It was into this environment that the new chief constable of Police Scotland, Phil Gormley, was sworn in earlier this month. He needs to be seen as an person of untarnished integrity. He is far from it.
Gormley was in the Met from 2003-2007. For the latter half of that time he was head of Special Branch, which included the infamous Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) who are at the centre of the political policing scandal. He oversaw Special Branch’s 2006 merger with the Anti Terrorist Branch to form Counter Terrorism Command.
It gets worse. Yesterday’s Sunday Herald reported that Gormley was on the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Terrorism and Allied Matters committee (ACPO-TAM), and Undercover Research Group confirmed he was the Committee’s secretary from 2005-2008. This was the body overseeing the other disgraced spycops unit, the NPOIU.
They deployed notorious officers including Mark Kennedy, Lynn Watson and Marco Jacobs at the time Gormley was there. It covers the period of both NPOIU & SDS saturation involvement with the protests against the G8 in Gleneagles, and the NPOIU’s intensive renting of Kennedy to foreign governments. According to HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, they sent Kennedy to 11 countries, including 14 separate spying trips to Scotland during his seven year deployment.
It is simply inconceivable that Phil Gormley did not understand what Special Branch was there for, that he failed to ask what his SDS unit was doing before he assessed how it would fit into the restructure. It is equally implausible that his oversight of the NPOIU somehow missed the fact that it was deploying officers doing the same work as the SDS using the same methods.
Assuming he knew and approved of all this, his moral judgement as a police officer – indeed, as a human being – is utterly deplorable and he should not be running a police force.
If, on the other hand, he claims that he had no idea what either of his units did then he is a woefully incompetent and negligent manager. That too means he should not be running a police force.
Phil Gormley has taken up a very important job with Police Scotland. He needs to get off on the right footing, so should be completely open about what he knows about the SDS, the NPOIU and the discredited officers who worked for them. If he fails to do this then this issue will hang over him and questions that need answered won’t go away.
Lindsay Davies from COPS succinctly added
He should tell the truth about his past. As the police and security services so often tell us, the innocent have nothing to fear.
Protest against Bob Lambert’s employment at London Metropolitan University, March 2015
Former spycops officer – and later boss – Bob Lambert has resigned from both his positions at British universities.
It comes after more than a year of pressure on the University of St Andrews – where COPS gave a presentation on Lambert in March – culminating in a letter two weeks ago from four prominent activists including George Monbiot, who holds an honorary doctorate from the univesity.
Lambert’s other employer, London Metropolitan University, has seen even more intensive activity. As well as having the COPS presentation on Lambert to staff and students, there have been monthly pickets as part of a dedicated campaign that has made the controversy front page news.
As a Special Demonstration Squad officer, Lambert was deployed into the animal rights movement in the early 80s. He had sexual relationships with four women whilst undercover, including fathering a planned child with one. He co-wrote the What’s Wrong With McDonald’s? leaflet that triggered the McLibel trial, yet kept his role and that of the SDS from the court. He was part of an Animal Liberation Front cell that firebombed department stores that sold fur, and stands accused of planting the devices that burned down Debenhams in Harrow.
Afterwards, he was promoted to running the SDS, where his officers also had long-term life-partner relationships. He oversaw the spying on the the family of Stephen Lawrence and many similar black and family justice campaigns, as well as Labour MPs including Jeremy Corbyn.
His hiring to academic positions teaching counter-terrorism and criminology to future police managers is entirely at odds with the disgraced history of the man, his methods and his unit. As Observer columnist Nick Cohen put it, Lambert was ‘uniquely unqualified’ for his positions.
The story broke yesterday in the University of St Andrews’ newspaper The Saint. Outgoing principal Louise Richardson said
I’m not going to get involved in what people do privately
That is a bizarre response to what Lambert did on duty as a paid public servant.
Lambert was also employed by Exeter University, embarking on a ten year project, but resigned in 2011 shortly after he was exposed. The university has rebuffed inquiries as to why. Likewise, this week London Met refused to say why he had resigned.
Henceforward I will pursue my academic interests in responses to terrorism and political violence as an independent researcher. I will also continue to cooperate with the investigations and inquiry into undercover policing.
