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We Are All Targets Now

John Catt

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

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

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

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

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

WE’RE COMING FOR YOUR FAMILY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GUILT BY ASSOCIATION

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

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

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

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

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

GUILT BY PROXIMITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

Release MPs’ Spycops Files – and All The Rest Too

Jeremy Corbyn, MP spied on by the SDS

Jeremy Corbyn, MP spied on by the SDS

And still they come. The tide of revelations about the extent of spying by Britain’s political secret police is still flooding in.

When the scandal first broke four years ago, the breadth of groups spied on astonished us. It appeared that the units regarded any political activity outside the sliver of the spectrum represented in parliament as a threat. But we now know it was even broader than that.

In June last year we learned that the Green Party’s Jenny Jones had a file opened on her after she was elected to the Greater London Assembly, and it ran for at least eleven years. A fellow Green, councillor Ian Driver, was also spied on, with his file noting his support for such subversive terrorist causes as equal marriage.

Two weeks ago it went further with whistleblower Special Demonstration Squad officer Peter Francis naming ten MPs who he saw files on, including three that he personally spied on.

The list includes Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone, Dennis Skinner, Joan Ruddock, Peter Hain, Diane Abbott, Bernie Grant and Labour’s current deputy leader Harriet Harman.

The two other targets have particular resonance. One is Jack Straw who, as Home Secretary, was ultimately in charge of the police. The other is Jeremy Corbyn who was spied on by Francis in the 1990s. Francis was deployed by his manager at the Special Demonstration Squad, Bob Lambert.

Protest against Bob Lambert's employment at London Metropolitan University, March 2015

Protest against Bob Lambert’s employment at London Metropolitan University, March 2015

Ten years later Lambert was running the Muslim Contact Unit (quite why the intelligence-gathering Special Branch would send its most experienced infiltrators and spies into an outreach project is a question for another time).

Shortly after leaving the police he published a book on police efforts to deal with Muslim extremism in London. His parliamentary booklaunch was hosted by Jeremy Corbyn MP, the man Lambert had sent spies to watch, in September 2011, a month before Lambert was exposed by activists.

In a further twist, Lambert is now controversially employed as a lecturer at London Metropolitan University in Corbyn’s constituency of Islington North.

A furious Corbyn told this week’s Islington Tribune

 

I was interested in his book at the time and I was involved in the launch. But for all I know he could have had me under surveillance.

 

Like so many corrupt state officials around the world who’ve been caught and are facing an inquiry, Lambert’s memory has become conveniently selective. He does not deny tasking Francis to spy on Corbyn but says he can’t remember.

The MPs attended parliament the day after the revelations and had a forty minute debate (full transcript here). The Home Secretary wasn’t there, so the government spoke in the form of the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims, Mike Penning.

The one bit of positive new information was the assurance that Peter Francis, and any other whistleblowers, will be given immunity under the Official Secrets Act at the public inquiry. It’s notable that the inquiry was singled out – the long standing threat against Francis and, by extension, others who speak elsewhere still stands, apparently.

Challenged on the sexual relationships that officers deceived women into, Penning said that

the Met police apologised

Perhaps he knows a different Met to the rest of us. The Met who deployed all the spies have only admitted that three out of an estimated 200 were actually police officers.

They are still spending huge amounts of public money resisting the plain, established truth in court. The partner of John Dines, Helen Steel, is back in court next month trying to get the Met to drop their absurd, insulting obstruction tactics.

Back in parliament, Jack Dromey made the bold claim that

Labour has for years pressed for much stronger oversight of undercover policing

This flies in the face of the fact that every one of the political police spy units was set up under Labour who, in the early 2000s, handed control of three of them to the Association of Chief Police Officers, a private company exempt from Freedom of Information legislation.

Peter Hain led the targeted MPs’ charge and was the first of several who demanded to see their full files. Penning steadfastly refused.

