Content tagged with "Public Inquiry"

New Spycops to Be Named But Still Hidden

Table of 12 undercover officers with 'HN' numbers, rfleleased by Inquiry 15 January 2017

The public inquiry into Britain’s political secret police has issued brief notes on applications for anonymity by another cluster of officers. As usual, these former spycops who invaded people’s lives want to have their true identities kept from their victims.

The Inquiry intends to release the cover names of most of them. After last week’s announcement concerning five officers whose real and cover names the Inquiry intends to keep secret, this is a bit of improvement. However there are still some fundamental flaws that undermine the Inquiry’s stated desire of uncovering the truth.

Known by their HN-numbers, there are 12 ex-spycops in the new list. The Inquiry is still looking into officers HN9 and HN66. Officers HN61 and HN819 are backroom staff, so there are no cover names involved, and presumably we will get their real and cover names.

As for the other eight, the Inquiry does not intend to release any of their real names, but wants to release the cover names of seven. They are all men. Here’s the rundown:

NEW NAMES COMING

HN13 is now dead. He was deployed 1974-78, thought to be infiltrating the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) though the name of the group may be wrong. He was prosecuted twice under his false name, one of these leading to conviction. His widow wants her husband’s memory left in peace. However, the police risk assessor thinks there is no chance of the cover name leading to the real name, so the Inquiry intends to release that.

HN109 is a mystery. Neither the real nor cover name will be made public and we cannot be told why. We just have to trust the veracity of what the police told the Inquiry.

The Undercover Research Group have done a characteristically meticulous job of cross-referencing the new information with what’s already known, and have found that HN109 was around the spying on Stephen Lawrence’s family.

The Inquiry’s Chair, John Mitting, has said getting definitive answers about spying on the Lawrences ‘is one of the central issues which the Inquiry must investigate’, yet he intends to keep this officer completely hidden.

HN296 infiltrated an unnamed left wing group from 1975-75.

HN304 infiltrated ‘a number of non-violent groups’ from 1976-79.

HN339 infiltrated two unspecified groups between 1970 and 1974.

HN340 was deployed against an unnamed group from 1969-72, and reported on others.

HN354 infiltrated an unspecified group 1976-79 and admits to ‘two fleeting relationships’ with women he spied on.

HN356/124. This one was accidentally given two numbers. Now dead, he infiltrated the Socialist Workers Party from 1977-81. He was on the April 1979 anti-racist demonstration in Southall where Blair Peach was killed by police.

NO NAMES, NO TRUTH

Time and again in the new list, the Inquiry says that publication of these officers’ cover names

‘may serve a purpose: to prompt former members of the group against which he was deployed to provide information about his deployment.’

Indeed, it is the only way those who were spied upon can be prompted to come forward. Without a cover name, an officer remains in the dark forever. This is why we are so insistent that all cover names be released.

We have no faith in the self-reporting of officers about their abuses, nor in their ex-colleagues who are carrying out the risk assessments on behalf of the police for the Inquiry. Any public servant should be publicly accountable, let alone one from a covert institution guilty of so many serious abuses that it needed a public inquiry into its misdeeds.

Even those who still find the Met a trustworthy body must accept that the spycops units have no credibility left. Since the scandal broke we have been subjected to a flurry of desperate lies from everyone involved, from the officers themselves right to the top ranks. As one lie gets exposed, they change their story until that, too, falls under the weight of new evidence. So the more they want to hide an officer, the more suspicious the public becomes.

POLICE PERJURY

The Inquiry has said that people who were deceived into sexual relationships by officers deserve the fullest answers, and it will be seen as a reason to release an officer’s real name as well as the cover name. They appear to take a less stringent approach to officers who deceived the judicial system and orchestrated miscarriages of justice.

The one in the new list, HN13, was far from the only spycop to be arrested. The five spycops the Inquiry spoke of two weeks ago – and whose real and cover identities the Inquiry intends to withhold – included two who admit being arrested whilst undercover, one of whom was prosecuted under their false identity. 

There is plenty of evidence that this was common practice throughout the era of the spycops units. When they were arrested alongside people who were convicted, it means their evidence was withheld from the court and the conviction is unsafe.

Undercover officer Mark Kennedy was arrested and involved in cases that led to 49 wrongful convictions that have now been quashed due to his exposure by activists. The detail of his actions also made it clear that the police and Crown Prosecution Service colluded to orchestrate these miscarriages of justice.

Mark Ellison QC’s 2015 report into the issue found many more among the Special Demonstration Squad’s remaining records.

‘Using the SDS Annual Reports it has now been possible to identify 26 SDS officers who were arrested on a total of 53 occasions.’

That’s just what can be deduced from the SDS annual reports. The true total is likely to be higher. It’s notable that Mark Kennedy was from another unit entirely, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, and other officers there, such as as Rod Richardson and Lynn Watson, were repeatedly arrested as well.

All of this contravened strict instructions from the Home Office that officers should be withdrawn if they risked misleading a court.

In 1969, the year after the Special Demonstration Squad was set up, the Home Office issued Circular 97/1969, and it was clear and unequivocal.

‘The police must never commit themselves to a course which, whether to protect an informant or otherwise, will constrain them to mislead a court in subsequent proceedings. This must always be regarded as a prime consideration when deciding whether, and in what manner, an informant may be used and how far, if at all, he is allowed to take part in an offence.

‘If his use in the way envisaged will, or is likely to result in its being impossible to protect him without subsequently misleading the court, that must be regarded as a decisive reason for his not being so used or not being protected.’

The officers cannot feign ignorance. They knew the gravity of the situation and they chose to lie.

Either courts were told it was an agent – meaning it was an unfair trial for other defendants – or else this was perverting the course of justice and perjury. The Inquiry and the wider public should treat this as a negation of police duty and an affront to justice.

Protecting Abusers from Embarrassment

Excerpt from officer HN23’s risk assessment

The Undercover Policing Inquiry has announced five new applications for anonymity from former undercover police officers. The police want the real and cover names to be withheld in all five cases, and the Inquiry intends to comply.

The officers’ risk assessments, published in heavily redacted form, cover a number of elements of their deployment. 

The controversial use of dead children’s identities for cover names is addressed, and none of the officers say they did it (one says they didn’t even have a cover name). They are all asked if they had relationships with people they spied on, and none of them admit to this either.

PROFESSIONAL LIARS

The problem is that we’ve seen this before. Officer HN297‘s risk assessment said he didn’t have any known relationships.  His cover name, Rick Gibson, was brought to the attention of the Undercover Research Group by people from the groups he infiltrated. Their subsequent joint investigation found that he had sexual relationships with at least four women that he spied on.

Exceprt from HN297 risk assessmentWithout us knowing the cover names, we cannot check the veracity of their claims. It is the key prerequisite of us being able to get to the truth of what these trained liars did yet, despite proof of lying, the Inquiry is believing them and keeping cover names from us.

Once again we see inexcusable exceptionalism being granted to police. No other group of proven miscreants gets their answers taken at face value, in secret, then used as the basis for whether their victims get told the truth.

No other institution is allowed to be the custodian and archivist of the files that incriminate them. The Met are asked by a public inquiry to do searches and provide the results. It would be unacceptable even if there wasn’t, as in this case, a history of them destroying the files to avoid culpability.

But with the police we not only take their word, the Inquiry seeks to protect them from feeling upset at being caught. This trait is startlingly clear in the statement of officer N348. In a searing dissection, The Canary described it as ‘already a contender for the most ridiculous thing you’ll read in 2018’.

PROTECTION FROM EMBARRASSMENT

Deployed in 1972-73, N348 is now in her 70s. She says she cannot remember the cover name she used, but is confident it had the first name of Sandra.

She infiltrated the Women’s Liberation Front (affiliated to the Women’s Liberation Movement). A group of no more than 12 people, they met at a member’s house in North London to discuss women’s rights and Maoist ideas.

It seems the infiltration of these groups may have been prompted by an incident mentioned repeatedly in the paperwork, the direct action taken against the 1970 Miss World contest when it was broadcast live from the Royal Albert Hall.

‘N348 described the faction as vocal but aspirational only and taking part in demonstrations with placards and banners. She witnessed no violence displayed by the group’

N348 says she would be ’embarrassed’ if one of the group she spied on found out she was a spycop. Her current work worries her, too.

‘It makes my heart sink to think of my colleagues there knowing.’

The risk assessor concludes that there is no concrete threat from anyone in the Women’s Liberation Front in any way.

‘The risk would likely be confined to harassment and/or intrusion, but would be effective enough to potentially adversely affect her employment status and standing in the community; both would affect her income.’

Why would it affect her employment, unless she is in a job that her employer would think is unsuitable for someone with her history? Why would the community think less of her, unless she has done something wrong?

The risk assessor doesn’t think police can justify what N348 did.

‘It could be argued that the deployment of N348 into such a non-violent group was disproportionate and may feed a media angle.’

N348 says

‘I think we live in a time of an intrusive media… I worry about not being in control of this situation.’

The media attention they fear is the justified interest in the actions of a public servant. Her wish to be shielded from that is not a valid reason to hide her identity.

