Content tagged with "Public Inquiry"

Spycops Inquiry Slammed by Targeted Women

'Undercover is no Excuse for Abuse' banner at the High CourtToday, thirteen women who were deceived into intimate sexual relationships with undercover policemen, over a period spanning nearly 30 years, have written to the Home Secretary to raise their concerns about the progress and recent direction of the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing.

The women noted that, two years into the Inquiry, the names of the 1000+ groups spied on by political policing units have still not been made public, nor have the cover names used by officers while undercover.  These two steps are critical to allow non-police witnesses to come forward and give evidence to the inquiry. 

The women also raised concerns about the recent appointment of Sir John Mitting as Inquiry Chair.

Institutional Sexism

“We are very concerned that Sir John Mitting is a member of the Garrick Club which has consistently voted to exclude women from membership and to remain a men-only club. How can someone who accepts the principles of membership of such a club be suited to a role that will involve making judgements on evidence of institutional sexism within the police and wider legal system?”

“In the ‘Two Year Update’ produced by the Public Inquiry in July, the word ‘women’ does not appear at all, despite the seriousness of the abuses committed against women by undercover police officers. The timeline in that document also failed to include the public apology issued by the MPS which acknowledged that undercover police officers entering into intimate sexual relationships is a human rights abuse.”

“It is clear from these omissions that the serious abuses we suffered at the hands of the police are not taken seriously by the Inquiry.”

“In light of all these matters it is extremely difficult for us to have any confidence that the Inquiry will properly investigate the abuses we have been subjected to, or put in place measures to ensure that they never happen again to anyone else.”

Openness

The Metropolitan Police Service has been allowed to set the pace of the Inquiry with severe and ongoing delays and applications for secrecy.  They also continue to hold the evidence which could demonstrate wrongdoing, and have refused to share any records with victims of abuses despite the need for victims to understand the events they were subjected to.

“We are alarmed by the imbalance in resources between victims of police spying and the fact that the Metropolitan Police Service is currently using public money to impugn those who were spied on and abused. This is a similar tactic – now thoroughly condemned – to that used by the police at Hillsborough, and it must not be allowed to continue.”

“It is critical that the cover names of the officers are released, along with the names of the groups spied upon.  Without this information the public will not be able to come forward to give evidence to the Inquiry and it will be impossible to identify the scale and nature of the abuses perpetrated.”

“In order for us and the public to have confidence in the inquiry the principles of transparency and openness need to be upheld.”

 

The letter in full:

c/o Birnberg Pierce Solicitors
14 Inverness Street
London
NW1 7HJ

19th September 2017

Dear Amber Rudd,

Undercover Policing Public Inquiry

We are writing to request a meeting with you to discuss our serious concerns about the progress and recent direction of the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing. We are women who were deceived into long-term intimate sexual relationships with undercover police officers over a time span of nearly thirty years. Our experiences may only be the tip of the iceberg. We are aware of other women who have been similarly deceived and believe it extremely likely that there are still more women, and possibly also children, who have yet to find out. The extent and nature of this practice amounts to institutional sexism.

As you know, the Inquiry was set up in response to revelations about the conduct of undercover police officers in political policing units such as the Special Demonstration Squad and National Public Order Intelligence Unit who had committed serious human rights abuses. These abuses were brought to light not by the police, but through the investigations of women who suffered at the hands of these officers, combined with the actions of the whistle-blower Peter Francis, and investigations by journalists.

In correspondence with the previous Home Secretary, (letter sent 11.2.15 through our solicitor, Harriet Wistrich), we stressed the importance of transparency in the Public Inquiry. This is essential in order for the truth to be known, the victims of undercover police abuses to understand and come to terms with what happened, and for the public to have any confidence in the Public Inquiry. We are alarmed, therefore, that two years into the Inquiry, the public has learned nothing new about the extent of these abuses or how they were allowed to happen. Even the names of the 1000+ groups spied on have still not been released.

In addition we are alarmed by the appointment of Sir John Mitting as Inquiry Chair, and by the fact that this was announced on August 2nd when many lawyers and/or their clients were on holiday making it difficult to raise any objections. We feel that this demonstrates again a lack of respect for those abused by the police. Since Sir John Mitting became Inquiry Chair it appears that there has been a significant shift towards greater secrecy.  We believe that his background as Vice President of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal since 2015 is likely to have influenced this shift and we are concerned that steps need to be taken immediately to rectify this and increase transparency.

Institutional Sexism
We also understand that Sir John Mitting is a member of the Garrick Club which has consistently voted to exclude women from membership and to remain a men-only club.  We question how someone who accepts the principles of membership of such a club can be suited to a role that will involve investigating sexist practices and making judgements on what we consider to be clear evidence of institutional sexism within the police and wider legal system.

It is noteworthy that in the ‘Two Year Update’ produced by the Public Inquiry in July, the word ‘women’ does not appear at all, despite the seriousness of the abuses committed against us and other women by undercover police officers.  While there are references to the sensitive issue of dead children’s identities being used for cover purposes, there are no such references to the long-term abuse of women.  We also note that the recently published timeline in that document failed to include the public apology issued to us by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) which acknowledged that we were subject to human rights abuses by undercover police officers. We attach a copy of this apology in case you are not familiar with it. It is clear from these omissions that the Inquiry is failing to take seriously the grave abuses we and other women suffered at the hands of the police.

In light of all these matters it is extremely difficult for us to have any confidence that the Inquiry will properly investigate the abuses we have been subjected to, or put in place measures to ensure that they never happen again to anyone else.

We seek a meeting to resolve the following concerns:

1. What steps will be taken to ensure that the Inquiry has sufficient knowledge and understanding of sexism and its effects to be able to identify and address the clear institutional sexism which has been revealed by the repeated use and abuse of women (over the course of several decades) who were deceived into intimate sexual relationships by undercover police officers.

2. What steps will be taken to ensure that the Inquiry is open and transparent, so that the public can have confidence in its findings?  In the recent indicative and final rulings by Sir John Mitting on restriction order applications by the MPS, he has repeatedly come down in favour of secrecy for the police at the expense of truth for the victims and public; the secrecy approach taken by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal of which he is Vice President is definitely not an appropriate approach to bring to a public inquiry.

3. Cover names must be released, otherwise it will not be possible to identify the true scale nature of the abuses perpetrated. Women and children may be left unable to make sense of events in their lives, and witnesses will not be able to come forward to give evidence to the inquiry.

4. The MPS has been allowed to set the pace of the Inquiry with severe and ongoing delays and applications for secrecy, and despite a huge budget have been allowed every latitude to delay still further. What steps will be taken to ensure that cover names are released as soon as possible?

5. The Inquiry is an investigation into serious wrongdoing by the MPS yet this same body maintains control of much of the evidence, including that which could demonstrate the guilt of officers and their managers, how can this be appropriate?