Neither Confirm Nor Deny = Neither Truth Nor JusticePenning did say more than once that there would be a release of whatever wasn’t needed to be redacted for reasons of security. One of the affected MPs, Joan Ruddock, immediately put in a request to the Met for her file. In the days that followed, the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow underlined the seriousness of the scandal. The following week Ruddock was told that the Met would ‘neither confirm nor deny’ that there was any file on her.

The MPs should certainly get to see the information that was collected about them, but they should not have it as a privilege. It is clearly established that the spy units were extraordinarily intrusive, with a paranoid vision of political activism and scant regard for the rights and wellbeing of citizens.

Most of the official reports such as Operation Herne are self-investigations and have thus been self-discrediting. We cannot trust the words of proven liars. Everyone who was spied on by these units should be told and given proper access to their file to judge for themselves what was recorded and why.

Police Concede Marco Jacobs was Spycop

Mark 'Marco' Jacobs

Mark ‘Marco’ Jacobs

Yesterday saw another blow to the police’s obstruction tactics for legal cases brought by targets of undercover officers.

The police have been saying they can ‘neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND) that anyone was (or wasn’t) an undercover officer. They claim this is a long standing policy that cannot be deviated from. But, as is pointed out by the eight women in the Police Spies Out of Lives case who were deceived into relationships with officers, that is simply not true.

The Met have even tried to claim NCND about officers who have given numerous media appearances talking about their work. Even more farcically, in one hearing they admitted that Jim Boyling was a Metropolitan Police officer but not that he was undercover, as if he might have had his alter ego of committed activist as a some sort of off-duty hobby.

Yesterday, three people from Cardiff Anarchist Network who were spied on for four years by an officer known as Mark ‘Marco’ Jacobs came to the High Court in London to challenge the use of NCND in relation to their claim for damages. Two had sexual relationships with Jacobs, the third is a man who was the partner of one of one of them and was very close friends with Jacobs.

Mr Justice Mitting asked the police’s counsel what the point was of asking the claimants to prove that Jacobs was a police officer. There was a long, resounding, painful silence, ended only by Mitting asking another question.

Whilst the police did not say they were dropping the use of NCND, they said that they would not contest the assertion that Jacobs was an officer, and if damages are awarded then the police will be liable to pay.

THE REAL ABUSE

'Undercover is no Excuse for Abuse' banner at the High Court

Mitting did question the position of the man in the case, Tom Fowler, saying it amounted to saying ‘you stole my girlfriend by deceit,’ a position that wouldn’t hold water in a marriage case, let alone with unmarried people. Leaving aside his anachronistic clear distinction between married and other couples, it shows a fundamental failure to understand what these spies have done.

As other women deceived into relationships with undercover officers have been at pains to point out, it’s not so much the sexual contact that’s the issue, it’s the intimacy, the trust, the intertwining of lives and plans for the future. To then find out that the person you were so close to was only ever there as a paid agent to betray you and the values you hold most dear, that their presence in your life was controlled by an unseen group of other state agents, is a profoundly traumatising shock.

Whilst we may hope our closest relationships don’t end, we’re always aware of the possibility. It happens to a lot of people at some time and it’s happened to most of us before. But the profound invasion of privacy, the sustained manipulation and the abuse of trust that were meted out to all three people in this case is not something anyone would ever expect of their partner, their best friend or their government.

THE FUTURE

Whilst the Metropolitan Police’s effective admission that Jacobs was their officer is good news, not bringing the evidence out in front of them means we lose hope of shining a light up the ladder in this case and see who sent Jacobs to spy, what they asked him to do, and how much they knew of his abuse of those he targeted.

Nonetheless, it is a victory and bodes well for NCND to crumble away from future cases and the forthcoming public inquiry.

First Spycops Relationship Case Settled

More than a dozen women who were deceived into relationships with undercover police officers are known to be bringing cases against the Metropolitan Police. Last week, the first case was settled.

Jacqui was a 22 year old animal rights activist in 1984 when she met Bob Robinson, ten years her senior. They lived together for several years and had a son. Robinson was actually police officer Bob Lambert who knew that he would abandon his child as a toddler. Jacqui is certain that Lambert kept tabs on her after he left. Nonetheless, he had no contact, paid no maintenance.

