Content tagged with "Helen Steel"

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.

Targeted Activists Call for List of All Spycops

Poster of 14 exposed spycops among 140 silhouettesAs the public inquiry into undercover policing prepares itself, it has designated 200 people and organisations that have a known significant link to the issue as ‘core participants’.

Of these, 21 are police and other state agents or agencies, whilst 179 are those who were targeted.

From those 179, 133 have signed a letter to the Inquiry with three demands:

1- Release the ‘cover names’ of all officers from the Special Demonstration Squad and National Public Order Intelligence Unit.

2 – Release the names of the groups who were targeted, believed to be over 500

3 – Release the Special Branch files on all core participants

This demand for disclosure echoes Doreen Lawrence’s call for there to be ‘a presumption in favour’ of naming the spycops.

It also attacks the police’s blanket use of “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” to frustrate attempts to find the truth. Last year’s apology from the Met to seven of the women deceived into relationships with undercover officers admitted

these legal proceedings have been painful distressing and intrusive and added to the damage and distress.

The exposure of the officers whose misdeeds the Inquiry takes so seriously has been a matter of chance – with 13 properly documented, there are still well over a hundred that nothing is known about. The only way to get the truth is if those who were targeted can tell their story, and that can only happen if they know they were spied upon.

The letter is a powerful call from the overwhelming majority of those the Inquiry recognises as being seriously affected. One core participant who signed, Stafford Scott, has likened the inquiry as it stands to a blindfolded boxer with their hands tied.

Another signatory is Kate Wilson, who successfully sued the police after being deceived into a long-term relationship by Mark Kennedy. She told the Guardian

It was only by chance that we found out Mark’s real identity. I might just as easily have been one of the hundreds who still don’t know. Everyone abused deserves the truth, not just those who happen to stumble upon it

 

The full text of the letter:

Dear Lord Justice Pitchford,

As 133 of the Inquiry’s Core Participants, we write to share our collective view that a fundamental requirement for the Inquiry’s success is to instruct police to disclose, as soon as possible, a list of names of all the organisations about whom intelligence was gathered; the cover names (not the real identities) of the individual officers responsible for infiltrating and reporting on activists and campaigns; and the individual Special Branch reports for each Core Participant group or individual.

We are aware that Preliminary Hearings are due to deal with anonymity and disclosure issues, but we feel it is vital to raise this broader point now on our own behalf and for those whose personal lives or political activities may have been profoundly affected by undercover policing but who are in no position to participate in the Inquiry because of the failure to identify the cover names of undercover agents or the groups spied upon.

Without this basic information, it is effectively impossible for the Inquiry to have a full picture of undercover policing. The only Core Participants in any position to give even a partial summary of facts they might eventually rely upon are the limited number who have already themselves researched and revealed, largely by chance, the existence of undercover officers, or those who have been informed by the media they had been subject to covert surveillance. Even then, it is difficult for non-state core participants and witnesses to contribute in any meaningful way while virtually all the documentary evidence remains in the hands of the police.

On top of this, Operation Herne [police self-investigation into the SDS & NPOIU] confirmed in July 2014 that the SDS alone targeted at least 460 groups for surveillance. When added to the unknown number of operations by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, there are hundreds of organisations who still have no idea that they were spied upon. This means the overwhelming majority of individuals and organisations targeted since 1968 have had no opportunity to consider the possible consequences of the actions of undercover officers on their work and cannot currently participate as witnesses.

Core Participants and other current and potential witnesses are likely to struggle to provide testimony as long as there remains inadequate or non-existent information available to them. We are deeply concerned that a unique and historic opportunity may be lost unless the Inquiry is able to provide the vital details we seek.

