, I won’t mind’

But then he immediately backtracks with

‘I don’t want all this dragging up though when it was 50 years ago… I don’t want the interference at my stage of life.’

 

These three bring the total of exposed undercover officers to 23 out of a total of at least 144.

DOORS CLOSING BEFORE THEY OPEN

The three newly named spycops are among 28 whose anonymity has been considered by the inquiry. The Inquiry has published a brief profile of each of them, with a position on their anonymity.

Of the 25 still unnamed:

  • 2 aren’t being named yet but the Chair intends to release the cover names soon
  • 3 are dead with no known cover name, their real names will be published later
  • 2 have no known cover name and the Inquiry won’t release the real name
  • 3 have both cover and real names known and the Chair intends to withhold both
  • 1 has already had the cover name confirmed, and the Chair intends to withhold the real name
  • 3 are undecided pending further information
  • 3 are having secret hearings with the Inquiry before a decision is made
  • 1 has been given more time to apply for anonymity
  • 7 were backroom staff so had no cover name, their real names will be published later

Put another way, they have taken decisions on eight officers and are withholding the cover names of three. This is not a good ratio. Without the publication of the overwhelming majority of cover names we cannot know who was spied on, so we cannot hear from victims and establish the truth.

Mitting is giving a lot of weight to the possible psychological impacts on spycops if they are named, but since when are abusers given protection because exposure would be detrimental to them?

As Pitchford Watcher’s analysis of Mitting’s statement explained

‘In one case, that of ‘HN7’, he has already given a unilateral order for anonymity on the basis of HN7’s mental health. For others, he is accepting that the minimal risk of press intrusion may be sufficient for such anonymity orders, even when there is no risk to safety. In another instance, his main concern is the effect on the widow of an undercover.

‘He also appears to be of the opinion that he can do what he needs to meet the terms of reference of the Inquiry, just by reference to cyphers and cover names, an approach that increases secrecy and further limits participation by those targeted by the undercovers. These core participants believe that in doing this, he is completely disregarding their needs and that they are being denied the right to the truth.’

THE LAWRENCE FAMILY SPY

Of the three officers applying for full anonymity who will have secret hearings before a decision, one is officer N81, who spied on Stephen Lawrence’s family as they campaigned for justice for their murdered son.

Doreen Lawrence has been very clear about the need to know who spied on her, telling the Guardian in 2015

‘They were doing the deception. Why should they be allowed to be anonymous while people like me had their faces all over the newspapers? These people were not innocent. They knew what they were doing.’

This is the key issue at the moment for many of the people targeted. The cover names of the officers and the names of the groups they spied on are not optional or incidental. They are the sole foundation on which the truth can be established. Whether to publish them should not be an issue to wrestle with, it should not be the focus of the discussion, it should be a given.

Inquiry core participant Carolyn Wilson told Pitchford Watcher

‘The police tend to tell us “If you’ve nothing to hide, then you’ve got nothing to fear”. People are trying to come to terms with the very real trauma of finding out they’d been deceived into intimate relationships with cops from these secret units. They are desperate for information so they can deal with what’s happened, and heal their lives.

‘How dare those same cops now have the nerve to claim that they face being “traumatised” by details of their past activities being brought out in public? If they haven’t done anything wrong, why would they be embarrassed about their neighbours and families finding out about it all?’

This inquiry is not about arbitrating between equals. It is about establishing the full truth about the known abuses of power committed by these disgraced units against citizens and democracy. If it does not publish the overwhelming majority of cover names it defies its purpose, protects the guilty and betrays the victims.

Video: Voices of the Spied On

On 21 January we held a Voices of the Spied On public meeting, and videos of the four panellists’ speeches are now on our Youtube channel.

Janet Alder has been a tireless campaigner for justice for her brother Christopher who was killed by Humberside police in 1998. Police admit repeatedly putting her under surveillance, yet she has been denied ‘core participant’ status at the Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing.

Stafford Scott has been a key figure in numerous black community and family justice campaigns. He was co-ordinator of the Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign and is now race advocacy officer at the Monitoring Group.

The exposure of undercover police adds a new sinister dimension to the state repression he has devoted himself to opposing, with campaigns being infiltrated and undermined by officers.

Kate Wilson is an environmental and social justice activist who was deceived into a long-term relationship by undercover police officer Mark Kennedy. This, her first UK public talk on the subject, came five days after she won a gruelling four year legal battle to have the Metropolitan Police held accountable for Kennedy’s abuse.