After Lambert was outed by activists in 2011, he issued an apology. It mentions another partner, Belinda Harvey, but not Jacqui with whom he had a much more involved relationship. Lambert’s children with his wife had both died, yet he had not contacted Jacqui to warn her to get her son tested and treated.

Undercover officers went to elaborate lengths to ensure they weren’t suspected after they left. It was essential to maintain the vulnerability of campaigns to future infiltrators. The most powerful trick in the spies’ spellbook was the ignorance of their targets. Put simply, nobody would believe that they did it. So they would feign mental breakdown over a period of months and disappear to get their heads together, never to be seen again.

If we maximise the benefit of the doubt for Bob Lambert we might say he couldn’t have dropped a one-line card to Jacqui to warn of their son’s medical risk as it would have compromised the undercover method. This excuse evaporates once he was outed. If he had any concern for her and their son he would have run to their door. But still he did not tell Jacqui, a decision that could have cost their son his life.

Jacqui only found out the truth by chance eight months later, seeing it in a newspaper. She described it as ‘like being raped by the state’ and has since been receiving psychiatric care. She also says that, had she not stumbled across the truth and made all the effort to find Lambert, she believes he would have taken the secret with him to his grave.

When her son was young she initiated a bid to have him adopted by her new partner. Getting a child adopted without a still-living parent’s agreement isn’t easy. Adoption services made efforts to find him but their report says

I made several attempts including letters and telephone inquiries to contact Mr Robert Robinson… but I was unsuccessful. An informant, Mrs Moseley who shared the same flat with him at Nightingale Estate, Hackney, East London, told me that Mr Robinson’s whereabouts are unknown. She maintained he is unlikely to surface in the future because of his intense political involvement with the Animal Liberation Movement activities.

Adoption report on the search for Bob 'Robinson'The address Lambert lived at appears to have been demolished several years before ‘Mrs Moseley’ made her comment. Jacqui is convinced that this person was a Special Branch plant. The name, Moseley, may well be a warped joke on their part. How it must have seemed to Special Branch that all the loose ends were being tied up.

Jacqui’s new partner died not long after, the second dad her son had lost in his seven years. She returned to bringing him up as a single parent, a few miles from where the well-remunerated Lambert worked.

Considering the full cost of bringing up a child plus her ongoing care, even on purely financial terms the payout of £425,000 seems paltry.

The Metropolitan Police said

From the outset we have dealt with this lengthy case with professionalism and sensitivity, completely understanding the gravity of the circumstances.

Jacqui brought her case in 2012. Numerous other women brought theirs earlier. The Met refused to even admit that Lambert had been an undercover officer until two months ago despite the fact that, as Jacqui said, there was the absolute proof in the form of six foot of Lambert’s DNA walking round. The Met still won’t admit most of the well-established officers such as John Dines and Mark Cassidy were, in fact, undercover officers.

The settlement is testament to the tenacity of Jacqui and her lawyer Jules Carey. It comes despite the unprofessional, insensitive attitude of the Met. No amount of money will buy back Jacqui’s capacity to trust. Looking beyond that to a wider view of justice, as she said, money is an irrelevance.

There is the money, but there is no admission by the police that what they did was wrong, there is no meaningful apology and most importantly there are no answers.

But the legal system effectively forced her to take the money. If she had continued to court and won, but the damages awarded were below the police’s previous £425,000 offer, then she would have had to pay the police’s legal bill.

The women whose cases are still ongoing are likely to get lower amounts as they did not unwittingly have children to raise. This means the police costs could even exceed the damages awarded. In that position who could afford to push onward for disclosure and justice?

The claimants – many of whom would surely forego any money if they could have answers – will have to take the money (then vicious newsmedia comments sections will fill up with accusations of them being gold-diggers all along).

Effectively, the police are buying their way out of a damning court case. Those in charge retain their promotions and pensions whilst those they abused are left to rely on their own fortitude to repair the damage that was done to them for having the temerity to campaign for a fairer world.