6. Evidence controlled by the MPS is not being disclosed to those spied upon. This both impacts on our ability to process what happened and hampers the Inquiry’s progress and likely success: since our investigations were instrumental in bringing human rights abuses to light, clearly if we had access to these documents we could assist with identifying areas for investigation and with correcting inaccuracies. What steps will be taken to speed up the release of material, especially of material over twenty years old, in line with the government’s twenty-year rule?

7. It is wrong that the MPS has unlimited resources to impugn those who were spied on and abused. This is a similar tactic – now thoroughly condemned – to that used by the police at Hillsborough, and it must not be allowed to continue. We are concerned in any event at the significant financial and power imbalance between the MPS resources and those of the victims of police spying. As a result of this imbalance, the non-state core participants (NSCPs) are, in practice, prevented from making submissions on issues of concern to them, whereas the MPS is able to make multiple applications of its choosing.

8. MPS documents served recently, including the Risk Assessment and Mosaic Report, contain multiple inaccuracies and offensive material. They suggest that our motives for searching for our disappeared partners were sinister and malign, rather than acknowledging that the police abuses would not have come to light without our research and that of the Undercover Research Group.

9. MPS reports repeatedly attempt to downplay the abuses committed against us and other women, or even suggest they did not happen, for example Mosaic Effect Report [4.4] uses the word allegedly regarding a woman being deceived into a sexual relationship with Bob Lambert, despite the fact that after women he deceived bravely came forward to report this abuse, even Lambert himself admitted to having four sexual relationships while undercover.

10. Public protests seeking accountability for the actions of police who have committed abuses have offensively been labelled harassment [e.g. Risk Assessment Briefing Note 10.12] despite the fact that protest is a protected right. Furthermore, as none of the officers have been prosecuted or disciplined for the human rights abuses they have committed, the public clearly cannot rely on the state for accountability. What steps will be taken to ensure that this abuse of victims and public resources does not continue?

11. It is insulting that we were required to provide intrusive psychological reports to the MPS which was responsible for the abuse and invasion of privacy we were subjected to, yet neither we nor our lawyers are allowed to see or challenge police psychological reports being used by the MPS to argue for secrecy at the Inquiry.

12. The fact that the Chair is minded to accept secrecy in the Inquiry around the identities and actions of officers and units who committed serious abuses, for fear that openness would cause too much stress or potentially harm those officers, is of grave concern. This is not a privilege generally extended to anyone else accused or under investigation, and looks alarmingly like an attempt to protect the reputation of the police.

13. The disparity between the cavalier approach to the privacy of victims of undercover policing compared to the cautiousness towards the MPS, evidenced by data breaches relating to NSCPs, including the recent publication by the Inquiry of the real name of one of us despite a court order with penal notice prohibiting this.

We request a meeting with you at your earliest convenience to discuss our concerns.

Yours sincerely*,

Alison
Andrea
Belinda Harvey
Helen Steel
Jane
Jessica
Kate Wilson
Lisa
“Lizzie”
Monica
Naomi
Rosa
Ruth

* Names in inverted commas are the pseudonyms by which we are known to the Public Inquiry

Three New Spycops Named – But Others Get Hidden

Troops Out Movement demonstration at military recruitment office

Troops Out Movement demonstration at military recruitment office

The public inquiry into undercover political policing has published three new names of spycops and, for the first time, they’re new names rather than just confirming what activists, whistleblowers and journalists had already revealed.

However, among the hefty tranche of new papers from Inquiry Chair Sir John Mitting are grave indications of that he is seeking to prevent the full truth coming to light.

Having dragged out the process of beginning the inquiry for years, earlier this year the Metropolitan Police were given a firm timetable for applying for ‘restriction orders’ for the anonymity of undercover officers.

As expected, the Met are pushing for maximum secrecy, arguing that it would make officers worried and sad to be publicly known for what they’ve done. The Met also argue that the officers would be at risk of violent reprisal, despite nothing of the kind happening to the swathe of officers who have been very publicly exposed since 2010. With deadlines passing, the Met have had their hand forced and, finally, we are getting a small measure of new information from the Inquiry.

THREE NEW SPYCOPS

As had been suggested by some victims, the new names are all from the early days of the Special Demonstration Squad in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With those involved being of advanced age, there’s some merit in tackling these cases first. Indeed, one of the three newly named officers is already dead.

We’ve been given only the officers’ cover names, but not their real identity. These three releases have major redactions, including whether the officer had intimate relationships or was arrested. Given the long history of SDS officers having such abusive relationships and instigating miscarriages of justice, these are very serious omissions.

John Graham‘ was deployed in 1968, the first year of the Special Demonstration Squad, to infiltrate the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (Kilburn and Willesden Branch), and says the worst thing anyone in the group ever suggested doing was jumping on the back of a police officer. He also spied on the Revolutionary Socialist Students Federation.

In 1969 his deployment was cut short when he refused a senior officers instruction to attend a certain meeting, feeling it would have exposed him. He was moved to other duties shortly after. The Undercover Research Group have produced a profile of John Graham.

Rick Gibson‘ spied on left wing groups between 1974 and 1976. He infiltrated socialist feminist campaign/newspaper Big Flame, and became a prominent member of the south-east London branch of the Troops Out Movement which campaigns to end British involvement in Northern Ireland.

The police say that in 1976 Gibson was confronted by a Big Flame activist who had become suspicious of him and discovered that he was – as was standard for spycops at the time – using the identity of a dead child. Gibson said that he was indeed using a false identity as he was on the run from the police, and his comrades could not be certain that he was a spy. His deployment was ended shortly afterwards. He is now dead.

Doug Edwards‘ was one of the earliest Special Demonstration Squad officers, deployed between 1968 and 1971. He infiltrated anarchist groups, and says that ‘some of them were quite nasty pieces of work’. He then moved on to the Dambusters Mobilising Committee, a coalition opposed to the huge Cabora Bassa dam project in the then-Portuguese colony of Mozambique, a collaboration between apartheid South Africa, Rhodesia and Portugal to supply electricity to South Africa.

Like so many of his colleagues, he was very active in groups he infiltrated, becoming treasurer of Cuban-founded group Tricontinental. He also describes going to a wedding, showing that ‘collateral intrusion’ into the lives of those around the spied-upon has always been part of how spycops work.

He continues

‘Some of the people in these groups were really nice, pleasant, intelligent people. They were different politically in their views, but in this country you can have different political views.’

He says

‘I think the whole thing has been blown out of proportion… I don’t have anything to hide and I’ll answer all questions, I won’t mind’

But then he immediately backtracks with

‘I don’t want all this dragging up though when it was 50 years ago… I don’t want the interference at my stage of life.’

 

These three bring the total of exposed undercover officers to 23 out of a total of at least 144.

DOORS CLOSING BEFORE THEY OPEN

The three newly named spycops are among 28 whose anonymity has been considered by the inquiry. The Inquiry has published a brief profile of each of them, with a position on their anonymity.

