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Hogan-Howe: A Legacy of Cover-Ups

Bernard Hogan-Howe

Bernard Hogan-Howe

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

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

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

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

MARKING THEIR OWN HOMEWORK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABUSING THE ABUSED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHEN IS A PUBLIC INQUIRY NOT A PUBLIC INQUIRY?

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

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

AS AT HILLSBOROUGH, SO EVERYWHERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spycops Investigator was Spycops Overseer

Chief Constable Mick Creedon

Chief Constable Mick Creedon

As the full scale public inquiry into Britain’s political police continues to limber up, it’s worth noting that they’re reliant on the same police that committed the abuses.

New evidence this week shows that’s not institutional, but that a individual senior officer responsible for spycops is posing in a key role as a neutral trustworthy figures.

OPERATION HERNE

The first serious attempt at inquiring into the spycops scandal was a Home Affairs Select Committee hearing in February 2013.

It took testimony from three women who had relationships with undercover officers, Helen Steel (anonymised as ‘Clare’), Lisa Jones and Alison.

It also heard from Assistant Chief Constable Pat Gallan of the Metropolitan Police, then-head of the police’s self-investigation into the issue, known as Operation Herne.

The three women who had relationships had done successful investigations to prove that their former partners were Metropolitan police officers. In contrast Pat Gallan, with a staff of several dozen, said she had uncovered very little indeed.

The hearings were the day after the Guardian revealed that Mark Kennedy’s predecessor officer had stolen the identity of a dead child called Rod Richardson. The report estimated it had happened in around eighty other cases.

Gallan, who admitted being aware a case of theft of dead children’s identities five months earlier, had somehow found no further instances and cast doubt on the Guardian’s guess.

She says she does not know if the figure of 80 children’s identities being used is accurate.  She knows of two cases.

Gallan’s numeracy is clearly as strong as her detective ability. Even by that time, there had been published stories about three officers who used dead children’s identities – Rod Richardson, John Barker (aka officer John Dines) and Peter Black (aka Peter Daley, aka officer Peter Francis).

Gallan flatly refused to apologise for the practice of stealing dead children’s identities, or for anything else. It was a PR disaster and she was removed from her post at Operation Herne by the end of the week.

With a new layer of scandal to fend off, they needed to front it someone ‘independent’.

DECAPITATE THE HYDRA

They brought in Derbyshire’s top cop, Chief Constable Mick Creedon.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has said revelations that police used the identities of dead children will be investigated by an independent police chief with an expertise in corruption.

Well that is certainly true, though perhaps not in the way Theresa May meant. Yet again we see the exceptionalism afforded to police. No other industry would regard a sister company whose top brass frequently transfer between one another as independent and free from bias.

It continues to this day – the police are still holding the spycops files that will be wanted by the Pitchford public inquiry. Even though a whistleblower officer has reported ‘domestic extremist’ files being destroyed by fellow officers, even though the Met corruptly destroyed a ‘lorry-load’ of documents relating to its own corruption including the Stephen Lawrence case, the public inquiry has not requisitioned the relevant documents.

What other organisation found to have committed systematic abuse of citizens would be treated this way? Which other criminals get to be custodians of the evidence that incriminates them?

The Home Affairs Select Committee issued an interim report (it never did a full one). They emphatically insisted that all families whose dead children’s identities were stolen by spycops be informed. They expected it to happen by the end of 2013. We are still waiting.

At that time Creedon, keen to calm the furore and retain credibility, rapidly produced an Operation Herne report rubbishing the idea of there only being two isolated instances of dead children’s identity theft. He said that for around 20 years – mid 1970s to mid 1990s – it was standard practice in the Special Demonstration Squad.

At this stage one hundred and six (106) covert identities have been identified as having been used by the SDS between 1968 and 2008.

Forty-two (42) of these identities are either confirmed or highly likely to have used the details of a deceased child. Forty-five (45) of these identities have been established as fictitious.

Work continues to identify the provenance of the remaining identities.

There are definitely more, though. For one, the officer known as Rod Richardson wasn’t in the SDS, he was from the National Public Order Intelligence Unit. Who knows how many of their officers did it?

Creedon explicitly rebuffed calls for an independent inquiry into spycops.

