Content tagged with "Operation Herne"

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.

Home Office: Time for the Truth

A ySpycops protest at Home Office, 20 November 2016ear ago today the Metropolitan Police apologised to seven women who were deceived into relationships with officers from Britain’s politcal secret police squads.

Since then the Met have continued to drag out identical cases with other women they abused. They have  tried to draw a thick veil of secrecy over the forthcoming Pitchford Inquiry, which is so woefully under-resourced that it is behind schedule before it has even begun.

The Met are still refusing to be accountable, compounding the damage done to citizens.

This afternoon campaigners gathered at the Home Office demanding an end to obfuscation with this statement:

Political Undercover Policing: Time For The Truth

In March 2015 Theresa May, as Home Secretary, ordered a Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing in England and Wales. This followed from shocking revelations made by campaigners, whistleblowers and journalists that since at least 1968 there had been secret political policing units in the UK infiltrating protests groups in order to obtain so called ‘intelligence’ on those movements.

As part of this, undercover police officers were revealed to have:

  • spied on people campaigning for social justice and/or environmental sustainability
  • even spied on grieving families & friends of people who had lost loved ones to racist or police violence or negligence, who were seeking truth & accountability
  • deceived women into relationships while undercover, even fathering children
  • illegally given people’s personal details to private companies who blacklist trade unionists and other campaigners
  • stolen the identities of dead children

The Public Inquiry started in July 2015 but victims of this police spying have learned nothing so far about how and why this spying occurred. Instead they have been sidelined by the Inquiry while the police who are responsible for the abuse have been allowed to continue their cover up and delay and frustrate the purpose of the Inquiry.

It is exactly a year since seven of the women who were deceived into long term intimate relationships with undercover police officers were given a public apology by the police who acknowledged that the relationships amounted to an abuse of the women’s human rights. But despite this, no information has been provided about how these relationships were allowed to happen and the police even still ludicrously refuse to admit the names of some of these officers.

Over 180 victims have been granted ‘core participant’ status at the Inquiry, but they are only allowed to represented by one barrister who has to agree responses on important issues without being able to consult. In contrast, the police have been allowed four barristers. Spycops protest at Home Office entrance

On top of this, while the Home Office has provided funding for 63 staff for Operation Herne, the police’s own widely discredited investigation into undercover policing, the Public Inquiry team has just 27 staff and so far does not even have a working secure computer on which to store the massive volume of documents created by Britain’s secret political policing units.

All this facilitates the police in being able to cover up their abuses and in preventing victims and the wider public from learning the truth about political undercover policing in the UK.

The Home Office has also so far refused to extend the Inquiry to include the activities of these officers when they left England & Wales.

Even Scotland has not been included – how can the Inquiry gain a true picture when so much remains hidden from it and the public?

Enough is enough. We demand:

  • the release of the cover names of all the officers in these political undercover units and the names of all the groups spied on, so that people can then give evidence to the Inquiry about the actions and effects of these spies
  • secret files are released to the campaigners and politicians who were spied on
  • funds are redirected away from Operation Herne to the Inquiry
  • the actions of these officers are investigated whichever country they took place in
  • an end to the police cover up We should all be concerned about the existence of secret political police – they undermine and prevent social change so protecting the interests of the wealthy & powerful rather than everyone else.

Spycops Stealing Dead Children’s Identities

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

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

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

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

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

How common was dead child identity theft?

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Now, imagine that policeman had infiltrated a violent gang or made friends with a volatile person, then disappeared, just like this man did. Someone wanting revenge would have tracked us down to our front door – but they wouldn’t have wanted a cup of tea and a chat, like this woman says she did.’

Why did spycops steal children’s identities?

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

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

It later reiterates

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

Met police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe said

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

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

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

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

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

More brass monkeys at the Met

Brass monkeys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barbara Shaw’s lawyer Jules Carey said

‘The families of the dead children whose identities have been stolen by the undercover officers deserve better than this. They deserve an explanation, a personal apology and, if appropriate, a warning of the potential risk they face, in the exceptional circumstances, that their dead child’s identity was used to infiltrate serious criminal organisations.