The terms of reference of your Inquiry are broad: to examine the scope and motivations of undercover police operations in practice and their effect upon individuals in particular and the public in general. We therefore believe the issue of disclosure is absolutely critical. In our view, if the Inquiry is to have any realistic prospect of providing accurate insight into the “purpose, extent and effect of undercover police operations targeting political and social justice campaigners” it must do more than look at the activities of the tiny proportion of officers – less than 10% of the total from the SDS and NPOIU – that have already received publicity and exposure.

By their own admission, police records were patchy and much of what was documented has subsequently been lost or destroyed. Even without the resistance to genuine openness and transparency we are expecting, it is plain the police alone cannot provide an adequate narrative of their actions. The only way to discover a true picture of the impact of their undercover operations is to hear the testimony of those about whom intelligence has been gathered – and this is only possible if they know who spied on them and can reflect on the possible scale, implications and potential disruption caused by undercover officers.

We appreciate that the police will use every possible argument against providing greater openness and transparency, although there is no evidence that the public exposure of any undercover officer to date has either placed them at personal risk or posed any threat to national security. In our view, the police’s ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ policy is less about protecting individuals and far more about blocking exposure of misdeeds.

We believe such a policy is untenable in a transparent public inquiry and that full disclosure is essential to discovering the truth. We urge you to set the tone for the future work of the Inquiry by insisting police disclose the information we need to fully participate.

Yours sincerely,

The following Core Participants

(numbers from the inquiry list of core participants v2. An updated PDF, v3, is here)

