Content tagged with "Helen Steel"

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.

Core Participants Condemn Scotland Exclusion

Pulling at a door being held shutIn the wake of the Home Office decision not to extend the Pitchford inquiry to Scotland, a group of core participants who were spied on there have issued this statement:

We are core participants at the undercover policing inquiry. We are extremely frustrated that Theresa May decided to exclude events in Scotland from the inquiry.

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 Scotland. 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 inquiry will focus on the disgraced units the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit. The majority of known officers from these units were active in Scotland for several decades. To ignore that is to prevent the inquiry from dealing with a significant part of its remit. It sets the inquiry up to fail before it begins.

The decision is a flat denial of the Scottish government’s request for inclusion, which was supported by every party in parliament. Scotland has only asked to have the same disclosure about abuses as is promised to people in England and Wales.

We request that the Scottish government work further to ensure Scotland is included in the inquiry. If this is not forthcoming, the Scottish government should set up its own independent inquiry, a proposal that already has cross-party support. We would be happy to participate in this and help reveal the truth that the Pitchford inquiry keeps hidden.

Alice Cutler
Alison (RAB)
Andrea
Chris Dutton
Claire Fauset
Donal O’Driscoll
Harry Halpin
Helen Steel
Indra Donfrancesco
Jason Kirkpatrick
John Jordan
Kate Wilson
Kim Bryan
Lisa (AKJ)
Martin Shaw
Megan Donfrancesco
Merrick Cork
Naomi (SUR)
Olaf Bayer
Oliver Rodker
Sarah Hampton (HJM)
Simon Lewis
VSP
Zoe Young

Women Speak Out on Spycops

We’ve just uploaded video on our Youtube channel of four women speaking about their different involvement in the undercover police scandal at a seminar in Manchester earlier this year.

‘Alison’ gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee on her experience of having been deceived into a five year relationship by undercover officer Mark Jenner, and previously told her story to Newsnight in 2014. As she emphasises here, the overwhelming majority of Jenner’s time was not spent on political work, but on domestic time with Alison and her family.

 


Harriet Wistrich, Human Rights Lawyer of the Year 2014, represents numerous women (including Alison and Helen Steel) who had relationships with officers and successfully brought legal cases and obtained an apology from the Metropolitan Police. She also represents others that will be giving evidence to the Undercover Policing Inquiry.

 


Dr Eveline Lubbers is a member of the Undercover Research Group who do a peerless job of researching and exposing Britain’s political secret police, and has published research on the activities of undercover police officers. She is also the author of Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark: Corporate Spying on Activists and Battling Big Business: Countering Greenwash, Front Groups and Other Forms of Corporate Deception.

 


Helen Steel was deceived into an imtimate relationship by ‘John Barker’, aka Special Demonstration Squad officer John Dines. Her story follows a startlingly similar trajectory to those of Alison and the other women, showing that this was no aberration by rogue officers but a long-term deliberate strategy by an institutionally sexist police force.

 

Tlks given at Undercover Policing, Democracy and Human Rights seminar, University of Manchester school of law, 14 April 2016. Video by Reel News.

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.

Helen Steel Demolishes “Neither Confirm Nor Deny”

Helen Steel at the Royal Courts of Justice

Helen Steel at the Royal Courts of Justice

Last week’s preliminary hearing of the Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing was concerned with issues of disclosure and secrecy.

Helen Steel is a lifelong activist and no stranger to the Royal Courts of Justice. She has just finished a four-year legal case against the police after she discovered her former partner John Barker was in fact undercover police officer John Dines. It was a fight characterised by Metropolitan police attempts to use any tactic to obstruct accountability and justice. At the end the Met conceded “these legal proceedings have been painful, distressing and intrusive and added to the damage and distress”.

The same Met lawyers are now wheeling out the same tactics for the Pitchford inquiry, claiming they can’t talk about officers as there is a long-standing policy of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’. Helen Steel told last week’s hearing there is no such thing. Clear, comprehensive and authoritative, her speech ended with a round of applause from the court.

