Content tagged with "Helen Steel"

Victims of Undercover Policing Call on Public Inquiry to Come Clean

Protesters outside New Scotland Yard demand deatils of political police spies, 2011Over 100 people affected by political policing, frustrated by the Undercover Policing Inquiry’s lack of openness, are demanding answers and action.

Their concern about the direction and state of the Inquiry centres on the need for it to come clean over three crucial factors that would enable victims of police spying to understand the extent to which their lives have been invaded.

The necessary measures have not yet been taken by Inquiry Chair, Sir John Mitting, despite being more than three years into the process.

As Kim Bryan, speaking on behalf of the Spycops Communications Group, said:

‘Unless Mitting orders the release of the names of the undercover officers, the names of the 1000-plus groups that have been spied upon and allows the victims of police spying to gain access to evidence about them that is controlled by the MPS, there is no hope that this Inquiry can set out what it said it was going to do: discover the truth. It is time for the Inquiry to come clean.’

The Inquiry was set up in 2014 to investigate and report on undercover police operations conducted by English and Welsh police forces in England and Wales since 1968.

It was called by the then-Home Secretary, Theresa May after revelations from victims of undercover policing revealed widespread abuse of human rights and miscarriages of justice and the now notorious spying on family and friends of Stephen Lawrence.

The Inquiry has designated less than 200 significantly affected people as core participants. They are mostly political activists drawn from a wide range of political groups including those campaigning for equality, justice, community empowerment, the environment, workers’, civil, women’s, LGTBQ, human and animal rights; and campaigning against war, racism, sexism, homophobia, government policies, corporate power, and police brutality.

A majority of them have signed the letter expressing their grave concerns.

Kim Bryan explained:

‘As Core Participants we are rapidly losing confidence in the Inquiry and in the abilities of John Mitting. He is rowing back on commitments made by the previous Chair, Christopher Pitchford, who stated the inquiry’s priority is to discover the truth and recognised the importance of hearing from both officers and their victims along with the need for this to be done in public as far as possible.’

In August, Mitting made a notable departure from the approach of the previous Chair, Justice Pitchford, who resigned for health reasons.

The August rulings and ‘Minded-To’ notes prevent a thorough investigation and give non-state core participants no right to reply – without any justification.

The letter asks that Sir John Mitting respond to the five following questions:

1.What steps will be taken to ensure that all undercover identities are released as soon as possible, and when can we expect that to happen?

2. What steps will be taken to ensure that the names of the 1,000 or so groups spied upon by undercover police officers are released as soon as possible, and when can we expect that to happen?

3. What steps will be taken to conserve, and speed up disclosure of the evidence controlled by the MPS, in order to allow the victims of undercover policing to understand the extent to which their lives have been affected?

5. What measures will be taken to the tackle the significant financial and power imbalance between the MPS and victims of police spying within the Inquiry?

6. Most importantly, what steps will be taken to ensure that the Inquiry is open and transparent, so that the public and NSCPs can have confidence in its findings?

Copies of the letter have also been sent to Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, and Diane Abbott, Shadow Home Secretary.

 


 

FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER

Sir John Mitting
Undercover Policing Inquiry
PO Box 71230
London NW1W 7QH

Monday 23rd October 2017

Dear Chair,

RE: The need for openness in the Undercover Policing Inquiry

We are writing to you to express our serious concern over the current state of the Undercover Policing Inquiry and wish to raise a number of issues.

It is clear to us from the materials released at the start of August 2017 i that you are minded to take the Inquiry in a different direction than it has been heading to date, one of far greater secrecy.

For us, this Inquiry is about political policing to undermine groups and organisations campaigning for a better society and world, yet the content of the documents released on 3rd August shows a new course that places the needs of the police, particularly undercover officers, above those of their victims. This approach denies those who have suffered abuse at the hands of undercover police access to the truth and the right to justice. It appears, to those of us who have been targeted and have experienced an unacceptable intrusion of our lives, that police sensitivities are being allowed to trump all other concerns.

Your unilateral decision to grant HN7 complete anonymity on medical grounds ii without allowing those grounds to be examined is a case in point. By putting his needs above any consideration of HN7’s involvement in the issues covered by the terms of reference of the Inquiry, and refusing to release even his cover name, the Chair has negated any possibility of discovering if he engaged in sexual or other inappropriate relationships, caused a miscarriage of justice, or was involved in other abusive or illegal behaviour in his undercover role.

This decision denies any victim in HN7’s case the opportunity to come forward. The fact that the ruling makes no attempt to take this into account demonstrates that the Inquiry has a clear bias in favour of police interests. This is echoed throughout the ‘Minded-To’ notes iii, announcing closed hearings around other officers, particularly N81.

As Non-State Core Participants (NSCPs) we are rapidly losing confidence in the Inquiry. We note that the previous Chair, Lord Justice Pitchford, recognised the importance of hearing from both officers and their victims – and the need for this to be done in public as far as possible. He explicitly noted that any departure from openness must be justified iv; what we are seeing at the moment is quite the opposite. The August rulings and ‘Minded-To’ notes prevent a thorough investigation.

We ask you to remember that this Inquiry was called following a series of very alarming revelations about wrongdoing by police, the scale of political policing, and institutional sexism and racism. There is considerable evidence of the police attempting to destroy evidence and cover up that wrong doing. Undercover officers and staff who acted in public office should not be protected from accountability. That they may be upset or suffer disquiet is not sufficient reason for a Public Inquiry to be kept in secret.

We would also like to register our very deep concern at the tone taken by the “Mosaic effect” v and ‘Jaipur’ vi, ‘Karachi’ vii and ‘Cairo’ viii assessments, where anonymous officers, in some cases personal friends of undercover officers, make explicit and unfounded attacks against the victims of these undercover officers, particularly those who have brought to public attention the grievous abuses committed – at no little personal pain to themselves. This is simply inexcusable and it is an embarrassment to the Inquiry.

Furthermore, we would like, once again, to raise the issue of the significant imbalance in financial resources and power between the State and Non-State Core Participants in this Inquiry. This means that Non-State Core Participants (NSCPs) are often prevented from making submissions on issues of concern to them, while the MPS remains in complete control of the evidence and is able to bog the Inquiry down with multiple applications of its choosing.

We support the letter delivered to Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, on the 19th of September 2017, by 13 women who were deceived into sexual relationships with undercover officers. The letter highlighted concerns about institutional sexism and the lack of openness in the Inquiry.

