Content tagged with "Official reports"

Scottish Inquiry – Reputation Before Justice

HMICS whitewashThe announcement of the terms of reference for HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland’s review into undercover policing manages to go beyond being meaningless, insulting those demanding answers for historical abuses by spycops, explains Dónal O’Driscoll

Last week Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) announced the terms of reference for its Review of undercover policing. Though campaigners were not holding their breath, the terms were more offensive than we expected.

From the beginning we’ve denounced this Review as police investigating police. We experienced the efforts of the Inspectorate of Constabulary in England & Wales and the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Herne. Each report they produced was irrelevant, and in one case pulped the day before publication for misrepresenting the extent of the scandal.

The reality is that HMICS is staffed with ex-police, some of whom will return to policing the force they are examining. Its limited credibility was already strained to its limits when it was revealed that those conducting the review would not just be ex-police but include those closely linked to undercover policing in Scotland.

In no other situation would it be considered acceptable for abusers to investigate themselves. Yet, according to HMICS they will:

‘provide an independent view of the operation, procedures and safeguards in place by Police Scotland in relation to undercover policing, with the objective of providing assurance to Scottish Ministers, the Scottish Parliament and the public’.

We wonder what opinion Scottish Justice Minister Michael Matheson, who commissioned this review, must hold of the public to believe it would blindly accept such assurances. And this in the week we learn that even the rudimentary oversight provided by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners is being ignored by Police Scotland.

Basic political common-sense would say to provide something tangible to reassure campaigners. There was nothing – no promise of answers, no talk of transparency or even listening to the concerns of those most affected.

The announcement stated:

‘HMICS will be mindful of all time of the wider interest of public safety and and will not reveal information capable of impacting negatively on this interest including covert tactics, operational methods, and material potentially leading to the identification of covert human intelligence sources, including undercover officers’.

It is language we have heard many times before from the police. It leaves no doubt that HMICS will adopt the same policy as the rest of the UK – say nothing and stick to Neither Confirm Nor Deny – because it’s more important to them to shield police from consequences of how they abused people than to actually deliver justice. Given the current Chief Constable of Police Scotland oversaw the Special Demonstration Squad, we are not really surprised, however.

The words ‘justice’ or ‘accountability’ are conspicuously absent from the 16 page announcement. There is no mention at all of those most affected by the spycop scandal, a shameful if unsurprising omission.

The investigation is limited to anything after the year 2000, though abuses were taking place long before then. These are grave injustices; there is no statute of limitation, so no reason to stop investigating. Rather, it is the classic police line of ‘nothing to see, move along’. It merely underlines why we demanded an independent inquiry from the beginning.

When we heard the terms of reference for the HMICS review were being released, it felt irrelevant. There was little doubt it would be meaningless political speak. We did not imagine we would be quite so offended. Yet, according to their statement, the review will:

‘comment on the contribution made by undercover policing operations towards public safety in Scotland’.

In plain language, the review is there to give undercover officers a congratulatory slap on the back. Not a word of the abuse conducted by them, but a big well done to the men who deceived, betrayed and destroyed the lives of people fighting for a better world.

Just read the account of Andrea, targeted by a spycop for a relationship, to see why this leaves a bitter taste in our mouths. They will tell us how undercover policing protects the public yet take no interest in protecting the public from these undercover police.

They are not investigating suspicions or allegations. The police themselves accept that it was morally wrong and ‘an abuse of police power’. The people targeted by spycops have uncovered a small fraction of what went on. The question is how far did it go? Instead of addressing that, the Scottish police and their satellite bodies, like their colleagues south of the border, are intent on glossing over what cannot be denied and keeping the rest firmly hidden.

Derek Penman, head of HMICS, wants to maintain public confidence in undercover policing – if anything, he achieved the opposite, demonstrating that the culture of cover-up where reputation comes before justice is the most important motivating factor. It motivated the police at the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and it is being repeated here.

Mr Matheson, the goal is so wide at this point, that the only possible conclusion is that you are deliberately choosing to miss. This goes beyond ineptitude to intentional collusion with known abusers in covering-up this scandal. It is frankly corrupt. Collaborating in this cover-up stains the entire Scottish Ministry of Justice.

Though these are my views, a group of those of us spied upon in Scotland, shall be writing to the Justice Minister this week, asking for a meeting.


The author was spied upon in Scotland by Mark Kennedy and other undercovers, and is a core participant in the Pitchford Inquiry.

Read Andrea’s description of her relationship with a spycop published last week in two parts here and here.

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.

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.

