We are supporting the legal action by eight women deceived into long term intimate relationships with undercover police officers who were infiltrating environmental and social justice campaign groups.

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Double Standards?

Solicitor Harriet Wistrich compares the way the courts handled the cases of Justine McNally and eight undercover police officers.

Justine McNally, an 18-year-old lesbian, was sentenced on 21 March 2013 to three years in prison for 6 counts of sexual assault by penetration against her 16-year-old girlfriend. There was full consent to the sexual contact at the time, but subsequently the victim discovered that her boyfriend, “Scott” was in reality a girl. The sex amounted to a crime of fraud because she had posed as a boy and deceived her as to her gender.

The prosecutor commented:
‘Because of the abuse of trust, the trauma to the victim, and the peculiar circumstances, this is an extraordinary case.
‘She obtained consent to physical intimacy between them by fraud. The case involves a very serious abuse of trust.’

Change the word “she” to “he” in the above sentence and in fact you would be describing the acts of a number of undercover police officers who deceived political activists into entering long term intimate sexual relationships. Yet the police officers responsible for this fraudulent activity, which has caused severe psychological damage to many of those who were deceived, are not facing criminal charges. Instead, their employers, the Metropolitan Police, who are currently defendants in litigation brought by the women, are fighting a vigorous battle to get the cases thrown out or heard in secret and thereby avoid being held to account.

In what way are the cases different that would warrant such a contrasting approach?

In the case of Justine McNally, who first made contact with her victim on line when she was 13 and the victim 12, she has been described as having a troubled and unhappy upbringing and difficulties going through puberty. The police officers, on the other hand, had to undergo robust psychological testing before being permitted to work undercover. Justine came from a broken home, whereas the police officers that commenced intimate relationships with the women, lasting in some cases for many years, were all married and had their own children. Justine relied on her own adolescent ingenuity to invent and maintain her disguise, whilst the police officers were trained in-depth in the art of winning over trust and were resourced with false passports, credit cards and had full back up from a team behind them to ensure that their true identities remained hidden at all times. Whilst Justine appears to have been motivated by a search for love and a confused exploration of her gender and sexuality, the police were motivated by the wish to gather intelligence about the activities of the women and their friends who were engaged in movements to promote social justice and to fight racism and other forms of oppressive conduct.

But perhaps the real crime was that Justine used a strap on penis, whereas the police officers had real ones. Perhaps it was that most outrageous insult that resulted in the three-year prison sentence for the teenager, who was not aware she was committing a crime, whilst the police officers remain comfortably in their jobs or on their generous state paid pensions.

Its good to know we live in a fair, free and democratic society where all are treated equal by the law.

Harriet Wistrich is a founder member of Justice for Women and a solicitor for Birnberg Peirce and Partners. She is currently representing 8 women who are bringing a claim against the Metropolitan police arising from their experience of being deceived by undercover police officers.


Vigil at Scotland Yard – 21 Oct 2014 5-7pm

Supporters of the women taking this legal action may be interested in attending and supporting this vigil; Helen Steel will be one of the speakers. We extend our solidarity and sympathy to all those affected by systematic abuse by the police.


New Scotland Yard
Tuesday 21st October 2014
5pm to 7pm

John McDonnell MP for Hayes & Harlington
Sukhdev Reel, mother of Ricky Reel
Stafford Scott, Totteham Rights
Suresh Grover, The Monitoring Group
Helen Steel, One of the woman deceived into a relationship by an undercover police officer
Liz Fekete, Institute of Race Relations
And other family justice campaigns

Ricky Reel was a victim of a race attack in Kingston on October 1997, and his body was discovered a week later, on 21st October, in River Thames. A few months ago, 17 years later, the family discovered that the police were spying on their campaign for Justice. More than 77,000 people have signed a family petition seeking an apology form the Met Commissioner and a robust independent and transparent Public Inquiry into police spying on family campaigns.

For further information: http://www.tmg-uk.org/say-no-to-police-spying-corruption-racism/


Statement from the women re HMIC Report into Undercover Policing: “We are not reassured”

We believe this report is the latest in a long line of official attempts to whitewash the human rights abuses of undercover police officers deceiving women into intimate sexual relationships.