The risk assessor concedes that if her true identity were disclosed there would be no risk of physical threat and a low risk of interference with her family and personal life, yet they still want her name to be withheld. This is all a further example of spycops seeking freedom from accountability.

There is no human right to protection from embarrassment, yet N348 is effectively being granted one.

PROTECTION FROM PRIDE

Conversely, HN23 says

‘I am very proud of the work that I did and acted with integrity throughout my career. I believe that the work I did had a significant positive impact and I did it knowing that it was not something I could boast about or reveal.’

At last your chance has come to step up and receive the acclaim you so rightly deserve for your flawless and exemplary work, HN23. Let your friends and family see the glory of your true life and share in your pride.

‘I am worried that they will not understand the reasons for this and will see it as a betrayal which will affect both friendships and relationships with family.’

That’s the opposite of HN348’s embarrassment, yet arguing for the exact same secrecy.

POLICE RIGHTS BEAT HUMAN RIGHTS

The police applications for anonymity include a cut & paste paragraph saying that releasing an officer’s name would ‘amount to a disproportionate interference with his/her right to a private and family life,’ and even in one instance adding ‘risk of loss of life or torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment’.

These are the same two human rights the Met admitted were breached by spycops themselves in these deployments.

The police who invaded the lives, homes and families of active citizens are seeking anonymity to avoid intrusion into their own lives and families. They are saying ‘it would breach my right to a private life to be known as the person who breached your right to a private life’. If the arrogance is gobsmacking, the hypocrisy is sickening.

The Met go further, saying it is not only for the benefit of their officers but ‘in the public interest’. The state infiltrating political groups who pose no threat to public safety is not just abuse of the citizens that were spied on. It is a counter-democratic attack on freedom of association and expression. It is plainly against the public interest.

Naming anyone for anything obviously increases the chance of press interest and vigilante action, yet the media (often supplied by police) give out people’s details every day. It is not seen as a breach of the right to a private life.

TIME TO ANSWER

Officers from secret police units around the world have been reluctant to come clean. None imagined having to face the people they undermined and betrayed.

But their desire for comfort pales beside their victims’ right to the truth and the public’s right to justice. They did this in our name. We all deserve answers.

It’s been a long time coming and the officers of the Special Demonstration Squad know that better than anyone. Though it was never on the scale of the Stasi, Britain’s political secret police’s purpose and methods were startlingly similar to their East German counterparts.

As Paul Lewis & Rob Evans described in Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police

‘A team of undercover police officers had spent the evening drinking and chatting in the London apartment. It was late one night in 1994.

‘They turned on the television to catch a news report from Germany. Tens of thousands of Germans were trawling through secret files compiled on them before the Berlin Wall came down… The TV report showed the distraught face fo a woman in Berlin who had discovered the man she had loved for years was a spy.

‘There was a silence in the lounge. Then one of the undercover police officers said what the others must have been thinking. “You do realise, this is going to happen to us one day,” he said.’

The Undercover Policing Inquiry is not here to extend the abusers’ belief that they would never get caught. It exists to reveal the truth. Police officers act as public servants and should be publicly accountable.

A cloak of anonymity for the officers would also fall across the facts and justice itself. It’s absurd for them to ask for such secrecy, and outrageous that the Inquiry wants to grant it.

Spycops Demand Freedom from Accountability

Demonstration against Andy Coles, Peterborough Town Hall ,11 Oct 2017

Demonstration against Andy Coles, Peterborough Town Hall, 11 October 2017

Former undercover officers from Britain’s political secret police are demanding anonymity from the public inquiry.

They claim having their real names published puts them at risk of harassment and physical harm from those they spied on, and also presents ‘a real risk to employment and reputation’.

Though police give the media details of countless accused but unconvicted citizens every day, they seem to feel officers from these disgraced units are a breed apart who deserve much greater privacy.

The spycops say they fear they may become the target of the kind of harassment experienced by exposed officers Bob Lambert, Andy Coles and Jim Boyling. Except this is not harassment.

Boyling has not been subjected to any organised campaigning. Rather, he complains that on two occasions people he spied on have bumped into him and briefly remonstrated with him, and even he says that isn’t actually intimidation, let alone violence. He suggests that when two cars in his street got damaged it might have been the work of vengeant activists, even though there was nothing to indicate who did it or that it was aimed at him.

ORGANISED CAMPAIGNS

Bob Lambert and Andy Coles have both been the subjects of organised campaigns. The focus has not been them as individuals, but them being in roles which are wholly inappropriate – the list of incidents compiled by the police’s own lawyers plainly shows this.

Meanwhile, Lambert complains that he has been called a rapist. Whether his, and other spycops’, sexual abuse amounts to rape is something that is still untested in law. However, many of the deceived women have made it clear that they did not and could not give informed consent.

Jacqui, who was deceived by Lambert into a two year relationship and having a child, said:

‘I was not consenting to sleeping with Bob Lambert, I didn’t know who Bob Lambert was… it is like being raped by the state. We feel that we were sexually abused because none of us gave consent.’

The rest of the things on Lambert’s list of supposed intimidation he’s suffered all happened to him in his public roles, with the possible exception of two incidents of being ‘confronted by hostile activists while travelling to work’. He says himself that, like Boyling, he has not been subjected to any violence.

It seems both Lambert and Coles failed to tell their employers about their past, implying that they knew the people hiring them would take a dim view of it. In other words, they know the reasonable citizen is likely to see them as abusers. As soon as he was exposed in May this year, Coles resigned as Cambridgeshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner without any prompting.

This is not about officers being hounded by rabid activists out for revenge, it’s an unwillingness to face the justified shame and scorn they would receive as people who have committed appalling acts.

We don’t see people in other walks of life even attempting this sort of thing. No bank robber has been found guilty and then asked to be kept anonymous as it will upset them if their neighbours find out or it might make future employers think they’re untrustworthy. The spycops aren’t asking for protection from harassment, they are really demanding immunity from accountability.

AFTER THE SPYCOPS

When he was exposed in 2011, Lambert was teaching a new generation of police managers at universities (he resigned in 2015). Coles, who sexually groomed a teenager whilst undercover, is a City Councillor and school governor.

Another one is John Dines, who abused Helen Steel whilst undercover in the 1990s. Because she knows his real name, Steel discovered he is training political undercover police in Australia.

Helen Steel confronts John Dines, 2016

Helen Steel (right) confronts ex-spycop John Dines, March 2016

These men all grossly abused their positions of power to violate the citizens they are supposed to protect and undermine the democracy they are supposed to serve. No other public servant could act so shamefully, so far from the intended purpose of their agency, and expect to be shielded from the discomfort of public opprobrium.

The other exposed officers, despite having perpetrated similar abuses which many would think justifies their being confronted, have been not challenged like this at all – quite the opposite.

The activists who exposed Mark Kennedy went to great lengths to protect the identities of his family (which Kennedy then published when he sold his story to the Mail on Sunday). The group who exposed Carlo Neri withheld his real name to protect his children. They have even withheld the full cover names of officers ‘RC‘, Gary R and Abigail L.

Numerous officers’ current whereabouts are known to activists and researchers. As far as we know, none of them have been threatened with any physical harm and no effort has been made to confront them in their private life. They have only been targeted if they are in roles for which, as one journalist put it, they are ‘uniquely unqualified‘. 

If anything, the campaigners have engaged in the lawful democratic processes that the spycops sought to suppress and undermine. The institutions Lambert and Coles are involved in have been leafleted and spoken to, dealing in facts. Since Lambert resigned from his teaching roles he appears to have been left alone. The same is likely to happen to Andy Coles once he bows to the inevitable and relinquishes his remaining positions of civic trust.

THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH

Publishing a spycop’s cover name still leaves the officer hidden, but it lets those who knew them while undercover come forward and tell us what happened. It is the essential prerequisite to getting the truth.

Just having a cover name published does not lead to an officer’s real identity being known. Indeed, that is the whole point of a fake identity. Long-exposed officers such as Rod Richardson and Lynn Watson are still living in anonymity because, unlike the others, they did not give their real names. But when an officer remains unknown to the public, what else is being hidden?

Without the real names, we would never have known that Lambert was using his disgraced past as a platform to pass on his ideas to his successors. We would not know that Andy Coles, who groomed a naive teenager for sex, has positioned himself in inappropriate roles in which he’s endorsing agencies trying to protect older teenagers at risk of sexual exploitation. Who knows how many other ex-spycops are still perpetuating their abuses?

The Catholic church has been condemned for its former practice of dealing with abusive priests by paying off victims and moving the offender to a new parish where the unaware congregation was left vulnerable to further abuse. Withholding spycops’ real names has a similar effect. 

Even if we believe exposing them really would put them at risk, it is still not necessarily a reason to grant them anonymity. As Phillippa Kaufmann QC pointed out to the Inquiry last month, the state is used to dealing with such things in witness protection schemes, providing assured security for people at far greater risk – and a lot less guilty – than spycops.

Doreen Lawrence, whose family’s campaign was spied on, said:

‘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.’