Of the 25 still unnamed:

  • 2 aren’t being named yet but the Chair intends to release the cover names soon
  • 3 are dead with no known cover name, their real names will be published later
  • 2 have no known cover name and the Inquiry won’t release the real name
  • 3 have both cover and real names known and the Chair intends to withhold both
  • 1 has already had the cover name confirmed, and the Chair intends to withhold the real name
  • 3 are undecided pending further information
  • 3 are having secret hearings with the Inquiry before a decision is made
  • 1 has been given more time to apply for anonymity
  • 7 were backroom staff so had no cover name, their real names will be published later

Put another way, they have taken decisions on eight officers and are withholding the cover names of three. This is not a good ratio. Without the publication of the overwhelming majority of cover names we cannot know who was spied on, so we cannot hear from victims and establish the truth.

Mitting is giving a lot of weight to the possible psychological impacts on spycops if they are named, but since when are abusers given protection because exposure would be detrimental to them?

As Pitchford Watcher’s analysis of Mitting’s statement explained

‘In one case, that of ‘HN7’, he has already given a unilateral order for anonymity on the basis of HN7’s mental health. For others, he is accepting that the minimal risk of press intrusion may be sufficient for such anonymity orders, even when there is no risk to safety. In another instance, his main concern is the effect on the widow of an undercover.

‘He also appears to be of the opinion that he can do what he needs to meet the terms of reference of the Inquiry, just by reference to cyphers and cover names, an approach that increases secrecy and further limits participation by those targeted by the undercovers. These core participants believe that in doing this, he is completely disregarding their needs and that they are being denied the right to the truth.’

THE LAWRENCE FAMILY SPY

Of the three officers applying for full anonymity who will have secret hearings before a decision, one is officer N81, who spied on Stephen Lawrence’s family as they campaigned for justice for their murdered son.

Doreen Lawrence has been very clear about the need to know who spied on her, telling the Guardian in 2015

‘They were doing the deception. Why should they be allowed to be anonymous while people like me had their faces all over the newspapers? These people were not innocent. They knew what they were doing.’

This is the key issue at the moment for many of the people targeted. The cover names of the officers and the names of the groups they spied on are not optional or incidental. They are the sole foundation on which the truth can be established. Whether to publish them should not be an issue to wrestle with, it should not be the focus of the discussion, it should be a given.

Inquiry core participant Carolyn Wilson told Pitchford Watcher

‘The police tend to tell us “If you’ve nothing to hide, then you’ve got nothing to fear”. People are trying to come to terms with the very real trauma of finding out they’d been deceived into intimate relationships with cops from these secret units. They are desperate for information so they can deal with what’s happened, and heal their lives.

‘How dare those same cops now have the nerve to claim that they face being “traumatised” by details of their past activities being brought out in public? If they haven’t done anything wrong, why would they be embarrassed about their neighbours and families finding out about it all?’

This inquiry is not about arbitrating between equals. It is about establishing the full truth about the known abuses of power committed by these disgraced units against citizens and democracy. If it does not publish the overwhelming majority of cover names it defies its purpose, protects the guilty and betrays the victims.

New Spycops Public Inquiry Chief Named

Sir John Mitting

Sir John Mitting

Sir John Mitting has been appointed to take over as chair of the public inquiry into undercover policing.

It comes three months after the current Chair, Lord Pitchford, announced he has motor neurone disease and does not expect to be able to complete the inquiry. Mitting will work alongside Pitchford for the time being and will succeed him as chair at an appropriate time.

The inquiry was commissioned in March 2014 after years of revelations about spycops. The three years since have been characterised by police delays and obstructions, and the inquiry has still yet to formally begin.

As a High Court judge, Mitting has had a little involvement with the issue before, ruling in a March 2015 hearing of the case brought against police by activists abused by undercover officer Marco Jacobs.

On that occasion, he orchestrated an ingenious solution to the problem of police saying they would ‘neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND) if Jacobs was their officer. Mitting got them to agree that, while they would not officially drop their stance of NCND, neither would they contest the activists’ assertion that Jacobs was an officer, and if damages are awarded then the police will be liable to pay.

However, there are many elements of Mitting’s professional and personal life that cause serious concern.

JUDGE IN SECRET SPY COURTS

He is vice-president of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), a bizarre secret court dealing with government surveillance cases. It was formed in 2000, when the state realised that surveillance authorised under the new Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act may breach human rights or other law.

Most of its claims are held in secret and not even the spied upon citizen is allowed to be at the hearing. Their lawyers don’t get to be at the hearing either. There is no chance to cross-examine. Complainants just send some papers to the court. In contrast, the police (or whichever state body is accused) and their lawyers are allowed to be at the hearing. The citizens and their lawyers do not get to see what’s in the state’s submissions – they may omit evidence that incriminates them, or invent evidence about the citizens. The court then considers the case and makes a decision. It gives no reasoning for its decision. It doesn’t even have to confirm whether the citizens were under surveilance. The citizens cannot appeal the judgement.

It’s unsurprising that it finds in favour of the state over 99% of the time. Between its formation in 2000 and 2012, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal upheld 10 complaints out of 1,468.

Kate Wilson, who was abused by undercover officer Mark Kennedy, has a case pending at the IPT.

From 2007-2012 Mitting sat as a judge in the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. This is another Kafkaesque secret court, dealing with applications to deport people accused of being a threat to national security.

The cases are based on secret evidence which has never been heard by either the appellants themselves or their lawyers. In many of the cases, a return to their country of origin would be likely to result in detention and a high risk of torture.

Whilst Mitting was involved in a number of cases, the judgements that have come to prominence are ones that have been unpopular with the press, such as ordering the release of Abu Qatada and preventing the deportation of an Algerian terror suspect on humans rights grounds.

INSTITUTIONAL SEXISM

Mitting’s entry in Who’s Who reads:

MITTING, Hon. Sir John Edward

Kt 2001

Hon. Mr Justice Mitting

Born 8 Oct. 1947; s of late Alison Kennard Mitting and Eleanor Mary Mitting; m 1977, Judith Clare (née Hampson); three s

a Judge of the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, since 2001

Education
Downside Sch.; Trinity Hall, Cambridge (BA, LLB)

Career
Called to the Bar, Gray’s Inn, 1970, Bencher, 1996; QC 1987; a Recorder, 1988–2001; Chm., Special Immigration Appeal Commn, 2007–12; Vice-Pres., Investigatory Powers Tribunal, 2015–

Recreations
Wine, food, bridge

Club
Garrick

Address
Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, WC2A 2LL

The mention of the Garrick Club is noteworthy. It’s an elite London ‘gentleman’s club’ that is one of the last to prohibit women from becoming members. That a bastion of codified sexism is Mitting’s choice of environment is of serious concern as he takes charge of an inquiry with institutional sexism and abuse of women at its core.