In a dramatic turn of events, the Scottish government has written to the Home Secretary asking for Scotland to be included in the public inquiry into undercover policing.
Just three weeks ago the Scottish government said it would be happy to wait and see what the Pitchford inquiry concluded – even though that’s several years away and is not due to examine events in Scotland. This week they confirmed to campaigners that they have changed their minds.
The call comes just days after German MPs demanded their government get answers about UK undercover police in Germany.
I hope the UK government agree to this request and open up the Pitchford inquiry to examine what went on in Scotland, but if they don’t then there has to be a separate Scottish Inquiry.
Whilst being better than nothing, a separate inquiry would raise the possibility of conflict and competition between the two. There would not only be duplication of resources but raises the possibility of one uncovering information unknown to the other.
These Metropolitan Police officers moved freely between countries in their deployment, so excluding certain events from the inquiry on grounds of geography is arbitrary and prevents any chance of a proper overview.
I would sincerely be outraged if documented and admitted undercover policing scandals in Scotland are not allowed to be looked at in this investigation.
Why should I be asked to tell Lord Pitchford everything that happened to me in England, but be banned from telling him that I suspect undercover police were involved in sabotaging my legally protected journalistic work in Edinburgh?
Mark Kennedy, Lynn Watson and Marco Jacobs – all officers from the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) – were at the anti-G8 protests at Gleneagles in 2005. Kennedy had a major organisational role as transport co-ordinator.
Sarah Hampton, who had a year-long relationship with Kennedy at the time, told the Guardian
He was an amazing activist. He was a full-time activist. He was paid to be an activist. None of us were paid to be activists. He was very efficient. He had a fund to spend on us which came from the state.
The NPOIU officers were joined at the G8 protests by Jason Bishop and another suspected officer from the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS). A 2012 report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) admitted there were SDS and NPOIU officers were at the G8.
That same HMIC report says that Kennedy defied orders to travel abroad with an activist in 2009. It’s thought this was Harry Halpin, with whom Kennedy travelled to a climate activist meeting in Copenhagen.
Halpin, a computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, say Kennedy spied on him when he was a student at Edinburgh University. In Copenhagen, he was badly beaten by police.
It was terrifying. I could hardly see or walk by the time they had finished with me. I was never given an explanation by the Danish police on why I was targeted, but I think it was because of information passed to them by Mark Kennedy.
It’s intelligence which is still being used to target people for no clear reason. It’s intelligence which should be removed.
Five women are known to have been in Scotland with undercover officers from both units who deceived them into intimate relationships – a practice the Metropolitan police has admitted was
abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong… these relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma.
With this catalogue of abuses stemming from just a handful of the political secret police, it’s clear that there needs to be disclosure about the actions of all officers from these units and which groups they targeted.
Abuse is equally abhorrent wherever it is committed. A personal violation is no better if done in Stirling or Copenhagen than in London.
The Home Secretary should extend the Inquiry’s remit to Scotland – and to all actions of Britain’s disgraced political secret police, wherever they took place.
Helen Steel, who was in several groups targeted by Lambert and officers he deployed, and was deceived into a long-term relationship by one of them.
It comes after Lambert’s other employer, London Metropolitan University, has faced similar calls with a succession of pickets and the issue making front page news locally.
The University of St Andrews said
He has been entirely open with the university and his students about his past. His teaching is highly valued by students. Beyond that, as matter of policy, we don’t comment on personal matters or the circumstances of our staff.
He has extremely rich experience in professional practice, accepting that some of that is now controversial
it nonetheless tests our credulity. Are they really saying Lambert told the university and students things he says he didn’t even tell his wife? Or has he just been firefighting, admitting each revelation after it has been made public?
Do they really think Lambert’s history has no bearing on his position? Would they continue to employ, say, a medical lecturer was found to have run a disgraced and disbanded secret clinic that performed unethical, traumatising experiments on patients without consent?
The Sunday Herald reports that the call for Lambert to lose his post is endorsed by MSP John Finnie, himself a former police officer.
I consider his continuing employment a blight on our highly regarded education system and trust it ends soonest.
