Content tagged with "Mick Creedon"

Spycops Investigator Mick Creedon Retires

Chief Constable Mick Creedon

Chief Constable Mick Creedon

Mick Creedon, head of Operation Herne, the police’s self-investigation into spycops, is to retire in May.

He was appointed as head of Operation Herne in February 2013 after its former chief, Pat Gallan, gave combative and incompetant testimony to the Home Affairs Select Committee, notably refusing to apologise for the theft of dead children’s identities.

Though portrayed as an independent figure, Creedon was an old hand at spycops. As Derbyshire’s Assistant Chief Constable (Operations), he will have been briefed on undercover deployments in the county and personally authorised them.

Infamous officer Mark Kennedy went to a number of events in Derbyshire. It’s quite possible that Operation Herne already has custody of documents authorising Mark Kennedy’s abuses in Derbyshire bearing Creedon’s signature. For more, see the Undercover Research Group’s comprehensive profile of Mick Creedon.

Though Creedon rapidly issued a first Operation Herne report in which he admitted identity theft of dead children was standard practice in the undercover units, he didn’t give much else away. He said there would be little value in telling affected families and ‘raking up’ events for them.

Whilst he said that officers should not have deceived women into sexual relationships, he refused to apologise for it, saying,

there are many people involved in sexual relationships who lie about their status. There are many people who say they’re not married when they are married. It happens.

He ignored the fact that the spycops were not merely married but entirely fictitious personalities played by people who are the opposite of everything they claim to be, being paid to be in women’s lives in order to betray their most cherished values, trained, monitored and directed by an unseen team of state agents.

Creedon opposed calls for a public inquiry,saying nobody could do a better job of investigating police than other police.

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.

Though Operation Herne issued three reports in a year and then a restricted fourth report in February 2015 of which we only have a redacted version, there has been nothing since.

Its staff level has fluctuated, and in July 2015 was reported as being 63, many of whom are Metropolitan police staff including serving officers. This is about three times the number at the Pitchford inquiry. Pitchford is still reliant on Herne as archivist and gatekeeper for police files.

It’s not clear who Creedon’s replacement will be. But then, it’s not clesr that it matters much. it will be another senior police officer with a reluctance to admit any wrongdoing despite the incontrovertible evidence.

The Met’s Chaotic and Dysfunctional Record Keeping

Shelves full of disordered filesStorage facilities with most documents missing or misfiled, systems repeatedly described as ‘chaotic’ by the police themselves – internal documents reveal that the Met is having big problems sorting out its records management before it can even tell the Pitchford Inquiry what’s gone on.

Guest blogger Peter Salmon of the Undercover Research Group unpicks recent statements from the force.

The issue of police disclosure and how public it can be is a matter taxing all involved in the Pitchford Inquiry. We know that behind the scenes there has been considerable discussion between the Inquiry team and the Metropolitan Police over how the Inquiry accesses the vast amount  of police material.

Recently, the Inquiry website published two statements from Det Supt Neil Hutchison, responding to questions from the Inquiry team. With dozens of supporting documents, they shed some light on what has been happening within the Metropolitan Police. The first statement deals with conflicts of interest and the prevention of the destruction of relevant records. The second focuses on the state of the Met’s record keeping and what is being done about it through Operation FileSafe. In this post we look at the latter issue.

Inadequate record management

What jumps out is just how much embarrassment was caused at the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) by Mark Ellison’s seismic 2014 report, the Stephen Lawrence Independent Review, in which he criticised the force’s inadequate record keeping.[1]

Ellison’s concern was that part of the difficulty in getting to the truth was the necessary records were not available. The force’s own internal follow-up reviews of record keeping used the word ‘chaotic’.[2] A supporting document states, remarkably, that the reviews had: identified wholesale dysfunctional, inconsistent handling of unregistered material across the MPS.[3]

Another document notes that of the material held in ‘deep storage’ on a site controlled by logistics contractors TNT, 54% of the records supposedly there were missing or misfiled.[4]

And all that before one gets to the actual material of concern. The importance of locating police records impacts not just on the inquiry into undercover policing, but on historical anti-corruption / child abuse cases, the related disclosure required by the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel and the  Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry and any similar investigations in the future.