 

 

Yet More Spying on the Lawrence Campaign

Stephen Lawrence

Stephen Lawrence

Greater Manchester Police has admitted that it spied on people attending the Inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, making it the fourth constabulary known to be involved.

When the MacPherson Inquiry took place in 1998, it held a number of hearings outside London. A GMP memo was issued on 8 October asking for ‘information or intelligence on groups or individuals who are likely to be attending’ to be given to a Detective Chief Inspector in Special Branch.

The spying appears to have been motivated by wholly political concerns. There was no anticipation of any threat to public order, there is no suggestion of anything criminal, and the memo makes no mention of anything untoward.

GMP memo, 8 October 1998GMP’s Operation Kerry report into spying on Lawrence campaigners is due to be published shortly. However, not only is it another self-investigation, but it only covers the Manchester element. The spying on Lawrence activists was much larger and more systematic than that. Yet again, official inquiries are parcelling off a small question and giving it to police to mark their own homework. As such, it is an obstruction to the truth rather than its vehicle.

Last year it was revealed that spying also took place when the Inquiry went to Bradford in the same month as it visited Manchester. West Yorkshire’s Assistant Chief Constable, Norman Bettison, ordered his Special Branch to produce a full report on one of the witnesses at the Bradford hearing, Mohammed Amran. Bettison was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission for this, and they began investigating last July. It was reported earlier this year that he has been interviewed under caution as part of the inquiry.

Sir Norman Bettison

Sir Norman Bettison

Bettison is already a thoroughly disgraced figure. Widely believed to be one of the chief architects of the Hillsborough cover up and the smear campaign against Liverpool fans, he was forced to resign as Chief Constable of West Yorkshire over his response to the Hillsborough Independent Panel, in which he tried to manipulate the West Yorkshire Police Authority and contradicted the established fact that the fans were not to blame. An IPCC report concluded that, had he not resigned, he would have been dismissed for gross misconduct.

He is one of several senior police officers, including Bernard Hogan-Howe, who are tainted by their involvement in both the Hillsborough and spycops scandals.

But for all his extensive personal failings and corrupt dealings, Bettison’s spying on the MacPherson Inquiry in West Yorkshire was not a rogue act. South Yorkshire police also admitted spying on ‘extreme leftwing groups’ attending events indirectly linked to the Inquiry.

When the Inquiry’s main hearings took place in London, Peter Francis – the undercover officer who has described how he was earlier tasked to ‘find dirt’ to discredit the Lawrence family – said that there was intensive surveillance from plain clothes officers.

I am 100% aware that the Metropolitan Police Special Branch had a Special Branch officer regularly, if not daily, in both parts of the Macpherson inquiry.

This means that at least four constabularies’ Special Branches spied on people attending the Inquiry as it toured the country (so we may safely surmise that people at the Birmingham and Bristol hearings were similarly spied on).

There can be no excuse for this. The usual fob-offs about shady volatile people trying to hijack a campaign, flimsy at the best of times, cannot apply at all. This wasn’t an angry crowd in the streets on the day of a killing, this was a formal judge-led inquiry five years later. The Met still had ‘a spy in the Lawrence family’s camp’ at that time.

Peter Francis says he advocated telling MacPherson about the earlier spying, but that he was overruled by his superiors.

The Met’s claim that they came clean at MacPherson is a cruel joke, another decoy to keep us from realising both the depths that spycops will sink to and the depths that they will involve themselves in the lives of citizens.

If this level of spying is revealed by police self-examination, how much more would be revealed by a proper Hillsborough style independent inquiry?

We Are All Targets Now

John Catt

John Catt, permanently spied on even though he has no criminal record

Last autumn’s report into undercover policing by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) was as unimpressive as it was long. The 208 pages devoted much of their attention to non-political policing, even though the report was commissioned as part of the response to the revelation that the Special Demonstration Squad spied on Stephen Lawrence’s family.

The report said it was reassured that everyone knew officers shouldn’t have sexual relationships. Yet it appears there’s always been official banning of it. Despite this, numerous ex-officers have said it was unofficially condoned.

Bob Lambert had four sexual relationships whilst undercover. If it were such a bad idea, you would have thought that when he went on to run the Special Demonstration Squad he would make sure other officers didn’t do it. Instead, his proteges also had relationships – including long-term life partner relationships – and even (as Lambert had done) had children with activists they targeted.

Of the 14 officers so far exposed, 13 had sexual relations with activists they spied on. It’s hard to see this as anything other than accepted strategy. So the HMIC’s sense of ‘reassurance’ is based on a faith that has no basis in fact. That, or a desire to cover-up and protect police who’ve done wrong.