Incidentally, the Garrick Club was the scene of a confrontation between Mitting and former Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, who Mitting had ruled against in the Plebgate case, ordering him to pay substantial damages to a police officer Mitchell had insulted.

The appointment of a spycops Chair whose past is at odds with the aim of the public inquiry does not necessarily doom the process to failure. When the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry were given Sir William MacPherson, the family campaign saw his history regarding cases with racial elements and tried to have him removed. They failed, yet MacPherson appeared truly outraged at what he found and issued a damning report that forced the police to admit they were institutionally racist, and recommended reform of state institutions far beyond the police.

WHICH KIND OF CHANGE?

With Pitchford stepping down, there is an opportunity to change the structure of the inquiry. As the Hillsborough families showed, even with its most powerful tool – a judge-led public inquiry – the state is not very good at investigating state wrongdoing.

The Child Sexual Abuse inquiry which, like the undercover policing inquiry, was commissioned in 2014 but has yet to properly begin, has lurched from crisis to crisis and is now on its fourth Chair.

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry had the benefit of a panel of lay members, familiar with the issues, who played an important role in adding a broader dimension to the chair’s work. The undercover policing inquiry covers many of the same issues as the Lawrence inquiry (and indeed the Lawrence campaign and family themselves). It also deals with abuse of people who have been campaigning against state and other power. To be effective it must have input from people who understand those perspectives and subcultures.

This inquiry is not about mere serious allegations of officers’ wrongdoing, but proven and systemic abuse of citizens. It is not there to arbitrate between police and activists, but to uncover the full facts of this victim/perpetrator situation. The voices of the abused must be heard above the police who lied for decades and, since discovery, have done all in their power to avoid accountability and keep the truth hidden.

Spycops Victims Boycott Scottish Inquiry

HMICS whitewashPeople spied upon by Britiain’s political secret police in Scotland are boycotting the forthcoming Scottish review of the issue, saying ‘it cannot be trusted’ and branding it ‘pointless’.

The review by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) was commissioned by the Scottish government. Although most known officers from the disgraced units were active in Scotland, the Home Office has limited the full-scale public inquiry to events in England and Wales. The Scottish government – supported by every party in Holyrood – formally asked for inclusion but were rebuffed in July last year.

The Scottish government responded by asking HMICS to do a review, but only of events in Scotland since 2000.

Now eighteen people have written to HMICS, decrying both the remit and the choice of the body itself.

Most of them were so heavily spied upon that they are among the 200 people designated core participants at the London-based public inquiry. They include several women who were deceived into relationships by undercover officers and have received an abject apology from the Metropolitan Police.

Others were only targeted in Scotland and so cannot be part of that inquiry. Among them are former MSP Frances Curran and climate activist Tilly Gifford who is bringing a case to force a judicial review of Scotland’s exclusion.

Many were also on the illegal construction industry blacklist, despite never having worked in that trade. Several hundred activists were on the list as every constabulary’s Special Branch illegally supplied it with the details of people who were politically active.

‘The HMICS review has none of the muscle it takes to bring the truth to light, even if it were within the remit and was so disposed.

‘There is little point in another report that simply says things were wrong but it has all changed now. We and the Scottish public need proper answers. We want to know the truth of who spied on us, how we were targeted and why police thought they could get away with it. Without that truth there is no path to justice.’

The group add that they ‘do not want to be complicit with measures that treat a violation as less serious if it occurs on Scottish soil’.

Citing earlier reviews in England as inadequate, they call for an entirely different approach that puts the abused first, rather than leaving everything to the abusers and their colleagues;

‘the HMICS review should be scrapped and replaced by something that is credible to all sides and to the public at large’.

 


The full text of the letter:

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland
1st Floor West
St Andrew’s House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

27 April 2017

Dear HMICS,

Re: Review of Undercover Policing in Scotland

We were spied upon by undercover political secret police officers in Scotland. Some of us were spied on to such a significant extent that we are core participants at the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI), yet the same officers committing the same acts against us in Scotland will not be considered by the UCPI. Some of us were only spied upon in Scotland and so are ignored by the UCPI. We all deserve the truth, as do the Scottish public whose democratic rights have been interfered with.

In 2011, when the truth of what had been done to us came to public attention, we were met with denials from senior police, and sham inquiries that were narrow investigations by police officers. We have no faith in police investigating themselves. We said these reviews were not sufficiently transparent, robust or independent to satisfy public concern and would not come close to addressing all of the issues raised. We were proven right.

As the scale of what went on became clearer and the content of many of these reports – including one from your sister body HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) – were discredited, more serious action was taken. Mark Ellison’s reviews were followed by the announcement of the UCPI. Its exclusion of events in Scotland is a serious limitation. Most of the exposed officers were active in the country and the truth of what happened in Scotland is just as important as it is in England.

For the Scottish Government to commission a review by HMICS is a retrograde step. It is much like the response we had in 2011; police self-investigating a tiny part of what happened, a fob-off to give the appearance of doing something.

We are far beyond that now. We are not dealing with allegations, but proven abuses. This includes officers initiating and furthering intimate relationships with women in Scotland, which the Metropolitan Police has conceded was a violation of human rights and an abuse of police power. It warrants comprehensive and impartial investigation, which we have no faith HMICS is capable of delivering.

Firstly, there is a mater of trust. HMICS is a body of career police officers investigating their colleagues. On that basis alone, it cannot be trusted.

The proposal to look at two disgraced units that were, at the time in question, overseen by the current chief constable of Scotland (whose wife works for your sister organisation, HMIC). This makes it even harder to feign independence. Additionally, the review is being led by Stephen Whitelock who has been working in and alongside the posts that deployed undercover officers, including authorising Strathclyde’s deployments of the abusive Met officers this review examines. The decision to choose him and HMICS gives the appearance of corruption. We cannot think of anyone less appropriate to be doing this.

Secondly, there is a matter of scope. The HMICS remit is limited to events since 2000, a fraction of the lifetime of the units. Among the many outrages committed was the targeting of women through intimate relationships, the use of stolen identities of dead children and the illegal blacklisting of construction workers, environmental and community campaigners. All of these took place in Scotland before 2000 but the investigation will treat them as if they did not happen. To ignore such a significant part of the pattern of abuses makes the investigation unable to see anything like the whole picture and renders it pointless.

Thirdly, there is the element of HMICS’ power to investigate. We have battled for years to get as far as we have, faced by a police culture that will do anything it can to avoid accountability. We have some hope that the UCPI, with its power to compel witnesses who give testimony under oath, might elicit some truth. The HMICS review has none of the muscle it takes to bring the truth to light, even if it were within the remit and was so disposed.

There is little point in another report that simply says things were wrong but it has all changed now. We and the Scottish public need proper answers. We want to know the truth of who spied on us, how we were targeted and why police thought they could get away with it. Without that truth there is no path to justice. There is also no means for the Scottish public to learn how these undemocratic abuses came about and so put steps in place to ensure they do not happen again.