As a result, since late 2014 the Metropolitan Police Service has been doing a ‘clean sweep’ of all its buildings and systems, in what is known as Operation FileSafe, not expected to be complete until 2018.

FileSafe is an off-shoot of the catchy acronym AC-PIT (Assistant Commissioner – Public Inquiry Team), formerly known as Operation Beacon. Headed by Neil Hutchison, AC-PIT was set up to co-ordinate responses to the issues raised by the various public inquiries. It answers to the Assistant Commissioner for Professionalism, Martin Hewitt, and is a sister unit to the Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) which provides most of the team for Operation Herne, the police’s own investigation into the spycop abuses, and which would oversee any future disciplinary cases if they were happen.

AC-PIT, working with the Directorate of Legal Services, is the Met’s point of contact for the Pitchford Inquiry and has responsibility for disclosure: it is they who will do the actual searches for material and redact it before passing it to the inquiry, via Legal Services.[5] Thus, its first job was to understand what the Met actually has – leading to the realisation that the records system needs cleaning up and sorting out if disclosure obligations are to be met. So, according to Hutchison, AC-PIT was split into two strands; the first dealing with Pitchford and Op FileSafe, the second with anti-corruption issues, such as the Daniel Morgan murder.[6]

Hutchison spends a lot his statement and its exhibits detailing how much effort is being put into FileSafe and the clean up of records across the Metropolitan Police. For example, they’ve identified ’83 different digital and paper based archives of potential relevance’.[5]

He also emphasises how much training and briefing is being given to relevant officers at all levels on retention of relevant documents. This focuses on Counter Terrorism Command (now in charge of the spycop units) and the Covert Intelligence Unit / SC&O35, but also encompasses every local police station.

Preventing destruction of documents

Following the publication of the Ellison Review in July 2014 there was a temporary halt on file disposal, which was lifted when new protocols were put in place in January 2015.[7][8]

These new protocols require that the heads of units give permission before any files relevant to issues covered by AC-PIT are destroyed. Where there is doubt, AC-PIT should be consulted directly. Hutchison mentions a number of examples of these requests being passed to him for final decision.

But what happened prior to January 2015? We learn that the when it comes to Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) which now has responsibility for the legacy of the spycop units, that he asked whether any relevant documents may have been destroyed. He talked directly to two of heads of SO15, Duncan Ball and Dean Haydon, but interestingly failed to ask Richard Walton, in charge for a key bit of this period and who retired from the police following criticism of his role the saga.

For Hutchison, it is sufficient that an unnamed Head of Compliance and Assurance through whom such requests would have supposedly been routed, has said nothing relevant had been destroyed while Walton was in his post.[9] All in all, we are reliant on the word of the commanding officers as given to Hutchison only.

Likewise, Hutchison provides us with a considerable amount of material on the standards officers are expected to adhere to, but given that it’s misconduct in office which is at the heart of this and other inquiries, this rings loud and hollow. If we could blithely trust the probity of Metropolitan Police officers there would be no need for a public inquiry in the first place. No other organisation would allow people who committed serious abuses to be custodians of the evidence against them.

If there is one concern he has met, it is that they are aware of conflicts of interest. To that end they have taken appropriate steps and ensured that no member of AC-PIT has been an undercover or served in the Special Demonstration Squad / National Public Order Intelligence Unit. They are, however, a bit more woolly on whether AC-PIT members have been involved in the management of undercovers.

Disclosure Still Isn’t Happening

So where does this leave us on the all-important issue of the Inquiry getting actual access to the material? Hutchison’s statement provides useful insight on a number of issues.

For a start, there still does not appear to be a formally agreed protocol for the Metropolitan Police to release documents to the Inquiry. Draft versions have gone back and forth between the MPS and the inquiry, which have yet to be circulated for comment to the ‘non-police/state core particpants’ (NPSCPs) – the people admitted to the inquiry because they were significantly targeted by spycops.

This is of considerable concern, not just in terms of time scale, but because the process is not being facilitated by input from the NPSCPs, a key stakeholder in the inquiry, who needless to say have issues with what they have seen so far.