As eight other women bringing similar cases reiterated

we have no reason to believe that these abhorrent abuses have stopped, or that the police acknowledge their actions are wrong, and that they must change.

There can be no excuse for undercover officers having sexual relationships whilst in their undercover persona. It is already illegal in Germany and there is no detrimental effect to German society. After all the damage done and, at long last, admissions from the police of it, it is surely time to change the law.

Did Spycops Commit Other Crimes?

CPS logo

The attention paid to the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute undercover police officers focused, rightly, on the invasion of privacy and bodily integrity in their sexual contact with women they spied on.

But in the same statement, the CPS ruled out several other charges.

MISCONDUCT IN PUBLIC OFFICE

In order to prosecute misconduct in public office, the prosecution would have to show that an officer knowingly abused their position in order to bring a sexual relationship about

The police have readily and unequivocally admitted such relationships are abhorrent and an abuse of their position. Speaking for the Association of Chief Police Officers, a body that ran several of the political policing units, Jon Murphy said

It is grossly unprofessional. It is a diversion from what they are there to do. It is morally wrong because people have been put there to do a particular task and people have got trust in them. It is never acceptable under any circumstances … for them to engage in sex with any subject they come into contact with.

In March this year the second Operation Herne internal report into undercover policing declared

there are and never have been any circumstances where it would be appropriate… Such an activity can only be seen as an abject failure of the deployment, a gross abuse of their role and their position as a police officer and an individual and organisational failing

So there we have a police report saying it’s a gross abuse of the officer’s position, but the CPS said there’s insufficient evidence that any officer knowingly abused their position.

Everyone admits the relationships happened and they were a gross abuse. If it is a gross abuse then there is a gross abuser. That must be either the manager who authorised it or the individual undercover officer who did it.

Whichever one it is, former officer Bob Lambert is culpable. He was an undercover officer who had a prolonged relationship including fathering a child with a woman he targeted. After he was promoted to running the squad he mentored Jim Boyling who did the same thing.

If Operation Herne is right and it is both an individual and organisational failing then we should see several officers held responsible for each relationship. Even if they blame the individual officer and claim they disobeyed their guidance, it is negligence on the part of the managers.

But if this came to court, we could expect to see officers from both roles blaming each other. That would be a whole lot of dirty laundry being done in public, and would be likely to point to further abuses. This scandal has already become far too large for establishment comfort. It’s no surprise that the CPS – who helped ensure Mark Kennedy’s evidence was kept from court in the Ratcliffe case, leading to a miscarriage of justice and 20 wrongful convictions – has decided to defy the police’s own admissions of misconduct and keep these officers away from court as well.

BREACH OF THE OFFICIAL SECRETS ACT

The CPS also said that

In order to prosecute a breach of the Official Secrets Act the prosecution would have to prove that the suspect in question disclosed information that would, or would be likely to, damage the work of the security and intelligence services

This is thought to be because officers have named colleagues to civilians. Jim Boyling told the activist he married about several other officers’ identities. This led her to tell Helen Steel that her partner John Barker had in fact been police officer John Dines.

Peter Francis

Peter Francis

Additionally, when Mark Kennedy was confronted by activists who had discovered his true identity, he confirmed activist Lynn Watson had actually been a fellow police officer.

Whistleblower officer Peter Francis has been threatened with prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. The fact that neither Boyling nor Kennedy are to face charges for naming colleagues to the activists they targeted implies Francis faces something of an empty threat. The CPS appear to have declared it’s open season for him, and for any other officers who want to right some of their wrongs, to step forward and name names.

Did Spycops Commit Sex Crimes?

CPS logo Two weeks ago the Crown Prosecution Service announced no charges would be brought against undercover police who had sexual relationships with women they targeted.

The fact that the women consented at the time is irrelevant. Consent can be negated if it is later discovered that there was serious deception involved.