We reiterate the need for answers to the following questions to restore faith in the Inquiry. In the absence of clear answers to these questions, we, as NSCPs feel that we are being asked to participate blindly in an Inquiry that is not fulfilling its own terms of reference, and may not even really intend to do so.

1. What steps will be taken to ensure that all undercover officers’ identities are released as soon as possible, and when can we expect that to happen?

2. What steps will be taken to ensure that the names of the 1000 or so groups spied upon by undercover police officers are released as soon as possible, and when can we expect that to happen?

3. What steps will be taken to conserve, and speed up disclosure of the evidence controlled by the MPS, in order to allow the victims of undercover policing to understand the extent to which their lives have been affected?

4. What measures will be taken to the tackle the significant financial and power imbalance between the MPS and victims of police spying within the Inquiry?

5. Most importantly, what steps will be taken to ensure that the Inquiry is open and transparent, so that the public and NSCPs can have confidence in its findings?

Yours

Advisory Service for Squatters
‘AJA’
Albert Beale
Alex Hodson
Alice Cutler
Alice Jelinek
‘Alison’
‘AN’
‘Andrea’
‘ARB’
Belinda Harvey
Ben Leamy
Ben Stewart
Blacklist Support Group
Brian Healy
Brian Higgins
‘C’
Carolyn Wilson
Celia Stubbs
Ceri Gibbons
Chris Dutton
Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army
Claire Fauset
Claire Hildreth
Climate Camp Legal Team
Colin Roach Centre
Dan Gilman
Dan Glass
Danny Chivers
Dave Morris
Dave Nellist
Dave Smith
Debbie Vincent
Dr. Donal O’Driscoll
Duwayne Brooks OBE
Emily Apple
Frances Wright
Frank Smith
Geoff Sheppard
Dr. Graham Smith
Guy Taylor
Hackney Community Defence Association
Hannah Lewis
Hannah Sell
Dr. Harry Halpin
Helen Steel
Indra Donfrancesco
Jacqueline Sheedy
‘Jane’
Jason Kirkpatrick
Jennifer Verson
Jesse Schust
‘Jessica’
John Jones
John Jordan
Kate Holcombe
Kate Wilson
Ken Livingstone
Kim Bryan
Kirk Jackson
Kirsty Wright
Leila Deen
‘Lindsey’
‘Lisa’
Lisa Teuscher
‘Lizzie’
Lois Austin
London Greenpeace
Reverend Dr. Malcolm Carroll
Mark Metcalf
Martin Shaw
Martyn Lowe
Matt Salusbury
McLibel Support Campaign
Megan Donfrancesco Reddy
Melanie Evans
Merrick Cork
Michael Dooley
Michael Zeitlin
‘Monica’
Morgana Donfrancesco Reddy
‘Naomi’
Newham Monitoring Project
Nicola Benge
‘NRO’
Olaf Bayer
Paddy Gillett
Paul Chatterton
Paul Gravett
Paul Morozzo
Lord Peter Hain
Piers Corbyn
Robert Banbury
Robbin Gillett
Robin Lane
‘Rosa’
‘Ruth’
‘S’
Sarah Hampton
Sarah Shoraka
Shane Collins
Sharon Grant OBE
Sian Jones
Simon Lewis
Smash EDO
Spencer Cooke
Stafford Scott
Steve Acheson
Steve Hedley
Suresh Grover
Thomas Fowler
Tomas Remiarz
Trapese Collective
‘VSP’
William Frugal
Youth Against Racism in Europe
Zoe Young

i UCPI Anonymity applications: Special Demonstration Squad, 3rd August 2017
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/20170803-directions-SDS.pdf
ii UCPI Ruling in respect of HN7 – Undercover Policing Inquiry, 3rd August 2017
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/20170803-ruling-N7-anonymity.pdf

iii UCPI Minded to notes, 3rd August 2017
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/20170803-Minded-to.pdf
iv UCPI Restriction orders (legal approach) Ruling, 3rd May 2016
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/160503-ruling-legal-approach-to-restriction-orders.pdf
v Evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service “The Mosaic Effect”
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Mosaic-report-open-version.pdf
vi Anonymous evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service in the name “Jaipur”
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Jaipur-Risk-Assessment-with-redactions-burned-in.pdf
vii Anonymous evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service in the name “Karachi”
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Karachi-Risk-Assessment-with-redactions-burnedin.pdf
viii Anonymous evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service in the name “Cairo”
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Cairo-Statement-dated-20-July-2017-open-version.pdf

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.

Spycops Inquiry Slammed by Targeted Women

'Undercover is no Excuse for Abuse' banner at the High CourtToday, thirteen women who were deceived into intimate sexual relationships with undercover policemen, over a period spanning nearly 30 years, have written to the Home Secretary to raise their concerns about the progress and recent direction of the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing.

The women noted that, two years into the Inquiry, the names of the 1000+ groups spied on by political policing units have still not been made public, nor have the cover names used by officers while undercover.  These two steps are critical to allow non-police witnesses to come forward and give evidence to the inquiry. 

The women also raised concerns about the recent appointment of Sir John Mitting as Inquiry Chair.

Institutional Sexism

“We are very concerned that Sir John Mitting is a member of the Garrick Club which has consistently voted to exclude women from membership and to remain a men-only club. How can someone who accepts the principles of membership of such a club be suited to a role that will involve making judgements on evidence of institutional sexism within the police and wider legal system?”

“In the ‘Two Year Update’ produced by the Public Inquiry in July, the word ‘women’ does not appear at all, despite the seriousness of the abuses committed against women by undercover police officers. The timeline in that document also failed to include the public apology issued by the MPS which acknowledged that undercover police officers entering into intimate sexual relationships is a human rights abuse.”

“It is clear from these omissions that the serious abuses we suffered at the hands of the police are not taken seriously by the Inquiry.”

“In light of all these matters it is extremely difficult for us to have any confidence that the Inquiry will properly investigate the abuses we have been subjected to, or put in place measures to ensure that they never happen again to anyone else.”

Openness

The Metropolitan Police Service has been allowed to set the pace of the Inquiry with severe and ongoing delays and applications for secrecy.  They also continue to hold the evidence which could demonstrate wrongdoing, and have refused to share any records with victims of abuses despite the need for victims to understand the events they were subjected to.

“We are alarmed by the imbalance in resources between victims of police spying and the fact that the Metropolitan Police Service is currently using public money to impugn those who were spied on and abused. This is a similar tactic – now thoroughly condemned – to that used by the police at Hillsborough, and it must not be allowed to continue.”