1 Advisory Service for Squatters

3 AJA

4 Albert Beale

5 Alice Cutler

6 Alice Jelinek

7 Alison (RAB)

8 Alex Beth Stratford

9 Alistair Alexander

10 Amelia Gregory

14 ARB

15 Barbara Shaw

17 Belinda Harvey

19 Ben Stewart

21 Blacklist Support Group

23 Brendan Mee

24 Brian Farrelly

25 Brian Healy

26 Brian Higgins

28 C

29 Cardiff Anarchist Network

30 Celia Stubbs

31 Chris Dutton

32 Claire Fauset

33 Claire Hildreth

34 Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army

35 Climate Camp Legal Team

36 Colin Roach Centre

38 Dan Gilman

39 Dan Glass

40 Danny Chivers

41 Dave Smith

43 Debbie Vincent

44 Defend the Right to Protest

46 Dónal O’Driscol

47 Duwayne Brooks OBE

48 Ellen Potts

49 Emily Apple

51 Frances Wright

52 Frank Smith

53 Gabrielle Bosely

54 Genetic Engineering Network

55 Geoff Sheppard

56 Gerrah Selby

57 Graham Smith

58 Gráinne Gannon

60 Hackney Community Defence Association

61 Hannah Dee

62 Hannah Lewis

63 Hannah Sell

64 Harry Halpin

65 Helen Steel

66 HJM

67 Hunt Saboteurs Association

68 Indra Donfrancesco

69 Ippy Gray

70 Jacqueline Sheedy

71 Jacqui

72 Jane Laporte

73 Jason Kirkpatrick

75 Jennifer Verson

76 Jesse Schust

77 John Jones

78 John Jordan

79 Juliet McBride

80 Kate Allen

82 Kate Wilson

84 Kim Bryan

85 Kirk Jackson

86 Kirsty Wright

87 Kristina Bonnie Jones (aka Tina Miller)

89 Leila Deen

90 Lisa (AKJ)

91 Lisa Teuscher

92 Lois Austin

93 London Greenpeace

95 Marc Wadsworth

96 Mark Metcalf

97 Martin Shaw

98 Martyn Lowe

99 Matt Salusbury

100 Megan Donfrancesco

101 Melanie Evans

102 Merrick Cork

103 Michael Dooley

105 Michael Zeitlin

106 Morgana Donfrancesco Reddy

110 Naomi (SUR)

112 Newham Monitoring Project

113 Nicola Benge

115 Norman Blair

117 Olaf Bayer

118 Oliver Knowles

119 Oliver Rodker

120 Paddy Gillett

121 Patricia Armani da Silva

122 Paul Chatterton

123 Paul Gravett

124 Paul Morrozzo

126 Piers Corbyn

127 Rhythms of Resistance Samba Band

128 Robbin Gillett

129 Robert Banbury

130 Roger Geffen

131 Rosa (Dil)

133 Ruth (TEB)

125 Sarah Shoraka

136 Shane Collins (aka William Shane Collins)

138 Sian Jones

139 Simon Chapman

140 Simon Lewis

141 Simon Taylor

142 South Wales Anarchists

143 Spencer Cooke

144 Stafford Scott

145 Steve Acheson

146 Steve Hedley

148 Suresh Grover

149 Suzan Keen

151 Terence Evans

152 The Monitoring Group

153 Thomas Fowler

154 Thomas Harris

155 Tim Byrne

157 Tomas Remiarz

158 Trapese

159 Trevor Houghton

160 VSP

161 William Frugal

163 Youth Against Racism in Europe

163 Zoe Young

Additional people made Core Participants since v2 list:

“Andrea”

Ceri Gibbons

Smash EDO

Activists Demand Lambert’s Sacking

Bob Lambert then and now

Four prominent activists have written to the University of St Andrews demanding the sacking of lecturer Bob Lambert, former Special Demonstration Squad officer and manager.

The letter, sent on Friday, lists a swathe of wrongdoing by Lambert and officers under his command.

It was signed by:

  • George Monbiot, a campaigning journalist who holds an honorary doctorate awarded by the university
  • Lois Austin, former chair of Youth Against Racism in Europe, a group spied on by undercover officer Peter Francis under Lambert’s command
  • Dave Smith, trade unionist and secretary of the Blacklist Support Group
  • Helen Steel, who was in several groups targeted by Lambert and officers he deployed, and was deceived into a long-term relationship by one of them.

It comes after Lambert’s other employer, London Metropolitan University, has faced similar calls with a succession of pickets and the issue making front page news locally.

The University of St Andrews said

He has been entirely open with the university and his students about his past. His teaching is highly valued by students. Beyond that, as matter of policy, we don’t comment on personal matters or the circumstances of our staff.

Whilst this isn’t as bold as London Metropolitan University’s saying

He has extremely rich experience in professional practice, accepting that some of that is now controversial

it nonetheless tests our credulity. Are they really saying Lambert told the university and students things he says he didn’t even tell his wife? Or has he just been firefighting, admitting each revelation after it has been made public?

Do they really think Lambert’s history has no bearing on his position? Would they continue to employ, say, a medical lecturer was found to have run a disgraced and disbanded secret clinic that performed unethical, traumatising experiments on patients without consent?

The Sunday Herald reports that the call for Lambert to lose his post is endorsed by MSP John Finnie, himself a former police officer.

I consider his continuing employment a blight on our highly regarded education system and trust it ends soonest.

It adds a new facet to the clamour around the spycops scandal in Scotland. With Scottish police already under fire for spying on journalists, in recent weeks, as we have already covered, there has been a call in the Scottish Parliament for a proper inquiry into the political secret police’s activities there. As well as coverage in the Scotsman, there has been a series of articles in the Sunday Herald and an MSP calling for an inquiry into blacklisting.

 

FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER

 

Dear Professor Richardson,

We write regarding Bob Lambert who is listed as a lecturer at the University of St Andrews’ Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence. We believe that his past conduct as a central figure in the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad means that he is supremely unsuitable for teaching and shaping the thoughts of others in his current position.

His University biography asserts that “For the bulk of his police service (1977–2007) Robert Lambert worked in counter-terrorism, gaining operational experience of all forms of violent political threats to the UK, from Irish republican to the many strands of international terrorism that include what may now best be described as the al-Qaida movement.”