Those officers who have done nothing wrong have nothing to fear. Those who have done wrong should be held to account. It cannot begin to happen without the release of the cover names. It cannot properly happen without the release of the real names.

Report: Undercover Policing Inquiry’s First Mitting Hearing

'Undercover is No Excuse for Abuse' banner at the Royal Courts of JusticeA long account of Mitting’s first hearing: legal arguments

by Dónal O’Driscoll, Undercover Research Group

The 20th & 21st November saw the first open hearing of the Undercover Policing Inquiry before the new Chair, Sir John Mitting, who succeeded Christopher Pitchford earlier this year.

Prior to this hearing, Mitting released several ‘minded-to’ documents that indicated his intention to restrict details of undercover officers, and said he would provide an opening statement on the future conduct of the Inquiry under him. The victims of the spycop scandal approached the hearings with trepidation and scepticism.

In this long read, we unpick the hearing in detail, in particular how the new Chair is likely to approach the release of information on spycop deployments and their supervisors. We look at Mitting’s opening remarks and how he dealt with a protest. With much of the hearings focusing on ‘restriction order’ applications for spycops’ anonymity, we look at how he handled the various challenges thrown up by them.

It is worth noting how much the discussion has shifted. Arguments around releasing cover names have advanced considerably in favour of publishing, with debates now focusing on the degree to which real names should be revealed.

Nevertheless, Mitting has put down markers on the subject – his concerns are where there is a real risk to the officers or crucial factors relating to their health and expectations of anonymity. However, the stand out point is the moral right of those deceived into relationships to know real names.

Since the hearing, Mitting has handed down a number of rulings in response.

Note: this is the author’s own impressions from sitting through both days. There may be other readings / interpretations of how things went.

The opening statement

The Chair opened with a prepared statement on how he was planning to conduct the Inquiry. To a packed room at the Royal Courts of Justice, he acknowledged the work of his predecessor, Christopher Pitchford, in setting up the necessary infrastructure, legal and otherwise, to prepare for hearing evidence.

He reiterated Pitchford’s own statement and added his own support:

“The Inquiry’s priority is to discover the truth.” That is my priority. It is only by discovering the truth that I can fulfil the terms of the Inquiry. I am determined to do so.

He focused on the two key issues which led to the Inquiry being founded in the first place – the spying on the Stephen Lawrence campaign and undercover officers conducting sexual relationships with the women they spied on.

For the women targetted for relationships, he declared they were entitled to true accounts. This included the real names of the who deceived them, and which superior officers knew about, sanctioned or encouraged such behaviour – something, he noted, may require an exhaustive finding of facts. This went beyond mere legal reasoning, as he says the women have a compelling moral claim to know the full truth. This is a profound shift which impacted on subsequent matters.

Regarding the targeting of those connected to murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence – not just his family, but also his friend Duwayne Brooks – Mitting acknowledged the ongoing anguish still caused by the lack of definitive judgement on the events of 25 years ago. Evidence would be tested in public, insofar as possible, so releasing the cover names of undercovers involved essential. He also promised that more senior officers would have to answer publicly what they knew and how they used the intelligence gathered.

Finally, he noted that for a number of undercover officers, the risks to them arising from their deployments meant that if their evidence was to be heard, it would have to be done in closed hearings – at which the public and non-state core participants would be excluded.

For the Chair, this was preferable in order to ensure he did actually hear their evidence. He emphasised that in complex situations he would err towards solutions that got him to hear the evidence, an approach he demonstrated during one of the specific applications addressed later during the hearing.

Mitting then made ‘forecasts’, setting out his broad intentions. Everything being equal, the Inquiry would publish cover names of undercover officers unless there was sufficient ‘public interest’ not to, or it would cause risk to an officer. Their real names would, for the most part, be restricted. This commitment to a degree of openness was welcome, but how it played out in practice, in the face of the police’s arguments for secrecy, took up a significant proportion of the hearing’s second day.

Finally, senior officers (as opposed to the managers within the spycop units) should expect to give evidence in their real names unless there was risk to them or national security issues. Interestingly, Mitting noted that in most cases, national security issues were unlikely to arise, and arguments would mainly focus on the human rights of the officers concerned.

Mitting assured those spied upon that he shared the determination to uncover the wrongdoing and mistakes, and if that disrupted the lives of former undercovers at times, then so be it. However, as he reiterated several times over the two days, each application would be taken on its own specific facts, and nothing was fixed in stone.

What remained to be learned, then, was where he would set the thresholds of risk to an officer, and of the public interest to maintain secrecy, especially given that his minded-to notes indicated a large proportion of officers would be granted anonymity.

The protest

At this point, not an hour into the hearing, chants of ‘No Justice, No Peace’ came from the gallery, mostly populated with victims of spycops. Several people stood up and gave a direct response to Mitting’s words, expressing fully the anger of those spied upon. Dave Smith, a long standing campaigner from the Blacklist Support Group, gave a calm but passionate speech.

He spoke about how the emphasis in the Inquiry so far was meeting the needs of the police, and in this the rights of the victims were being forgotten. He spoke of how they were constantly being told to leave it to the British justice system and maintain a dignified silence, but feared they would end up with no justice at all and the Inquiry looked increasingly like an establishment cover-up.

Smith pointed at the imbalance of power, that on the benches before the Chair were eight barristers on behalf of the police and state. Meanwhile 180 core participants spied upon by police had just one barrister to speak for them and there was no funding for their individual lawyers to attend. It was a stark reminder, he declared, of the Inquiry’s structural bias in favour of those who carried out the abuse, and an issue that needed redressing.

Smith went on to reiterate the core demands of those spied upon: a complete release of all cover names of the undercover police from the political units, the names of all groups targeted, and providing core participants with their personal police files so they could see how they had been targeted.

Others added their voices. Helen Steel, a long term campaigner on this issue, rose to point out that while the police had three years to prepare so far, the victims had been given information in only the last week and it was a struggle for one person to prepare, let alone for the views of the many non-state/police core participants be brought together. It felt like if they were ‘being told to shut up and go away’, when it was in fact time to respect the rights of those abused.

After several more people had contributed, the protest concluded with further chants of ‘No Justice, No Peace’.

During this, Mitting sent for security guards, who took time to arrive and were unable to do much in any case. The protest, though determined, was peaceful and the Chair heard it out in the end. He acknowledged it, saying he understood their feelings, but if there was further disruptions like it, people would be removed. The gallery gave a collective shrug and settled down to hear the rest of his opening remarks.

Opening remarks continue

Mitting went on to address the task facing the Inquiry, noting that the amount of evidence facing him was formidable. Progress was being made on processing applications to restrict release of real and cover names of police, though much more work was still to be done. Open and closed hearings relating to officers from the Special Demonstration Squad were expected to complete by May 2018 – a two month slip on the previously revised timetable.

His hope was that restriction orders dealing with early deployments would finish soon and the Inquiry would being taking witness statements there. It would not wait for all restriction order applications being decided upon before starting on that side of things.

Sir John Mitting

Sir John Mitting

The Chair acknowledged a concern of the core participants, saying they would not be expected to give statements until after the police had. This had previously angered non-state/police core participants (NPSCPs), as it expected them to put their personal lives into the open, while the police continued to hide – a reversal of the normal course of things.

Redaction of material, he noted, is still a major problem, with not all IT issues resolved, meaning that redactions were still being done manually in some cases. The Metropolitan Police are in charge of the processes, and Mitting seemed to be unhappy that discussions were happening on a line by line basis for the restriction orders alone, due to their excessive desire for redaction. That was not sustainable.

At this point he sent a warning shot – if the Met continued on this route, the Inquiry would take over the process. This would potentially places a greater burden on the Inquiry itself, but for the core participants, frustrated with the endless delays, it offered some hope that police intransigence was would be tackled. It seems that Mitting, though relatively new to the job, has already built up a degree of frustration with the Metropolitan Police obstruction.

Finally, Mitting seems prepared for the Inquiry to be somewhat more accessible than under the previous Chair, seeking to have more regular meetings with the lawyers of core participants who were spied up on, and having meetings with the media.

So, all in all, it was not a statement announcing a move to greater secrecy as many had feared.

Substantive matters

Next on the agenda were the two substantive issues the hearing had to deal with: the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and a number of actual restriction orders. This was a chance to go beyond the words and get a feel for the Chair actually in action.

Over the two days, several overarching things became apparent abut Mitting. He prefers working at the level of specifics, and, unlike Pitchford, he is much more prepared to engage with the discussion in the moment. He regularly engaged with the barristers before him, whether conducting debates or clarifying his own thoughts, particularly with Phillippa Kaufmann, the lead counsel for the non-state/police core participants.

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

The first issue addressed was that of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. The police are relying on past convictions of the people they spied on to illustrate why spycops were deployed and what risks the officers might face if named. However, the Act says that after set periods of time, various types of convictions are ‘spent’, and the person convicted has the right to have them ‘forgotten’. Thus, if Mitting uses ‘spent’ convictions in any of his decision-making, he has to do it in a way that does not contravene the Act or undermine its intention (and thus the rights of those people with the convictions).