“It is critical that the cover names of the officers are released, along with the names of the groups spied upon.  Without this information the public will not be able to come forward to give evidence to the Inquiry and it will be impossible to identify the scale and nature of the abuses perpetrated.”

“In order for us and the public to have confidence in the inquiry the principles of transparency and openness need to be upheld.”

 

The letter in full:

c/o Birnberg Pierce Solicitors
14 Inverness Street
London
NW1 7HJ

19th September 2017

Dear Amber Rudd,

Undercover Policing Public Inquiry

We are writing to request a meeting with you to discuss our serious concerns about the progress and recent direction of the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing. We are women who were deceived into long-term intimate sexual relationships with undercover police officers over a time span of nearly thirty years. Our experiences may only be the tip of the iceberg. We are aware of other women who have been similarly deceived and believe it extremely likely that there are still more women, and possibly also children, who have yet to find out. The extent and nature of this practice amounts to institutional sexism.

As you know, the Inquiry was set up in response to revelations about the conduct of undercover police officers in political policing units such as the Special Demonstration Squad and National Public Order Intelligence Unit who had committed serious human rights abuses. These abuses were brought to light not by the police, but through the investigations of women who suffered at the hands of these officers, combined with the actions of the whistle-blower Peter Francis, and investigations by journalists.

In correspondence with the previous Home Secretary, (letter sent 11.2.15 through our solicitor, Harriet Wistrich), we stressed the importance of transparency in the Public Inquiry. This is essential in order for the truth to be known, the victims of undercover police abuses to understand and come to terms with what happened, and for the public to have any confidence in the Public Inquiry. We are alarmed, therefore, that two years into the Inquiry, the public has learned nothing new about the extent of these abuses or how they were allowed to happen. Even the names of the 1000+ groups spied on have still not been released.

In addition we are alarmed by the appointment of Sir John Mitting as Inquiry Chair, and by the fact that this was announced on August 2nd when many lawyers and/or their clients were on holiday making it difficult to raise any objections. We feel that this demonstrates again a lack of respect for those abused by the police. Since Sir John Mitting became Inquiry Chair it appears that there has been a significant shift towards greater secrecy.  We believe that his background as Vice President of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal since 2015 is likely to have influenced this shift and we are concerned that steps need to be taken immediately to rectify this and increase transparency.

Institutional Sexism
We also understand that Sir John Mitting is a member of the Garrick Club which has consistently voted to exclude women from membership and to remain a men-only club.  We question how someone who accepts the principles of membership of such a club can be suited to a role that will involve investigating sexist practices and making judgements on what we consider to be clear evidence of institutional sexism within the police and wider legal system.

It is noteworthy that in the ‘Two Year Update’ produced by the Public Inquiry in July, the word ‘women’ does not appear at all, despite the seriousness of the abuses committed against us and other women by undercover police officers.  While there are references to the sensitive issue of dead children’s identities being used for cover purposes, there are no such references to the long-term abuse of women.  We also note that the recently published timeline in that document failed to include the public apology issued to us by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) which acknowledged that we were subject to human rights abuses by undercover police officers. We attach a copy of this apology in case you are not familiar with it. It is clear from these omissions that the Inquiry is failing to take seriously the grave abuses we and other women suffered at the hands of the police.

In light of all these matters it is extremely difficult for us to have any confidence that the Inquiry will properly investigate the abuses we have been subjected to, or put in place measures to ensure that they never happen again to anyone else.

We seek a meeting to resolve the following concerns:

1. What steps will be taken to ensure that the Inquiry has sufficient knowledge and understanding of sexism and its effects to be able to identify and address the clear institutional sexism which has been revealed by the repeated use and abuse of women (over the course of several decades) who were deceived into intimate sexual relationships by undercover police officers.

2. What steps will be taken to ensure that the Inquiry is open and transparent, so that the public can have confidence in its findings?  In the recent indicative and final rulings by Sir John Mitting on restriction order applications by the MPS, he has repeatedly come down in favour of secrecy for the police at the expense of truth for the victims and public; the secrecy approach taken by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal of which he is Vice President is definitely not an appropriate approach to bring to a public inquiry.

3. Cover names must be released, otherwise it will not be possible to identify the true scale nature of the abuses perpetrated. Women and children may be left unable to make sense of events in their lives, and witnesses will not be able to come forward to give evidence to the inquiry.

4. The MPS has been allowed to set the pace of the Inquiry with severe and ongoing delays and applications for secrecy, and despite a huge budget have been allowed every latitude to delay still further. What steps will be taken to ensure that cover names are released as soon as possible?

5. The Inquiry is an investigation into serious wrongdoing by the MPS yet this same body maintains control of much of the evidence, including that which could demonstrate the guilt of officers and their managers, how can this be appropriate?

6. Evidence controlled by the MPS is not being disclosed to those spied upon. This both impacts on our ability to process what happened and hampers the Inquiry’s progress and likely success: since our investigations were instrumental in bringing human rights abuses to light, clearly if we had access to these documents we could assist with identifying areas for investigation and with correcting inaccuracies. What steps will be taken to speed up the release of material, especially of material over twenty years old, in line with the government’s twenty-year rule?

7. It is wrong that the MPS has unlimited resources to impugn those who were spied on and abused. This is a similar tactic – now thoroughly condemned – to that used by the police at Hillsborough, and it must not be allowed to continue. We are concerned in any event at the significant financial and power imbalance between the MPS resources and those of the victims of police spying. As a result of this imbalance, the non-state core participants (NSCPs) are, in practice, prevented from making submissions on issues of concern to them, whereas the MPS is able to make multiple applications of its choosing.

8. MPS documents served recently, including the Risk Assessment and Mosaic Report, contain multiple inaccuracies and offensive material. They suggest that our motives for searching for our disappeared partners were sinister and malign, rather than acknowledging that the police abuses would not have come to light without our research and that of the Undercover Research Group.

9. MPS reports repeatedly attempt to downplay the abuses committed against us and other women, or even suggest they did not happen, for example Mosaic Effect Report [4.4] uses the word allegedly regarding a woman being deceived into a sexual relationship with Bob Lambert, despite the fact that after women he deceived bravely came forward to report this abuse, even Lambert himself admitted to having four sexual relationships while undercover.

10. Public protests seeking accountability for the actions of police who have committed abuses have offensively been labelled harassment [e.g. Risk Assessment Briefing Note 10.12] despite the fact that protest is a protected right. Furthermore, as none of the officers have been prosecuted or disciplined for the human rights abuses they have committed, the public clearly cannot rely on the state for accountability. What steps will be taken to ensure that this abuse of victims and public resources does not continue?