===

Throughout all the legal proceedings that I have been involved with where the police have asserted “Neither Confirm Nor Deny”, they have never offered any documentary evidence of their so-called policy, of how it is applied or how any exceptions to it are decided. That is actually despite an order from Master Leslie in August 2013 that they should provide that documentary evidence. Instead, they provided statements, but there are no documents that have ever been provided about this so-called “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” policy.

So I just wanted to start really with a brief history about what I know of neither confirm nor deny in relation to the Special Demonstration Squad and other political policing units. I will not comment on what the situation is with the wider Security Services or with the National Crime Agency position, except to say that I have seen newspaper reports of undercover officers giving evidence in criminal trials which are open to the public, so it does seem that it is only the political policing units which are seeking total secrecy about everything they do.

I think it is also worth bearing in mind in relation to the issues raised that the main concern of this Inquiry is political undercover policing, which is different to general undercover policing in that the intention is not to obtain evidence for prosecution; it is to obtain intelligence on political movements. The result of that is that, while general undercover operations are subject to a certain amount of outside legal scrutiny as a result of the requirements for due process and fair trials, political undercover policing has never been subjected to outside scrutiny until now.

I want to start with why we are here at all. We are not here because the police unearthed evidence of bad practice within these political policing units and were so concerned that they brought it to the attention of the Home Secretary.

We are here because of the bravery of Peter Francis coming forward to blow the whistle on the deeply alarming, abusive and undemocratic practice of the Special Demonstration Squad. We are here because of the detective work of women who were deceived into relationships with undercover police officers and who, despite the wall of secrecy around these secretive political policing units, managed to reveal the true identities of our former partners and expose these and other abusive practices to the wider world.

I think it is important to bear that context in mind when listening to the police assert that you can hear their evidence in secret and still get to the truth.

CONFIRMED BY POLICE IN THE MEDIA

So going back to the history of political undercover policing and neither confirm nor deny, these revelations started to unravel, really, on 19 December 2010, when The Times newspaper wrote an article about Mark Kennedy’s seven years’ undercover in the environmental movement.

The story had already broken on the internet, on alternative news websites, including Indymedia, and The Times reported on his involvement in the planned invasion of Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station, which had resulted in a number of protesters being convicted.

It was reported that his real identity was Mark Kennedy, but that he was known while undercover as Mark Stone. The article then continued:

“Last week two police forces confirmed Stone’s status to the Sunday Times. ‘The individual is a Met officer,’ said Nottinghamshire Police. ‘He is an undercover officer,’ said the Metropolitan Police, ‘so we can’t say more’.”

So, on the face of it, it took nothing more than Mark Kennedy’s identity being revealed on the internet for the Metropolitan Police to confirm that he was an undercover police officer. The police actually confirmed his identity long before he was officially named in the appeal judgment in July 2011 or in the HMRC report in 2012.

The police also publicly confirmed Jim Boyling as a police officer via the media on 21 January 2011. The week after the DIL story of her relationship with Jim Boyling first appeared in the national press, the Guardian newspaper reported that Jim Boyling had been suspended from duty pending an investigation into his professional conduct.

It said that,

“In a statement the Metropolitan Police said a serving specialist operations detective constable has been restricted from duty as part of an investigation following allegations reported in a national newspaper”

A similar report was carried on the BBC.

CONFIRMED BY POLICE IN PERSON

There was not just the confirmation in the media. DIL or, as she’s known in this Inquiry, Rosa got in contact with me in late 2010 in relation to her former partner, Jim Boyling, who I had known as “Jim Sutton”, when he was infiltrating Reclaim the Streets. I was with her when she was interviewed in March 2011 by the Department of Professional Standards, who were investigating the conduct of Jim Boyling.

Her account was absolutely harrowing and, at the end of it, the police officers apologised on behalf of the Metropolitan Police. At no point in that interview did they mention “neither confirm nor deny”. On the contrary, they confirmed that Jim was a serving police officer.

CONFIRMED BY POLICE IN WRITING

Jim Boyling whilst undercover in the 1990s

Jim Boyling whilst undercover in the 1990s

They also named Jim Boyling and referred to him as a serving officer in correspondence sent relating to that interview and potential disciplinary issues arising from it from February 2011 until June 2012.