In reality much of his career was spent within the Special Demonstration Squad which was set up to monitor protest groups – more counter-democratic than counter-terrorist. The SDS’ abuse of citizens and undermining of legitimate campaigns are one of the darkest corners of Metropolitan Police history. Lambert is no role model and should not be trading on his abuses.

It is not only Lambert’s personal conduct undercover that is damning. He went on to run the Special Demonstration Squad, overseeing deployments that largely repeated his pattern of behaviour, hallmarked by the same abuses. For years he directed a raft of officers whose actions were – to use the words of police investigators – morally wrong, completely improper, gross abuses of their role in deployments that were abject failures.

In the four years since he was exposed, many new facts about the SDS have come to light. With each new revelation the scandal grows, and there are two notable constants in almost every case – Bob Lambert is integrally involved, and he has not mentioned it before.

Bob Lambert is responsible for acknowledged human rights abuses.

Last month the Metropolitan Police issued an unprecedented apology to seven women deceived into long term intimate relationships with undercover officers, including one of Lambert’s former partners, Belinda Harvey, and women targeted by officers supervised by Lambert. The apology unequivocally states that the relationships were “abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong” and that “these relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma”.[1]

In a separate case Bob Lambert deceived another woman, Jacqui, into a relationship and even fathered a child with her despite knowing he would disappear from their lives once his posting as an undercover officer ended. This relationship led to a record compensation payout by the Metropolitan Police to Jacqui in October 2014.[2] Even after he was outed in October 2011, Lambert did not make contact with Jacqui or their son, waiting until she discovered the truth by chance in the press. A statement he issued in Oct 2011 apologised to Belinda Harvey (about whom he had been questioned) but made no mention of Jacqui or other women he had deceived.[3]

Lambert now admits that he had four sexual relationships whilst in his undercover persona.[4] He not only had these relationships, he was later the SDS manager who deployed numerous other officers who did the same. Operation Herne, the police’s own investigation into political undercover policing notes of these relationships; “Such an activity can only be seen as an abject failure of the deployment, a gross abuse of their role and their position as a police officer and an individual and organisational failing.”[5]

In addition to these abusive relationships, Lambert and the SDS have been shown to be involved in:

Stealing the identities of dead children: Lambert stole the identity of Mark Robert Charles Robinson, who died aged seven of a heart defect.[6] The practice has been condemned by the Home Affairs Select Committee who said it “was not only ghoulish and disrespectful, it could potentially have placed bereaved families in real danger of retaliation”.[7]

Deceiving courts: Lambert admits being arrested “four or five times” and prosecuted under a false identity. He claims he cannot remember if he was convicted.[8] This raises serious questions about perjury and perverting the course of justice. Additionally, he co-wrote the What’s Wrong With McDonald’s? leaflet that triggered the McLibel trial, the longest trial in English history.[9] The fact of Lambert and the SDS’ involvement was kept from the court.

Spying on the family of Stephen Lawrence: Lambert was the SDS manager whose officers spied on the Lawrences. He oversaw Peter Francis, who says he was tasked to ‘find dirt’ with which to discredit the family (a charge Lambert denies but which the Ellison Review recommended is fully investigated by the Public Inquiry into undercover policing).[10]

Five years after the murder Lambert brokered a meeting between one of his officers who had been spying and the Commissioner’s team at the Lawrence Public Inquiry. This has been condemned by Mark Ellison QC’s report as “wrong-headed and inappropriate… a completely improper use of the knowledge the MPS had gained by the deployment of this officer”,[11] and Lambert was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The investigation appears to still be ongoing. The fact of the SDS spying was kept from the Public Inquiry and all other investigations into the case.

This was one of at least 18 similar family and black justice campaigns spied on by the SDS, including others targeted by officers under Lambert’s direction.

Acting as an agent provocateur: Those who knew Lambert under his pseudonym assert that he often berated activists for being “too soft” and encouraged them to take more serious action. He instigated many of the protests he spied on. Perhaps the most serious charge against him is the allegation that he planted an incendiary device in the Harrow branch of Debenhams in 1987 as part of a co-ordinated action against the fur trade which caused damage totalling £9m in three Debenhams stores.[12] It is a charge he has strenuously denied.