Jules Carey is a human rights lawyer at Bindmans of London, representing many of the people targeted by Britain’s political secret police.

His clients include Jacqui, the first case the Met settled with a woman deceived into a relationship by an undercover officer, and other similar clients whose cases are ongoing. He also represents Barbara Shaw, mother of Rod Richardson, a dead child whose identity was stolen by an undercover police officer.

Here he talks about the forthcoming Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing.

Yet More Spying on the Lawrence Campaign

Stephen Lawrence

Stephen Lawrence

Greater Manchester Police has admitted that it spied on people attending the Inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, making it the fourth constabulary known to be involved.

When the MacPherson Inquiry took place in 1998, it held a number of hearings outside London. A GMP memo was issued on 8 October asking for ‘information or intelligence on groups or individuals who are likely to be attending’ to be given to a Detective Chief Inspector in Special Branch.

The spying appears to have been motivated by wholly political concerns. There was no anticipation of any threat to public order, there is no suggestion of anything criminal, and the memo makes no mention of anything untoward.

GMP memo, 8 October 1998GMP’s Operation Kerry report into spying on Lawrence campaigners is due to be published shortly. However, not only is it another self-investigation, but it only covers the Manchester element. The spying on Lawrence activists was much larger and more systematic than that. Yet again, official inquiries are parcelling off a small question and giving it to police to mark their own homework. As such, it is an obstruction to the truth rather than its vehicle.

Last year it was revealed that spying also took place when the Inquiry went to Bradford in the same month as it visited Manchester. West Yorkshire’s Assistant Chief Constable, Norman Bettison, ordered his Special Branch to produce a full report on one of the witnesses at the Bradford hearing, Mohammed Amran. Bettison was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission for this, and they began investigating last July. It was reported earlier this year that he has been interviewed under caution as part of the inquiry.

Sir Norman Bettison

Sir Norman Bettison

Bettison is already a thoroughly disgraced figure. Widely believed to be one of the chief architects of the Hillsborough cover up and the smear campaign against Liverpool fans, he was forced to resign as Chief Constable of West Yorkshire over his response to the Hillsborough Independent Panel, in which he tried to manipulate the West Yorkshire Police Authority and contradicted the established fact that the fans were not to blame. An IPCC report concluded that, had he not resigned, he would have been dismissed for gross misconduct.

He is one of several senior police officers, including Bernard Hogan-Howe, who are tainted by their involvement in both the Hillsborough and spycops scandals.

But for all his extensive personal failings and corrupt dealings, Bettison’s spying on the MacPherson Inquiry in West Yorkshire was not a rogue act. South Yorkshire police also admitted spying on ‘extreme leftwing groups’ attending events indirectly linked to the Inquiry.

When the Inquiry’s main hearings took place in London, Peter Francis – the undercover officer who has described how he was earlier tasked to ‘find dirt’ to discredit the Lawrence family – said that there was intensive surveillance from plain clothes officers.

I am 100% aware that the Metropolitan Police Special Branch had a Special Branch officer regularly, if not daily, in both parts of the Macpherson inquiry.

This means that at least four constabularies’ Special Branches spied on people attending the Inquiry as it toured the country (so we may safely surmise that people at the Birmingham and Bristol hearings were similarly spied on).

There can be no excuse for this. The usual fob-offs about shady volatile people trying to hijack a campaign, flimsy at the best of times, cannot apply at all. This wasn’t an angry crowd in the streets on the day of a killing, this was a formal judge-led inquiry five years later. The Met still had ‘a spy in the Lawrence family’s camp’ at that time.

Peter Francis says he advocated telling MacPherson about the earlier spying, but that he was overruled by his superiors.

The Met’s claim that they came clean at MacPherson is a cruel joke, another decoy to keep us from realising both the depths that spycops will sink to and the depths that they will involve themselves in the lives of citizens.

If this level of spying is revealed by police self-examination, how much more would be revealed by a proper Hillsborough style independent inquiry?

No to Police Spying, Corruption and Racism – demo 21 October

Earlier this year the Ellison report found that Britain’s secret police unit the Special Demonstration Squad had spied on the family of Stephen Lawrence. They have subsequently admitted spying on another 17 similar family justice campaigns.

One was that of Ricky Reel, found dead after a racially motivated attack in October 1997.