If you want to see any of that correspondence, it can be made available to show that he was named and they were not applying neither confirm nor deny.

They also provided a copy of their terms of reference to their investigation, which clearly states that they were investigating DC Jim Boyling.

Then moving on to our court case, with DIL and six other women I went on to bring a case against the Metropolitan Police Service, arising from having been deceived into relationships with these undercover officers. That case involved eight women and relationships with five different undercover police officers, spanning a period of around about 25 years, and the case incorporates both the AKJ and the DIL judgments that have been referred to at this hearing.

In that case, the first time the police asserted a policy of neither confirm nor deny was in a letter dated 25 June 2012, some six months after the initial letter before claim, and only after considerable correspondence between the parties, which had included admitting that Mark Kennedy was an undercover officer and making a series of conflicting statements about sexual relationships while undercover.

If there really was a longstanding and active Metropolitan Police Service policy of neither confirm nor deny, you would assume that the immediate response on receipt of the letter before claim in December 2011 would have been to assert such a policy straight away.

In fact, in relation to the Mark Kennedy claims, the Metropolitan Police letters had absolutely no hint of a policy of “Neither Confirm Nor Deny”. In a letter dated 10 February 2012, they stated:

“If it assists, I can confirm Mark Kennedy was a Metropolitan Police officer and did not serve with any other force. He left the Metropolitan Police Service in March 2010.”

It then goes on to state that the Commissioner is not vicariously liable in respect of Mr Kennedy’s sexual conduct, as described in the letters of claim.

In a letter of 14 March 2012, the force solicitor stated:

“I confirm that during most of the entire period from July 2003 to February 2010, Mark Kennedy was authorised under Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to engage in conduct of the sort described in section 26(8) of Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

“He was lawfully deployed in relation to certain groups to provide timely and good-quality pre-emptive intelligence in relation to pre-planned activities of those groups. The authorisation extended to participation in minor criminal activity.”

There was then further correspondence in which the Metropolitan Police Service was quite open about Mark Kennedy’s identity as an undercover police officer.

It was not actually until November 2012 that the Metropolitan Police Service first raised “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” in relation to the AKJ case in their application to strike out the claim on the basis that “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” meant that they could not defend themselves. That is the Carnduff argument. By that time they had obviously confirmed his identity so it was all a bit late.

CONFIRMED BY POLICE INTERNAL STANDARDS WATCHDOG

Then, moving on to how the so-called “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” policy relates to the Department of Professional Standards, as I mentioned, the first time that the police asserted a policy of neither confirm nor deny in relation to the DIL claims was in June 2012. That came two weeks after the first mention of “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” at all from any police source which was in a letter from the Directorate of Professional Standards (Police).

Until that point, the Directorate of Professional Standards (Police) had openly discussed the investigation against Jim Boyling, but they were also asking for statements from myself and the other women in relation to the issues raised in the particulars of our claim. That included issues relating to the McLibel Support Campaign.

A letter that was from them, dated 16 April 2012, confirmed progress in relation to the investigation into DC Boyling and then went on to seek clarification relating to whether or not I wanted to make a formal complaint to the Directorate of Professional Standards (Police) of matters that were outlined in our letters before claim regarding the involvement of undercover officers in the McLibel case.

THREE OFFICERS ARE ENOUGH – TIME TO INVENT A LONG-STANDING POLICY

Bob Lambert distributes anti McDonald's leaflets, 1986

Bob Lambert distributes anti McDonald’s leaflets, 1986

During previous discussions we had requested information relating to what action the Directorate of Professional Standards (Police) was able to take if undercover officers were no longer employed by the Metropolitan Police Service and, as a result, we had requested confirmation as to whether John Barker and Mark Cassidy were still serving police officers.

The letter of 16 April explains that the Directorate of Professional Standards (Police) was seeking legal advice as to whether or not they could disclose that information to us.

On 11 June 2012, the Directorate of Professional Standards (Police) sent an email regarding the progression of my complaint and asking to interview me in relation to the allegations about breaches of legal privilege and Bob Lambert’s involvement in the creation of the leaflet that resulted in the McLibel action.