The CPS cited three bits of case law it considered before making its decision. A court decided that Julian Assange’s failure to use a condom after he’d said he would could be rape and should be brought to trial. Another case where a man promised to withdraw before ejaculation, but failed to, was also decided as being capable of amounting to rape. This gives us an indication of the threshold of criminal sexual deceit.

If Julian Assange deserves a trial it is risible to say that these police officers do not. Is anyone seriously suggesting that their profound, prolonged sexual deception lasting years – in several cases having children – is not worthy of a court case, but they would prosecute Mark Kennedy if he had once failed to use a condom as promised?

Conversely, if Assange had been sent into the civil service by Wikileaks and spent many years in a life-partner relationship with a civil servant, solely as part of a spying operation, he would surely be prosecuted for the personal damage he inflicted.

The CPS also mentioned the Justine McNally case. She pretended to be a man in order to have sex with another woman and was jailed for three years in 2013. The Court of Appeal reduced it to a nine month suspended sentence and she was released after 82 days. The conviction stands.

McNally was not an isolated case. Gemma Barker developed three online male personas that she used to deceive young women into having sexual contact with her. In 2012 she was sentenced to 30 months in prison for two counts of sexual assault and three months for one count of fraud.

Trans man Chris Wilson did not tell two female partners of his previous gender before initiating sexual relationships. One relationship involved kissing, a second involved having sex. In April 2013 a Scottish court (whose Sexual Offences Act Scotland 2009 is slightly different to England’s Sexual Offences Act 2003) convicted him of “obtaining sexual intimacy by fraud” and put him on the Sex Offenders Register. He was sentenced to three years probation and 240 hours community service.

There can be no disputing that the secret police’s deceit was on a comparable scale – arguably a far greater one – than McNally’s, Barker’s or Wilson’s. They were not merely lying about their job or the fact that they were already married. They were not just concealing a fundamental truth about themselves that their partners believed they were the opposite of. They were only ever in these womens’ lives as paid agents to undermine and betray those women and what they held most dear. They were living a relationship that was controlled and monitored, perhaps even directed, by a committee of unseen superior officers. This cannot be informed consent. It is abuse.

Whether what the police officers did legally constitutes rape is unclear. Ben Fitzpatrick, Head of Law at the University of Derby, examined the idea from a legal perspective last year over a series of four articles. He concludes that there are several areas in which it is possible that there is a claim.

Clare McGlynn, professor of law at Durham University, is of a similar opinion.

 

It is not clear that English law would cover the sexual activities in these cases as sexual offences, and the undercover officers have not been prosecuted.

I do think they should have been charged and prosecuted for these activities. The women would clearly not have consented to sex had they known the men were undercover police officers. I think there is a level of deception in these cases which raises them above the ‘I love you’ sort of deception [where someone pretends to in love to convince someone else to have sex with them].

 

But, put simply, it is untested. The discussions around the definition are reminiscent of those that happened before rape within marriage was finally legally recognised in England in 1991. The CPS also considered charges of indecent assault against the police officers but, as that has the same consent test as rape, they decided not to prosecute.

What happened to the women deceived by police is rare – and its exposure rarer still – so it doesn’t squarely fit any common definitions based on previous, commonplace crimes. But there is no doubting the seriousness of the psychological and sexual abuse. The legal definition of consent and cases cited above mean there is surely a case to answer.

The inescapable conclusion is that if these men were anything other than police officers they would be prosecuted. The decision not to go ahead is a further part of the cover up of the gargantuan injustice of the political secret police.

Police Forced to Admit Spies Identities

Jim Boyling whilst undercover in the 1990s

Jim Boyling whilst undercover in the 1990s

For the first time ever, the Metropolitan Police have named undercover officers. Following last month’s court hearing, the Met have been compelled to admit that two Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) officers who deceived women they spied on into long-term relationships were, indeed, police officers.

Bob Lambert, who was undercover as Bob Robinson using the identity of a dead boy, had sexual relationships with four women he targeted including a four year relationship co-habiting and having a planned child with one.