His mother Sukhdev launched a petition that has already had over 75,000 signatures. She said:

My son Ricky was just 20 years-old when he was found dead in the River Thames after being racially abused by two men. The police said that they were never able to establish exactly how he died, that it must have been an accident. We spent years pushing for a proper investigation, to get justice for our son. We’ve now found out that because we were questioning their investigations, they spied on us.

There are no words to explain the pain me and my family were feeling, a time when we needed to be left alone to grieve for our son. We thought the police would be on our side and help our grief by finding out the truth.

We know that it wasn’t just us. Other grieving families who were seeking justice after being let down by the police were also spied on. These include the families of Stephen Lawrence, Cherry Groce, Rolan Adams, Michael Menson, Joy Gardner, Jean Charles de Menezes, Harry Stanley and many more. All of these families were spied on because they were pushing for the police to investigate the murder or suspicious deaths of loved ones.

It is devastating to feel betrayed by the people you are expected to trust. Police spy on criminals, what crime did we commit?

We have no faith or trust left in the police. In March this year, the Home Secretary Theresa May announced that there will be a Judge led Public Inquiry into undercover policing but this will not take place for another year, maybe after the next election when we may even have a new government.

I’m calling on the Home Secretary to immediately:

1. Seek a public apology from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to all the families affected by police spying and take action against police officers for any wrong doing

2. Assure us that that the family justice campaigns would be consulted when drawing the terms of reference for the Public Inquiry into undercover policing

3. Assure us that affected families will be provided with legal aid so that they can be properly legally represented at the Public Inquiry

4. Assure us that the practice of police “spying” of family justice campaigns has stopped”

The Monitoring Group have called for a peaceful vigil on Tuesday 21 October at New Scotland Yard from 5-7pm.

Speakers include:

New Scotland Yard
8-10 Broadway
London SW1H 0BG

Family Justice Campaigns Petition

Lakhvinder ‘Ricky’ Reel, whose bereaved family were spied on by the secret police

Though it confirmed what we long suspected and had some evidence of, last week’s admission that the Special Demonstration Squad spied on at least 18 family justice campaigns over a period of decades is still profoundly shocking. For families to know they were the specific targets has been deeply upsetting; they were told to trust police who said they were there to help but actually undermined them.

Being merely informed is not enough. Whistleblower Peter Francis has called for all families affected to be given full access to the complete files so that they may judge for themselves why the data was amassed. The revelations reinforce the need for such families to be fully included in the forthcoming public inquiry from its earliest stages.

Sukhdev Reel, whose son Ricky died in 1997 in what police say was an accident but the family have consistently believed was a racist murder, has launched a petition calling on Home Secretary Theresa May to:

1. Seek a public apology from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to all the families affected by police spying and take action against police officers for any wrong doing

2. Assure us that the family justice campaigns would be consulted when drawing the terms of reference for the Public Inquiry into undercover policing

3. Assure us that affected families will be provided with legal aid so that they can be properly legally represented at the Public Inquiry

4. Assure us that the practice of police “spying” of family justice campaigns has stopped.

 

Please help to amplify the Reel family’s call for justice by signing the petition and sharing it.

Operation Herne’s Third Decoy

Cherry Groce in hospital after she was shot by police

Cherry Groce in hospital after being shot by police

Once again Operation Herne – the police’s self-investigation into the political secret police units – proves its irrelevance.

After the admission earlier this year that police spied on the Stephen Lawrence family campaign, the new report, the third from the Herne team, concedes that for at least 20 years police gathered intelligence on 18 more families who had justice campaigns for their loved ones, including Jean Charles de Menezes and Cherry Groce.

The report (PDF here) plainly says this had no operational purpose in preventing crime. Clearly, then, it is about undermining people who might embarrass the police by exposing what they have done.

The report’s author, Chief Constable Mick Creedon, claims that the intelligence was not searched for, it was incidentally gathered by officers infiltrating other campaigns and then kept for no particular reason. This accident happened to one campaign after another over a span of decades. He acknowledges that even he knows this is an unlikely explanation, admitting it ‘must seem inexplicable’.

Equally implausibly, he says that it appears the Special Demonstration Squad were just amassing information and there is no solid documented evidence of sending infiltrators into the families.

Firstly, much of the secret police’s information was never written down. Secondly, a great deal of the material that did make it onto paper has been shredded. Indeed Creedon concedes that, had proper procedures been followed, the evidence of spying on the families would have been shredded.