11. It is insulting that we were required to provide intrusive psychological reports to the MPS which was responsible for the abuse and invasion of privacy we were subjected to, yet neither we nor our lawyers are allowed to see or challenge police psychological reports being used by the MPS to argue for secrecy at the Inquiry.

12. The fact that the Chair is minded to accept secrecy in the Inquiry around the identities and actions of officers and units who committed serious abuses, for fear that openness would cause too much stress or potentially harm those officers, is of grave concern. This is not a privilege generally extended to anyone else accused or under investigation, and looks alarmingly like an attempt to protect the reputation of the police.

13. The disparity between the cavalier approach to the privacy of victims of undercover policing compared to the cautiousness towards the MPS, evidenced by data breaches relating to NSCPs, including the recent publication by the Inquiry of the real name of one of us despite a court order with penal notice prohibiting this.

We request a meeting with you at your earliest convenience to discuss our concerns.

Yours sincerely*,

Alison
Andrea
Belinda Harvey
Helen Steel
Jane
Jessica
Kate Wilson
Lisa
“Lizzie”
Monica
Naomi
Rosa
Ruth

* Names in inverted commas are the pseudonyms by which we are known to the Public Inquiry

Police Demand Money From Compensated Spycops Victim

Helen Steel at the Royal Courts of Justice

Helen Steel at the Royal Courts of Justice

The Metropolitan Police are demanding £7,000 from a woman they paid damages to after she discovered that her long-term partner was a police spy. The claim is part of their ongoing campaign for secrecy around political undercover police units who have committed human rights abuses.

Helen Steel has been a lifelong social justice campaigner. In the 1990s she was one of the defendants in the McLibel trial, which arose after McDonald’s sued campaigners for libel over a leaflet produced by London Greenpeace. McDonald’s spent millions on the case, but a public support campaign meant the trial was dubbed ‘the greatest corporate PR disaster in history’.

POLICE SPIES AND CORPORATE SPIES

At the trial it was revealed that London Greenpeace had been infiltrated by several corporate spies hired by McDonald’s. But it was only years later that it emerged the group was also infiltrated by undercover police officers from the now-disgraced Special Demonstration Squad. One of them, Bob Lambert, co-wrote the What’s Wrong With McDonald’s leaflet that caused the trial, though this fact was kept from the court. Another officer in the group, John Dines, deceived Steel into a two-year relationship. They lived together, discussed starting a family and planned to spend the rest of their lives with one another. Then Dines feigned a breakdown and disappeared from Steel’s life back into his police career.

In 2011, Steel was one of a group of eight similarly deceived women who brought a legal case against the Metropolitan Police for abuse by five undercover officers. The Met spent many years and huge sums of public money obstructing the case.

NEITHER CONFIRM NOR DENY

After almost three years of the Met claiming they could ‘neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND) that anyone was an undercover officer – a tactic Steel forensically dismantled at a later public inquiry hearing – in 2014 the courts forced their hand.

The women challenged the police use of NCND. In July 2014 they won an important victory when the High Court ruled that there was no legitimate public interest in the Met Police asserting NCND in respect of the allegations that officers had engaged in long term intimate sexual relationships while undercover.

The Court also ruled that as Bob Lambert and Jim Boyling had already been publicly confirmed as undercover officers, the police could no longer maintain NCND in respect of their identities.

MET POLICE CONTINUE TO HIDE THE TRUTH

However, regarding Mark Jenner and John Dines, the Judge said that although the evidence amassed by the women was overwhelming, and it was surely only a matter of time until they were confirmed, he could not force the naming of people who hadn’t outed themselves.

As Steel said at the time

‘It is very disappointing that despite the overwhelming evidence our former partners John Dines and Mark Jenner were also undercover SDS officers, the Judge has allowed the Met to continue to hide the truth about them.’

Steel put in an appeal against this decision. These men were not private individuals, they had been acting as public servants, so the public had a right to know.

A few months after this appeal was lodged the Met held talks with the women to seek a settlement for their civil claims. Just before Christmas 2014 the Met agreed to apologise to the women, though it wasn’t finalised and published for another 11 months.

On 31st December 2014, the Appeal Court agreed that NCND was an important issue and Steel’s argument was well-grounded. They granted her leave to appeal.

COURT GRANTS APPEAL, MET CLAIMS DECEPTION

The Met, with their tactic of trying anything to undermine those they have victimised, attempted to get the appeal struck out. They claimed Steel had misled the appeal court by not informing them that a settlement had been agreed. This was an underhanded trick, given that the settlement hadn’t been finalised, she was unrepresented for the appeal, and the events happened over the Christmas period when people are generally not focussed on legal proceedings.

Steel argued that it was in the public interest to name those responsible for the abuses. A hearing for the Met’s strike-out application took place in July 2015. Steel was unrepresented, and mentally exhausted from the long battle for the truth. She reluctantly acceded to the court’s twofold advice.

Firstly, if she lost the appeal she would be liable to pay the Met’s legal costs, which could wipe out her entire damages in the main claim. Secondly, the forthcoming public inquiry would provide a safer route to argue about the use of NCND and the release of spycops’ names as there were no costs risks. 

STEEL DROPS APPEAL, MET CLAIMS £10,000 COSTS

Letter from Metropolitan Police to Helen Steel demanding £7,000Despite the hearing lasting only about an hour, the police then claimed over £10,000 costs. Although later reduced to £7,000, the ludicrous amounts charged act as a deterrent, intimidating members of the public seeking accountability for wrongdoing committed by police officers. The threat of such an award can be used by the police as a means to intimidate people out of seeking redress.

The police’s whole argument – that a settlement was agreed – rested on them issuing an apology admitting these men were Met officers who inexcusably abused women. The Met concede they were wrong, and that the women who were deceived into relationships were blameless. Why should officers who have abused members of the public be allowed to hide behind a wall of secrecy?

The apology came with damages for the harm caused by the extreme deception. The Met are now trying to claw money back from a woman they victimised because she tried to get them to do something that they should have done anyway.

PARTIAL CONFIRMATION, MORE DENIAL

The Undercover Policing Inquiry eventually confirmed that Dines was a police officer in December 2016 – a grudging and minimal admission that Steel excoriated. To this day, the police won’t admit Mark Jenner was the undercover officer Mark Cassidy, even though he’s been publicly identified since January 2011.