No police report to date has offered anything like that and there is no reason to believe HMICS could, let alone would, do so.

We believe the Justice Secretary should have spoken to those of us abused by these officers in Scotland before deciding on an appropriate course of action. Instead, he spoke only to police and their satellite bodies and then hired them.

We do not want to be complicit with measures that treat a violation as less serious if it occurs on Scottish soil. The HMICS review should be scrapped and replaced by something that is credible to all sides and to the public at large.

The Scottish public and those abused in Scotland deserve a proper Inquiry into the abuses committed by political undercover policing units, just as those in England and Wales deserved one.

Andrea
Alison
Claire Fauset
Donal O’Driscoll
Dr Nick McKerrell
Frances Curran
Harry Halpin
Helen Steel
Jason Kirkpatrick
John Jordan
Kate Wilson
Kim Bryan
Lindsay Keenan
Lisa
Martin Shaw
Merrick Cork
Olaf Bayer
Tilly Gifford

Pitchford Inquiry Brands the Met ‘Incompetent’

'Undercover is no Excuse for Abuse' banner at the High CourtLast week a crucial battle in the undercover policing scandal saw unprecedented moments when the Inquiry chair labelled the Metropolitan Police incompetent and ill-prepared. Pitchford Watcher was in court and looks at what led to this and what it may mean for the future direction of the Inquiry.

At the heart of the Pitchford Inquiry into Undercover Policing one issue towers above all: the release of the cover-names of the undercover officers who targeted protest movements.

For many involved there can be no truth or justice without answers – and for that they need to know who spied on them. Not necessarily who the cops are in real life, but the cover-names used by police posing as activists to infiltrate their campaigns, their friendships, their families and beds, who deceived and abused them. From the start, for the ‘Non Police, Non State Core Participants’ as the subjects of police spying are awkwardly termed, meeting this has been the primary pre-requisite for justice.

It is fair to say that the Metropolitan Police blanched at this demand. This sort of scrutiny of their dark arts is their worst nightmare, one they go extraordinary lengths to avoid. Over the last few decades they are known to have let large cases collapse rather than provide this disclosure.

It is no less true of the six-year civil case brought by women deceived into relationships. There, in a highly unusual move, the Met conceded and gave an unconditional apology. It effectively ended the case, just at the moment when the police were about to be forced to disclose. However, without answers, there was no closure for the women.

The women who fought that long battle do not give up so easily. Two of them, Helen Steel and Kate Wilson, spoke at last week’s hearing. It was their sometimes emotional (and rightfully so) submissions, that brought the damning statements from Pitchford. Though tetchy and constantly interrupting the pair, who were clearly frustrated with the police delays, he was unstinting in his own criticism of the police.

POLICE RESISTING ACCOUNTABILITY

To understand the significance of those comments, we need to take a step back and understand the lead-up to the issues facing the Inquiry. Since the Inquiry began in 2014 it has been dogged by problems, many of a legal nature. The police have constantly fought the release of any details, claiming the need to protect both undercover policing as a tactic and the welfare of undercover officers. It is an uphill battle as they are clearly defending the indefensible in this case. However, as the women in their court case discovered, the police are nothing if not tenacious, and are equally willing to spend large amount of taxpayers’ money to defend their reputation.

For some non-state/police core participants, it feels like a rugby match, each scrum a bruising push towards the final line. Though slowly advancing, each gain in the fight comes with personal costs in what is already a horrendous story. The interventions by Steel and Wilson last week attested to this. It was little surprise that every time the police promised co-operation, those in the public gallery laughed bitterly.

Though, what emerged is that the Inquiry is having its own direct experience of the police failing to meaningfully deliver, despite said promises.

Last year the Inquiry overruled police applications to have the Public Inquiry in private. Pitchford said cover-names would be released unless there was good reason not to. Where arguments to not release existed, these would be dealt via Restriction Orders – in turn evidenced with risk assessments setting out the dangers facing officers if cover and real names were revealed. Thus, risk assessments became pivotal to the process.

DELAYS UPON DELAYS

The first tranche of restriction order applications were due October 2016. Instead, what happened was a farce: friends of undercovers were chosen as risk assessors and had to be dropped; others fell by the way for different reasons. The Inquiry itself had to intervene heavily in the process, including providing specific guidance on what an acceptable risk assessment amounted to. In Pitchford’s words:

the Metropolitan Police were not the experts in risk assessment they claimed to be.

Pitchford has been clear that without the cover-names released the Inquiry cannot proceed. The suspicion in some quarters is that the Met are taking this as that is a guide on how to obstruct. Again, as the Chair told their barrister last week:

This process does not work if you take a year to give me a risk assessment.

For the normally highly restrained language of courts, all these are all harsh words, and damaging to the Metropolitan Police’s reputation. The Met had no real response either: the process had collapsed and needed rebuilding. The October 2016 deadline passed and a new one, the 31st March this year was put in place. At the Inquiry’s request, progress updates moved from monthly to fortnightly. Still, the March deadline was missed as the Metropolitan Police were unable to submit any risk assessments, and worse, applied for an extension until October 2017.

If Pitchford and the Inquiry team were frustrated, those spied upon were incensed. Not least as the Inquiry seemed to be accepting the for now familiar police stalling tactics. However, when Dan Squires, counsel for the non-police/state participants, raised that the police delays were deliberate, Pitchford was quick to step in and disapprove of the suggestion.

However, Pitchford perhaps underestimated, as the police had, the tenacity of those most affected. They were not having it, and were prepared to say so. Kate Wilson and Helen Steel stood up and reiterated the core demands: stop the delays and release the cover names.

Addressing court was clearly a painful experience for them, and frequent interruptions by a seemingly irascible Pitchford made it harder. They were talking from personal experience of having their lives invaded, but this was not simply an account of wrong doing: they had serious points to make about police behaviour.

Building on Squires’ points, they went further, demanding the Inquiry took a stronger grip of the situation and to stop leaving all the power in the hands of the police, the very people being charged with abuse. It was in the face of this that Pitchford’s clear irritation finally broke through. He acknowledged their distress, but again refuted the allegation that it was deliberate. However, this time he tempered it with his trenchant criticism levelled against the Metropolitan Police of incompetency, failure to plan and lack of foresight.

SELECTIVE SECURITY

The police tried a number of tactics, including pleading anxiety on behalf of some officers, and the claim of the need to protect operational secrets. Yet, they had no answer for the point that there had recently been a steady release of court cases and news stories where cover-names have been published as part of prosecution evidence. This included cases involving ISIS and serious organised crime. As Helen Steel remarked, it smelled more of a fight over reputation.

There is little doubt she was right. The Metropolitan Police had scored an own goal, seeking to protect its reputation on one front resulted in it being damaged overall. Pitchford for the most part gave them an easy ride, but when pushed it finally became clear that the Met had not just been given enough rope to hang themselves, but had put their neck into the noose.

