Content tagged with "Family Justice Campaigns"

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.