Women deceived into intimate relationships by undercover police officers want to ensure that these human rights abuses never happen to anyone else. This requires the Met to stop protecting the identities of the abusers. It also requires a legal system that allows funding to enable those who have been abused to challenge their abusers without the risk of becoming bankrupt or losing their homes.

For the Met to have abused these women is horrific enough. For them to inflict the second injustice of legal tricks and obstructions compounds their cruelty. To then to go after Helen Steel for money is an utterly outrageous further leap into the shameless bullying and corruption that has driven their response to the spycops scandal from the start.

Spycops Activists Meet Scottish Minister, Demand Inquiry

Spycops campaigners at the Scottish Government, Glasgow, 10 May 2017. From left: Donal O'Driscoll, Merrick Cork, Helen Steel & Tilly Gifford

Spycops campaigners at the Scottish Government, Glasgow, 10 May 2017. From left: Donal O’Driscoll, Merrick Cork, Helen Steel and Tilly Gifford

People spied on by political undercover police in Scotland met with the Scottish Justice Minister Michael Matheson last week, demanding an independent public inquiry.

The forthcoming Undercover Policing Inquiry, led by Lord Pitchford, is limited to events in England and Wales, despite the fact that most known spycops were also active in Scotland.

After the Home Office refused to include Scotland in the inquiry, last September the Scottish Government appointed HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) to conduct a review of undercover policing in the country.

As HMICS is a body of senior police officers, many victims of the spying do not find it credible and eighteen of them recently declared a boycott of the process. Outraged that the Justice Minister commissioned a review without even speaking to those affected, they requested a meeting, and on Wednesday a delegation they met him in Glasgow.

The group included Helen Steel, who had been in Scotland with her partner John Barker, aka undercover officer John Dines; Climate activist Tilly Gifford, targeted by undercover Scottish police and so outside Pitchford’s remit; Donal O’Driscoll and Merrick Cork, spied upon at the G8 protests in 2005; and the sister of ‘Andrea‘ who was deceived into a relationship by undercover officer Carlo Neri who then integrated into Andrea’s Scottish family.

Matheson repeated his claim that the HMICS review will be ‘thorough and independent’, despite the fact that it only covers policing in Scotland since 2000 and is done by police officers, some of whom have personal connections to the abuses.

The group recounted their personal experiences. Andrea’s sister recalled a number of family occasions, including Carlo Neri coming to her graduation.

Tilly Gifford was a member of climate campaigners Plane Stupid when she was singled out by undercover officers who tried to recruit her as an informer. She told the Evening Times

‘I don’t know who these people were. They were using Strathclyde Police resources but their names did not appear on any Strathclyde Police databases…

‘Because this happened in Scotland, I will not be included in the Pitchford Inquiry. Although there is evidence, and it is documented, that I was targeted, I will be completely left out of the inquiry.’

Gifford is applying for a judicial review of the UK and Scottish government’s exclusion of Scotland from a real inquiry. She has already crowdfunded the costs to get it going (though more is needed and you can donate here).

It was pointed out to Matheson that, given the fact that the spycops targeted elected Labour and Green politicians, it’s probable the SNP were spied on too, including his colleagues and their families.

The group made plain to Matheson that there is already enough established fact to warrant an a full scale inquiry that is credible to the victims, and were absolutely clear that they will not settle for less. Describing the HMICS review as ‘a figleaf’, they demanded it be scrapped immediately.

Matheson insisted he would wait for the HMICS review – planned for publication around September – and only then decide if further inquiry is needed. He made it plain that he would not be dissuaded on this point.

The Scotsman weighed in with an unequivocal opinion piece

Campaigners have already won a judicial review of the Home Office decision in Northern Ireland and should Ms Gifford’s action be successful in Scotland, the courts may take the dilemma out of the SNP’s hands.

If not, those spied on by police in Scotland face the prospect of being the only ones unable to get accountability for what happened to them.

Scotland cannot be left behind. Should the English inquiry not be extended north of the Border, then Scottish ministers must act to fill the void.

Mr Matheson was left in no doubt that this is what is required of him.

Spycops Victims Boycott Scottish Inquiry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


The full text of the letter:

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

27 April 2017

Dear HMICS,

Re: Review of Undercover Policing in Scotland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pitchford Inquiry Brands the Met ‘Incompetent’

'Undercover is no Excuse for Abuse' banner at the High CourtLast week a crucial battle in the undercover policing scandal saw unprecedented moments when the Inquiry chair labelled the Metropolitan Police incompetent and ill-prepared. Pitchford Watcher was in court and looks at what led to this and what it may mean for the future direction of the Inquiry.

At the heart of the Pitchford Inquiry into Undercover Policing one issue towers above all: the release of the cover-names of the undercover officers who targeted protest movements.

For many involved there can be no truth or justice without answers – and for that they need to know who spied on them. Not necessarily who the cops are in real life, but the cover-names used by police posing as activists to infiltrate their campaigns, their friendships, their families and beds, who deceived and abused them. From the start, for the ‘Non Police, Non State Core Participants’ as the subjects of police spying are awkwardly termed, meeting this has been the primary pre-requisite for justice.

It is fair to say that the Metropolitan Police blanched at this demand. This sort of scrutiny of their dark arts is their worst nightmare, one they go extraordinary lengths to avoid. Over the last few decades they are known to have let large cases collapse rather than provide this disclosure.

It is no less true of the six-year civil case brought by women deceived into relationships. There, in a highly unusual move, the Met conceded and gave an unconditional apology. It effectively ended the case, just at the moment when the police were about to be forced to disclose. However, without answers, there was no closure for the women.

The women who fought that long battle do not give up so easily. Two of them, Helen Steel and Kate Wilson, spoke at last week’s hearing. It was their sometimes emotional (and rightfully so) submissions, that brought the damning statements from Pitchford. Though tetchy and constantly interrupting the pair, who were clearly frustrated with the police delays, he was unstinting in his own criticism of the police.

POLICE RESISTING ACCOUNTABILITY

To understand the significance of those comments, we need to take a step back and understand the lead-up to the issues facing the Inquiry. Since the Inquiry began in 2014 it has been dogged by problems, many of a legal nature. The police have constantly fought the release of any details, claiming the need to protect both undercover policing as a tactic and the welfare of undercover officers. It is an uphill battle as they are clearly defending the indefensible in this case. However, as the women in their court case discovered, the police are nothing if not tenacious, and are equally willing to spend large amount of taxpayers’ money to defend their reputation.

For some non-state/police core participants, it feels like a rugby match, each scrum a bruising push towards the final line. Though slowly advancing, each gain in the fight comes with personal costs in what is already a horrendous story. The interventions by Steel and Wilson last week attested to this. It was little surprise that every time the police promised co-operation, those in the public gallery laughed bitterly.