‘The harvesting of dead children’s identities was only one manifestation of the rot at the heart of these undercover units which had officers lie on oath, conduct smear campaigns and use sexual relationships as an evidence-gathering tool.’


What happens next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Many Spycops Have There Been?

Poster of 14 exposed spycops among 140 silhouettes

Political spying is not new. The Metropolitan Police founded the first Special Branch in 1883. Initially focusing on Irish republicanism in London, it rapidly expanded its remit to gather intelligence on a range of people deemed subversive. Other constabularies followed suit.

But in 1968, the Met did something different. The government, having been surprised at the vehemence of a London demonstration against the Vietnam War, decided it had to know more about political activism. The Met were given direct government funding to form a political policing unit, the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS).

About twelve officers at a time would change their identities, grow their hair and live among those they spied on for years at a time. They would ‘become’ activists, each infiltrating a particular group on the far left, far right or in other areas of dissent such as the peace movement and animal rights. They were authorised to be involved in minor crime.

The police and the secret state have always used informers, and even private investigators, as part of their surveillance work. However, the SDS was unique in being a police unit set up to focus on political groups with extended periods of deployment. The model was rolled out nationally in 1999 with the creation of the SDS off-shoot, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU).

The Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance is primarily concerned with these dedicated political secret police – the long-term, deep-cover officers of the SDS, the NPOIU, and the successor units that subsumed them and their roles.

It’s generally accepted that there have been around 150 of these undercover officers since the SDS was formed in 1968. This figure comes from work by the Undercover Research Group and activists, and extrapolation from details in official reports.

Operation Herne, the Met’s self-investigation into the spycops scandal, said in July 2013

‘To date Operation Herne has verified one hundred and six (106) covert names that were used by members of the SDS.’

This is just the SDS. Last year, Mark Ellison’s report into spycops causing miscarriages of justice asked about the NPOIU, which ran from 1999-2011.

‘Operation Herne has identified fewer than 20 NPOIU officers deployed over that period’

However,

‘Operation Herne’s work to investigate the nature and extent of the undercover work of the NPOIU was only able to begin in November 2014 and has barely been able to ‘scrape the surface’ so far’.

There may well be more spycops from either or both units.

Other, similarly hazy, approaches arrive at a similar number. The SDS ran for 40 years and is understood to have had 12 officers deployed at any given time, usually for periods of four years. This would make a total of 96 undercover officers. However, it’s known that some officers were active for a fraction of the usual time, so the real figure will be somewhat higher.

Assuming the same scale for the NPOIU gives a total of 36 officers. That is a fuzzy guess though – the NPOIU was a new, national unit and may have deployed more officers.

[UPDATE July 2017: There are now known to have been at least 144 undercvoer officers – see detail at the end of this article]

The Operation Herne report from 2013 said that, of the 106 identified SDS officers, 42 stole the identity of a dead child, 45 used fictitious identities, and 19 are still unknown. The practice of stealing identities was mandatory in the unit for about 20 years until the mid-1990s. The NPOIU, starting in 1999, is only known to have stolen a dead child’s identity for one officer, Rod Richardson.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

There are certainly some more spycops from the successor units.

The Met merged its Special Branch (including subsidiaries like the SDS) with its Anti-Terrorist Branch in October 2006 to form Counter Terrorism Command. They reviewed and shut down the SDS in 2008.

Although the NPOIU used a number of Met Special Branch officers, from 2006 it was overseen by the Association of Chief Police Officers as part of their National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU). In 2012, the NDEU was also absorbed into the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command. At the same time, the NDEU changed its name and stopped having any responsibility for undercover officers.