How that is done is not trivial, and though a legally technical point, it is a significant one for those spied upon. Not least as they argue the spycops engineered miscarriages of justice, so the convictions being cited by police might be miscarriages of justice of their own making.

We have explained the more technical points of discussion in a previous article so will not go into depth here. Before the hearing Mitting issued a note saying spent convictions had played little role to date when reviewing anonymity applications.

He elaborated on this in the hearing, saying that in the few cases where he had considered them, it was when an individual also had unspent convictions which went to establish a pattern of behaviour. Where a person’s convictions are all spent, then he is not taking that person’s record into account.

The NPSCPs, however, had specifically wished to respond to Mitting’s minded-to. In particular, where spent convictions were being relied on, to be able to make submissions on the those convictions. Ms Kaufmann’s argument boiled down to: Mitting may order restrictions orders on the basis of convictions that themselves would be challengeable as miscarriages of justice due to the role played by undercover police in securing those convictions. This was why the NPSCPs should be able to make submissions in each case.

Another potential consequence was that if a cover name was prevented from being released because of this, then potential miscarriages of justice would be prevented from being discovered. In such a case, the Inquiry would have made effectively made a finding of fact that there was nothing to be discovered on the incomplete evidence provided by the police.

It was argued by the police, and noted by Mitting, that it would put the Inquiry in a position of finding of facts at an early stage. The police objected to this, saying it was ‘unworkable’ and would lead to mini-trials that pre-empted the substantive, evidence stage.

The Metropolitan Police’s position was also that at this stage of proceedings there was no prejudice to those whose spent convictions were being considered, and Mitting has the power to inquire if a conviction he’s being asked to consider involved the undercover officers.

Mitting’s responded, saying he was primarily interested in convictions that indicated issues of safety and harassment to undercovers, but was proceeding on a case-by-case base. The evidence phase of the Inquiry is the appropriate place to examine miscarriages of justice.

Note: Mitting has since issued a ruling on this, whereby he effectively stuck to the position set out in his minded-to. See also our earlier article on this particular point.

Restriction order applications

Then it was on to the individual applications for ‘restriction orders’, ie anonymity for officers. This being the first public hearing on this, it would give crucial insight into how the Inquiry would proceed.

Mitting was insistent that he wanted only to hear arguments on the specifics of each case, rather than general points, as considerable written submissions had already been filed. He did not get his way on this as there were outstanding matters needing addressing at a relatively high level because they affected all the applications.

In the subsequent to-and-fro complaint was made that the police were seeking to revisit previous legal discussions around openness that had been dealt with by Pitchford. The Chair said he was not having this, reiterating that the use of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ would not be a factor in the cases before him. Likewise, alleged promises of lifetime confidentiality to officers would play little part in his decisions except in specific cases.

However, care needs to be taken when applying Mitting’s words here as they applied in the main only to the handful of applications being considered at the hearing. These focused for the most part on deployments in the 1960s and 1970s.

Likewise, he noted that while ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ would not play a role in his handling of these Special Demonstration Squad undercovers in the way it had been used in civil cases, it could still play a part in his consideration of later operations.

During these discussions Mitting declared he was not starting from the position that real names of undercovers shouldn’t be released, and not making presumptions on the release of officers’ real names in general. He asked of those before him – the core participants being kept in the dark about so many aspects of the heavily redacted material – to put their trust in him, saying they would accept he had to make the pragmatic decisions.

He also addressed material submitted by the police being used to justify fears by undercovers that they would be unlawfully harassed. This including witness statements from former spycops Jim Boyling and Bob Lambert. The Chair said he didn’t find this material persuasive, possibly as NPSCPs submitted a statement that shone a considerably different light on Boyling’s allegations.

Day One concluded once Ms Kaufmann finished setting out the non-state/police core participants general points on the restriction order applications.

Day Two

Restriction orders – general points

The opening of the second day saw general submissions from the other parties. Maya Sikand spoke on behalf of former undercover officer, the whistleblower Peter Francis.

She made plain that if there was a balance to be struck over releasing details of undercover officers then it needed to come down on the side of cover names being made public. Real names should be released where there was a moral right or in very limited circumstances.

Peter Francis

Peter Francis

Sikand also warned that an eye needed to be kept on the practical consequences of releasing real names, including that it might deter some former undercovers from coming forward.

She made the point that there is a difference between senior officers and SDS managers, the latter often having been undercovers themselves. Mitting said, however, that while this might have been the situation later on, it was not so for early managers of the unit and he would handle it on a case-by-case basis.

Sikand then challenged police material on a number of inaccuracies and wrongful allegations, including what seemed to be an attempt by the police to smear Peter Francis by claiming he stood in a ‘camp’ with The Guardian and the media, with the implication he was bringing a dubious agenda. She responded it was nothing of the sort, that Peter Francis was his own person in all of this.

The over-redaction of material by police, a point of contention, had led to it needing to be specifically asked who were the experts being relied upon – whereas in the normal course of things this would automatically be disclosed.

This eventually revealed that one police expert conducting evaluations of the undercovers is psychiatrist Dr Walter Busuttil of the The Priory clinic. This led Francis to be able to reveal that The Priory was regularly used by the Metropolitan Police. Indeed, when he was pursuing his own case against the Met, he and a fellow undercover had been referred there by them, and Busuttil was co-director at the time.

When these questions had arisen, the Metropolitan Police responded with a letter saying they were upset that aspersions were being cast against Busuttil, missing the point that the potential conflict of interest should have been disclosed up front rather than having to be teased out through questions.

Following Sikand, Ben Brandon spoke on behalf of the Metropolitan Police. He accused the NPSCPs of shifting position from earlier hearings with regards revealing real names, and argued that the public interest in having the real names of undercovers and managers was only there in some cases. Revealing them was not necessary for the success of the Inquiry.

He spent much of his time countering two particular positions Ms Kaufmann had advanced to justified releasing real names. The first was that having real names could also lead to whistleblowers coming forward to reveal other incidents of sexism and racism by those officers. Mr Brandon said that such extra evidence would make the Inquiry become unmanageable.

The second was on ‘corporate police progression’, where undercovers had gone on to more senior police ranks bringing with them their knowledge of the SDS and its malfeasance. This went to the issue of policy decisions. Mr Brandon argued this was a false assumption and needed to have the allegations of wrongdoing while undercover out in the open first before examining this point. That is, before an officer’s real identity was revealed, it had to be shown that they had done something wrong in the first place.

On both points, Mitting indicated he agreed with the police barrister, though these points were of limited consequence at this stage.

Next up was Oliver Saunders, the barrister supplied by the Metropolitan Police to represent the interests of undercovers and their managers – the ‘Designated Lawyers’ team. This is a role distinct from the Metropolitan Police as an organisation, which has its own representation – Mr Brandon, mentioned above. It is this sort of proliferation of legal representation for police that has considerably upset NPSCPs.

Mitting who wanted to know of Mr Saunders why his submissions had sought to re-open the discussions on openness which Pitchford had dealt with. He replied that the Designated Lawyers had not been in place at the time those arguments were being heard, and that regardless, some weight still had to be given to promises of confidentiality as it fed into wider aspects such as expectations in the right to privacy.

The Chair accepted this to the extent that the effect of promises of confidentiality would play some role in his decision-making. While saying this, he did acknowledge that he was not swayed by Ms Kaufmann’s argument that matters of risk should only consider physical and psychological harm, but consider it all on a case-by-case basis.

Mr Saunders elaborated on the point, arguing that officers had made choices when undertaking undercover work which had significant impacts on their lives, including building it around the need for some secrecy. There was also a mutual expectation of the state – the undercover will not talk about their deployment, and the state will not expose it. Having constructed their life around this, it then exercised their Article 8 rights to privacy. He claimed it would be wrong to change this, especially where there was no existing allegations of wrongdoing.

Mr Saunders also addressed the impact on the state’s ability to recruit further undercovers, a matter returned to at the end when it was addressed by Counsel to the Inquiry, David Barr (see below).

Individual restriction order applications

Only once the general points had been made was it possible to move on to consideration of the individual restriction order applications over the real and cover names of undercover officers, who are known by code numbers beginning ‘HN’.

There was considerable frustration by the non-state/police representatives, who were fighting their corner with one hand tied behind their backs given the amount of material that had been redacted and not even gisted. Indeed, in some cases they could make no substantive points, though Mitting was occasionally able to provide in general terms the types of reasons prominent in his decision-making.

This first tranche of officers were all Special Demonstration Squad, either from the early days of the unit in the 1960s and 1970s, or connected to the spying on the Stephen Lawrence campaign.

HN16

First up was HN16. In this case restriction on real and cover name were sought due to sensitivity of the deployment. Mitting was concerned about the risk to N16’s current employment, and wanted to deal with both cover and real name together. This was opposed by the NPSCPs who said the cover name could still be disclosed. The police responded saying it was better to make complete decisions rather than bit by bit. Mitting replied that ideally all decisions regarding restriction orders for a particular officer would be made at once, but that was subject to provisos and all decisions were subject to review – a real possibility in this case of HN16.