Though, what emerged is that the Inquiry is having its own direct experience of the police failing to meaningfully deliver, despite said promises.

Last year the Inquiry overruled police applications to have the Public Inquiry in private. Pitchford said cover-names would be released unless there was good reason not to. Where arguments to not release existed, these would be dealt via Restriction Orders – in turn evidenced with risk assessments setting out the dangers facing officers if cover and real names were revealed. Thus, risk assessments became pivotal to the process.

DELAYS UPON DELAYS

The first tranche of restriction order applications were due October 2016. Instead, what happened was a farce: friends of undercovers were chosen as risk assessors and had to be dropped; others fell by the way for different reasons. The Inquiry itself had to intervene heavily in the process, including providing specific guidance on what an acceptable risk assessment amounted to. In Pitchford’s words:

the Metropolitan Police were not the experts in risk assessment they claimed to be.

Pitchford has been clear that without the cover-names released the Inquiry cannot proceed. The suspicion in some quarters is that the Met are taking this as that is a guide on how to obstruct. Again, as the Chair told their barrister last week:

This process does not work if you take a year to give me a risk assessment.

For the normally highly restrained language of courts, all these are all harsh words, and damaging to the Metropolitan Police’s reputation. The Met had no real response either: the process had collapsed and needed rebuilding. The October 2016 deadline passed and a new one, the 31st March this year was put in place. At the Inquiry’s request, progress updates moved from monthly to fortnightly. Still, the March deadline was missed as the Metropolitan Police were unable to submit any risk assessments, and worse, applied for an extension until October 2017.

If Pitchford and the Inquiry team were frustrated, those spied upon were incensed. Not least as the Inquiry seemed to be accepting the for now familiar police stalling tactics. However, when Dan Squires, counsel for the non-police/state participants, raised that the police delays were deliberate, Pitchford was quick to step in and disapprove of the suggestion.

However, Pitchford perhaps underestimated, as the police had, the tenacity of those most affected. They were not having it, and were prepared to say so. Kate Wilson and Helen Steel stood up and reiterated the core demands: stop the delays and release the cover names.

Addressing court was clearly a painful experience for them, and frequent interruptions by a seemingly irascible Pitchford made it harder. They were talking from personal experience of having their lives invaded, but this was not simply an account of wrong doing: they had serious points to make about police behaviour.

Building on Squires’ points, they went further, demanding the Inquiry took a stronger grip of the situation and to stop leaving all the power in the hands of the police, the very people being charged with abuse. It was in the face of this that Pitchford’s clear irritation finally broke through. He acknowledged their distress, but again refuted the allegation that it was deliberate. However, this time he tempered it with his trenchant criticism levelled against the Metropolitan Police of incompetency, failure to plan and lack of foresight.

SELECTIVE SECURITY

The police tried a number of tactics, including pleading anxiety on behalf of some officers, and the claim of the need to protect operational secrets. Yet, they had no answer for the point that there had recently been a steady release of court cases and news stories where cover-names have been published as part of prosecution evidence. This included cases involving ISIS and serious organised crime. As Helen Steel remarked, it smelled more of a fight over reputation.

There is little doubt she was right. The Metropolitan Police had scored an own goal, seeking to protect its reputation on one front resulted in it being damaged overall. Pitchford for the most part gave them an easy ride, but when pushed it finally became clear that the Met had not just been given enough rope to hang themselves, but had put their neck into the noose.

Other police forces are clearly paying attention and looking at more nuanced approaches. For instance, the National Police Chiefs’ Council submitted that cover-names could be released if the real names were given automatic anonymity.

Just before the hearing it appears the Met realised the danger it faced. It would not be good if the new Commissioner was formally summoned to give explanation in person, as the Inquiry has the powers to do (a possible outcome of a Section 21 Order under the Inquiries Act). Thus, on the first day of the hearing they produced a much revised and more ambitious timetable. They went from complaining how difficult it would be to get anything in place before October, to promising the first tranche of 22 applications by 1st June, more by 1st August, and by 1st October all 150 affected SDS officers (undercovers and back-room alike) to be risk assessed, and where necessary restriction order applications submitted.

This is just the Special Demonstration Squad officers, and does not include the officers from the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, whose 50+ undercovers have apparently all indicated they want to make restriction orders. Nevertheless, where the Met goes, other forces are likely to follow.

The battle of the cover names has taken a big step forward, though is only half-completed. Pitchford has still to agree to this new timetable, then the police need to actually make the applications. There will then follow hearings to determine what will be restricted and what will be released, possibly using a system of benchmarks rulings to guide the police.

IT’S NOT GOING AWAY

The Inquiry was supposed to be completed by 2018. Now, evidence will not be heard until 2019, and as one barrister noted, at this rate the final report will not be submitted until 2022. That is eight years after it was first announced, eleven after Mark Kennedy, Jim Boyling, Bob Lambert and others were all first exposed. Few are surprised by this, after all Pitchford is relatively new to a fight that started four years before he became involved, and for some a cause spanning over two decades.

The spycops scandal continues to be a poison pill for the Metropolitan Police. Last week, it path walked them into a quandary over their reputation. Either they were incompetent and terrible at risk assessment; or they are not, in which case the delays have all been deliberate. It is clear there is a divide between those spied upon and the Inquiry who believes which.

One wonders how much it played a role in the recent sideways move for the man charged with heading up the Met’s response, Martin Hewitt. He has since moved sideways to head up Territorial Policing, with his role now occupied by Fiona Taylor.

Another open question is what incoming Commissioner Cressida Dick makes of it all. She has inherited a problem from her predecessor Bernard Hogan-Howe who took a somewhat belligerent approach to the issue. Yet, it was on her watch that the report that finally buried the Special Demonstration Squad was drawn up, labelling it a rogue unit without moral compass. However, she has her own skeletons and inconvenient connections into the spycops scandal, not the least being that the Special Demonstration Squad spied upon the de Menezes family justice campaign, a shooting she gave the go-ahead for. How much this will come back to haunt her remains unknown.

In the meantime, campaigners are waiting for the 1st June deadline to come around, in equal measures sceptical and hopeful that answers will finally start emerging.

The submissions made by all core participants and transcripts of the hearings of 5th & 6th April can be found at UCPI.org.uk.

The author attended the two hearings in person on 5th & 6th April.

Originally published on Pitchford Watcher.