Jim Boyling infiltrated Reclaim the Streets under the name Jim Sutton and caused a miscarriage of justice by going through a court case under his false identity, ended up marrying a woman he’d been sent to spy on.

GENUINE LIES

The Met claims the relationships took place against the guidance of managers and were women were the result of ‘mutual attraction and genuine personal feelings’.

Belinda Harvey, who had a relationship with Lambert, said

How can a relationship be genuine when it is based on a massive web of lies? He pretended to be a man with noble ideals and political commitments, when in reality he was a police officer spying on our friendship network.

He pretended he was committed to the future when he always knew he would go back to his real job and wife and kids. That doesn’t show genuine feelings; it is abuse and I would never have consented to such a relationship had I known.

After his deployment, Lambert went on to run the Special Demonstration Squad’s operations. He was Boyling’s mentor and overseer, the very manager who the Met are implying was ignorant of the dangers of sexual relationships. Yet again the Met take a transparently implausible stance and defy the people they abused to disprove it, compounding their already horrific level of personal damage.

In a press release on the Police Spies Out of Lives site that speaks for eight women bringing the case against the police, their lawyer Harriet Wistrich said

The police have been pulled, kicking and screaming, to this first extremely significant development in the litigation brought by the women in their long battle for justice and accountability. It represents a partial victory with the police being forced to acknowledge the identities of undercover police officers who committed serious violations of women’s rights. However, the confirmation does not go far enough, it is mealy mouthed, offensive and lacking in any acknowledgment of the huge abuse of power and harm caused to my clients.

IF LAMBERT GOT IT WRONG, HOW CAN HE BE RIGHT?

Bob Lambert whilst undercover in the 1980s

Bob Lambert whilst undercover in the 1980s

When the SDS was still a secret unaccountable unit, Bob Lambert was seen as a role model. ‘He did what is hands down regarded as the best tour of duty ever,’ said a former officer. But as their activities get dragged into the light of public scrutiny and mainstream morality, they are seen for what they are. Not even the Met can defend their actions and claim that what happened to those women was in any way acceptable.

Lambert currently holds academic posts at London Metropolitan University and the University of St Andrews, trading on his ‘counter terrorism’ experience. The police proclamation that sexual relationships are unethical further undermines his credibility as an authority on undercover policing. Either he used sexual relationships as a tactic or else he coincidentally got over his ‘mutual attraction and genuine personal feelings’ at the same time as his deployment ended and abandoned his own child without any support from his well remunerated job.

Rather than being trusted to train the next generation of infiltrators, Bob Lambert is more like a case study in how wrong it can go. His continued employment discredits the institutions that hire him.

TWO DOWN, TWO TO GO

Helen Steel

Helen Steel

Whilst the Met’s admission of undercover officers’ names is historic, it is the minimum they could get away with. They are still refusing to concede the identity of two other officers in the case, behaviour that’s just as absurd as their earlier refusal to admit the identities of Lambert and Boyling.

Everybody has known for years that Mark Cassidy was the undercover officer Mark Jenner. Everybody has known for years that John Barker was the undercover officer John Dines. The real John Barker was an 8 year old boy who died of leukaemia whose identity was stolen by Dines.

How long can they insult their victims and obstruct justice with such transparent nonsense? It is time to admit what they’ve done.

Helen Steel, who had a long-term relationship with John Dines, told this morning’s Radio 4 Today programme

These guys were saying that they loved us, that they wanted to be in our lives for the rest of their lives and yet they knew that their posting was going to be ending in just a few years time and that they were going to disappear from our lives and leave us bereft. That is not love, that is abuse.

The End of the Neither Confirm Nor Deny ‘Policy’

A significant step was taken towards justice yesterday for five women who were deceived into sexual relationships with undercover police officers.

The police have been using an obstruction tactic of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’, claiming they have a long-standing, unwavering policy of not confirming whether anyone was ever an undercover officer. It is nonsense, as the women and their legal teams demonstrated, listing the many exceptions police and other officials have made.