  • Mitting has subsequently ruled that HN16’s cover name will released but not his real name.

HN58

HN58 is not only a former undercover, but also a leading SDS manager at the time of the spying on the Lawrences. The issue here was whether both the cover and real name should be revealed given the different positions he had held within the SDS. This meant resolving the tension between revealing the names of managers who had overseen spying on the Lawrences, and cover names in case there were earlier relationships or miscarriages of justice that needed to come to light.

The initial discussion revolved around the point of releasing cover names into the public in the first place. Jonathan Hall, for the Met, argued that the Inquiry shouldn’t disclose simply on the chance that something might turn up; that closed hearings should be treated as being of value and did not shut down the effectiveness of the Inquiry as the Chair was in a position to test material.

Mitting responded that his predecessor had rightly rejected a closed Inquiry and needed to look at individual officers. He also reiterated that if material on relationships were to come out then real names had to be released.

Hall continued to object, saying it was dangerous to release all cover names on the off-chance of revealing a relationship, and that some information may never come to light. The Chair partially agreed here, saying that the Lawrence issue was more important than a potential undercover one.

Ms Sikand said that Peter Francis believed that if it came down to it, then the choice should be to release the cover name in the first instance, but senior officers needed to account for their decisions. Hence, there was an additional public interest in the real identify being revealed.

She also pointed out that the risk assessment put the threat to N58 as low, something Peter Francis agreed with. Mitting answered that saying it was not possible to resolve in open hearing, but the tension between the principles he had set out would require a closed hearing. He told Ms Kaufmann that the NPSCPs could not know if there was no significant risk to N58, but that though the risk assessments were helpful, they were not determining his views.

  • Mitting has subsequently ruled that there will have to be a closed hearing to determine his how he would rule on HN58.

HN68

Next was HN68, deceased, who had been a manager as well as an undercover. The argument here focused on the rights of his widow who had concerns over her husband’s name being revealed. Again the police returned to confidentiality issues, that the Inquiry could proceed without the real name and it would be unfair to cause the widow upset on speculative grounds. Mitting noted that as N68 was dead, he couldn’t be called on to account for his actions in any case so revealing his real name would not be particularly helpful. The Inquiry could rely on his personnel records if needed.

  • Mitting has subsequently ruled that HN68’s cover name will released but not his real name.

HN81

This was followed by HN81, a key officer given his role in spying on the campaigns around Stephen Lawrence’s murder. Mitting made it clear that what was in his mind was not the physical risk to the undercover, but the state of his mental health. Ms Kaufmann complained that this has not been sufficiently revealed, to which the Chair said it had been explored in a previous closed hearing including ways to mitigate the risk. Ms Kaufmann asked that the release of the real name was kept under review, but was rebuffed on the grounds that even saying this may exacerbate N81’s issues.

It was conceded by the Metropolitan Police that the cover name needed to come out. They would not seek to protect their own interest in this, but maintained HN81’s real name should not be revealed.

Mitting took the position that the cover name and the group targeted would be revealed, but time would be given to HN81 to prepare for this. He subsequently ruled to this effect.

HN104

Following HN81 was HN104, better known as Carlo Neri. This was a whole different type of discussion as the real name is actually known to many of those he spied upon. The point put to the Inquiry by the NPSCPs was that the real name needed to come out – basically, if you don’t do it, it will be done in any case. Ms Kaufmann maintained the point that though the family of HN104 had its own interests, HN104 had multiple relationships with those he targeted and there was a strong interest in accountability.

Mitting stated that he respected and commended the decision to not make his real name public to date, but asked if there could be cooperation on managing the revealing of the real name. Ms Kaufmann indicated yes, but had to take further instruction. Mr Hall asked for a closed hearing on the matter.

HN123

HN123 is another Lawrence-connected case where it was being proposed to restrict real and cover name. Mitting said that though all the material was not public this was quite an unusual and difficult case, based on the mental health issues of the officer (apparently not connected to their deployment), and that if the cover name was released publicly it might hamper the Inquiry’s ability to get HN123’s evidence, something Mitting was keen to ensure he had.

It was notable, in this application, how little weight the Chair appeared to be giving to the police’s risk assessments of officers.

There did seem to be a question as to how much this applied to the Lawrence aspect, though Ms Sikand, on behalf of Peter Francis, explicitly said that the group HN123 targeted did interact with the Lawrences, and thus the cover name was needed.

  • Mitting has subsequently ruled that neither HN123’s real or cover name will released on the grounds of HN123’s ill health, and that he appears to be only indirectly connected to the spying on the Lawrences, despite the evidence of Peter Francis to the contrary. This ruling will be revised if new facts emerged.

From here, the applications moved on to a tranche of older undercovers who had been deployed in 1960s and 1970s. Mitting was quite dismissive of this, saying that too much energy was being expended on what was ‘ancient history’ as they would not assist in learning what went wrong with the SDS. He wanted to know why elderly spouses couldn’t be left in peace.

HN297

This changed somewhat when the application over the real name of ‘Rick Gibson’ (HN297) came up. There was a bombshell in court when Kaufmann was revealed ’Gibson’ had a number of sexual relationships, something otherwise seemingly unknown to either Mitting or the police’s lawyers. The Chair noted that this changed things considerably, and was in the period when it was suspected that bad practice in the unit was becoming routine.

For him, publishing the real name became a matter of timing and further information was needed with regards to the women targeted who he wanted statements from if possible, including if they needed to be told privately first. The interests in not publishing the real name did not counter their right to know, but he wanted to learn more as this was information that had just come to light. As a result, a decision would be postponed.

HN321

HN321 offered another challenge. This undercover was abroad and threatening not to return if his real identify was revealed.

The police ran several arguments here. They focused on the fact that, as yet, no wrongdoing was being alleged and therefore expectations of privacy were that much greater. Mr Hall addressed the point that real names were being sought in order to confront the officers. He argued that all the officers were being tainted together, and this was wrong as the entire barrel was not rotten, the desire to confront should not be in the mix. Mitting responded that they just have to put up with it, and that it was not always confrontation that was being referred to, but unwelcome attention, something quite different.

  • Mitting has ruled that HN321’s cover name will released but not his real name.

For HN321 and other undercovers, the police made an elaborate point that the officers had built their lives around the need for secrecy on this aspects of their lives and with that went to the need to respect issues of confidentiality and Article 8 (the right to private and family life), and so the disruption from the breaking of that confidentiality and how they’d shaped their lives was a violation the right to private life. The Chair responded that secrecy itself was attractive and could give something importance it would not otherwise have.

HN333

The final application of note was HN333, which was not much covered in the hearing, but was notable in that both cover and real name were to be restricted, despite the low risk – in part on grounds of the officer’s subsequent career and reputation, though what this was has not been elaborated on. In his ruling, Mitting also relied on the expectation of confidentiality. It is hard to say more on such incomplete material, but this case stands out for the quite different tack that Mitting took here and the keenness he showed to protect a particular person’s reputation.

The other applications were dealt with in a pro forma fashion, partly out of desire to complete the full hearing within a day rather than run into a third one. This left only a few outstanding issues.

  • In his Ruling of 5 December 2017, Mitting has given restriction orders over the real names of nine undercover officers considered during the hearing, but said their cover names will be released where they are known (some were previously released). For two undercovers, HN123 and HN333, their cover names will also be restricted. The cases of ‘Carlo Neri’ and ‘Rick Gibson’, and HN58 require further hearings and evidence before a final ruling made.

Deterring recruitment of new undercovers

Counsel to the Inquiry, David Barr, addressed the statement of Chief Constable Alan Pughsley, the national lead on undercover policing, which had been submitted by the police as part of their evidence. Pughsley was arguing that the Inquiry itself and its openness was deterring applications by police officers to undergo training as undercovers. In this, Pughsley sought to reinforce a point made by a police officer known only by the cypher: ‘Cairo’ – who had previously submitted generic evidence on the risks to ex-undercovers and undercover policing in general.

Barr noted that Cairo had also noted there were alternative reasons why this might be the case but there was not enough to go on. So, to attempt to answer this, the Inquiry had released part of a statement from Louise Meade, who oversaw the recruiting process for undercover training at the College of Policing. She had noted that a great deal of change in the recruiting process had taken place, with a focus on getting the most suitable officers, and that there was no statistical basis to support Pughsley’s assertions.

There then followed an exchange between Mitting and Mr Hall for the Metropolitan Police. The Chair said that Pughsley and Cairo’s thoughts on the matter were not influencing his approach, that he had to get to the truth and if that deterred new officers then so be it. Mr Hall responded, saying undercover work was needed and the Inquiry needed to consider its effect on recruitment and retention. Mitting stated that he would not pull his punches based on future deployments.

Mr Hall came back saying that a possibility of an allegation being made was all it took for there to be a deterring fear, which counted for a lot at this stage. Mitting dismissed this, calling it speculation as the position was not that clear cut. Hall concluded weakly that Cairo should be treated as authoritative on this point.