Other police forces are clearly paying attention and looking at more nuanced approaches. For instance, the National Police Chiefs’ Council submitted that cover-names could be released if the real names were given automatic anonymity.

Just before the hearing it appears the Met realised the danger it faced. It would not be good if the new Commissioner was formally summoned to give explanation in person, as the Inquiry has the powers to do (a possible outcome of a Section 21 Order under the Inquiries Act). Thus, on the first day of the hearing they produced a much revised and more ambitious timetable. They went from complaining how difficult it would be to get anything in place before October, to promising the first tranche of 22 applications by 1st June, more by 1st August, and by 1st October all 150 affected SDS officers (undercovers and back-room alike) to be risk assessed, and where necessary restriction order applications submitted.

This is just the Special Demonstration Squad officers, and does not include the officers from the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, whose 50+ undercovers have apparently all indicated they want to make restriction orders. Nevertheless, where the Met goes, other forces are likely to follow.

The battle of the cover names has taken a big step forward, though is only half-completed. Pitchford has still to agree to this new timetable, then the police need to actually make the applications. There will then follow hearings to determine what will be restricted and what will be released, possibly using a system of benchmarks rulings to guide the police.

IT’S NOT GOING AWAY

The Inquiry was supposed to be completed by 2018. Now, evidence will not be heard until 2019, and as one barrister noted, at this rate the final report will not be submitted until 2022. That is eight years after it was first announced, eleven after Mark Kennedy, Jim Boyling, Bob Lambert and others were all first exposed. Few are surprised by this, after all Pitchford is relatively new to a fight that started four years before he became involved, and for some a cause spanning over two decades.

The spycops scandal continues to be a poison pill for the Metropolitan Police. Last week, it path walked them into a quandary over their reputation. Either they were incompetent and terrible at risk assessment; or they are not, in which case the delays have all been deliberate. It is clear there is a divide between those spied upon and the Inquiry who believes which.

One wonders how much it played a role in the recent sideways move for the man charged with heading up the Met’s response, Martin Hewitt. He has since moved sideways to head up Territorial Policing, with his role now occupied by Fiona Taylor.

Another open question is what incoming Commissioner Cressida Dick makes of it all. She has inherited a problem from her predecessor Bernard Hogan-Howe who took a somewhat belligerent approach to the issue. Yet, it was on her watch that the report that finally buried the Special Demonstration Squad was drawn up, labelling it a rogue unit without moral compass. However, she has her own skeletons and inconvenient connections into the spycops scandal, not the least being that the Special Demonstration Squad spied upon the de Menezes family justice campaign, a shooting she gave the go-ahead for. How much this will come back to haunt her remains unknown.

In the meantime, campaigners are waiting for the 1st June deadline to come around, in equal measures sceptical and hopeful that answers will finally start emerging.

The submissions made by all core participants and transcripts of the hearings of 5th & 6th April can be found at UCPI.org.uk.

The author attended the two hearings in person on 5th & 6th April.

Originally published on Pitchford Watcher.

Update on Seeking Spycops Justice Outside England & Wales

Most Known Spycops Worked Outside England & WalesAs children in school we are taught that the best way to organise a nation in the interest of its citizens is with a democratic system, and that this system can’t be flawed because of its checks and balances. Yet recently the Irish government has been proving that the opposite is true, it is operating to protect itself and its security apparatus against the best interests of the people.

This situation has arisen after British police admitted human rights abuses done by their undercover police officers who violated human rights of a number of women by having intimate relations with them during operations.

Four of these officers so far have also been exposed as having operated in Ireland, and victims now demand answers about who was responsible for such international political policing. Yet despite being confronted on the topic by oppositional MPs, Irish government representatives repeatedly say that the issue of exposing the truth and having a transparent inquiry into the abuse ‘does not arise’. Such a position made by any elected official can only serve to chip away at faith in the system they represent.

The continually growing secret policing scandal led then-UK Home Secretary Theresa May to create the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI) to look into two political undercover policing units, but with a remit limited to England and Wales. It had also been revealed that most outed undercover officers had operated abroad in a total of at least 17 countries, including the officers who were in Ireland: Mark Kennedy, John Dines, Jim Boyling and Mark Jenner.

Among targeted Irish groups were those opposed to genetically engineered crop testing and Shell to Sea, a group concerned with protecting fisheries and the environment in County Mayo.

Despite the fact that most known officers went abroad, due to its remit the UCPI refuses to properly examine activity outside England and Wales. Civil rights campaigners and parliamentarians outside England and Wales have responded with demands for answers.

On 8 February 2017 the Irish Justice Minister Francis Fitzgerald replied to a Parliamentary Question by answering

‘should anything emerge from the findings of the UK’s Undercover Policing Inquiry that would be relevant to policing in this jurisdiction I will consider it fully and take any action that may be required’.

However, the minister is either bluffing or is not aware that nothing relating to any events occurring outside England and Wales will be investigated by the UCPI, thus rendering her argument meaningless.

Further problems have arisen from excluding jurisdictions outside England and Wales. High-level German interest in being included in the UCPI stems from scandal around illegal activities by undercover officer Mark Kennedy. On this basis, German MPs Andrej Hunko and Hans-Christian Stroebele moved to have the Home Office include Germany in the UCPI.

The Home Office Minister of State for Policing, Mike Penning, responded on 13 November 2015. He referred to the original terms being limited to England and Wales, and continued,

‘The Inquiry team has confirmed that they would encourage witnesses to provide a complete picture when submitting their evidence, although they will need to consider evidence against the terms of reference’.

This clearly meant evidence of events occurring outside England and Wales could be submitted, but would not be examined fully by the Inquiry. More, it meant that issues around activity abroad cannot be mentioned if they don’t directly connect with actions in England and Wales.

After further scandal about UK undercover operations in Germany were exposed in the press and questioned in Parliament, the German Interior Ministry confirmed that on 31 May 2016 they had formally asked the UK Home Office to extend to the UCPI to include British undercover operations in Germany.

However on 14 September 2016 the German Interior Ministry wrote to MPs Hunko and Stroebele, saying that he had received a communication from Brandon Lewis in the UK Home Office stating that in order to prevent further delay to the UCPI and improve public trust in the work of the police, they refused to include undercover operations in Germany into the remit of the Inquiry.

A legal action was begun in Germany by UCPI witness and Core Participant Jason Kirkpatrick on 20 July 2016, based upon Kirkpatrick’s having been targeted numerous times in Germany by Mark Kennedy. The UK government flatly refused to extend the UCPI to Germany, stating:

‘The particular high profile allegations which prompted the decision to commence an Inquiry were primarily if not exclusively about events said to have originated from English and Welsh police forces, and alleged to have occurred in England and Wales. They were about alleged miscarriages of justice, alleged sexual relationships between male undercover officers and members of the public’.

The sexual relationships are, by the police’s own admission, a violation of human rights and an abuse of police power. The fact that women (British and otherwise) have suffered the same abuse outside of England and Wales appears to be something the Home Secretary hopes to not hear, see or speak of.