At The Monitoring Group / Centre for Crime and Justice Studies conference in April 2016 attended by many NPSCPs, representatives of the inquiry pointed out that the MPS and the undercover policing Inquiry (UCPI) were still negotiating various obstacles. In particular, the access that the UCPI team themselves would have in order to conduct searches or supervise them.

It remains a very serious concern that there is not oversight to ensure the MPS is delivering all relevant material, and that vast tranches of important material remain in the control of the police rather than being turned over to the Inquiry.

It is also a concern that decisions to restrict evidence may be agreed only between Pitchford and the police, with NPSCPs having to apply retrospectively to have them lifted. This is seen by NPSCPs, and the wider public,as damaging to the transparency of the inquiry. While a lot of effort is going in to meet the needs of the police, there is a growing feeling that the victims in all this are being excluded from important decision-making processes that affect them.

Against Their Nature

Hutchison makes an interesting admission about the way this is challenging to the police instinct for defensiveness and secrecy when he writes:

‘The UCPI should be aware that the extent of disclosure of sensitive material required by AC-PIT is unprecedented and liaison is required to ensure staff comply with disclosure demands which run contrary to their training and previous experience’.[12]

This is reinforced by an alarming note, buried in exhibit D754[10] – an internal briefing on the public inquiry and record keeping by Counter Terrorism Command (which has taken over responsibility for the old spycop units) – that the head of Operation Herne, Mick Creedon, is critical of CTC’s lack of compliance with Metropolitan Police policy on review, retention and destruction of records. The implications of Creedon’s criticism do not appear to be addressed anywhere by Hutchison, implying he seems to think everything is fine. Interestingly, the briefing was signed off by one Richard Walton.

Earlier this year that a police whistle-blower came forward to let leading Green Party politician Jenny Jones know that her files were being wrongfully destroyed. The allegations say a number of officers shredded files they knew should have been retained but whose existence would embarrass the MPS. Hutchison only gives a short paragraph dealing with this concern, raised by the UPCI with him in a separate request. Half the paragraph is redacted; the gist of the rest is that, if substantiated, it will lead to charges. We are not even told if it is subject to an ongoing investigation by AC-PIT.

Hutchison only presented directly to senior managers in the spycop unit (now called National Domestic Extremist and Disorder Intelligence Unity) to brief them on FileSafe on 13 May 2015,[11] yet the whistle-blower came forward six months later, when all the new preservation protocols were supposed to be firmly in place. It does not appear therefore that the NDEDIU is taking this seriously or that AC-PIT is adequately overseeing things.

If that is the case, the Inquiry is failing at its first challenge. If it is prevented from getting the facts about what police have done, it cannot investigate.

=====

Part two to this article, focusing on other points of interest to those following the inquiry closely and a brief timeline shall appear on the Undercover Research Group blog.

References

  1. Ellie Pyemont & Penny Coombe, MPS Progress in the field of Information Management since the publication of the Stephen Lawrence Independent Review (exhibit D759), Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police Service, 13 July 2015.
  2. Penny Coombe & Ellie Pyemont, Operation FileSafe – Information Management: briefing for the Information Assurance and Security Board (exhibit D758), Metropolitan Police Service, 15 July 2015 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  3. Penny Coombe & Ellie Pyemont, An overview of activities undertaken as part of Operation FileSafe between July 2014 and March 2015, hightlight key milestone and future risks (exhibit D786), Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police Service, 6 March 2015 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  4. Penny Coombe & Ellie Pyemont, Operation FileSafe – Options Paper regarding MPS unregistered archives – Version 8 (exhibit D788), Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police, 2 March 2015 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  5. Neil Hutchison, Briefing to Management Board on Public Inquiry into undercover policing (exhibit D748), Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police Service, 10 July 2016 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  6. Neil Hutchison, Witness Statement on Rule 9-12 (PARTIALLY REDACTED) to Undercover Policing Inquiry, Metropolitan Police Service, 17 June 2016.
  7. Jeremy Burton, FileSafe Update (exhibit D777), email of 10 September 2014, Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police Service (accessed 20 July 2016).
  8. Following the paper trail (exhibit D780), Metropolitan Police Service (intranet article), 26 January 2015.
  9. Neil Hutchison, Witness Statement on Rule 9-10(a) to Undercover Policing Inquiry, Metropolitan Police Service, 6 June 2016.
  10. Counter Terrorism Command, Management of Information within SO15 version 1.0 (exhibit D754), Metropolitan Police Service, 11 June 2015.
  11. Neil Hutchison, Briefing note re Records Management (exhibit D767), Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police, 30 June 2014.
  12. Neil Hutchison, Witness Statement on Rule 9-12 (PARTIALLY REDACTED) to Undercover Policing Inquiry (paragraph 46), Metropolitan Police Service, 17 June 2016.