We write regarding Bob Lambert who is listed as a lecturer at the University of St Andrews’ Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence. We believe that his past conduct as a central figure in the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad means that he is supremely unsuitable for teaching and shaping the thoughts of others in his current position.
His University biography asserts that “For the bulk of his police service (1977–2007) Robert Lambert worked in counter-terrorism, gaining operational experience of all forms of violent political threats to the UK, from Irish republican to the many strands of international terrorism that include what may now best be described as the al-Qaida movement.”
In reality much of his career was spent within the Special Demonstration Squad which was set up to monitor protest groups – more counter-democratic than counter-terrorist. The SDS’ abuse of citizens and undermining of legitimate campaigns are one of the darkest corners of Metropolitan Police history. Lambert is no role model and should not be trading on his abuses.
It is not only Lambert’s personal conduct undercover that is damning. He went on to run the Special Demonstration Squad, overseeing deployments that largely repeated his pattern of behaviour, hallmarked by the same abuses. For years he directed a raft of officers whose actions were – to use the words of police investigators – morally wrong, completely improper, gross abuses of their role in deployments that were abject failures.
In the four years since he was exposed, many new facts about the SDS have come to light. With each new revelation the scandal grows, and there are two notable constants in almost every case – Bob Lambert is integrally involved, and he has not mentioned it before.
Bob Lambert is responsible for acknowledged human rights abuses.
Last month the Metropolitan Police issued an unprecedented apology to seven women deceived into long term intimate relationships with undercover officers, including one of Lambert’s former partners, Belinda Harvey, and women targeted by officers supervised by Lambert. The apology unequivocally states that the relationships were “abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong” and that “these relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma”.
In a separate case Bob Lambert deceived another woman, Jacqui, into a relationship and even fathered a child with her despite knowing he would disappear from their lives once his posting as an undercover officer ended. This relationship led to a record compensation payout by the Metropolitan Police to Jacqui in October 2014. Even after he was outed in October 2011, Lambert did not make contact with Jacqui or their son, waiting until she discovered the truth by chance in the press. A statement he issued in Oct 2011 apologised to Belinda Harvey (about whom he had been questioned) but made no mention of Jacqui or other women he had deceived.
Lambert now admits that he had four sexual relationships whilst in his undercover persona. He not only had these relationships, he was later the SDS manager who deployed numerous other officers who did the same. Operation Herne, the police’s own investigation into political undercover policing notes of these relationships; “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.”
In addition to these abusive relationships, Lambert and the SDS have been shown to be involved in:
Stealing the identities of dead children: Lambert stole the identity of Mark Robert Charles Robinson, who died aged seven of a heart defect. The practice has been condemned by the Home Affairs Select Committee who said it “was not only ghoulish and disrespectful, it could potentially have placed bereaved families in real danger of retaliation”.
Deceiving courts: Lambert admits being arrested “four or five times” and prosecuted under a false identity. He claims he cannot remember if he was convicted. This raises serious questions about perjury and perverting the course of justice. Additionally, he co-wrote the What’s Wrong With McDonald’s? leaflet that triggered the McLibel trial, the longest trial in English history. The fact of Lambert and the SDS’ involvement was kept from the court.
Spying on the family of Stephen Lawrence: Lambert was the SDS manager whose officers spied on the Lawrences. He oversaw Peter Francis, who says he was tasked to ‘find dirt’ with which to discredit the family (a charge Lambert denies but which the Ellison Review recommended is fully investigated by the Public Inquiry into undercover policing).
Five years after the murder Lambert brokered a meeting between one of his officers who had been spying and the Commissioner’s team at the Lawrence Public Inquiry. This has been condemned by Mark Ellison QC’s report as “wrong-headed and inappropriate… a completely improper use of the knowledge the MPS had gained by the deployment of this officer”, and Lambert was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The investigation appears to still be ongoing. The fact of the SDS spying was kept from the Public Inquiry and all other investigations into the case.
This was one of at least 18 similar family and black justice campaigns spied on by the SDS, including others targeted by officers under Lambert’s direction.