WE’RE COMING FOR YOUR FAMILY

Whilst life-partner sexual relationships are the most complete invasion of a person’s privacy that it is possible for the state to enact, there are others. They integrate into people’s lives and families, affecting non-activists. The official term is ‘collateral intrusion’, as if the deceit and damage done to the activists who are the primary focus is justified, as if those who want a fairer world are legitimate targets for psychological manipulation and abuse.

A 2012 HMIC report – when they thought they could pin everything on disgraced National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) agent Mark Kennedy being a sole ‘rogue officer’ – said the evidence

suggests that NPOIU operational supervision, review and oversight were insufficient to identify that his behaviour had led to disproportionate intrusion.

However, when he was part of a group of climate activists who planned to stop a coal train, his authorisation papers say the opposite.

It is very rare for collateral intrusion to occur because [Kennedy’s
name redacted] spends the majority of their time with likeminded people
engaged in activism.

He went straight from the coal train action to a friend’s wedding. People’s children and other relatives were there. And there he is in the pictures, whilst being paid overtime, PC Kennedy.

If the friends and children who formed relationships with him are not deemed not to ‘collateral intrusion’ then they are, therefore, in the target group. Just knowing someone who is an activist, being their friends or parent or child, makes you a legitimate target for these spying operations.

Kennedy spent a lot of time with the family of one of his partners, a woman known as Lily who explained to BBC Radio’s File on Four (download podcast here) that ‘he was on duty every minute that he spent with me’.

Lily’s mother mother took out a family photo and said,

That was my mother’s 90th birthday, as you can see from the balloon in the background. He looks comfortable in the photograph. I keep using that word, ‘comfortable’. I felt very comfortable with Mark and he seemed absolutely devoted to my daughter. He used to stay here, slob around watching TV with us, all that stuff that you do in a relaxed way with people in the family.

Kennedy was sanctioned and approved from on high, and it was no mere rubberstamp job. His authorisation papers include a full side of supportive A4 hand written by the person who oversaw all the secret police units, the National Co-ordinator for Domestic Extremism, Anton Setchell.

So when senior cops at HMIC say they’re reassured that there are no bad relationships, that there’s no collateral intrusion, it’s meaningless and worthless. Just like the Operation Herne inquiry into undercover policing, it’s the police marking their own homework and awarding themselves A grades. There can be no credibility in self-investigation, nor those done by police satellite bodies like HMIC and the Independent Police Complaints Commission. We have given them too much trust for too long and they’ve shown themselves not to deserve it.

GUILT BY ASSOCIATION

Last month’s Supreme Court decision on the John Catt case underlined this. Catt is a 90 year old peace campaigner with no criminal record. After he had attended three demonstrations at the EDO arms factory in his native Brighton, anti-terrorism police stopped his car in London and threatened him and his daughter with arrest under the Terrorism Act if he didn’t tell them where he was going. He later discovered that a marker was placed against his car registration on the Police National Computer and that the network of number plate recognition cameras was used to flag him up to police for stopping.

It’s worth noting that the political police units – Special Demonstration Squad, National Public Order Intelligence Unit and others – have been merged with the Metropolitan Police’s Anti-Terrorist Branch under the name Counter Terrorism Command. Today’s Mark Kennedies are deployed by the same unit as the ones dealing with people who want to set bombs off on public transport. The structure is designed to conflate all dissent.

The Catts mounted a legal challenge but senior officers found their officer’s actions had been ‘proportionate and appropriate’, a finding upheld on appeal to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which concluded that while the case highlighted the concerns over ‘the civil liberties
or protesters’, police had been acting in accordance with ‘national policy’.

Catt then went to court to challenge the retention of his data on the ‘domestic extremist’ database. He won, at first, but the Metropolitan Police launched an appeal and last month they won. The ‘national policy’ prevails and it is considered legitimate to gather data and harass anyone who has been ‘associated with protest’. It is guilt by association, and what you’re associated with needn’t be criminal either; protest is, in and of itself, seen as something to crack down on.

In other words, the Supreme Court just ruled that anyone who speaks out against the government and the established political order – even though there is no suggestion of any involvement with any crime – can be singled out for special treatment by the police. We have a name for that kind of state.