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.

Reinforcing Spycops : The National Undercover Scrutiny Panel

PrintIf you haven’t heard of the College of Policing‘s National Undercover Scrutiny Panel, don’t worry. It appears that you weren’t really meant to.

After some mentions on social media, they responded on 12 March with a press release entitled National undercover scrutiny panel set up. This is somewhat misleading, as it had been set up and agreed its terms of reference far earlier, in July last year. It had further meetings in October 2014 and February 2015, still without any public mention.

But who were they? The interest aroused on 12 March forced them to disclose the Panel’s line up the following day.

But how did they get there? A Freedom of Information request was made on 15 March asking for copies of any advertisements that were published seeking Panel members, any documents that outline the desired qualities and/or qualifications for participants, and minutes of any meetings where the selection of participants was discussed.

On 28 May the College of Policing admitted they were in breach of the Freedom of Information Act by not giving an answer within the mandatory time limits. And still, it goes unanswered.

Two weeks after the initial revelations they gave further detail about the Panel’s purpose and belatedly put minutes of meetings online.

MADE IN THEIR OWN IMAGE

As far as we can tell, none of the individuals or groups targeted by the disgraced undercover policing units and methods, nor their legal repesentatives, were informed of the Panel’s formation, let alone asked to participate.

Undercover policing is in the spotlight because of the public outrage following the exposure of the political secret police units. What kind of credible scrutiny can there be when the Panel is laden down with officers involved in the old ways and doesn’t have a voice for those who were abused?

One of those on the Panel is Mick Creedon, who was put in charge of the police’s self-investigation Operation Herne after its previous head Pat Gallan was removed from the post following her ludicrously implausible cover-up testimony at the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Herne is now starkly seen as a damage limitation exercise. There is no clearer example than its response to the revelations about police spying on the Stephen Lawrence campaign.

Two teams, one from Operation Herne, the other led by Mark Ellison QC, looked at the issue. Drawing on the same documents, they issued reports on the very same day. Ellison basically said that the campaign had been spied on and it pointed to much more beyond Lawrence. Herne essentially said the opposite, and even refused to concede that the whistleblower Special Demonstration Squad officer Peter Francis was ever actually in the police.

It is one of the countless examples proving once more what we all already know, that no organisation, especially one with power, can impartially investigate itself. And no matter how well intentioned, such actions can never have credibility.

The establishment of the forthcoming public inquiry is a de facto admission that Herne has failed, that it’s the police marking their own homework, and something wider, more robust and independent is needed to improve the public’s understanding of what has been done to them over the last fifty years.

The political policing scandal is not a partnership issue, this is a perpetrator and victim situation. For the police, their enablers (and the public) to understand what they did wrong, they need to hear it described by those they did it to.

The Scrutiny Panel being established in secret among police officers is an act of bad faith. It appears to be nothing more than an extension of the damage limitation we’ve already seen from some of the officers on the Panel.

ADDING THE CREDIBILITY OF DISSENT

They did have two critics of the police on the Panel. Ben Bowling is professor of criminology and criminal justice at King’s College, London. He was one of the founders of the Monitoring Group who have been powerful advocates for people who have been racially victimised by individuals and the state over the last thirty years. He gave an excellent talk, ‘From Robert Peel to Spycops; Where Did It All Go Wrong?‘ at the Monitoring Group’s extraordinary Police Corruption, Spying, Racism and Accountability conference on Saturday 7 February, just two days after attending a Panel meeting.