Acting as an agent provocateur: Those who knew Lambert under his pseudonym assert that he often berated activists for being “too soft” and encouraged them to take more serious action. He instigated many of the protests he spied on. Perhaps the most serious charge against him is the allegation that he planted an incendiary device in the Harrow branch of Debenhams in 1987 as part of a co-ordinated action against the fur trade which caused damage totalling £9m in three Debenhams stores. It is a charge he has strenuously denied.
However, he claims credit for getting two of the group jailed and yet fails to explain how the mysterious firebomber of the Harrow store got away without even being named or apprehended.
Spying on MPs: In March it emerged that at least ten MPs had been spied on by the SDS. These are elected, public figures rather than the clandestine figures the SDS claimed to be countering. Lambert was one of the SDS managers who deployed officers who spied on the likes of Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn.
Construction industry blacklist: The Consulting Association was a company that ran an illegal blackllist of thousands of politically active construction workers. Their files contain information that can only have come from police or the security services. The Independent Police Complaints Commission says it appears likely that every Special Branch supplied information that appears in files for the blacklist run by the Consulting Association. Lambert was the SDS manager who oversaw Peter Francis, who says he believes intelligence he collected is in blacklist files, and also Mark Jenner, who posed as a construction worker and infiltrated construction union UCATT under his false identity.
This was no one-off error, it was a catalogue of abuse that Lambert turned into a blueprint for others.
One has to wonder, if all this is not enough to make him unfit to teach others, what does it take? With fresh revelations coming to light almost weekly and the public inquiry about to begin, we can be confident there will be more.
These were not the actions of a young naïve person. This was years of deliberate, strategic abuse of citizens and undermining of legitimate campaigns.
Lambert’s apologies, such as they are, come in carefully worded phrases that only take partial responsibility for what has already been exposed. They appear to be little more than firefighting each revelation as it appears. Did he declare this grossly abusive past – which he says he kept secret from his own family – to the University when he applied? Or did he deceive you as he deceived so many women and other campaigners?
Whichever, it is abhorrent that a man so lacking in moral compass should be in a position where he is shaping the minds of others. The University of St Andrews should terminate his contract.
George Monbiot (Honorary DSc, University of St Andrews)
Lois Austin (ex-chair, Youth Against Racism in Europe)
Dave Smith (secretary, Blacklist Support Group)
Helen Steel (McLibel defendant and one of seven women who recently received an apology from the Metropolitan Police)
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
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.
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.
Penning 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.
On 5 March COPS held a meeting at the University of St Andrews, where former Special Demonstration Squad officer (and later boss) Bob Lambert now lectures. As with the meeting in November at his other employer, London Metropolitan University, we wanted his students and colleagues to know who they are dealing with.
Here is video and a transcript.
One of your lecturers is Dr Robert Lambert. I would like to take a few minutes to tell you what is known about him.
He joined the Metropolitan police in 1977 when he was 25. In 1983 he was deployed by the secret unit within Special Branch, the Special Demonstration Squad. He took the identity of Bob Robinson from a child close to his own age who had died aged 7 of a heart condition. The theft of the identities of dead children was mandatory in the unit at the time.
He was sent into the animal rights movement, which was a new frontier for the SDS. Early in 1983, he was at a demonstration outside Hackney Town Hall that lobbied to get the council to sign up to a charter against animal cruelty. There he approached an activist called Jacqui who, at 22, was ten years younger than him. They soon began a relationship, her first serious one.
Like many in the group, Jacqui was teased by Lambert for not being committed enough and not doing direct action. As with so many other officers before and since, he made a personality trait of encouraging a more confrontational approach that would bring those involved into conflict with the police.
He joined London Greenpeace – a small group whose action mostly involved meetings and leafleting – and he co-wrote the famous What’s Wrong With McDonald’s leaflet that triggered the McLibel trial where McDonald’s sued two activists for distributing the leaflet. The trial became the longest in British legal history. His involvement, and the fact of undercover officers being in the group, was kept from the court.
He would leaflet and harangue customers at butchers’ shops, and was arrested and prosecuted for it. He says he can’t remember if he was convicted. Either way, it is alarming that somebody can swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth then lie and lie and lie to the court. If the court did not know his real identity then it raises serious questions about perverting the course of justice and perjury.