Helen Steel

Helen Steel at the Royal Courts of Justice

Helen Steel at the Royal Courts of Justice

The last remarks of the hearing went to Helen Steel, representing herself as a core participant. She addressed the general evidence, noting how it presented the victims of the spycops was insulting and added to their pain.

She pointed out in Pughsley’s statement how her search for the truth was listed under ‘harm to individuals’ (i.e. undercovers), without acknowledging the background to why she had spent years trying to track down the man who had invaded her life. It was insulting to read about the ‘poor police’ when they had left such damage in their wake.

She put into context that, while the undercovers were putting forward mental health issues as a reason for privacy, they were trained in precisely such tactics, in that many had used feigned breakdowns as part of their exit strategies.

Steel also noted that there were many inaccuracies and lies in the generic statements. Additionally, she asserted that the excessive redactions, where they talked of core participants such as herself, all fed into the ongoing sense of personal invasion. The delays caused by the redactions and applications were part of the general imbalance where by the police held the power even though the Inquiry was into those same police, and this only impacted further on their victims’ own mental wellbeing.

Her final points addressed the need for the list of groups spied upon to be released immediately. The spycops units that were not involved in criminal policing, but political policing. It is vital for all that it is made clear who was being spied upon and why. The list of groups is known, it is already sanitised of material relating to actual deployments, so there is no reason to not release it.

Conclusion

A long two days with a substantive amount of material and points raised and discussed. If a point was to be taken from it, is that Mitting’s sparse minded-to notes indicate not that he has ignored a bunch of the arguments and material, but that he is discarding much of it as not impacting on his decision making process, and this includes the police’s risk assessments.

For now, much of his concern is on mental health issues and intrusion on elderly family members. This is likely to change for officers of more recent periods.

Related documents:

Help Victims of Police Spying Get Access to Justice

Spycops Campaigners at Inquiry HearingThe Undercover Policing Inquiry was announced nearly four years ago and still has not begun. Around 200 significantly affected victims have been designated ‘core participants’. At the recent preliminary hearing, the state had 11 lawyers whilst the victims were only allowed one.

The Spy Cops Communications Group was established to help keep the core participants informed and to let the wider public know what is going on with the Inquiry.

Victims have to take time out of their lives and pay for their own costs to attend hearings and other vital meetings. This is adding to the imbalance of power, tilting the Inquiry to favour the police and other perpetrators who have access to effectively unlimited public funds.

The Spy Cops Communications Group had started a crowdfunder appeal to increase people’s access to justice in a practical way, through:

– Funding travel to attend meetings & hearings 

– Offering legal support

– Providing fortnightly updates

They are aiming to raise £15,000 through this Crowd Justice Campaign so the spied-upon campaigners, and the public, can get the truth they deserve.

Please share the Crowdfunder link and, if you can afford it, donate too.

Background 

The Home Office called the Inquiry in 2014 as result of pressure from people targeted by police spies, after campaigners exposed the level of police infiltration into political groups. The undercover operations invaded people’s lives, committing human rights abuses for decades. Systematic spying was aimed at controlling political dissent in the UK, undermining what should be a healthy democracy.

The police have admitted that they spied on more than 1,000 political groups including those campaigning for equality,  justice, community empowerment and the environment, those fighting against war, racism, sexism, homophobia, government policies, corporate power, and police brutality. 

The Inquiry offers a unique opportunity to hold the police and those responsible to account in the fight for transparency and justice. However, the process is obstructed by police intransigence and weighted down with legal jargon and processes. There is an urgent need to make it easier for people to get involved.

What we will do

£15,000 will enable us to:

  • Fund travel and expenses to attend court hearings and meetings with lawyers
  • Organise quarterly meetings to help core participants follow the Inquiry, and network with each other
  • Maintain a secure online discussion forum to discuss interventions and submissions to the Inquiry
  • Liaise with  lawyers to keep taps on what is happening, and understand legal process
  • Have a legal observer present at the hearings at all times
  • Share a fortnightly email of legal information 
  • Provide media training and support people in engaging with the media. 
  • Prepare people for appearing in court and giving witness statements

Kim Bryan, Tom Fowler, Chris Dutton, Terence Evans,  Emily Apple, Kirsty Wright, Paul Gravett, Morgana Reddy, Kirk, Jessica and Kevin Blowe.

What is the Spycops Inquiry Hearing About?

Royal Courts of JusticeDónal O’Driscoll from the Undercover Research Group explains the Undercover Policing Inquiry preliminary hearing on 20-22 November 2017 about the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

Though attention around this week’s hearing in the Undercover Policing Inquiry is dominated by attempts to keep the details of undercover officers buried, the first day will actually be focused on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

The two issues are closely connected. The new chair, John Mitting, has set out his approach and this is being contested by the victims’ group known as Non-Police/State Core Participants (NPSCPs).

POLICE SEEKING ANONYMITY

As part of their evidence to support former undercover officers’ ‘restriction orders – requests to keep their real and cover identities anonymous – the police are privately presenting the convictions of activists in the groups that were spied on. They’re doing this even though some of these convictions are considered spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. The police’s argument is that it shows that officers will be in physical danger if they are named.

However, it is being argued that under Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA), there is an expectation that offences that are spent should not be used unless strictly necessary and that there are appropriate safeguards. Furthermore, it is wrong to deny those whose convictions are spent from having input on how they are being used.

This and other issues have caused a legal quagmire, and throughout this year they have produced a slew of some of the most technical legal documents I’ve ever had the misfortune to read – known as ‘eye bleeders’, as that is the effect you are left with when finished reading them.

However, having simmered away, the arguments have reduced down to a proposal by the Inquiry Chair that he will:

(i) Admit spent convictions as evidence for restriction orders if justice cannot otherwise be done.
(ii) Will not at that stage afford the people who have the convictions any ability to know or make representations.
(iii) Ask the Justice Secretary to create an exemption in the ROA 1974, whereby it is possible to designate any inquiry held under the Inquiries Act 2005 (as this one is) as exempt from the ROA – and designate the Undercover Policing Inquiry as so exempt.

The language of (i) reflects that set out in the 1974 Act, and is not particularly contentious. Indeed, the NPSCPs, as represented by Philippa Kaufmann QC & Ruth Brander, argue this is the correct approach.

Rather, it is (ii) and (iii) which they contend are problematic, and it is for this reason they have asked for an oral hearing on the matter.

UNSPENDING CONVICTIONS

Before we get to the NPSCPs full argument, it is worth quickly summarising what Mitting and the Metropolitan Police have said.

Mitting has noted that a prominent element in his decision not to allow those with spent convictions to know or make representations at the restriction order stage is the time that this would take and the costs that would be incurred. He says he wants the person with the spent convictions to have a chance to respond, but only during the substantive, evidential phase of the Inquiry if it’s necessary. As far as he is concerned, this is the safeguard open to them, as any restriction order can be revisited later in proceedings.

‘What fairness requires is the person affected [i.e. whose spent conviction is being used] should, if practicable, have the opportunity to make representation and to give evidence about the spent conviction and circumstances ancillary to it in the substantive phase of the Inquiry.’
– (Mitting, Minded-To note of 2nd August 2017, para 9)

However, there is a logical gap here. How is an individual to learn their spent conviction has been used secretly to justify hiding someone’s identity? If you don’t know it’s been used, you can’t make a representation around it. All power remains in the Chair’s hand to recognise the moment and inform the affected person.

Or worse, in the situation where a restriction order prevents the release of a cover name, the individual may never learn that they were spied on in the first place and therefore will be denied the chance to make any representations. In effect, the Chair will have made a finding of fact.

Mitting has already held a number of secret closed hearings in which he considered spent convictions. In one note he tells us he has already been considering spent convictions but such that he has ‘no regard for spent convictions’ for those whose convictions are all unspent.

However, where someone has unspent convictions he has been considering all their convictions, spent and unspent equally. He justifies this on the grounds they appear to evidence a pattern of conduct relevant to the issue. He has already done this in a small number of cases on the grounds of being fair to the undercover officers. Thus, he summarises, it is a small but necessary part of the assessment, though minimal in the overall process.

WHAT THE POLICE WANT

The Metropolitan Police’s position is that once someone is told their spent convictions are being used, the cat is out of the bag, the person will be able to guess which of their comrades was an undercover police officer, and it will totally undermine any restriction order. Fairness to the undercover officers is the more important aspect in their assessment.

They make no mention of the fact that undercover police officers are known to have orchestrated wrongful convictions of dozens of activists and the true total is likely to be in the hundreds, possibly the thousands. These miscarriages of justice will cause a second injustice if they are used by police to deny their victims the truth about what was done. Essentially, a police officer can have falsely labelled an activist as a violent villain and now use that label to avoid accountability.

The police noted that whether a conviction is unsafe or not, it does not necessarily change the end assessment of risk, but that the Inquiry is able to loosen the restriction order at a later date. As such, they are content they can rely on the Chair to conduct things fairly.

The police who have already spent years delaying the Inquiry say they are also concerned the timetable will be jeopardised by the extra work notifying people whose convictions are being used, and are mindful of Mitting’s need to avoid unnecessary cost.