Education of the Irish Justice Minister is ongoing, and it is hoped she will also soon request inclusion in the UCPI just as her German, Northern Irish and Scottish counterparts have done.

Despite Irish government intransigence and the UK’s rebuffing of German and Scottish attempts to be included in the UCPI, there is still hope elsewhere. A case brought in Northern Ireland recently has led to judicial review of the British government’s refusal to widen the UCPI. That court date is expected to be towards the end of 2017.

Amidst growing concern about whether the UCPI would ‘follow the evidential trail’ beyond England and Wales, solicitors for the activist Core Participants in the Inquiry recently sought clarification from UCPI staff. On 1 November 2016 the UCPI solicitor Piers Doggert wrote,

‘it is likely that the activities of some of the undercover police who will be examined by the Inquiry will have taken them outside of the jurisdiction of England and Wales during the period in question. They may have travelled with other non-state witnesses and both may wish in due course to give evidence about this. In so far as what occurred during that period forms part of the wider narrative of tasking of the officer, or the relationship under consideration, then that evidence will be received by the Inquiry and may form part of the narrative within the final report.

‘However, the Inquiry will not attempt to form any judgement about the legality or propriety within a jurisdiction outside of England and Wales of the actions of an undercover police officer from England and Wales; the terms of reference preclude it from doing so’.

In other words, no matter what crimes and abuses an officer committed abroad, if it can’t be made to relate to actions in England and Wales the Inquiry won’t even hear it; and even the deeds they do hear about cannot be properly taken into account.

Clearly this situation is absolutely unacceptable. If justice is to be done by the UCPI, then it needs to truly follow the evidential trail wherever these spycops have committed their abuses. To force this to happen, more victims of their spying will have to continue telling their stories to the press, speaking out in public, pushing supportive politicians to fight for us, and bringing forward legal actions.

As the public continues to hear our stories and our voices grow stronger, we can already start to savour a taste of the justice that we can create for ourselves, as we begin to see this corrupt political policing house of cards tumbling down.

Lord Pitchford has Motor Neurone Disease

Lord Justice Pitchford

Lord Justice Pitchford

Lord Pitchford, chair of the public inquiry into undercover policing, has motor neurone disease (MND).

The incurable degenerative condition damages parts of the nervous system. As it progresses, symptoms spread to other parts of the body and the condition becomes more debilitating. Life expectancy for about half of those with the condition is three years from the start of symptoms.

However, some people may live for up to 10 years, and in rarer circumstances even longer (for example, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed in 1963).

Eventually, a person with motor neurone disease may be unable to move. Communicating, swallowing and breathing may also become very difficult. In up to 15% of cases, MND is associated with frontotemporal dementia that can affect personality and behaviour.

His diagnosis has implications for the long-term process of the public inquiry. Last week the Inquiry conceded it was ‘increasingly unlikely that the Inquiry will undertake evidence hearings in 2017’, projecting it to begin in 2018, four years after the Home Office announced it.

Today they Inquiry issued a statement explaining:

‘Sir Christopher is keen to continue for as long as he is able to do so, and the Inquiry and Home Secretary are committed to supporting him to do so. Alongside the continuation of our work, contingency arrangements are being made for the appointment of a further judicial office holder as an additional panel member with a view to that panel member succeeding Sir Christopher as chairman of the Inquiry at an appropriate time.’

Lord Pitchford added

‘I very much regret that my diagnosis and the progression of my physical symptoms mean that I shall not be able to complete the work of the Inquiry. However, I wish to assure the Inquiry’s core participants and the public that the Inquiry’s work continues unabated and that, with the support of the Home Secretary and the Lord Chief Justice, for which I am grateful, the transitional arrangements that are being put in place will ensure its continuity when the time comes for me to step down as Chairman.’

Our sympathies are with Christopher Pitchford and his family.

Union Leaders Call for Hogan-Howe to Explain Shredding

Bernard Hogan-Howe

Bernard Hogan-Howe

Last week the Independent Police Complaints Commission confirmed that the Metropolitan Police destroyed ‘a large number of documents’ from the spycops’ files.

It took place in May 2014, shortly after the Home Secretary had announced the public inquiry into undercover policing, and Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe had promised full co-operation.

It’s well established that, despite being legal, democratic organisations, trade unions were a prime target of spycops. Special Demonstration Squad officer Mark Jenner joined construction union UCATT under his false identity of Mark Cassidy and was a regular on picket lines. This Wednesday sees our Spycops & Strikers event in London, marking the 40th anniversary of the iconic Grunwick strike and the prolonged repression of unions then and since.

Every constabulary’s Special Branch has routinely supplied the construction industry blacklist with personal information about political activists. That activity, like the shredding is police officers actively breaking the law to uphold things they appear to feel are more important, corporate profit and police power.

Bernard Hogan-Howe has a history of covering up the spycops scandal. It’s time he told the truth.

This open letter from union leaders was released this morning.


We the undersigned are outraged at the news that despite court orders to the contrary, the Metropolitan Police Service has destroyed evidence required for use in the Undercover Policing Public Inquiry. State spying on trade unions and political campaigns is a human rights scandal that affects millions of British citizens.

Despite continued reassurances, the Pitchford Inquiry has failed to secure the documents that will be central to the investigation. Trade union core participants are beginning to question whether the Inquiry team has the ability to stop the police from obstructing the pursuit of justice. Lord Justice Pitchford needs to act now to restore our faith.

We are calling on Lord Justice Pitchford to announce an urgent Inquiry hearing to examine the destruction of evidence by the police. The Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe should be forced to give evidence under oath to explain why, how and under whose authority documents have been destroyed.

Lord Justice Pitchford needs to take immediate measures to secure all documentation held by the police, in order to prevent future destruction and avoid the entire inquiry descending into a hugely expensive cover-up on the part of the Metropolitan Police.

SIGNED:

Len McCluskey (General Secretary) and Gail Cartmail (Acting General Secretary) UNITE the Union, incorporating UCATT

Matt Wrack (General Secretary) Fire Brigades Union

Chris Kitchen (General Secretary) National Union of Mineworkers

Tim Roache (General Secretary) GMB union

Mick Cash (General Secretary) Rail Maritime and Transport union

Dave Ward (General Secretary) Communication Workers Union

Michelle Stanistreet (General Secretary) National Union of Journalists

Dave Smith and Royston Bentham (joint secretaries) Blacklist Support Group

Dave Smith, blacklisted construction worker and himself a core participant in the undercover policing inquiry commented:

‘The Pitchford inquiry has been running for nearly two years and so far not a single document has been disclosed to our lawyers and not a single witness has given evidence. The delay is entirely due to police attempts to try and keep their dirty secrets away from public scrutiny. The police are no longer just obstructing justice, by shredding evidence they are in contempt of court.