He moved in with Jacqui and she became pregnant. She had no idea that he was already married with children. And of course, she had no idea that he was only in her life as a paid agent to undermine her and the values she held most dear. He was by her side as she gave birth and he held their son before she did.
Given the prevalence of the relationships – 13 out of the 14 officers exposed had them – it tests credulity to see it as anything other than a strategy. The love letters from the various officers read remarkably similarly. In 2013 Lambert was asked by Channel 4 News if his managers knew about his relationships. He refused to answer, and then refused to explain why he was refusing to answer.
THE DEBENHAMS ARSON
Animal Liberation Front activists had been using small incendiary devices to target department stores that sold fur. They were placed under items of furniture that would ignite in the night which, in turn, would set off the sprinkler system. As with almost all other ALF actions, they were aiming to maximise property damage rather than to hurt any people.
Nonetheless, it was major criminal damage and the use of fire introduces a dangerous and uncontrollable element that has to be taken very seriously indeed.
Lambert was one of a cell of three, with Geoff Shepherd and Andrew Clarke, who planned simultaneous attacks on three branches of Debenhams in July 1987. Shepherd and Clarke went to Luton and Romford, Lambert’s job was to target the Harrow store. All three stores had devices planted and eight million pounds of damage was caused.
Two months later, acting on Lambert’s intelligence, police raided a flat where Shepherd and Clarke were assembling another round of incendiary devices. They were both jailed.
Both are bringing cases to have those convictions quashed because, as with the 50 other convictions recently overturned in similar cases, prosecutors withheld evidence from undercover police officers that may have been helpful to the defence. If, as seems likely, their convictions are quashed it means that the self-declared pinnacle of Lambert’s career, the thing he uses to justify the deceit and damage done to others, was a miscarriage of justice.
Perhaps more serious is the allegation that Lambert planted the devices at the Harrow store. It is a charge he has strenuously denied. Of course his accuser Geoff Shepherd, a man who spent years in prison because of Lambert, cannot be seen as an impartial figure.
But the question remains; if it was not Lambert, who was it? Was there really a fourth person who neither Shepherd nor Lambert have mentioned before and who Lambert – despite getting the other two caught red handed in the crowning achievement of his deployment – allowed to get away unmentioned. It’s that, or else it was Lambert. I can see no third option. I leave it up to you to decide which you believe.
With the benefit of hindsight I can now see how he orchestrated breakdown of our relationship. It was very hard time for me. He continued to visit our son after he moved out and we continued an intimate relationship until one day when he said he had to “go on the run” to Spain, owing to him being involved in the firebombing at the Debenhams store in Harrow. He promised he would never abandon his son and said that as soon as it was safe I could bring our baby to Spain to see him.
He abandoned me to support our son alone and to explain to him the disappearance of his father. I felt guilty. At that time I blamed myself a lot for the break up and for the fact that my son had lost his father. I tried to track Bob down countless times over the years but those efforts were doomed to failure as I did not even know his real name.
In the final period of his deployment he began a relationship with Belinda Harvey. He also had brief sexual relations with two other women he spied on. Belinda Harvey wasn’t even an activist yet was not only targeted for emotional intrusion by Lambert, but he also had her flat raided by Special Branch saying they were looking for the hardcore animal rights activist Bob Robinson. You don’t need to be an activist to be a target of these squads.
Lambert told Belinda and Jacqui – who was oblivious to his relationship with Belinda – that the police were on his trail and he needed to flee the country. He told them, separately, that they could come and join him once he’d settled in. He spent a week with Belinda in Dorset in December 1988.
That shocking allegation caused the Home Secretary to order a full public inquiry into undercover policing.
Lambert told Channel 4 News, ‘I left in 1998 which was round about the time of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry’ and he says at no time was the SDS concerned with smearing the Lawrence family or their campaign.
However, the main witness to the murder, Stephen’s friend Duwayne Brooks, was twice prosecuted on trumped-up charges after Francis says he spent hours trawling footage to get something useable. Brooks walked free from court without uttering a word, and received an apology and record compensation from the Metropolitan Police. If they tried to assassinate Brooks’ character, why would they not try with others around the campaign?