Helen Steel Responds to Spycop Confirmation

Helen Steel at the Royal Courts of JusticeThe Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing has just confirmed that John Dines was an undercover police officer known as John Barker.

The announcement follows recent admissions that several other officers – Carlo Neri, Marco Jacobs and Rod Richardson – were also spycops. However, it still leaves the majority of exposed officers, and the 100+ unknown officers, unconfirmed.

Dines was unmasked by his former partner, Helen Steel. She has issued this statement in response to today’s news.


While I welcome the official admission that my former partner John Dines was an undercover policeman in the Special Demonstration Squad, it is a travesty that the police have been allowed to take this long to confirm what I and others exposed years ago.

Even after they issued a public apology for serious human rights abuses to myself and six other women who had been deceived into relationships with undercover policemen, the police still argued they could not confirm the identity of my abuser. To date, despite that apology, they have also refused to confirm the identity of Mark Jenner who deceived ‘Alison’ into a five year relationship.

We and other women similarly deceived have had no disclosure at all about how these abusive relationships were allowed to happen, instead we have been subjected to intrusive demands for evidence of the effects of the abuse.  None of those responsible for this abuse have been held to account – even those still employed by the police have kept their jobs.

It is an insult to the many victims of political undercover policing that the police who are responsible for serious human rights abuses have been allowed to cover up the truth and withhold information from those they abused.  The public inquiry should release as a matter of urgency the cover names of all these political police and also the files they compiled on campaigners, so that those spied on are able to understand what happened and give relevant evidence to the inquiry.

We know that over a thousand campaign groups have been spied upon by these political undercover policing units.  This represents a significant interference with the right to political freedom of thought and the right to protest. Ultimately it is a means for those who hold power to preserve the status quo and prevent social change.  For this reason it is in the public interest for the cover names of all the political undercover police to be released, along with the files they compiled so that those who have abused their power can be held to account, the public learns the true extent of this political spying in this country and further human rights abuses by such units can be prevented.

Spying Victims Demand Access to Gardai Files

Ireland Satellite ImageOf the thousands of people targeted by Britain’s political secret police, around 180 were known to be so significantly impacted that they have been granted ‘core participant’ status at the forthcoming Pitchford inquiry.

Most of the known spycops worked abroad, but the terms Theresa May dictated to Pitchford force the inquiry to disregard anything outside England and Wales.

Several spycops officers were in the Irish republic. Five years ago the police there produced a report on Mark Kennedy’s visits but refused to release it. As the fuss has not died down, the gardai are producing another one but won’t say if it will be published. Either way, it will fall far short of looking at the overall picture of British spycops in Ireland. Like the Scottish inquiry, it’s police investigating into police.

As reported in The Times last week, a group of Pitchford core participants who were also spied on in Ireland have demanded the Irish government undertake a thorough, credible and public investigation so that people abused there get the same level of justice as those in England and Wales.

 


6 December 2016

Spying victims demand access to gardai files

Witnesses in a British inquiry into an undercover policing scandal have urged the Irish government to force the gardai to release any files it has on the spies.

By Ellen Coyne

The Metropolitan police in London formally apologised last year after it was revealed that undercover officers had sexual relationships with members of protest groups they had infiltrated. At least one officer, Mark Kennedy, is known to have been in the Republic of Ireland, while several others were in Northern Ireland.

The Times revealed that the gardai were aware that Mr Kennedy was in the Republic on a number of occasions between 2004 and 2006 but refused to tell ministers whether it knew that he was working as a spy, even though he infiltrated protests in Ireland using his alias.

Theresa May announced an inquiry into undercover policing while she was home secretary and Lord Justice Pitchford’s investigation will examine cases in England and Wales since 1968. It will not include incidents in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Alice Cutler, Helen Steel, Jason Kirkpatrick, Kate Wilson, Kim Bryan, Sarah Hampton and “Lisa Jones”, not her real name, have all asked to have access to files with information about them, which they believe the gardai hold.

Ms Jones, Ms Wilson and Ms Hampton had relationships with Mr Kennedy without any knowledge that he was a policeman. All three visited Ireland with him.

Ms Bryan went to Belfast in 2005 on a trip organised by Mr Kennedy. Mr Kirkpatrick also travelled to Belfast with Mr Kennedy running anti-globalisation events.

Ms Steel had been in a relationship with John Dines, an undercover officer using the alias John Barker. They had visited Northern Ireland and the Republic together [correction: they were only in the Republic]. All seven visited Ireland with officers who were using undercover identities.

The group said:

‘We have all been personally chosen as core participants because we were significantly targeted by officers in England and Wales. We were also all spied upon in Ireland. We cannot have faith in the ability of the inquiry to deliver an opportunity for truth and justice when it is prevented from fully establishing what happened to us.

‘The Metropolitan police has acknowledged that aspects of the officers’ actions were an abuse of police power and a breach of human rights. These deeds are just as serious wherever they were committed. We request that the Irish government work further to ensure Ireland is included in the inquiry. If this is not forthcoming, the Irish government should set up its own investigation.’

In June the PSNI said that undercover officers had been operating in Northern Ireland during the 1990s without its knowledge. Mark Hamilton, the assistant chief constable at the PSNI, told the Northern Ireland policing board that his force had been “completely blind” to the presence of undercover Metropolitan police officers.

Last month The Times revealed that Frances Fitzgerald, the tanaiste, had asked the garda commissioner for a new report on Mr Kennedy. She will not confirm if the report will be made public.

In 2011 President Michael D Higgins, who was a Labour TD at the time, and Dermot Ahern, the justice minister, asked the commissioner to report on Mr Kennedy’s actions in Ireland. The report was never published.

Last Thursday, a spokesman for the Department of Justice told The Times:

‘The tanaiste has also made clear that she will consider this report fully when it is available, including the question of what information might be put into the public domain.’

Last night the department said it was not offering any further comment.

A spokesman for the gardai said that it does not comment on matters of security.

Spycops Stealing Dead Children’s Identities

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

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

Parents who want to know if their dead child’s identity was stolen by undercover police officers have been invited to ask the Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing.

Anyone whose child was born between 1938 and 1975 can do it, as long as they have somehow stumbled across the invitation (www.ucpi.org.uk  > Preliminary Issues > Deceased Children’s Identities > scroll to the bottom of a list of 16 PDFs > click the last one) .

The issue came to light when activists exposed their comrade ‘Rod Richardson’ in 2013. The people who had unmasked Mark Kennedy had become suspicious of someone else they had known who now appeared to have been Kennedy’s predecessor. They found that the real Rod Richardson had died as a baby.