WHAT THE VICTIMS SAY

The Non Police/State Core Participants take issue with this, particularly (ii) and (iii) above. These arguments can be summarised as:

For part (ii);
(a) It undermines the Inquiry’s ability to get to the truth and allay public concern.
(b) They are contrary to Article 8 (rights to privacy) of the European Convention on Human Rights with regards to spent convictions.
(c) They are unfair with respect to duties under the Inquiries Act 2005 and the Data Protection Act.
(d) The Inquiry is at risk of applying the wrong test in law for admission of evidence of spent convictions.

For part (iii);
This proposal is an unnecessary and disproportionate interference with Article 8 rights of those who would otherwise enjoy protections under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

The NPSCPs legal counsel have developed these arguments further in a substantial response to the Chair.

Thus, for objection (a), they note that it compromises core participants’ ability to participate in the inquiry, not least as they have been granted core participant status on the grounds that they themselves may be subject of criticism and should have the right to respond. It fails to allow for conflicts in evidence to be resolved. It likewise fails to allay public concern on how secrecy around undercover policing led to abuses in the first place.

Significantly, it precludes evidence from emerging that may actually undermine the basis for seeking anonymity for the undercover officer. This is particularly iniquitous as one of the key purposes of the Inquiry is to look at where such injustices may have arisen. This needs open hearings where it can be learned, and must not simply rely on assuming police claims that it didn’t happen are automatically true.

In fact, in adopting this approach, the Inquiry is assuming the truth of what the police are saying in the first instance, and thus preventing the exposure of miscarriages of justice. In doing this, the Inquiry undermines its own purpose.

Objection (b) is argued on the grounds that the courts have maintained that it is unlawful for spent convictions to be used in this way, precisely because it is an unwarranted interference with Article 8 rights. The risk is that convictions will be used disproportionately, especially where there is a question over their lawfulness.

As such, the NPSCPs note that a fundamental rule of fairness is that a person who may be adversely affected by a decision should have an opportunity to make a representation, and this unfairness cannot be rectified after a decision is made, because the Inquiry process may effectively end up excluding them from doing so.

The exception to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act being sought is a blanket one, an argument based on expediency and efficiency. However, the Inquiry is ignoring other options for affected participants to feed in, which undermines the restriction order process in that sense as well. And a consequence, it again prevents a person from learning of important information affecting their private life they are otherwise entitled to under Article 8.

Not least, as objection (c) notes, the person whose spent conviction is being used in this way needs to be able to challenge the process where the information being being used. A blanket approach ignores wrongly the case-by-case specific approach which the Act envisaged.

LET JUSTICE BE DONE

The remaining points require a bit more legal technicality. Under section 7(3) of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, there is an exception for using spent convictions where it is necessary for justice to be done. The NPSCPs accept this is the correct test and that the case law around it applies. This case law requires that exceptions are on a case by case basis with specific evidence submitted; generalities are not permitted as that would undermine the purpose of the Act.

However, under the Inquires Act 2005, section 19(3) gives powers to the Inquiry to take into account those matters necessary for fulfilling its Terms of Reference. Counsel to the Inquiry has argued this amounts to the same thing (‘co-extensive’), but the NPSCPs disagree. They point out that the Inquiries Act is only concerned with the Inquiry’s work, where as the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act has wider public interest matters that need to be taken into account.

Justice for the individual concerned needs to be placed in the wider context of the Inquiry, regardless of whether it is admitted in private or not. Section 7(3) of the Act gives affords the greater protection of the individual as rehabilitated after a period determined by Parliament. Thus, the Inquiry is in danger of going behind the will of Parliament in this.

This is the core of objection (d), but also the objection to (iii), the proposal to get a statutory exemption for any Inquiry designated as being exempt from the protections of the Act. In this, the NPSCPs are seeking to prevent a wider undermining of the intentions of the Act.

They argue that Mitting’s proposal in (iii) is too loose in that it will lose individual considerations around relevance and necessity, and that the Inquiry does not sufficiently acknowledge the difference with the test provided under the Act’s Section 7(3). It is also pointed out that it does not matter if there is no public disclosure of the spent convictions, as it is the use of them that engages Article 8 rights.

The proposed amendment to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is to be done simply to remove administrative burden, being done for expediency rather than explore alternative approaches, and so loses the safeguards implicit in S7(3). For this reason the Inquiry should rely on S7(3) only, as it effectively sets out in part (i) of the Chair’s proposed approach.

 


I’m aware that I have brushed over a lot of issues and technicalities in this summary, but for a fuller understanding of where matters stand at the time of the 20 November hearing, it is worth reading the latest NPSCP and Metropolitan Police submissions and the Minded-To note of Mitting. These and all the other documents submitted by all parties on this issue can be found on a dedicated Inquiry page.


Update (11 December 2017): The arguments were heard at the 20 November 2017 hearing and he made his ruling on 29 November where he went pretty much with the contents of his previous minded-to.

Mitting reiterated that his taking into account of spent convictions when considering restriction orders was limited, that they formed a small but necessary part of the process. He rejected non-police/state core participants proposal that they should be able to make submissions where convictions were being relied upon, as it would amount to a mini-trial over a finding of fact.

He believes that the correct time to examine whether those convictions where sound in the first place and didn’t not amount to a miscarriage of justice due to the role of a spycop would be during the substantive, evidence phase of the Inquiry. Thus brushing over the point, that were such a conviction is being used to justify restriction of an officers cover name it may prevent such evidence ever coming out in the first place.

While not a significant issue for undercovers dating up to the 1980s, we strongly suspect the issue of spent convictions with potential associated miscarriages of justice is going to be a bigger issue for later deployments, especially in the 1990s and 2000s.

For a full list of documents relating to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act issue, see the dedicated UCPI page.

Victims of Undercover Policing Call on Public Inquiry to Come Clean

Protesters outside New Scotland Yard demand deatils of political police spies, 2011Over 100 people affected by political policing, frustrated by the Undercover Policing Inquiry’s lack of openness, are demanding answers and action.

Their concern about the direction and state of the Inquiry centres on the need for it to come clean over three crucial factors that would enable victims of police spying to understand the extent to which their lives have been invaded.

The necessary measures have not yet been taken by Inquiry Chair, Sir John Mitting, despite being more than three years into the process.

As Kim Bryan, speaking on behalf of the Spycops Communications Group, said:

‘Unless Mitting orders the release of the names of the undercover officers, the names of the 1000-plus groups that have been spied upon and allows the victims of police spying to gain access to evidence about them that is controlled by the MPS, there is no hope that this Inquiry can set out what it said it was going to do: discover the truth. It is time for the Inquiry to come clean.’

The Inquiry was set up in 2014 to investigate and report on undercover police operations conducted by English and Welsh police forces in England and Wales since 1968.

It was called by the then-Home Secretary, Theresa May after revelations from victims of undercover policing revealed widespread abuse of human rights and miscarriages of justice and the now notorious spying on family and friends of Stephen Lawrence.

The Inquiry has designated less than 200 significantly affected people as core participants. They are mostly political activists drawn from a wide range of political groups including those campaigning for equality, justice, community empowerment, the environment, workers’, civil, women’s, LGTBQ, human and animal rights; and campaigning against war, racism, sexism, homophobia, government policies, corporate power, and police brutality.

A majority of them have signed the letter expressing their grave concerns.

Kim Bryan explained:

‘As Core Participants we are rapidly losing confidence in the Inquiry and in the abilities of John Mitting. He is rowing back on commitments made by the previous Chair, Christopher Pitchford, who stated the inquiry’s priority is to discover the truth and recognised the importance of hearing from both officers and their victims along with the need for this to be done in public as far as possible.’

In August, Mitting made a notable departure from the approach of the previous Chair, Justice Pitchford, who resigned for health reasons.

The August rulings and ‘Minded-To’ notes prevent a thorough investigation and give non-state core participants no right to reply – without any justification.

The letter asks that Sir John Mitting respond to the five following questions:

1.What steps will be taken to ensure that all undercover identities are released as soon as possible, and when can we expect that to happen?

2. What steps will be taken to ensure that the names of the 1,000 or so groups spied upon by undercover police officers are released as soon as possible, and when can we expect that to happen?

3. What steps will be taken to conserve, and speed up disclosure of the evidence controlled by the MPS, in order to allow the victims of undercover policing to understand the extent to which their lives have been affected?

5. What measures will be taken to the tackle the significant financial and power imbalance between the MPS and victims of police spying within the Inquiry?

6. Most importantly, what steps will be taken to ensure that the Inquiry is open and transparent, so that the public and NSCPs can have confidence in its findings?

Copies of the letter have also been sent to Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, and Diane Abbott, Shadow Home Secretary.

 


 

FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER

Sir John Mitting
Undercover Policing Inquiry
PO Box 71230
London NW1W 7QH

Monday 23rd October 2017

Dear Chair,

RE: The need for openness in the Undercover Policing Inquiry

We are writing to you to express our serious concern over the current state of the Undercover Policing Inquiry and wish to raise a number of issues.