However, he claims credit for getting two of the group jailed and yet fails to explain how the mysterious firebomber of the Harrow store got away without even being named or apprehended.

Spying on MPs: In March it emerged that at least ten MPs had been spied on by the SDS. These are elected, public figures rather than the clandestine figures the SDS claimed to be countering. Lambert was one of the SDS managers who deployed officers who spied on the likes of Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn.[13]

Construction industry blacklist: The Consulting Association was a company that ran an illegal blackllist of thousands of politically active construction workers. Their files contain information that can only have come from police or the security services. The Independent Police Complaints Commission says it appears likely that every Special Branch supplied information that appears in files for the blacklist run by the Consulting Association.[14] Lambert was the SDS manager who oversaw Peter Francis, who says he believes intelligence he collected is in blacklist files,[15] and also Mark Jenner, who posed as a construction worker and infiltrated construction union UCATT under his false identity.

This was no one-off error, it was a catalogue of abuse that Lambert turned into a blueprint for others.

One has to wonder, if all this is not enough to make him unfit to teach others, what does it take? With fresh revelations coming to light almost weekly and the public inquiry about to begin, we can be confident there will be more.

These were not the actions of a young naïve person. This was years of deliberate, strategic abuse of citizens and undermining of legitimate campaigns.

Lambert’s apologies, such as they are, come in carefully worded phrases that only take partial responsibility for what has already been exposed. They appear to be little more than firefighting each revelation as it appears. Did he declare this grossly abusive past – which he says he kept secret from his own family – to the University when he applied? Or did he deceive you as he deceived so many women and other campaigners?

Whichever, it is abhorrent that a man so lacking in moral compass should be in a position where he is shaping the minds of others. The University of St Andrews should terminate his contract.

Yours,

George Monbiot (Honorary DSc, University of St Andrews)

Lois Austin (ex-chair, Youth Against Racism in Europe)

Dave Smith (secretary, Blacklist Support Group)

Helen Steel (McLibel defendant and one of seven women who recently received an apology from the Metropolitan Police)

REFERENCES

[1] Claimants in civil cases receive MPS apology, Metropolitan Police, 20 November 2015
[2] Met pays £425,000 to mother of undercover policeman’s child, BBC News site, 24 October 2014
[3] Bob Lambert replies to Spinwatch, 23 October 2011
[4] I was weak and cruel, admits ex-undercover police boss, Channel 4 News, 5 July 2013
[5] Operation Trinity: Report 2 – Allegations of Peter Francis, 16.2, Mick Creedon, March 2014
[6] Anatomy of a betrayal: the undercover officer accused of deceiving two women, fathering a child, then vanishing, The Guardian, 21 February 2013
[7] Home Affairs Select Committee, Undercover Policing: Interim Report, p8, 26 February 2013
[8] I was weak and cruel, admits ex-undercover police boss, Channel 4 News, 5 July 2013
[9] McLibel leaflet was co-written by undercover police officer Bob Lambert, The Guardian, 21 June 2013
[10] The Stephen Lawrence Independent Review, Summary of Findings, p30
[11] The Stephen Lawrence Independent Review, volume 1, p264
[12] Undercover policeman ‘fire-bombed shop,’ MPs told, BBC News site, 13 June 2012
[13] Police continued spying on Labour activists after their election as MPs, The Guardian, 25 March 2015
[14] Police colluded in secret plan to blacklist 3,200 building workers, The Observer, 12 October 2013
[15] Police ‘spied on activists for blacklisting agency’, The Guardian, 18 August 2013

Police Apology for Relationships: Where Next?