Sophie Khan is solicitor-director at Sophie Khan & Co, who specialise in actions against the police, and also an occasional media commentator where she is an advocate of civil liberties and often critical of policing.

Ahead of the Panel meeting at the end of April she posted on her Telegraph blog that

Vested interests are being protected by the police-led Panel but what about the rights of those who will be subjected to undercover policing? Do they not have a right to be heard and for their interest to be considered?

She wanted the process to

include more non-police voices, campaigners and activists who challenge undercover policing. This has been advanced in previous meetings, but there has been no change in the police-led, police-focused and police-chaired panel.

 

A fortnight later, just three weeks ago, she was exhorting people to join the Panel process and ‘be part of the solution’. This week she stood down from the Panel and, to her credit, boldly made it public, saying

 

I am disappointed that the College of Policing has asked me and others to volunteer for a Panel that was never designed to progress the work on undercover policing.

The lack of transparency and the imposition of public official duties on private individuals has also contributed to my decision.

 

It’s surprising that it took eleven months to realise that an opaque police body was intended to shore up existing methods. Like so many of the previous official reports and inquiries on this issue, it was designed to be seen to be doing something rather than actually doing anything, to bolster rather than challenge police power and credibility.

That last bit of Khan’s about imposing public duties is intriguing and somewhat cryptic. We can only hope that she will explain it in the more detailed piece she’s said will follow shortly.

As far as we know, Professor Ben Bowling remains on the Panel.

We are grateful to the Undercover Research Group for their piece this week on the Panel, and particularly for their characteristically thorough profiling of all the Panel’s members.

 

 

Operation Herne’s Third Decoy

Cherry Groce in hospital after she was shot by police

Cherry Groce in hospital after being shot by police

Once again Operation Herne – the police’s self-investigation into the political secret police units – proves its irrelevance.

After the admission earlier this year that police spied on the Stephen Lawrence family campaign, the new report, the third from the Herne team, concedes that for at least 20 years police gathered intelligence on 18 more families who had justice campaigns for their loved ones, including Jean Charles de Menezes and Cherry Groce.

The report (PDF here) plainly says this had no operational purpose in preventing crime. Clearly, then, it is about undermining people who might embarrass the police by exposing what they have done.

The report’s author, Chief Constable Mick Creedon, claims that the intelligence was not searched for, it was incidentally gathered by officers infiltrating other campaigns and then kept for no particular reason. This accident happened to one campaign after another over a span of decades. He acknowledges that even he knows this is an unlikely explanation, admitting it ‘must seem inexplicable’.

Equally implausibly, he says that it appears the Special Demonstration Squad were just amassing information and there is no solid documented evidence of sending infiltrators into the families.

Firstly, much of the secret police’s information was never written down. Secondly, a great deal of the material that did make it onto paper has been shredded. Indeed Creedon concedes that, had proper procedures been followed, the evidence of spying on the families would have been shredded.

It leaves a simple question – why would the infiltrator unit be gathering information on people who weren’t targets for infiltration?

The whistleblower Special Demonstration Squad officer Peter Francis has described his infiltration of justice campaigns. After his revelations, police threatened him with prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. Most of the information is not on paper, only in the minds of the people who did it. The truth can only come out if former officers are compelled to give evidence under oath without fear of self-incrimination.

We know that these 18 families are not the only ones. It also raises the question of how many other bereaved families seeking justice have been spied on. Police have already released details of their surveillance of on Janet Alder whose brother was unlawfully killed by police officers. Several Hillsborough families are certain they were spied on. When it’s happening on this scale over such a prolonged period it’s hard to see it as anything other than an active policy.

For Operation Herne to once again rely solely on what surviving papers it can find proves that it is little more than a police damage control exercise, admitting a few of the smaller outrages in order to shore up the denial of the larger ones. The forthcoming public inquiry is clearly a more serious and rigorous proposition. The public inquiry supercedes Herne, leaving it without any purpose apart from perpetuating the extra injustice of focusing on reputation protection instead of facing the facts.