‘There has always been public concern about police investigating the police, but I’ll be brutally honest: there is no one as good at doing it as the police. We don’t seek to hide things. We do actually seek to get the truth and we do it properly and I frankly find it almost insulting that people suggest that in some way, because I’m a police officer, I’m not going to search the truth.’

THE NEW BOSS, SAME AS THE OLD BOSS

The proof that Operation Herne was just a figleafing exercise came in March 2014. After whistleblower SDS officer Peter Francis revealed his unit had spied on the family of Stephen Lawrence, Mark Ellison produced his comprehensive and damning report into the matter. His findings eventually forced the resignation of the head of Counter Terrorism Command, Richard Walton, a classic case of ‘go before they bring misconduct charges and thereby preserve your pension’.

On the very same day as Ellison’s report was published, Creedon issued his Operation Trinity report. It looked at the same issue and reached essentially opposite conclusions. He basically said that if there isn’t documentary proof of spying on the Lawrences we can’t say it happened.

So immersed was Creedon in protecting the police from exposure that the 84 page report subtitled Allegations Of Peter Francis said it

will neither confirm or deny if Peter Francis was an undercover police officer.

Four months later came a third and seemingly final Herne report, into the spying on similar racial and family justice campaigns. Two years on, the 18 families identified are still waiting for answers. Creedon and Herne are publicly silent on that and all other matters.

BY HIS OWN HAND

But this week there’s a new twist in the tale. When spycops were active, they had to be authorised by a senior officer from the constabulary they were in, as well as their bosses at the Met. More than one of the exposed undercover officers was in Derbyshire; Mark Kennedy was there many times. We know from leaked papers of Kennedy’s deployments in North Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire that the proper protocol of these authorisations was meticulously adhered to.

As Derbyshire’s Assistant Chief Constable (Operations), Mick Creedon will have been briefed on these deployments and he will have personally authorised them to go ahead. It’s quite possible that Operation Herne has custody of documents authorising Kennedy’s abuses and bearing Creedon’s signature, unless they too have been deliberately lost or destroyed.

The Undercover Research Group have just published a profile of Mick Creedon that maps his career and shows a particular involvement in protests by environmentalists, anti-fascists and other groups who were infiltrated by spycops.

Far from being a clean, neutral figure, Creedon came to Operation Herne as an insider of many years’ standing. Once again, having been proven to have abused citizens the police are shown to respond with deceit.

These attempts at self-preservation backfire by undermining any idea that the police could have a  serious commitment to honesty and integrity, let alone justice. Top to bottom and side to side, we’ve seen brand protection as their highest priority – indeed, that is the very thing that led to them undermining the justice campaigns in the first place.

There can be no faith in Operation Herne, nor any police self-investigation. There can be no trust in the people whose wrongdoing is the subject of the public inquiry being allowed to decide what does and doesn’t get revealed. The problems highlighted by the spycops scandal are endemic and institutional. The revelation of Mick Creedon’s true history proves that there is no independence in the police.

Police Snub Parliament’s Spycops Demands

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

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

Three years ago today, the first halfway credible official report into Britain’s political secret police was published. The Home Affairs Select Committee had taken evidence from three of the women deceived into relationships by officers – Helen Steel (aka Clare), Alison and Lisa Jones.

Their powerful testimony was overshadowed by that week’s revelation of the fact that Mark Kennedy’s predecessor, the officer known as Rod Richardson, had stolen a dead child’s identity. The real Rod Richardson died when only a few days old.

Pat Gallan, head of the Met’s self-investigation Operation Herne, said they had found a solitary instance of theft of a dead child’s identity five months earlier. Since then, despite the combined efforts of Herne’s 31 staff, they had failed to find any more until activists came forward with the evidence about Richardson. Gallan refused to apologise for the practice.

Perhaps not coincidentally, she was removed from Operation Herne four days later.

The Select Committee took it very seriously.

 

The practice of ‘resurrecting’ dead children as cover identities for undercover police officers was not only ghoulish and disrespectful, it could potentially have placed bereaved families in real danger of retaliation.

 

This point is an important one. John Barker died aged 8 of leukaemia. His identity was later stolen by police officer John Dines. After his deployment ended and he disappeared, Dines’ worried and bereft activist partner Helen Steel traced John Barker and went to the house listed on the birth certificate. John Barker’s brother Anthony said

 

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

 

The Select Committee gave clear instructions to the police.

 

Families need to hear the truth and they must receive an apology. Once families have been identified they should be notified immediately. We would expect the investigation to be concluded by the end of 2013 at the latest.