Pointing out that the police have conceded sexual relationships were an abuse of position, Mr Justice Bean’s ruling said

there can be no public policy reason to permit the police neither to confirm nor deny whether an illegitimate or arguably illegitimate operational method has been used as a tactic in the past.

The court gave the Metropolitan Police 28 days to formally admit or deny that:

(a) officers of the Metropolitan Police Service, as part of their work as undercover officers and using false identities, engaged in long term intimate sexual relationships with those whose activities the MPS wished to observe;

(b) this was authorised or acquiesced to by senior management;

(c) ‘Jim Sutton‘ was such an officer; and

(d) ‘Bob Robinson‘ was such an officer.

If they fail to respond within that time, the court will take it as an admission that all these things are true.

The second point is particularly noteworthy. Despite police attempts to shift all blame on to the individual officers, the court overtly points to the fact that senior management must have known the relationships went on.

All but one of the officers so far exposed had sexual relations with activists they spied on, and most of them had long-term committed relationships. One of the worst, Bob Lambert, had a planned child with an activist he spied on, so he cannot have been ignorant of the possibility of such relationships when he was promoted to running operations.

The fact that his protegés embarked so enthusiastically on their relationships makes it clear that such practices were accepted and quite possibly encouraged, even planned and monitored. Of course, even if managers had been unaware of such relationships, that would have made them negligent and therefore still culpable. But, even with the facts we have so far, it is already a nonsense to pretend that senior management were unaware and disapproved.

That said, the police are not above nonsense to stall attempt at dragging the truth from them. Earlier this year they confirmed in court that Jim Boyling was a police officer but would not confirm he was an undercover officer – as if he might have come up with the Jim Sutton alias and spent years being an anti-capitalist activist as a personal hobby in his spare time.

Returning to yesterday’s ruling, the judge stopped short of compelling police to admit that all four officers named in this case were, in fact, police officers. Jim Boyling and Bob Lambert have both been previously named by officials and have confirmed themselves. Yet the other two are scarcely less public.

Everyone knows that Mark Cassidy was the undercover officer Mark Jenner. Everyone knows that John Barker was the undercover officer John Dines. The real John Barker was not an undercover police officer – he was a boy who died of leukaemia aged eight. Thier stories and pictures have been published in many places for years now. To leave any veil over them is absurd.

It was disappointing to see BBC Home Affairs correspondent Danny Shaw refer to the case as a mere ‘bid for compensation’. The integrity that drips from every word of the womens’ testimony and campaigning makes it plain that this is all about disclosure, truth and accountability.  They don’t want money, they want justice.

Despite shortcomings in the judgement and its coverage, it is nonetheless a major victory as it shreds the blanket use of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ which – as the women so comprehensively showed – was never a real policy, merely a convenient shroud for the police to obscure their history as they heap gruelling punishment on their victims for daring to ask for answers.

After three years the first real hurdle has just fallen, a tribute to the tenacity of these women and their lawyers. The outrageous denials from the police are becoming ever more starkly exposed for what they are. More will fall.

Partners of Undercover Officers Back in Court

This week the women duped into long term relationships with undercover police officers are back in court in London and have called for a solidarity demonstration outside.

psool

Eight of the women are supported by the Police Spies Out of Lives group. One of them, ‘Alison‘, lived with Mark Jenner for four years. She told her story to Newsnight earlier this year [on Youtube starting at 16.35]. Today she published an article on the Guardian site about the next stage of the court case.

The police are obliged to provide disclosure and properly outline their case. They have failed to do so, citing a policy of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ (NCND); they say they cannot ever confirm whether somebody was an undercover police officer, and that this policy is essential to the integrity of important and dangerous undercover work. They went as far as applying to have the case struck out on the grounds that, as they would refuse to give proper testimony in court, they would be denying themselves a fair trial.

There is only one flaw with this policy – it doesn’t really exist. It’s a common practice, but that is all. As Police Spies Out of Lives note

The women launched their legal action in December 2011, but it was not until June 2012 that the police first mentioned NCND in relation to the claim. You might think if there had been such a long standing policy this would have been highlighted in the first police response.