It is clear to us from the materials released at the start of August 2017 i that you are minded to take the Inquiry in a different direction than it has been heading to date, one of far greater secrecy.

For us, this Inquiry is about political policing to undermine groups and organisations campaigning for a better society and world, yet the content of the documents released on 3rd August shows a new course that places the needs of the police, particularly undercover officers, above those of their victims. This approach denies those who have suffered abuse at the hands of undercover police access to the truth and the right to justice. It appears, to those of us who have been targeted and have experienced an unacceptable intrusion of our lives, that police sensitivities are being allowed to trump all other concerns.

Your unilateral decision to grant HN7 complete anonymity on medical grounds ii without allowing those grounds to be examined is a case in point. By putting his needs above any consideration of HN7’s involvement in the issues covered by the terms of reference of the Inquiry, and refusing to release even his cover name, the Chair has negated any possibility of discovering if he engaged in sexual or other inappropriate relationships, caused a miscarriage of justice, or was involved in other abusive or illegal behaviour in his undercover role.

This decision denies any victim in HN7’s case the opportunity to come forward. The fact that the ruling makes no attempt to take this into account demonstrates that the Inquiry has a clear bias in favour of police interests. This is echoed throughout the ‘Minded-To’ notes iii, announcing closed hearings around other officers, particularly N81.

As Non-State Core Participants (NSCPs) we are rapidly losing confidence in the Inquiry. We note that the previous Chair, Lord Justice Pitchford, recognised the importance of hearing from both officers and their victims – and the need for this to be done in public as far as possible. He explicitly noted that any departure from openness must be justified iv; what we are seeing at the moment is quite the opposite. The August rulings and ‘Minded-To’ notes prevent a thorough investigation.

We ask you to remember that this Inquiry was called following a series of very alarming revelations about wrongdoing by police, the scale of political policing, and institutional sexism and racism. There is considerable evidence of the police attempting to destroy evidence and cover up that wrong doing. Undercover officers and staff who acted in public office should not be protected from accountability. That they may be upset or suffer disquiet is not sufficient reason for a Public Inquiry to be kept in secret.

We would also like to register our very deep concern at the tone taken by the “Mosaic effect” v and ‘Jaipur’ vi, ‘Karachi’ vii and ‘Cairo’ viii assessments, where anonymous officers, in some cases personal friends of undercover officers, make explicit and unfounded attacks against the victims of these undercover officers, particularly those who have brought to public attention the grievous abuses committed – at no little personal pain to themselves. This is simply inexcusable and it is an embarrassment to the Inquiry.

Furthermore, we would like, once again, to raise the issue of the significant imbalance in financial resources and power between the State and Non-State Core Participants in this Inquiry. This means that Non-State Core Participants (NSCPs) are often prevented from making submissions on issues of concern to them, while the MPS remains in complete control of the evidence and is able to bog the Inquiry down with multiple applications of its choosing.

We support the letter delivered to Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, on the 19th of September 2017, by 13 women who were deceived into sexual relationships with undercover officers. The letter highlighted concerns about institutional sexism and the lack of openness in the Inquiry.

We reiterate the need for answers to the following questions to restore faith in the Inquiry. In the absence of clear answers to these questions, we, as NSCPs feel that we are being asked to participate blindly in an Inquiry that is not fulfilling its own terms of reference, and may not even really intend to do so.

1. What steps will be taken to ensure that all undercover officers’ identities are released as soon as possible, and when can we expect that to happen?

2. What steps will be taken to ensure that the names of the 1000 or so groups spied upon by undercover police officers are released as soon as possible, and when can we expect that to happen?

3. What steps will be taken to conserve, and speed up disclosure of the evidence controlled by the MPS, in order to allow the victims of undercover policing to understand the extent to which their lives have been affected?

4. What measures will be taken to the tackle the significant financial and power imbalance between the MPS and victims of police spying within the Inquiry?

5. Most importantly, what steps will be taken to ensure that the Inquiry is open and transparent, so that the public and NSCPs can have confidence in its findings?

Yours

Advisory Service for Squatters
‘AJA’
Albert Beale
Alex Hodson
Alice Cutler
Alice Jelinek
‘Alison’
‘AN’
‘Andrea’
‘ARB’
Belinda Harvey
Ben Leamy
Ben Stewart
Blacklist Support Group
Brian Healy
Brian Higgins
‘C’
Carolyn Wilson
Celia Stubbs
Ceri Gibbons
Chris Dutton
Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army
Claire Fauset
Claire Hildreth
Climate Camp Legal Team
Colin Roach Centre
Dan Gilman
Dan Glass
Danny Chivers
Dave Morris
Dave Nellist
Dave Smith
Debbie Vincent
Dr. Donal O’Driscoll
Duwayne Brooks OBE
Emily Apple
Frances Wright
Frank Smith
Geoff Sheppard
Dr. Graham Smith
Guy Taylor
Hackney Community Defence Association
Hannah Lewis
Hannah Sell
Dr. Harry Halpin
Helen Steel
Indra Donfrancesco
Jacqueline Sheedy
‘Jane’
Jason Kirkpatrick
Jennifer Verson
Jesse Schust
‘Jessica’
John Jones
John Jordan
Kate Holcombe
Kate Wilson
Ken Livingstone
Kim Bryan
Kirk Jackson
Kirsty Wright
Leila Deen
‘Lindsey’
‘Lisa’
Lisa Teuscher
‘Lizzie’
Lois Austin
London Greenpeace
Reverend Dr. Malcolm Carroll
Mark Metcalf
Martin Shaw
Martyn Lowe
Matt Salusbury
McLibel Support Campaign
Megan Donfrancesco Reddy
Melanie Evans
Merrick Cork
Michael Dooley
Michael Zeitlin
‘Monica’
Morgana Donfrancesco Reddy
‘Naomi’
Newham Monitoring Project
Nicola Benge
‘NRO’
Olaf Bayer
Paddy Gillett
Paul Chatterton
Paul Gravett
Paul Morozzo
Lord Peter Hain
Piers Corbyn
Robert Banbury
Robbin Gillett
Robin Lane
‘Rosa’
‘Ruth’
‘S’
Sarah Hampton
Sarah Shoraka
Shane Collins
Sharon Grant OBE
Sian Jones
Simon Lewis
Smash EDO
Spencer Cooke
Stafford Scott
Steve Acheson
Steve Hedley
Suresh Grover
Thomas Fowler
Tomas Remiarz
Trapese Collective
‘VSP’
William Frugal
Youth Against Racism in Europe
Zoe Young

i UCPI Anonymity applications: Special Demonstration Squad, 3rd August 2017
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/20170803-directions-SDS.pdf
ii UCPI Ruling in respect of HN7 – Undercover Policing Inquiry, 3rd August 2017
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/20170803-ruling-N7-anonymity.pdf

iii UCPI Minded to notes, 3rd August 2017
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/20170803-Minded-to.pdf
iv UCPI Restriction orders (legal approach) Ruling, 3rd May 2016
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/160503-ruling-legal-approach-to-restriction-orders.pdf
v Evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service “The Mosaic Effect”
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Mosaic-report-open-version.pdf
vi Anonymous evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service in the name “Jaipur”
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Jaipur-Risk-Assessment-with-redactions-burned-in.pdf
vii Anonymous evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service in the name “Karachi”
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Karachi-Risk-Assessment-with-redactions-burnedin.pdf
viii Anonymous evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service in the name “Cairo”
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Cairo-Statement-dated-20-July-2017-open-version.pdf

Another Spycop Named: ‘Bill Lewis’

Silhouette of head with superimposed question markA new member of Britain’s political secret police has been named. On 5th October, the Undercover Policing Inquiry released the cover name William Paul ‘Bill’ Lewis, who was undercover in the Special Demonstration Squad 1968-1969.

The announcement follows the Met’s blanket application to keep undercover officers’ names – real and fake – secret.

The inquiry is working through the list of names and said in August that it was minded to release the cover name – but not the real name – of this officer. The Met then withdrew their application to keep it secret.

The fake name is about all we have. The inquiry doesn’t even tell us which groups he actively infiltrated, only that

He may have been encountered by individuals involved with the International Marxist Group or the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign in London at that time.

We have no photo, no detail on whether he, like so many of his colleagues, deceived women into sexual relationships or orchestrated miscarriages of justice.

Whilst any information is better than none, this announcement doesn’t move us onward. To understand what these disgraced units did, we need to hear from those who witnessed it.

We need the list of cover names used by officers and the list of over 1,000 groups that they spied on so that the activists may be contacted and speak about what they saw. Until this happens the inquiry cannot begin to do its allotted task.

At a preliminary hearing on 1st November the Inquiry Chair Sir John Mitting is going to ‘make a statement on the future conduct of the Inquiry’. It’s not clear exactly what this means, but his recent compliance with much of the Met’s desire for secrecy does not give cause for great optimism.

We now have details on 24 of 144 undercover officers. ‘Bill Lewis’ is the first new one identified in three months, and even then in such scant form as to be practically useless. This glacial pace, driven by the Met’s stonewalling, denies justice to those who have already waited too long.

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.