In that same letter, even though they have named Bob Lambert and asked me to give a statement in relation to him, they state:

“In answer to your questions surrounding John Barker and Mark Cassidy, the current position of the Metropolitan Police Service is to maintain its neither confirm nor deny stance in accordance with established policy.”

That letter on 11 June 2012 was the first time that the police mentioned “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” to us. At that point, though, since Bob Lambert was named in that same letter, it appeared that it was only in relation to John Barker and Mark Cassidy that they were asserting neither confirm nor deny.

It was only two weeks later on 25 June, when they extended that to all the officers in the DIL case, that “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” became the standard response to every request for information or compliance with the court proceedings, even though there had already been official acknowledgement that both Lambert and Boyling had been undercover officers. It was absolutely clear at that point that they were going to use “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” to create a wall of silence about these relationships.

CONFIRMED BY THE HEAD OF THE UNIT

Moving on to other evidence relevant to neither confirm nor deny about Bob Lambert. When I originally met with DIL, she informed me that while she was married to Jim Boyling, he had revealed that Bob Lambert and my former partner, John, had both been police spies in the groups that I had been involved with.

It took some time to identify that Bob Lambert had been Bob Robinson, who infiltrated London Greenpeace in the mid-1980s. But after that we felt it was important to expose his past role, which we did when he spoke at a public meeting about racism in the headquarters of the Trade Union Congress on 15 October 2011. If necessary, footage is available of that incident which confirms that no violence either took place or was threatened and that Bob Lambert hurried away, refusing to make any comment.

But two weeks later, on 24 October 2011, he issued a public statement to Spinwatch, which was an organisation which he had worked with in the past, and to the Guardian, in which he admitted,

“As part of my cover story so as to gain the necessary credibility to become involved in serious crime, I first built a reputation as a committed member of London Greenpeace, a peaceful campaigning group”

That statement contrasts sharply with the attempt to smear the group that is made in his current statement for the purposes of applying for a restriction order in connection with this Inquiry, but it also confirms his role as an undercover officer.

He has subsequently gone on to comment extensively in the media about his time in the Special Demonstration Squad, the relationships that he had, the fact that a child was born as a result of one of those relationships and the fact that he was involved in writing the London Greenpeace anti-McDonalds leaflet that became the subject of the McLibel case.

Now you would think that, if “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” had always been a Metropolitan Police Service policy, that Bob Lambert, who had supervised Special Demonstration Squad officers at one point, would have known about that and adhered to it.

CONFIRMED BY THE COUNTRY’S TOP COP

It is not just Bob Lambert. We then go on to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe. You would think that this is someone who would stick to “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” if it truly was a policy adopted by the Metropolitan Police. But, no, at a public meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority on 27 October 2011, he confirmed that ‘Jim Sutton’ was under investigation as a serving officer.

Is it really credible that, if there was a “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” policy in place, the Commissioner himself would not know about it and not adhere to it?

The transcript of those proceedings is available, it can be checked, and you will see that he answers questions about Jim Boyling.

So is it really credible that there was an “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” policy in place at that point or is it more likely, as I would submit, that “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” was suddenly adopted in June 2012, when the Metropolitan Police Service wanted a wall to hide behind after they realised that they could no longer write these relationships off as a result of rogue officers and that, in fact, there was clear evidence of multiple abusive relationships that could only have arisen through systemic failings and institutional sexism?

CONFIRMED TO THE BBC

The final and key piece of the jigsaw concerning the truth about neither confirm nor deny, which I know has already been referred to so I’m not going to say anything at length, is the True Spies television series.

In 2002, the BBC broadcasted three programmes as part of a series called “True Spies” which were entirely focused on the work of the Special Demonstration Squad. As I am sure you have heard, the programme was made with the support and assistance of the Metropolitan Police Service. While no individual officer’s identity is disclosed, undercover officers speak extensively to the camera about their work. They talk about the groups they infiltrated and the methods used. There are significant details of the undercover operations actually carried out.

I would urge you to watch True Spies so that you can see just how much of their tactics they discussed and yet how the Metropolitan Police now claim they can’t talk about those same tactics.