We demand to know who gave the order and whether criminal charges will be brought against them. The more this scandal unfolds, the more apparent it is that the Met Police think they are above the law. This has got to stop.’

Judicial Review of NI Exclusion from Spycops Inquiry

Jason Kirkpatrick & Kate Wilson, Belfast High Court, 7 February 2017

Jason Kirkpatrick & Kate Wilson were both spied on by Mark Kennedy. Belfast High Court, 7 February 2017

A judge at Belfast High Court gave permission yesterday for a Judicial Review of the Home Secretary’s insistence that the Pitchford Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI) should not consider activities of police spies in Northern Ireland.

The case was brought by Jason Kirkpatrick, an anti-globalisation activist who is a Core Participant in the UCPI because he was spied on by Mark Kennedy in England.

However, Kennedy also spent more significant time spying on Kirkpatrick in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Germany. He has been told that although he can give evidence on that to the Pitchford inquiry if he wants, it will not be followed up, and it will not be included in the Undercover Policing Inquiry report because the terms of reference only cover England and Wales.

His legal representatives, Darragh Macken from KRW Law and Ben Emmerson and Jude Bunting of Doughty Street, argued that it is absurd for Pitchford to investigate the activities of officers such as Mark Kennedy in England and Wales but for that investigation to simply stop at the border when he enters Northern Ireland and restart again when he gets back to England or Wales.

This argument has been supported by two different Northern Irish Ministers of Justice who have written to the Home Secretary stating that it is ‘imperative‘ that the inquiry be able to follow the evidence of the activities of undercover officers working for UK units such as the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) if they are found to have crossed into Northern Ireland.

The court then heard that the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have now been told by the Metropolitan Police in London that officers from the SDS and NPOIU entered Northern Ireland on a number of occasions and also spied on the families of people murdered in Northern Ireland.

At least one Northern Irish family has already been approached by the Metropolitan Police to inform them officers from the SDS attended demonstrations supporting their campaign, and another family will be contacted soon.

PSNI’s Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton says they were ‘completely blind’ to the fact that that undercover officers from these controversial undercover units were even entering Northern Ireland, let alone spying on political activists there. This raises serious questions about authorisation and accountability, as well as the dangers officers put themselves and others in. Hamilton described the deployments as ‘an act of madness’.

The PSNI have now reviewed thousands of documents provided by the Met relating to activities of these officers in Northern Ireland of which, they say, they were previously unaware, and there is still a lot of material to review. They warned that there is a possibility some of those activities may have implications for legacy investigations into the Troubles. Because of this, the PSNI has also written to the Home Secretary to say that the terms of reference of the Pitchford Inquiry must be opened up to include Northern Ireland.

Ben Emmerson QC bluntly accused the Home Office of taking a ‘brass monkey attitude’ of ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil – just turn a blind eye’ and described their decision-making process as ‘hopeless… flawed from the top to bottom and frankly embarrassingly bad’.

For their part, counsel for the Home Secretary appeared to have little to say, although they did claim that there is no need to expand the terms of reference. Apparently they believe the Pitchford Inquiry was not set up to consider ‘every specific incident’, and that the terms of reference only require it to look at ‘more general, systemic issues’, for which, counsel claimed, a few examples of incidents from England and Wales would be sufficient.

Letters from the Home Office also indicated that the ‘particular history of Northern Ireland’ means that extending the investigation to Northern Ireland could be ‘costly’ and is ‘not in the public interest’.

The judge, Mr Justice Maguire, seemed to disagree, and granted leave to have a full Judicial Review, which will take place in about 10 weeks’ time.

He commented that perhaps, in the future, the Home Office will be able to provide compelling reasons why they should not open the inquiry up to include this jurisdiction. They certainly did not manage to do so yesterday.

All this raises the question of Scottish inclusion in the Pitchford Inquiry. The majority of known spycops were in Scotland. Every party in the Scottish Parliament backed their government’s call to be covered by the Inquiry, but the Home Office refused.

The Scottish government responded by commissioning a whitewash from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland. This self-investigation by police, including those implicated in undercover work, could scarcely be less credible, even before the government restricted it to only looking at the last few years of police spying.

It has been derided by campaigners who insist that if abuses are serious enough to warrant a proper public inquiry in England and Wales then they must not be ignored elsewhere. Scottish eyes will be watching Belfast in ten weeks’ time.

Official: Rod Richardson was a Spycop

NPOIU officer known as Rod Richardson

NPOIU officer known as Rod Richardson

It’s official – Rod Richardson was an undercover police officer. His real name is still unknown – he stole the identity of a boy who died as a baby – but it’s no longer disputed that he was with the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.

He was one of the unit’s first officers, infiltrating anti-capitalist, anti-fascist and environmental groups in London and Nottigham from 1999 to 2003, when he was replaced by Mark Kennedy.

The Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing announced today that there will be no application to withhold his cover identity from their forthcoming proceedings, though he will be applying for anonymity for his real identity.

This comes less than a month after the Inquiry confirmed the officers known as Marco Jacobs and Carlo Neri were spycops.

Whilst this is not a bad thing, it is not to be celebrated. It is merely telling us what we already know. Richardson was unmasked by activists he spied on nearly four years ago.

Furthermore, the only reason we know these men were spycops is because their targets investigated and exposed them – a practice criticised by the inquiry and thunderously condemned by the Metropolitan Police.

We should remember that the state have now confirmed a clutch of officers who were discovered by chance. It might just have easily been any of the other 100+ other spycops who were exposed, and conversely the known officers may well have gone undetected. If that had happened then presumably the Inquiry would be confirming those other identities while the Met claimed that it was vital for the safety of the unknown Neri, Richardson and co not to be exposed.

The fact that officers and their bosses feel that it’s fine for the public to know the cover names absolutely shreds the Met’s waffle about security. It shows that it is safe to release all the cover names, as most of the Inquiry’s core participants have demanded.

The only reason that we are meeting such resistance is because the police don’t want to face the outrage that would erupt if the public knew the true scale of what was done.

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

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

These new confirmations also expose the cruelty of the Met hiding behind ‘neither confirm nor deny’, refusing to tell Barbara Shaw, mother of the real Rod Richardson, anything about the state’s theft of her dead son’s identity.

It also makes a mockery of the refusal to confirm the other exposed officers. Several, including John Dines and Mark Jenner, have an even greater body of information in the public domain including their real names. It is insulting and farcical for the police to refuse to admit what everyone has known for years.

As we have amply demonstrated, the ‘policy’ of Neither Confirm Nor Deny is merely a tactic used when it suits their desire to avoid accountability. It’s past time for it to end.

Today’s admission does not give us any satisfaction. Instead, it galvanises our anger at years of stonewalling by the police, compounding their damage with a gruelling second injustice against people they abused.

The unconvincing excuses are running out. Everyone who was targeted by these disgraced counter-democratic secret police has a right to know. Every family whose dead child’s identity was stolen by them has a right to know. They always have had. The time has come.