L-R: Kate Wilson, Helen Steel, Belinda Harvey and their lawyer Harriet Wistrich at their press conference, 20 November 2015 (Pic: Danny Shaw, BBC)

L-R: Kate Wilson, Helen Steel, Belinda Harvey and their lawyer Harriet Wistrich at their press conference, 20 November 2015
(Pic: Danny Shaw, BBC)

It’s an extraordinary statement by any standards. Even when the police pay large compensation, they usually do so with no admission of culpability for anything. But last Friday they issued a detailed, unreserved apology for the abuse of women who had relationships with undercover police officers.

Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt even made a video of the admission, bluntly stating for the record that the relationships were

abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong. I acknowledge that these relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma…

Most importantly, relationships like these should never have happened. They were wrong and were a gross violation of personal dignity and integrity.

 

The outrageousness and severity of how these women were treated is finally an acknowledged, settled fact.

MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS

Some of the harrowing, heart wrenching impacts were spelled out by Lisa Jones – partner of Mark Kennedy for six years and whose discovery of his true identity brought the issue to light – when she gave her first ever interview on Friday.

As “Rosa”, who had children with undercover officer Jim Boyling, said,

This has affected my whole view of the state and it went as deep as my womb

 

Kate Wilson’s description of what was done to her was similarly powerful, and her highlighting of the continuing lack of transparency – “the police have made no effort whatsoever to provide any kind of answers” – shows that all this is far from over.

It echoes what was said a year ago when the Met settled the first such case. Jacqui, who had a child with Bob Lambert, received £425,000 compensation but said

The legal case is finished but there is no closure for me. There is the money, but there is no admission by the police that what they did was wrong, there is no meaningful apology and most importantly there are no answers.

 

Although Friday’s apology is a major historic victory, it is only confirming that what the women already know to be true. There is so much more still hidden from view.

TIME TO TAKE CHARGE

The Met’s admission of their officers’ serious abuse must surely mean that the Crown Prosecution Service have to revisit last year’s extraordinary decision not to bring charges against these officers for sexual offences.

As Gayle Newland starts her eight year sentence for creating a false identity to deceive someone into a sexual relationship, it’s pretty clear that if this gang of men weren’t police officers they would already be behind bars. Nobody else would get away with just giving an apology and a cheque from public funds.

The CPS also decided not to prosecute them for other offences, explaining

In order to prosecute misconduct in public office, the prosecution would have to show that an officer knowingly abused their position in order to bring a sexual relationship about

 

It is hard to see how anyone could say anything else now. The Met have just conceded that the relationships didn’t just happen but

none of the women with whom the undercover officers had a relationship brought it on themselves. They were deceived pure and simple…. [it was] an abuse of police power


STRATEGIC INSTITUTIONAL SEXISM

But even now, the Met can’t quite admit the whole truth. They

accept that it may well have reflected attitudes towards women that should have no part in the culture of the Metropolitan Police

They still can’t bring themselves to use the word ‘sexism’. The Met is institutionally sexist as well as institutionally racist. This cannot ever change if they refuse to fully face the facts, and in this apology they just shied away once again.

Police say relationships were never authorised in advance and were never used tactically. But the overwhelming majority of known officers – all but two – did it. Most had long-term, committed life-partner relationships. One of them, Bob Lambert, lived with a woman and fathered a child before going on to run the unit, overseeing protegee officers who did the same thing, including ones involved in this week’s settlement. He must surely have known.

Sometimes officers were deployed together. Certainly, Lambert, Marco Jacobs and Lynn Watson saw colleagues having relationships. So, did they fail to report this ‘grossly unprofessional, never allowed’ behaviour to their seniors (thereby placing themselves at risk if they were ever found out)? Or did they report it but their bosses didn’t intervene? Or was it, as it appears, an established, accepted tactic?

