Content tagged with "Public Inquiry"

New Spycops Public Inquiry Chief Named

Sir John Mitting

Sir John Mitting

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUDGE IN SECRET SPY COURTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INSTITUTIONAL SEXISM

Mitting’s entry in Who’s Who reads:

MITTING, Hon. Sir John Edward

Kt 2001

Hon. Mr Justice Mitting

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

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

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

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

Recreations
Wine, food, bridge

Club
Garrick

Address
Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, WC2A 2LL

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

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

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

WHICH KIND OF CHANGE?

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

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

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

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

Spycops Victims Boycott Scottish Inquiry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


The full text of the letter:

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

27 April 2017

Dear HMICS,

Re: Review of Undercover Policing in Scotland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pitchford Inquiry Brands the Met ‘Incompetent’

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

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

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

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

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

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

POLICE RESISTING ACCOUNTABILITY

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

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

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

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

DELAYS UPON DELAYS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SELECTIVE SECURITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

IT’S NOT GOING AWAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published on Pitchford Watcher.

Update on Seeking Spycops Justice Outside England & Wales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lord Pitchford has Motor Neurone Disease

Lord Justice Pitchford

Lord Justice Pitchford

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

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

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

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

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

Today they Inquiry issued a statement explaining:

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

Lord Pitchford added

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

Our sympathies are with Christopher Pitchford and his family.

Union Leaders Call for Hogan-Howe to Explain Shredding

Bernard Hogan-Howe

Bernard Hogan-Howe

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

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

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

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

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

This open letter from union leaders was released this morning.


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

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

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

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

SIGNED:

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

Matt Wrack (General Secretary) Fire Brigades Union

Chris Kitchen (General Secretary) National Union of Mineworkers

Tim Roache (General Secretary) GMB union

Mick Cash (General Secretary) Rail Maritime and Transport union

Dave Ward (General Secretary) Communication Workers Union

Michelle Stanistreet (General Secretary) National Union of Journalists

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

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

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

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

Judicial Review of NI Exclusion from Spycops Inquiry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Official: Rod Richardson was a Spycop

NPOIU officer known as Rod Richardson

NPOIU officer known as Rod Richardson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Home Office: Time for the Truth

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

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

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

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

Political Undercover Policing: Time For The Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enough is enough. We demand:

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

Official: Marco Jacobs & Carlo Neri were Spycops

UCPI Carlo Neri announcement

Is this the end of the Metropolitan Police stonewalling about the identity of spycops? Yesterday we got official confirmation of the identity of a fifth spycops officer, Carlo Neri, only days after we got the fourth, Marco Jacobs.

The announcements came from the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing, rather than the Met themselves, but it amounts to the same thing.

Although seventeen officers have been identified as belonging to the undercover political policing units, the Met have been at pains to ‘neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND) it.

This charade has continued long after several have been publicly outed with extensive details, including their real names, and been interviewed by the media. The Met even went as far as saying they ‘neither confirm nor deny’ that whistleblower officer Peter Francis was ever an officer.

The First Admitted Spycops

With Mark Kennedy, the Met had admitted he was an officer before the slew of exposures, so they hadn’t invented their supposed long-standing policy of NCND yet. They have, on occasion, done a merry dance to avoid naming him in court but it was too late to actively try any NCND nonsense.

Two years ago, after three years of obstructions, the courts finally forced the Met to admit that Bob Lambert and Jim Boyling had been in the Special Demonstration Squad.

Marco Jacobs & Carlo Neri

Carlo Neri

Carlo Neri

We’ve all known Marco Jacobs was a police officer since he was publicly exposed by those he targeted in South Wales five years ago.

In March 2015 the police struck a bizarre bargain, saying that whilst they wouldn’t openly admit Marco Jacobs was an officer, they wouldn’t contest anyone saying he was and they’d pay any damages due from his criminal abuse of people he spied on.

Carlo Neri infiltrated anti-racist and socialist groups in London in the early 2000s. He was exposed at the start of 2016. Andrea, who he deceived into a relationship, spoke to Newsnight about what she called the ‘psychological torture’ of being targeted.

Neither Neri nor Jacobs’ real names have been published. Yet other officers, such as John Dines and Mark Jenner, have been even more documented – and with their real names – but still the Met pretend they can’t confirm them. Earlier this year Dines uttered an apology to Helen Steel, who he had deceived into a relationship. What else was that but an admission of his role? How much longer can they keep stonewalling about these spycops?

The Met claim that the officers would be endangered. In the six years of exposure, including some of them being public and locatable, the worst harassment any has suffered is some polite leafleting outside a building Bob Lambert works in, which took place every few weeks on days when he wasn’t there.

Exposure is not a serious threat to their safety. It does not override the public’s right to know, nor the victims’ need for acknowledgement and closure.

The Met have spent sacks of public money sending in lawyers to obstruct the fight for justice. This week’s casual crumbling of NCND is proof it was never needed in the first place, that it was just a ruse which cruelly compounded the damage done to people abused by spycops.

As Pitchford Watcher noted

‘The tactic of NCND has been wielded by the police in both court cases as a way of dragging out matters for five years, adding to the abuse and suffering already experienced by those targeted for relationships…

‘campaigners have been right in consistently pointing out that NCND is not a long standing policy that can never been breached, as the police claim, but something adopted when it suits them, namely when it comes to challenges over their accountability.’

Surely the police have to concede the truth about the rest of the seventeen. Everybody knows they were police officers. Their stories and faces have been online for years. Pretending it’s somehow secret is the act of an institution too petulant or paranoid to be taken seriously.

Release the Names

But it is not enough to merely tell us what we already know. We still don’t have any real details of how and why those people were sent into lives and campaigns.

Furthermore, the seventeen known officers are only a small fraction of the true total. Most of those abused by spycops cannot join the fight for justice because they have no clear idea what was done to them. Unless the cover names of the spycops are released people cannot realise what happened, come forward and tell their story. It also means that the officers’ evidence can’t be examined. If the names remain hidden in the Met and Pitchford’s files, we cannot get the whole truth.

The release of the cover names of officers and the groups they spied upon is the great test of the Pitchford inquiry. Truth is not just deserved by those who, through luck and persistence, have identified their state-sponsored abusers. It must be delivered to everyone subjected to this treatment, be they an individual, a campaign or an institution.

Beyond that, truth and justice are the right of the public who should know what has been done in their name, at their expense, to their society.