It leaves a simple question – why would the infiltrator unit be gathering information on people who weren’t targets for infiltration?

The whistleblower Special Demonstration Squad officer Peter Francis has described his infiltration of justice campaigns. After his revelations, police threatened him with prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. Most of the information is not on paper, only in the minds of the people who did it. The truth can only come out if former officers are compelled to give evidence under oath without fear of self-incrimination.

We know that these 18 families are not the only ones. It also raises the question of how many other bereaved families seeking justice have been spied on. Police have already released details of their surveillance of on Janet Alder whose brother was unlawfully killed by police officers. Several Hillsborough families are certain they were spied on. When it’s happening on this scale over such a prolonged period it’s hard to see it as anything other than an active policy.

For Operation Herne to once again rely solely on what surviving papers it can find proves that it is little more than a police damage control exercise, admitting a few of the smaller outrages in order to shore up the denial of the larger ones. The forthcoming public inquiry is clearly a more serious and rigorous proposition. The public inquiry supercedes Herne, leaving it without any purpose apart from perpetuating the extra injustice of focusing on reputation protection instead of facing the facts.

Police Corruption and Racism: An Endless Legacy?

Next Monday in London there is a talk and discussion about police corruption and racism, with particular focus on the work of undercover officers to disrupt and undermine campaigns for justice, and looking ahead to the public inquiry and beyond.

Police corruption and racism: an endless legacy?
Monday 23rd June, 7pm – 8.30pm
Committee Room 10, House of Commons
Free admission. Register for attendance here

As a result of the Ellison Review into the allegations of police corruption and spying of the Stephen Lawrence family and campaign, the Home Secretary has been forced to announce a Judge-led public inquiry into under cover policing. This is likely to take place next year in 2015. What is the significance of the Ellison review and what can done to ensure that the Inquiry is totally open and transparent to the public?

What we know:

– Families fighting against injustice and police corruption are monitored, spied upon, infiltrated and, if necessary, smeared

– Documented evidence of police spying on justice campaigns is routinely destroyed

– Police spies are still operating undercover in family and community-led justice campaigns

– Internal police investigations refuse to accept charges of corruption. Only independent investigations force the police to be accountable for their actions

What we need to know:

– What right do the police have in criminalising campaigns seeking justice for their family or community members?

– Where are the records of who has infiltrated campaigns?

– What effect has spying had on how the police respond to campaigns challenging deaths in custody, violence and corruption?

What needs to change:

– Peaceful campaigns for justice must be recognised as necessary for democracy to function, not criminalised by the police

– Records of all police spying must be made available to the effected individuals and groups

– Officers who have acted unlawfully or in a corrupt manner must be brought to justice through the courts, not internal investigations

Speakers:

Imran Khan (eminent human rights lawyers and solicitor for Doreen Lawrence)

Suresh Grover (Director of The Monitoring Group, former coordinator of Lawrence family campaign)

Chaired by Stafford Scott, project manager of Tottenham Rights and civil rights leader

IPCC Investigates Officers Over Lawrence Spying

The Independent Police Complaints Commission announced today that three officers will be investigated over their roles in the Speical Demonstration Squad’s spying on the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

It follows revelations three months ago in the Ellison Review, confirming police had spied on the family at the time of the 1998 MacPherson Inquiry.

Two of the three officers are now retired. They are Colin Black and Bob Lambert, and they face charges of discreditable conduct.

Lambert is already under scrutiny in many other aspects of the secret policing scandal. As an undercover officer he co-wrote the McLibel leaflet that led to the longest trial in English history at which undercover police involvement was never revealed. He was named in Parliament as the firebomber of a Debenhams store, a charge he has strenuously denied. He fathered a child with one of the activists he targeted and abandoned them both when his deployment ended. He later ran undercover operations, overseeing the deployment of several other exposed controversial officers.

The third officer is Commander Richard Walton. As well as discreditable conduct, he faces allegations of breaches of honesty and integrity.

He was an acting Detective Inspector in 1998, but by this year he had risen to be head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, the unit that has current responsibility for the secret police who would formerly have been employed by the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) or National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU). Walton was moved from the post immediately after the Ellison report was published in March.

Whilst any exposure of wrongdoing and accountability for those culpable is welcome, it cannot be a parcelling off that lets anyone claim the issue has been dealt with. Any findings must be part of the material for one overarching, credible, rigorous, open public inquiry into Britain’s Secret Police.