Despite Lambert saying that the SDS was not concerned with spying on the Lawrence campaign, in March last year the Ellison Report – commissioned by the Home Secretary after the allegations of spying were made – made reference to nine different officers who gathered intelligence on the campaign.
Where is the threat to life and limb from these campaigns? What terrorists might there be hanging round the Lawrence family and others like them? The only threat they posed was one of embarrassment. They would discredit the police, not by any libellous means but simply by showing them up for what they had actually done.
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.
Last year the Met’s self-investigation Operation Herne, usually known for its defensive approach, nonetheless condemned it in powerful and unequivocal terms, saying
there are and never have been any circumstances where it would be appropriate for such covertly deployed officers to engage in intimate sexual relationships with those they are employed to infiltrate and target. 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.
It is of real concern that a distinct lack of intrusive management by senior leaders within the MPS appears to have facilitated the development and apparent circulation of internal inappropriate advice regarding an undercover police officers engagement in sexual relationships.
That last bit is a reference to a memo apparently sent round by Bob Lambert when he was the unit manager, advising the use of condoms.
If Lambert did think of fathering children with activists and lying in court as bad ideas rather than good tradecraft, it seems he did little to inculcate these feeling in his underlings.
Jim Boyling was deployed by Lambert into an environmental group called Reclaim The Streets. He not only fathered children with an activist he spied on, like Lambert he also went through a prosecution under his false identity. This police officer was in lawyer-client meetings with the defence. Whilst Boyling was acquitted, one activist, John Jordan, was convicted. That conviction was a miscarriage of justice and was finally quashed earlier this year.
AS WITH MCLIBEL, SO WITH THE LAWRENCES
Shortly after, the MacPherson inquiry into the Stephen Lawrence case published its report, famously declaring the Metropolitan police as ‘institutionally racist’. Despite the inquiry being supposed to shed light on the Met’s response to the case, there had been no mention of the SDS intelligence-gathering. Just like the McLibel trial which concluded a year earlier, Lambert and the SDS’ important role were kept hidden from the state officials tasked to find the truth and administer justice.
A team at the Met were crafting the Commissioner’s response to the Lawrence inquiry. On 14 August 1998, Lambert brokered a meeting between an SDS officer under his command who had gathered intelligence on the Lawrence campaign and Detective Inspector Richard Walton from the team formulating the official response. There was a lot of pressure at the time as calls came from many people, including Doreen Lawrence, for the Commissioner to resign.
The Ellison Report’s findings reserve some of their strongest criticism for this action, calling it ‘wrong-headed and inappropriate’. They found that the SDS officer that Lambert deployed
was, at the time, an Metropolitan Police spy in the Lawrence family camp during the course of judicial proceedings in which the family was the primary party in opposition to the Metropolitan Police…. for a meeting to then be arranged to enable an in-depth discussion to take place about the Lawrences’ relationship with groups seeking to support their campaign, in order to help inform the… submissions to the Public Inquiry, was, in our assessment, a completely improper use of the knowledge… gained by the deployment of this officer.
Though Lambert had overseen the spying and brokered the ‘wrong headed’ meeting, Ellison notes that he was probably not the instigator. ‘Mr Lambert has claimed that he was asked to arrange it by senior management within the SDS.’ Nonetheless, he played a pivotal role and the officer’s work shows that this was no aberration but rather the culture of the squad that Lambert devoted fifteen years to.
Lambert retired from the force in 2006, collecting an MBE for ‘services to policing’ in 2008.
In October 2011, Lambert was speaking at a conference where he was confronted by activists he had spied on in London Greenpeace many years earlier. He refused to respond. Afterwards he issued an apology for spying on London Greenpeace. He also apologised to Belinda, the woman he had a relationship with in the final months of his time undercover.
His apology made no mention of the far more involved relationship with Jacqui, nor of their son. It appeared to be merely dealing with the things that he’d been exposed for and ignoring other obviously far greater, but still secret, misdeeds.
Eight months later, in June 2012, Jacqui came home and opened the newspaper and saw a headline about an undercover police officer called Bob Lambert being named in parliament as the bomber of a Debenhams store. It had a vintage picture of her long-lost partner from 24 years earlier, Bob Robinson. The impact devastated her. She says ‘I was not consenting to sleeping with Bob Lambert, I didn’t know who Bob Lambert was,’ going on to say it feels ‘like being raped by the state’.