GUILT BY PROXIMITY

As the wedding guests at the wedding Mark Kennedy attended can attest, you needn’t even be as involved as John Catt. The construction industry blacklist run by the Consulting Association was more than an illegal practice used by most of the industry’s big names to deny work to anyone involved in unions or other political activity. There was a two way exchange of information between the blacklisters and police. Even the Independent Police Complaints Commission admit that it was likely to have been part of all Special Branches’ work to illegally supply the illegal blacklist with information.

But it wasn’t just construction workers. There were files on around 200 environmental activists whose information appears to have come from details given to police when arrested. The file on construction worker Frank Smith describes him as a ‘leading light’ in a group known as the Away Team who sought to protect anti-fascist groups from attack. That’s not the kind of thing a building site manager could observe.

Smith’s girlfriend, Lisa Teuscher, was also spied on and had a blacklist file despite having no connection with the industry.

I was shocked when I first read my file. It made me feel physically sick. It’s absurd. I don’t see any reason why my name should be linked with the building industry. I had no professional involvement whatsoever. The only reason I am on the list is because of Frank.

Remember this when they say that counter-terrorism police are needed to target ‘just the paedos and terrorists’ – their definition of legitimate targets is wide. If this is their definition of political threats, who might be included in their net of potential terrorist threats? To trust Counter Terrorism Command to be making reasonable, proportionate decisions puts a lot of faith in people who have repeatedly proven themselves unworthy of it.

The political police’s choice of who it is reasonable to spy on includes anyone who is politically active, anyone who is related to them, anyone who attends an event at which they’re present. The construction blacklist proves that this is not mere background gathering of information in case it becomes useful. The political policing units have actively broken the law to help ensure their targets are denied work, deliberately inflicting the impacts that has on a person and their family. They are there to disrupt the activities and lives of those they spy on, and that can be anyone.

Report into Spycops Wrongful Convictions Postponed

Mark Ellison

When Mark Ellison QC produced last year’s report into undercover police officers spying on Stephen Lawrence’s family, he also found that officers appeared to have engineered miscarriages of justice.

Several undercover officers, including Bob Lambert and Jim Boyling, went through court cases under false identities, swearing to tell the truth and then do nothing but lie.

Boyling was on trial as part of a group, meaning that this police officer was party to defence meetings with their lawyers. One of his comrades was convicted. This was eventually overturned last year, though it does leave the question hanging of how many other wrongful convictions have been left to stand.

After his report into the Lawrence spying, Mark Ellison was tasked to produce a new report on the miscarriages of justice. He was due to report in March, but on 13 January a written parliamentary answer revealed that there will merely be a ‘progress report’. The final item has no projected completion date.

This will set some people’s alarm bells ringing. Two years after the Home Affairs Select Committee’s ‘interim report‘ into undercover policing we are still waiting for the full thing. With the Chilcott report fossilising in the vaults it would be easy to see Ellison’s delay as too convenient for those with something to hide. However it seems more likely that the scale of the job is significantly larger than anticipated.

When police pre-emptively arrested 114 climate activists at a 2009 meeting to plan the shutdown of a coal fired power station, one of them was Mark Stone, aka police officer Mark Kennedy. Charges were brought against 26. A first trial of 20 activists saw all of them convicted.

The remaining six pointed out before their trial that, in the meantime, they’d uncovered Kennedy’s true identity. They asked to see his undisclosed evidence but, rather than hand that over, prosecutors dropped the charges. It turned out Kennedy had recorded the meeting, securing evidence that exonerated the six but which the prosecutors and police had withheld from the defence. The initial 20 had their convictions quashed afterwards.

Sir Christopher Rose’s now discredited report said that the case was anomalous and there was no systemic problem. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Kier Starmer, dodged Jeremy Paxman’s repeated question about whether there might be other cases.

Then an earlier,  similar case in which Kennedy had participated in stopping a coal train on its way to Drax power station was highlighted. Another 29 convictions were overturned. It was clearly systemic.

We have information on less than 10% of the officers who have worked for Britain’s political secret police since the formation of the Special Demonstration Squad in 1968. If, like Kennedy, they each secured around 50 wrongful convictions then there are about 8,000 miscarriages of justice being left to stand. Even if we conservatively assume there was only one wrongful conviction per officer per year of service, it’s around 600.

It is no exaggeration to say that we could be looking at the biggest nobbling of the judicial system ever exposed. Let’s hope that, in contrast to the undercover officers, Mark Ellison will reveal the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

New Report, Same Old Whitewash

HMIC logoA massive new report on undercover policing from police satellite body Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary was published yesterday.

As with the huge stack of similar reports on the issue, it gives us quite a few dry facts and criticises some administration but fails to tackle the key, shocking issues.