How common was dead child identity theft?

In the same week as ‘Richardson’ was exposed, Pat Gallan – Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Met and, at that point, head of its spycops investigation Operation Herne – gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee. She said that they had only found one case of dead child identity theft and the combined efforts of Herne’s 31 staff had failed to find any more in the subsequent five months until activists exposed ‘Richardson’.

The select committee insisted on the truth about the issue and demanded all parents be told and given an apology by the end of 2013. We’re still waiting.

Later in 2013 Herne reported that, contrary to Gallan’s claim of it being isolated and unauthorised, identity theft of dead children was commonplace, and mandatory in the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), with instructions laid out in the SDS Tradecraft Manual.

The practice began soon after the formation of the SDS in 1968 and continued until the mid-1990s. Herne reported that, of 106 fake identities used by SDS officers, 42 were of dead children, 45 were fictitious and 19 were unknown.

Known as ‘the Jackal run’, after its use in Frederick Forsyth’s 1971 novel The Day of the Jackal, new recruits would trawl the death registers looking for a child with their first name and a similar date of birth. There is some indication that other state agencies such as Customs, also used the practice.

It has been criticised as being ghoulish, but it’s more than that. As Anthony Barker – whose brother John died of leukaemia aged 8 and had his identity stolen by SDS officer John Dinespointed out, it puts bereaved families at risk. After Dines ended his deployment and disappeared, his worried and bereft activist partner Helen Steel traced John Barker and went to the house listed on the birth certificate.

‘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.’

Why did spycops steal children’s identities?

Time and again we were told that it was done to give officers a credible back story. Operation Herne said

‘As outlined in the SDS Trade Craft Manual, the practice of using a genuine deceased identity was developed to create a plausible covert identity that was capable of frustrating enquiries by activists’

It later reiterates

‘the subject chosen had to have an ‘existence’ to show up in case of basic research by suspicious activists’

Met police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe said

‘At the time this method of creating identities was in use, officers felt this was the safest option’

But, as one of the activists who exposed ‘Rod Richardson’ explained, it actually posed a significant risk.

‘How many times have you looked up a friend’s birth certificate because you thought they were actually someone else? It is the rare act of someone with a deep distrust. A real birth certificate wouldn’t allay the reasons for that suspicion. More than that, if an activist is suspicious enough to look for a birth certificate, they can find a death certificate too.

‘There are many reasons why someone might not have a British birth certificate. They may have been born abroad, they may have been adopted. There is, however, no reason for someone who comes round to your house to have a death certificate… Having found Rod Richardson’s birth certificate, the next thing I did was search for and find his death certificate and I immediately knew my friend had in fact been a fraud.’

In truth, the spycops stole these identities for the same reason most other thieves do it. Before passports were commonplace, a birth certificate was the primary proof of identity. Using a real one enabled them to open bank accounts, get tenancies and various other bits of officialdom that construct an ordinary functional life.

More brass monkeys at the Met

Brass monkeys

The Met responded to the revelations with their typical secrecy and cavalier attitude to the damage they have done to citizens they’re supposed to serve.

A number of bereaved families contacted police to ask if their child’s identity had been used. The Met refused to answer. A Freedom of Information request was made asking for the ages of the dead children, not even the exact dates or their sexes. At least with that barest detail, many worried families would be able to rule out their children if there wasn’t a match. The Met refused to do even that.

In August 2014 the Information Commissioners Office declared that the police must release the list of ages. Five months later, the Met admitted they had stolen the identity of dead children of every age between 0 and 17 except for 2, 3 and 15.

Bernard Hogan-Howe personally issued an apology of sorts. It was addressed to nobody in particular, refused to give any names or contact any affected families, and basically said he was sorry he got caught.

‘It was never intended or foreseen that any of the identities used would become public’

Years after the exposure of ‘Rod Richardson’ and John Dines, the Met still ‘neither confirm nor deny’ that either was an officer. The real Rod Richardson’s mother, Barbara Shaw, made a complaint to the police. It was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission in February 2013 and they handed it back to the police but said it would be a ‘supervised investigation’. It was then downgraded to a straightforward unsupervised police self-investigation known as Operation Riverwood.

When it was completed the police announced that no action would be taken against any officer. They are still refusing to publish the investigation’s report.

Barbara Shaw’s lawyer Jules Carey said

‘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.’


What happens next?

Last week’s announcement from the Pitchford Inquiry says it may publish names used by spycops. However, it actively warns that it, too, may join in with the Met’s cover-up practice of Neither Confirm Nor Deny.

‘the Inquiry may be unable to give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to your question, even after the Inquiry has concluded its work and knows the answer. The reason for this is that in order to protect the rights of other individuals or in the public interest the Chairman of the Inquiry may have to make a restriction order under section 19 of the Inquiries Act 2005 that prevents the Inquiry from releasing information in its possession.’

Bear in mind that this is not disclosing the identity of an officer, just the identity of someone else that they stole and stopped using years ago. But still, they say that your right to know what was done to your family without consent can be trumped by a desire to stop people knowing something that isn’t even about the police officer.

The Inquiry says that it will, later, attempt to contact all families whose children’s identities were stolen. This is a significant step forward and raises the real prospect of names being published.

If the Inquiry decides not to publish, will it also gag the families? Has it considered how secrecy may compound the damage to a family? As we’ve learned from countless justice campaigns, public acknowledgement of state wrongdoing is vital for victims to be able to come to terms with what was done to them.

The Inquiry also says that any families applying will be initially contacted by the police. Once again, we see the police as being placed as trustworthy independent arbiters. The police are the subject of the Inquiry because we proved they ran a sustained, systemic, strategic campaign of counter-democratic subterfuge and brazen abuse of citizens.

The Inquiry’s increasing tendency to side with police perspective and norms is deeply alarming for anyone hoping for truth and justice. We know from other cases of police wrongdoing that ‘liaison officers’ were not friendly faces but actually evidence gatherers used to undermine attempts to find justice. We know that police lied to the family of Ian Tomlinson, telling them a protester may have been their father’s attacker, and warned against contact between the family and journalists seeking the truth.

The Inquiry must recognise that what limited light falls on this murky abuse has been shed by the hard work of victims. The Inquiry should seek to emulate and expand on this approach rather than copying the acts of the perpetrators.

The police have attempted to frustrate justice and cannot be trusted. Although the police have all the files and the answers, they choose to withhold them. Their refusal to tell their victims what was done is an arrogant intensification of torment. They are acting as an enemy of justice.