Last November the Met’s Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt issued an abject apology to eight women deceived into relationships with undercover officers. Two months later Carlo Neri, another officer who had similar relationships, was exposed. Assistant Commissioner Hewitt assured the BBC that the Met

‘no longer carries out ‘long-term infiltration deployments’ in these kinds of groups but would accept responsibility for past failings’

That appears to contradict a 2013 report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary. It plainly says today’s spycops are deployed by the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command and similar regional units.

‘The NDEU restructured in January 2012, and now operates under the umbrella of the MPS Counter Terrorism Command (which is known as SO15). NDEU has also recently been renamed, and is now called the National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (NDEDIU)…

‘The NDEU’s remit changed at the same time as its restructure and no longer carries out any undercover operations. All deployments of undercover officers which target the activity of domestic extremists are coordinated either by the SO15 Special Project Team (SPT), or by one of the regional SPTs…

‘The SPTs are in the North West, North East and West Midlands Counter Terrorism Units, and the Counter Terrorism Command in London.’

HOW MANY SPYCOPS ARE KNOWN?

There are 17 [UPDATE August 2017: now 23] spycops who have been named and well documented. There are strong suspicions about several more. Fifteen of the seventeen have been exposed by their victims. One has been exposed by journalists, one by the officer himself – Peter Francis, the only whistleblower. None have come from the police.

Journalists – notably Rob Evans and Paul Lewis at the Guardian – have substantially fleshed out the activists’ research. The Met recently claimed to be having trouble even sorting their records into order.  If that is true then perhaps the best bet would be to allow these tenacious activists and journalists, who have done such sterling work despite police obstructions, to come and have a go.

Although the 17 spycops’ identities are properly established, with most of them having extensive details and numerous photos in the public domain, the Met are reluctant to give any further information.

Until the cover names are known, the majority of people targeted don’t even know it happened. Waiting for victims to investigate and gather evidence is a denial of justice. This is why most people granted ‘core participant’ status at the forthcoming public inquiry – mostly activists confirmed as significantly affected – have called for the release of all cover names and the names of the groups who were spied upon.

The Met say they must ‘neither confirm nor deny’ that anybody was ever an undercover officer (for a demolition of their ‘policy’ of Neither Confirm Nor Deny, you cannot do better than Helen Steel’s superb speech to the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing). On many occasions they have even refused to refer to Mark Kennedy by name, as if it’s still a secret. This came long after he hired Max Clifford to sell his story for a tabloid front page splash, which is about as unsecret as it’s possible to get.

After three years of legal wrangling, in August 2014 courts forced the Met to admit that Jim Boyling and Bob Lambert were spycops (again, long after both officers had personally talked to the media).

In March 2014 the Met’s Operation Herne produced an 84 page report concerning SDS whistleblower Peter Francis’ revelations about spying on the family of Stephen Lawrence. It said it

‘will not confirm or deny if Peter Francis was an undercover police officer’

As if they might devote all that time and effort to the ramblings of a fantasist.

It’s an insult to those who have been abused. It’s also a double injustice familiar to other victims of state wrongdoing – there’s what the state does, then how it pours resources to smear, lie and obstruct justice for its victims.

This doesn’t bode well for the forthcoming public inquiry.

Today, Kennedy, Lambert and Boyling are still the only three spycops the Met will officially admit to. Here is the list of 17.

WHO ARE THE SPYCOPS?