He only extended his public apology to her after she went on television. But as she pertinently says, what if she hadn’t seen that article? She believes that Lambert would have taken the secret to his grave.
True contrition would look very different. It would involve apology of his own volition, rather than waiting to be caught. It would involve full disclosure, rather than having to respond to each new revelation, and even then refusing to answer key questions. His avoidance of the truth did not end when he left the police. It continues to the present.
WHAT MORE IS THERE?
The SDS was closed down in 2008 after counter terrorism officers came on board and realised what had been going on. It stands thoroughly discredited. Doreen Lawrence, victim of a swathe of appalling and despicable police practices, has said that the SDS’ spying on her family tops it all.
If all of this isn’t enough to damn a person and make them unfit as a role model, I wonder what else you need. Whatever it is, I suspect you may well get it. The Met is mired in the SDS scandals that, despite their best efforts to conceal, are still emerging.
Bob Lambert was a serial abuser of women. He had fathered a child knowing he would soon abandon it. Then there is the question of whether he planted an incendiary device in a department store – again, I stress that he denies that. He had made a personality trait of encouraging others to take more confrontational illegal action.
This is not a one-off error, nor the actions of a young naïve person. This was years of deliberate, strategic abuse of citizens and undermining of legitimate campaigns. He told Channel 4 News that we mustn’t think his behaviour was typical; yet we know that most officers behaved similarly, notably those in his charge as manager where he seems to have used his methods as a blueprint. So he not only committed but for years he directed a raft of officers whose actions were – to use the words of police who’ve looked into it – morally wrong, completely improper, gross abuses of their role in deployments that were abject failures.
The blame for this litany of inexcusable intrusion into people’s lives and counter-democratic undermining of campaigns must lie either with the managers who authorised and ran it or, if officers were acting on their initiative, then the officers must take the blame along with managers for their negligence. In all cases, as both an officer and manager, Bob Lambert stands guilty.
Every one of us has done things we are rightly ashamed of. Though Lambert’s are on a scale that few people reach, he is nonetheless entitled to his private life and also to not have it affect some of his other activities. Were he at academic institutions as a lecturer in microbiology or Russian literature, or as a cleaner or gardener, it could be argued that his past should have no bearing on his position.
But Bob Lambert is at the London Metropolitan University and the University of St Andrews based on what he calls his ‘counter terrorism’ experience. It appears that he failed to tell his employers about the true nature of his past. He deceived the universities the same way he deceived the activists, his family and everyone else around him.
Officers and managers from the Special Demonstration Squad should be part of such courses only as case studies in how it can go wrong.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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 Independent Police Complaints Commission announced today that three officers will be investigated over their roles in the Speical Demonstration Squad’s spying on the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.
It follows revelations three months ago in the Ellison Review, confirming police had spied on the family at the time of the 1998 MacPherson Inquiry.
Two of the three officers are now retired. They are Colin Black and Bob Lambert, and they face charges of discreditable conduct.
Lambert is already under scrutiny in many other aspects of the secret policing scandal. As an undercover officer he co-wrote the McLibel leaflet that led to the longest trial in English history at which undercover police involvement was never revealed. He was named in Parliament as the firebomber of a Debenhams store, a charge he has strenuously denied. He fathered a child with one of the activists he targeted and abandoned them both when his deployment ended. He later ran undercover operations, overseeing the deployment of several other exposed controversial officers.
The third officer is Commander Richard Walton. As well as discreditable conduct, he faces allegations of breaches of honesty and integrity.
He was an acting Detective Inspector in 1998, but by this year he had risen to be head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, the unit that has current responsibility for the secret police who would formerly have been employed by the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) or National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU). Walton was moved from the post immediately after the Ellison report was published in March.
Whilst any exposure of wrongdoing and accountability for those culpable is welcome, it cannot be a parcelling off that lets anyone claim the issue has been dealt with. Any findings must be part of the material for one overarching, credible, rigorous, open public inquiry into Britain’s Secret Police.