NEITHER CONSISTENT NOR A POLICY

Neither Confirm Nor Deny = Neither Truth Nor JusticeI submit that they were perfectly happy to reveal their methods and the groups that they were spying on when it suited them for PR purposes and that the reason they want to bring in “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” is that actually just to cover up serious human rights abuses.

It is being used as a shield for the police from any form of accountability and to avoid any proper scrutiny of their actions to cover up illegal and immoral activities of political undercover police officers and prevent them coming to light.

There was a lot of talk yesterday about the police rights to privacy, but there was nothing at all from the police about the rights of core participants who were spied on. It took me 24 years to get acknowledgment of wrongdoing from the Metropolitan Police and from John Barker, my former partner. Other core participants should not have to wait that long, nor should they have to risk never finding out the truth and being left with permanent doubt about who people really were in their lives.

We know that the McLibel Support Campaign was infiltrated by John Dines and indeed that Bob Lambert was involved in writing the leaflet that led to the case and we know that information was shared between the Metropolitan Police and private corporations, private investigators and McDonalds that enabled the writs to be served, but what we don’t know is any of the detail
behind that. We need to know how and why that was allowed to happen in order to prevent those kind of abuses from happening again.

It is insulting in the extreme that, despite the apology, the police are still seeking to neither confirm nor deny John Dines. It is also farcical in light of my meeting with him last week and his apology to me. But it was not just insulting to me. It is insulting for everybody who has had their privacy invaded to be told that they can’t know the truth about the wrongdoing that was done against them because the privacy of those who carried out that abuse has to be protected.

NEITHER BASIS NOR JUSTIFICATION

I just also wanted to say that they seem to also be seeking unique rights in that they seem to think that they should have the right to no social ostracisation, which is something that nobody else who is accused of wrongdoing gets any form of protection from. Nobody else who is accused of something has their name covered up on the grounds that they might be socially ostracised.

So finally, I wanted to submit that, even if there had been a genuine “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” policy, there is absolutely no justification for a blanket protection of all officers, given the level of human rights abuses that we have been subjected to as core participants. I cannot see why officers who have grossly abused the fundamental human rights of others should have a permanent shield preventing scrutiny of their actions and I would say that it is not in the public interest for officers to think that they will be protected no matter what they do.

RELEASE THE NAMES

Poster of 14 exposed spycops among 140 silhouettesThe McLibel Support Campaign supports the core participants’ call for all the cover names to be released so that the truth can be heard. We have not called for all the real names of officers to be released, although I think that there may be individual circumstances where that is appropriate, especially where those officers went on to become supervisors or line managers or are now in positions of responsibility, but I’m assuming that that would be done on a more individualised basis. However, I do believe that all of the cover names should be disclosed so that the truth can be achieved.

I also believe that to ensure the Inquiry is as comprehensive as possible, the police need to release a full list of all the organisations that were targeted. There is no reason for secrecy on this. Various groups were named in True Spies, so why is it that they can’t be named now?

The reason for wanting maximum transparency and disclosure is a political one. Without the names of undercover officers who targeted each group, it is impossible to start to assess the whole impact of their surveillance or the extent of the abuses committed. Without full disclosure, we won’t get to the full truth and we can’t ensure that preventative measures are put in place to stop these abuses happening again.

These were very, very serious human rights abuses committed by this unit, including article 3 abuses [“no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”]. We want to stop them happening again. That is our purpose in taking part in this Inquiry and that is the real public interest that requires that there must be openness and transparency.

Undercover Officer John Dines Teaching Police in Australia

John Dines, undercover as John Barker

John Dines, undercover as John Barker

Australian politician David Shoebridge MLC gave this statement to the New South Wales legislative council today:

In 1968 a young boy called John Barker, only 8 years old, died from leukaemia. 19 years later an undercover UK police officer called John Dines stole John Barker’s identity.

Using the stolen identity of a dead boy, and a complete lack of principles, John Dines then sought to infiltrate British environmental and left-wing movements. John Dines wasn’t working alone. He was just one of a number of undercover police employed by the UK Special Demonstration Squad using the stolen identities of dead children to infiltrate protest groups.