  1. Peter Francis AKA ‘Peter Daley’ or ‘Pete Black’
    SDS. Self-disclosed. Initial exposure March 2010, real name given June 2013
  2. Mark Kennedy AKA ‘Mark Stone’
    NPOIU. Exposed by activists, October 2010
  3. Jim Boyling AKA ‘Jim Sutton’
    SDS. Exposed by activists, January 2011
  4. Marco Jacobs (alias)
    NPOIU? Exposed by activists, January 2011
  5. Mark Jenner AKA ‘Mark Cassidy’
    SDS. Exposed by activists, January 2011. Real name given March 2013
  6. Bob Lambert AKA ‘Bob Robinson’
    SDS. Exposed by activists, October 2011
  7. Lynn Watson (alias)
    NPOIU? Exposed by activists, January 2011
  8. Simon Wellings (alias)
    SDS? Exposed by activists 2005, publicised March 2011
  9. Rod Richardson (alias)
    NPOIU. Exposed by activists, February 2013
  10. John Dines AKA ‘John Barker’
    SDS. Exposed by activists, February 2013
  11. Matt Rayner (alias)
    SDS. Exposed by activists, 2013
  12. Mike Chitty AKA ‘Mike Blake’
    SDS. Exposed by journalists, June 2013
  13. Jason Bishop (alias)
    SDS. Exposed by activists, July 2013
  14. Carlo Neri (alias)
    SDS? Exposed by Undercover Research Group in conjunction with activists, January 2016
  15. RC (full alias withheld)
    NPOIU? Exposed by Undercover Research Group in conjunction with activists, February 2016
  16. Gary R (full alias withheld)
    NPOIU? Exposed by Undercover Research Group in conjunction with activists, July 2016
  17. Abigail L (full alias withheld)
    NPOIU? Exposed by Undercover Research Group in conjunction with activists, July 2016

UPDATE March 2017:

18. Roger Pearce AKA ‘Roger Thorley’
SDS. Self-disclosed under real name 2013, full identity confirmed by UndercoverPolicing Inquiry, March 2017

UPDATE May 2017:

19. Andy Coles AKA ‘Andy Davey’
SDS. Exposed by Undercover Research Group in conjunction with activists, May 2017

UPDATE July 2017:

20. Mike Ferguson
SDS. Exposed in BBC True Spies documentary, 2003 [transcript, video]

UPDATE August 2017:

21. John Graham
SDS. Exposed by Undercover Policing Inquiry, August 2017

22. Rick Gibson
SDS. Exposed by Undercover Policing Inquiry, August 2017

23. Doug Edwards
SDS. Exposed by Undercover Policing Inquiry, August 2017



UPDATE July 2017: How many spycops have there been?

In February 2017 the National Police Chiefs Council told the Inquiry

The current position is that there are believed to have been 118 undercover officers engaged in the SDS, and a further up to 83 management and ‘backroom’ staff.

In April 2017 the Inquiry said

The Inquiry has written to 54 former members of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit who are believed to have been either undercover police officers or cover officers (26 undercover officers and 28 cover officers).

This makes a total of at least 144 undercover officers in the two units (it should be noted that the Inquiry may not have written to al NPOIU officers).

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.

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.

 

 

Family Justice Campaigns Petition

Lakhvinder ‘Ricky’ Reel, whose bereaved family were spied on by the secret police

Though it confirmed what we long suspected and had some evidence of, last week’s admission that the Special Demonstration Squad spied on at least 18 family justice campaigns over a period of decades is still profoundly shocking. For families to know they were the specific targets has been deeply upsetting; they were told to trust police who said they were there to help but actually undermined them.

Being merely informed is not enough. Whistleblower Peter Francis has called for all families affected to be given full access to the complete files so that they may judge for themselves why the data was amassed. The revelations reinforce the need for such families to be fully included in the forthcoming public inquiry from its earliest stages.

Sukhdev Reel, whose son Ricky died in 1997 in what police say was an accident but the family have consistently believed was a racist murder, has launched a petition calling on Home Secretary Theresa May to:

1. Seek a public apology from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to all the families affected by police spying and take action against police officers for any wrong doing

2. Assure us that the family justice campaigns would be consulted when drawing the terms of reference for the Public Inquiry into undercover policing

3. Assure us that affected families will be provided with legal aid so that they can be properly legally represented at the Public Inquiry

4. Assure us that the practice of police “spying” of family justice campaigns has stopped.

 

Please help to amplify the Reel family’s call for justice by signing the petition and sharing it.

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.