 

In July 2013 Operation Herne published a report into the theft of dead children’s identities, contradicting Gallan’s claim of it being unusual and confirming it was in fact mandatory in the Special Demonstration Squad for decades. Around fifty identities were stolen for use by police.

 

WHEN IS A RISK NOT A RISK? WHEN IT’S A COVER-UP

 

The Operation Herne report talked of the police’s ‘essential’ and ‘long-standing policy’ of Neither Confirm Nor Deny (NCND).

As Police Spies Out of Lives, the group representing eight women deceived into relationships by these officers, pointed out

 

NCND doesn’t have any legal standing. It doesn’t even seem to be a ‘policy’ – no evidence has been presented of a written policy, and in some instances police lawyers have referred to it as a ‘practice’.

 

They wryly observed

 

The women launched their legal action in December 2011, but it was not until June 2012 that the police first mentioned NCND in relation to the claim. You might think if there had been such a long standing policy this would have been highlighted in the first police response.

 

They then listed a number of times when this supposed policy didn’t apply, ranging from media appearances to the Met Commissioner speaking on the record to the Metropolitan Police Authority.

The report’s author, Chief Constable Mick Creedon, agreed that the relatives deserve an apology but said revealing the names used

 

would and could put undercover officers at risk.

 

If officers were spying on the likes of Helen Steel, then it is insultingly absurd to say they would be put at risk by being identified. Numerous officers have been exposed for many years – including their real names and photos being widely reproduced in the mass media. The worst retribution any of them has suffered is a few people politely leafleting outside a building that they weren’t actually in.

If the officers really were spying on genuinely dangerous people, then they are leaving the bereaved families at risk. Under witness protection programmes, the police put endangered civilians through court and then organise a new safe life with changed identity . It’s a lot of effort, but it’s only a few cases and society deems it worthwhile in order to ensure justice is done. Plainly, the same could be done if there actually were any former officers who were in a position of risk.

So either way, this refusal to name names is transparent nonsense. It is a decoy, a device for shielding the police from accountability and further condemnation for their actions. No other institution would protect its rampantly immoral staff so vigorously and effectively.

The police admit that they have done wrong to the citizens they are supposed to serve. They agree that they should issue an apology, but have not done so. This demonstrates absolute arrogance.

 

WHEN IS A REPORT NOT A REPORT? WHEN IT’S A SECRET

 

The police said they had completed a report into the theft and use of Rod Richardson’s identity, and concluded there were no criminal charges to be brought,  nor even misconduct proceedings. What were their reasons? We have no idea because the police would not let anyone see the report, not even Richardson’s mother Barbara Shaw.

Her lawyer, Jules Carey, condemned the secrecy and its part of a wider mosaic of abuse by undercover police.

 

What we heard this morning was not an apology but a PR exercise. The families of the dead children whose identities have been stolen by the undercover officers deserve better than this. They deserve an explanation, a personal apology and, if appropriate, a warning of the potential risk they face in the exceptional circumstances that their dead child’s identity was used to infiltrate serious criminal organisations.

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

In Ms Shaw’s case, the Metropolitan Police have stated that the investigation into her complaint is complete but they have declined to provide her with a report on the outcome. They have refused to confirm or deny that the identity of her son was used by an undercover officer despite there being only one Rod Richardson born in 1973. And they have concluded that there is no evidence of misconduct or even performance issues to be addressed.

Ms Shaw has told me that she feels her complaint has been ‘swept under the carpet’.

 

MASTERS AND SERVANTS

 

The conclusion of the Home Affairs Select Committee’s interim report (the full report never materialised) was unequivocal.

 

The families who have been affected by this deserve an explanation and a full and unambiguous apology from the forces concerned.

 

The police simply refused, and that was the end of it.

The Select Committee also said

 

We will be asking to be updated on the progress of Operation Herne every three months. This must include the number and nature of files still to review, costs, staffing, disciplinary proceedings, arrests made, and each time a family is identified and informed. We will publish this information on our website.

 

It appears that didn’t happen either. What reason could there be? Either the Select Committee didn’t ask, or the police refused and the Select Committee didn’t make a fuss.

Even as they wallow in a foul cesspool of their own long standing practices, the police feel able to blithely ignore insistent demands of parliament to come clean. And parliament has let them get away with it.