The SDS was established in 1968 and operated until 2008. Its purpose was to infiltrate left wing groups using undercover police officers, who provided intelligence to MI5. It has been revealed that the SDS used the names of at least 80 dead children to create the false identities for its agents. Many of these agents then entered into long term personal and sexual relationships with protest organisers and activists to gain trust and increase their access to information.

John Dines started attending Greenpeace meetings in 1987 as a member of the squad, using the name of “John Barker”. As part of his undercover activities he, and other members of this squad, entered into close and often intimate relationships with the activists that they were spying on.

In 1990 John Dines entered a serious relationship with activist Helen Steel that continued until 1992 when he simply disappeared. Helen, who is present in the chamber tonight, spent years searching for Dines. In 2011 Helen was informed that he had been an undercover police officer.

The first case similar to this that came to public attention was portrayed by the police as just being a rogue officer, but this was not an isolated incident. 8 women including Helen, then took legal action against the police as a result of being deceived into relationships with 5 different undercover officers who infiltrated environmental and left-wing movements over a period spanning 25 years, strongly suggesting an institutional practice. Theirs are not the only cases being taken over these relationships.

There have been a large number of legal challenges to the Metropolitan Police Service as a result of the SDS actions. This includes a £425,000 payment to a woman whose child was fathered by undercover police officer Bob Lambert when she was a 22 year old activist. When her child was 2 years old his father vanished, she only found out his real identity 25 years later through reading a newspaper article.

The Metropolitan police now accept this practice was morally and legally offensive. In a public apology issued in November 2015, they said:

“officers, acting undercover whilst seeking to infiltrate protest groups, entered into long-term intimate sexual relationships with women which were abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong”

It is hard to truly understand the impact that this would have on someone’s life.

In Helen Steel’s own words:

“I certainly feel violated by what they have done. It’s about power. We didn’t consent, and wouldn’t have consented if we had known who they were.”

“They’ve allowed this to happen in a unit of mainly male officers, in a culture where sexism is undoubtedly at play. Politicians and police officers have tried to justify it on the basis that it’s ‘necessary’, or that we deserved it in some way … The whole thing just demonstrates institutional sexism. The assumption is that, as a woman, you haven’t got the right to make a fully informed decision about who you want a relationship with, or have sex with – and that basically it’s not a problem for police to use women in this way.”

Why am I raising this case in the NSW Parliament? The answer is disturbingly simple. John Dines is now teaching police in Sydney. He is currently attached to Charles Sturt University. Since at least 2012 he has been at the Australian graduate School of Policing & Security at that University, and is now Course Director for the Mid-Career Training Programme.

This program is intended to provide senior level guidance to police officers. The learning outcomes of the unit include providing students with advanced knowledge in areas including:

  • Identifying and sharing good practice
  • Human Rights
  • Gender Sensitivity

It is offensive in the extreme that John Dines can be involved in teaching these matters to police in this State. This is a man who professionally and systematically abused human rights as a police officer in the UK and showed a culpable lack of gender sensitivity. He has no place teaching police in NSW or in any country that says it respects human rights.

We need to ensure that similar abusive political undercover policing tactics are not replicated here or abroad. This must start with an investigation into whether NSW police have been trained by any officers from these UK units.

As part of the Metropolitan Police’s public apology, a spokesperson said:

“I acknowledge that these relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma. I unreservedly apologise on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Service. I am aware that money alone cannot compensate the loss of time, their hurt or the feelings of abuse caused by these relationships”

The Metropolitan Police recognizes that this should never happen again and the necessary steps must be taken to ensure that it does not.

Was Charles Sturt University aware of John Dines past when they employed him? Are the NSW police aware of the history of this man?

Whatever their knowledge before now, this much is clear, he must cease any involvement with teaching police in this state, before a similar apology is needed by the NSW Police.

= = = =

UPDATE: In this Guardian report Charles Sturt University’s executive dean of the faculty of arts, professor Tracey Green, said “Mr Dines was engaged by the university as a business manager and his role is solely administrative. He does not and never has held a teaching position or delivered any form of training for or on behalf of the university. He does not train police officers”.

Dines told the Guardian “You will already be aware that I met with Helen Steel on 6 March, where I gave a her a personal and unreserved apology for all and any hurt that she may have suffered. I do not intend to make any other comment.”

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.