There have been innumerable exceptions to NCND, and the women gave the court two large files documenting some instances. After that, and the Ellison review‘s revelations earlier this year about spying on Stephen Lawrence’s family, the police abandoned their strike out the case. They’re still sticking to the ‘policy’ of NCND though.

This puts them in the bizarre position of not naming Mark Kennedy as an undercover police officer. Kennedy hired Max Clifford to sell a gossipy version of his story to the Mail on Sunday – he could scarcely be less secret. More than that, he has been identified in numerous official statements, including a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) in February 2012 that said

It is normal practice for the police to neither confirm nor deny the true identity of undercover officers. This is to protect both the officers themselves, and the effectiveness of the tactic. However, the case of Mark Kennedy is one of exceptional circumstances, including his own public revelations, the media interest in him, and the fact that the Court of Appeal named him on 19 July 2011. Because of this, HMIC has chosen on this occasion to use his real name.

The information is out there and, like toothpaste out of the tube, you can’t put it back in. Mark Kennedy has not been magically de-identified. The current backslide shows that the stonewall use of NCND is both a recent invention and a tactic of obstruction.

Of the other four officers named in the womens’ case, John Dines and Mark Jenner have been extensively documented, and Bob Lambert has not only been identified in the press and the Ellison Review but has given interviews candidly admitting to large parts of his work.

The fifth, Jim Boyling, who was undercover as Jim Sutton, has also been comprehensively reported in the press, television and beyond. It would be hard to suspend him from police duty in January 2011 if he were not a police officer. Later in 2011 Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe confirmed that ‘Jim Sutton’ was an undercover officer [PDF, p22].

Because Boyling went through a 1997 court case under his false identity as Sutton, a convicted co-defendant has won the right to have the conviction overturned. But in a farcical twist at the hearing earlier this year – after this long-standing policy of NCND had been invented –  the police backtracked and would not fully identify Boyling. They confirmed he was a police officer but not an undercover one. As if he might have done the undercover work as a hobby in his spare time. As if confirming that this man whose picture is all over the internet was a police officer doesn’t put him at just as much of a risk as admitting he was an undercover one.

Police lawyers said they weren’t compelled to give any reason why they didn’t oppose the quashing. ‘What kind of justice is that?’ asked the judge. It’s a question we should all be asking.

NCND is another manifestation of the ‘double injustice’ faced by so many victims of police abuse; there is what was done to them, and then there are the tricks of delay, distraction and denial to try to avoid accountability. Many of those who have been spied on – the family of Stephen Lawrence and numerous other black justice campaigns, anti-fascists, environmentalists, Hillsborough families and more – can tell a similar story.

An police service interested in justice would do precisely the opposite. More, these blocks are such blatant decoy tactics, and they know it’s obvious to everyone. But as long as they aren’t forced into actually admitting that’s the case, they can conceal the truth of what they’ve done and deny justice to the citizens they abused.

If this is their response to being caught committing the starkly cruel abuse of these women – the most complete invasion of privacy that it is possible for the state to enact – then what hope can we have for the promised public inquiry?  The fight against NCND is not just a fight for the women concerned, but for everyone spied on by Britain’s political secret police, and for the hope of eventual truth and justice for the wider society.

Their hearing is on Thursday 5th and Friday 6th June at the Royal Courts of Justice on The Strand in London. Police Spies Out of Lives have asked:

  • If you are in London, please join us outside the Royal Court of Justice, The Strand, from 9am–10am on Thursday 5th June to show your support for the women.
  • Please share the graphic (above)
  • Please tell friends, family, colleagues, groups and organisations about the Where We Stand statement

You can follow the case’s progress on Thursday and Friday via the Police Spies Out of Lives Twitter.

Scotland Yard in new undercover police row

Scotland Yard in new undercover police row

Today’s Observer front page carries a story on the Metropolitan Police’s latest attempts to cover up its abusive spying operations, and to prevent victims from accessing justice through the courts.

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/mar/08/scotland-yard-undercover-police-row