It reveals that 1,229 officers are trained for undercover work. However the police’s National Undercover Index only lists 568 of them. This ‘renders the database unsuitable to the task for which it was created,’ says the report.

Seven types of deployment are listed, but there is no mention of the political spycops. For a report commissioned as a response to the revelation that the Stephen Lawrence campaign had been spied on, after several years’ groundswell following the exposure of Mark Kennedy in 2010, this is no mere oversight. It’s a dodge.

Campaigning for social justice or for the proper investigation of the death of a loved one due to incompetent or malevolent police is left entirely unmentioned in all 206 pages, unless they somehow count among ‘those who seek to commit serious crimes, eg acts of terrorism’.

The report is only critical of administration, training and support for officers, rather than the impacts on citizens and the sinister intent of certain undercover operations. It essentially saying that a little bit more oversight and authorisation will make everything alright.

The authors find it ‘reassuring’ there is apparently ‘a universal understanding by the undercover officers and those managing them’ that intimate relationships aren’t allowed and ‘there are good safeguards in place’ to prevent it.

But out of the 14 spycops so far exposed, 13 had sexual relations with citizens they spied on. Three had kids. One – Bob Lambert –  became a manager overseeing a new crop of officers who did it. Citizens have not been ‘protected’ from the most complete invasion of privacy that it is possible for the state to enact. They have been subjected to it in such a comprehensive way that it can only be seen as accepted standard practice and strategy.

It shows a staggering amount of gall to even suggest that there is ‘universal acceptance’ of it being wrong and there is therefore no problem.

There are 49 recommendations at the end of the report. None are about the known outrages of these relationships, let alone others such as undermining family justice cases and political campaigns, and the police collusion with illegal corporate activity.

We need a simple law that bans sexual relationships whilst undercover outright. It is already illegal in Germany for spies to have sexual relations in their undercover persona and German society is not suffering because of that restriction. It is needless, inexcusable institutionalised sexism.

But the report tells us that

if society wants the police to identify & apprehend some of its most dangerous criminals, it has to allow individual police officers to “get their hands dirty”.

The report does concede that the ‘neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND) policy “is not grounded in legislation” & mustn’t be used if it risks a miscarriage of justice. This is to be welcomed. But as words in isolation, it is meaningless. Police lawyers are obstructing a legal bid for justice by a group of women, saying that NCND is essential.  Those same lawyers also argued that the supposedly safeguarded-from sexual relationships are actually legally authorised. The women’s group has already condemned the new report.

This report is yet another bucket of bitter whitewash written by police and their associates. It insults those who’ve been abused by the undercover officers from the counter-democratic political police units. Beyond that, it insults anyone who believes in the right to make a stand for environmental and social justice.

It is another decoy, papering over deep cracks in a rotten architecture. It must not distract from the need for a full, open, public inquiry that examines each aspect of undercover political policing in detail and takes testimony from all those impacted by it. COPS will continue to campaign for such an inquiry.

We will continue to host events and support those organised by the various groups and individuals who have been targeted. You can support our campaign by coming to those events and getting your trade union, campaigning organisation or other group to affiliate to us.

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.

IPCC Investigates Officers Over Lawrence Spying

The Independent Police Complaints Commission announced today that three officers will be investigated over their roles in the Speical Demonstration Squad’s spying on the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

It follows revelations three months ago in the Ellison Review, confirming police had spied on the family at the time of the 1998 MacPherson Inquiry.

Two of the three officers are now retired. They are Colin Black and Bob Lambert, and they face charges of discreditable conduct.

Lambert is already under scrutiny in many other aspects of the secret policing scandal. As an undercover officer he co-wrote the McLibel leaflet that led to the longest trial in English history at which undercover police involvement was never revealed. He was named in Parliament as the firebomber of a Debenhams store, a charge he has strenuously denied. He fathered a child with one of the activists he targeted and abandoned them both when his deployment ended. He later ran undercover operations, overseeing the deployment of several other exposed controversial officers.

The third officer is Commander Richard Walton. As well as discreditable conduct, he faces allegations of breaches of honesty and integrity.

He was an acting Detective Inspector in 1998, but by this year he had risen to be head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, the unit that has current responsibility for the secret police who would formerly have been employed by the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) or National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU). Walton was moved from the post immediately after the Ellison report was published in March.

Whilst any exposure of wrongdoing and accountability for those culpable is welcome, it cannot be a parcelling off that lets anyone claim the issue has been dealt with. Any findings must be part of the material for one overarching, credible, rigorous, open public inquiry into Britain’s Secret Police.