PULLING BACK THE SHROUD OF SECRECY

Three years ago police lawyers said relationships weren’t authorised, trying to blame individual ‘rogue officers’ and shield managers from responsibility. But then it was pointed out that if this was unauthorised behaviour then it wasn’t covered by the rules governing surveillance in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. If that were so then any case would be heard in open court instead of a secret tribunal where the womens’ side weren’t allowed. So those same lawyers went back to the same court and argued that relationships were actually authorised after all.

That was just one twist in the course of the four years and hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ pounds police spent trying to stop these women bringing the facts to light. The blanket use of “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” to refuse to even admit anyone was a police officer was an additional insulting hurdle to make the path to truth more gruelling.

It’s a pattern familiar from so many other justice campaigns – there’s the injustice of what the police did, then the double injustice of the cover-up, smearing and legal obstacles that follow.

The apology statement rightly mentioned the extra distress caused by the protracted legal case and paid tribute to the tenacity and mettle of the women.

Even now, having just paid compensation and apologised to the women abused by John Dines and Mark Jenner, the police have not actually confirmed they were Special Demonstration Squad officers.

Nonetheless, the apology, like the agreement to be liable for damages paid to people spied on by Marco Jacobs, is effectively an admission that these men were police. It is another hammer blow to the devious, farcical tactic of Neither Conform Nor Deny. With the public inquiry still to come, that is significant.

A GRAIN OF TRUTH – TIME FOR THE HARVEST

All the appalling abuse these women suffered came from just five police officers. Even this isn’t the end of it – there are several other similar cases are still ongoing, including more partners of Mark Kennedy and Marco Jacobs.

We only know of the exposed officers due to the investigations and luck of activists and journalists. These are not necessrily the worst of them, merely what chance has revealed. There is so much more beyond. We have the names of around a dozen officers, less than 10% of those known to have worked undercover in the political secret police units.

How many other women were similarly abused? How many other children searching for their fathers are doomed to failure because it’s a name a police officer made up or stole from a dead child? How many campaigns were stymied? What other outrages have occurred that none of the known officers committed? At least 500 groups and uncountable thousands of individuals were spied on. They all have a right to know.

If these seven women deserve justice, so do the rest. If the public deserves the truth it deserves the whole truth, not somewhere under 10% of it.

Chair of the forthcoming public inquiry, Lord Pitchford, says

The Inquiry’s priority is to discover the truth

The only way we will get the truth is if those who were targeted tell their stories. The only way that can happen is if they know that their former friend and comrade was in fact a police spy. If the Inquiry is to serve its purpose, and if the Met are truly contrite, then they must publish the cover names of all undercover officers from the political policing units.

COPS Public Meeting

On 12 November there will be ‘The Truth About Britain’s Political Secret Police’, a COPS public meeting at London Metropolitan University, hosted by LMU’s Unison branch.

Three people targeted by the spy units will be speaking.

Helen Steel has been a social justice activist in North London all her adult life. She was a defendant in the McLibel trial – the longest in English history. She later found out that her partner who lived with her for several years at the time of the case was an undercover police officer. She is one of the women in the Police Spies Out of Lives campaign and legal case.

Dave Smith was a construction worker who was a victim of an industry blacklist. A private company ran an illegal database of over 3,000 people known to raise health and safety issues, be involved in union activities or be politically active outside work. This illegal activity was built on information supplied by employers and police officers. He is now a lynchpin of the Blacklist Support Group.

Merrick Badger is an environmental and social justice activist. He was one of the group who became suspicious of their friend Mark Stone, confronting and exposing him as police officer Mark Kennedy in 2010. He has since helped to expose other police spies, researching and campaigning on the political policing issue.

The speakers will talk about their experience and the wider issues. There will be plenty of time for questions and discussion.

FREE ENTRY.
General public welcome.

Wednesday 12 November 2014, 6pm-8pm

Henry Thomas Lecture Theatre
London Metropolitan University Tower Building
166-220 Holloway Road
N7 8DB

Nearest tube: Holloway Road

Facebook event