The report is full of contradictions on this issue. Despite uncovering a long list of failings by the police and regulating bodies, recognising the clear risks posed by undercover policing to human rights, and “acknowledging the clear public concern about such relationships“, HMIC says these abuses are “outside the scope of this inspection“. Nevertheless, they assert that they are re-assured that sufficient safeguards are in place to prevent such relationships happening.

There is nothing in the HMIC report to indicate that effective measures have been or will be put in place to prevent human rights abuses carried out by undercover officers entering into intimate sexual relationships whilst in their undercover persona.

Despite assertions made in the HMIC report and the accompanying press release that other investigations are covering this issue, there has never been a specific investigation into these abusive intimate sexual relationships covering the entire period they took place (at least from 1984 – 2010). Without such an investigation it is too easy for the police to claim such abuses are in the past, the fault of a rogue unit (the SDS) or of a rogue officer (Mark Kennedy of NPOIU) and therefore no action need be taken.

Yet these human rights abuses have consistently occurred, both during the era of the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), which was supposedly acting in compliance with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). The Act and its implementation are clearly inadequate as a mechanism to protect human rights.

Furthermore, this year the Home Office began consultation into the Codes of Practice for Covert Human Intelligence Sources, which covers undercover police officers. We submitted comprehensive evidence detailing the serious harm done by undercover policing to our lives, and proposed that the codes of practice should contain the explicit instruction “Officers are expressly forbidden from entering into intimate or sexual relationships whilst in their undercover persona.” The new draft to be laid before parliament, however, contains no reference to intimate or sexual relationships, suggesting that there is no intention to ban the practice, despite the rhetoric to the contrary.

HMIC’s position is that there is no need for specific legal controls around sexual relationships. In this report they talk of undercover officers as “those who have the power to undertake some of the most sensitive and most intrusive forms of policing in a democracy; those who have the power to engage in any conduct … those who have the power to intrude into the personal and private lives of individuals who are caught in the midst of an investigation but who have themselves not committed any offence…” Yet it is implied that these officers can be trusted to police themselves around this issue based on a general understanding of the ethical issues involved. Our experiences of more than two and a half decades of human rights violations clearly demonstrate that undercover police officers and their commanders cannot be trusted.

We welcome the fact that the report acknowledges that NCND (neither confirm nor deny) by the police in relation to undercover policing has no legislative foundation. It also recognises the blanket adoption of NCND potentially undermines public policy by preventing members of the public from making effective complaints about officers and being informed of the progress of those complaints. This so-called ‘policy’ has prevented us and other victims of malpractice by undercover police from cooperating with any investigation.

Unlike HMIC, we are not ‘reassured’ that sufficient safeguards are in place to prevent police spies forming inappropriate relationships. We will continue our fight against the institutionalised sexism and the abuses of undercover policing.

This statement was released on 14 October 2014 by eight women who are taking legal action against the police over undercover relationships. It was in response to a report by HMIC (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary) into their investigation into undercover policing, which can be read in full here. For a full background to the women’s case, see www.policespiesoutoflives.org.uk .


PRESS RELEASE: Response to CPS decision re undercover relationships – “it makes no sense that there can be no prosecution”

Birnberg Peirce and Partners: Press Release on behalf of women victims of police misconduct, concerning CPS decision not to charge any officers from MPS Special Demonstration Squad

21 August 2014

Eight women who were deceived into entering long term intimate sexual relationships withundercover officers have expressed their determination to continue their battle to expose the grave violations,combatthe cover-up and achieve justice and accountability, following the CPS decision today not to bring criminal charges.

One woman known as ‘Laura’ who provided a detailed statement to the police over three years ago about her relationship with Jim Boyling and his deception and abusive behaviour, has said she is considering seeking a review of the CPS decision. Other women within the group later met with officers from Operation Herne with a view to providing statements but withdrew from the process when they were told, in contrast to the investigation into Boyling, that the police would “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” whether the men they were in relationships with were undercover police officers.

‘Laura’ provided a detailed statement setting out how Jim Boyling, who was posing as an environmental activist, Jim Sutton, had convinced her he was a fellow spirit, using an arsenal of police resources and training to disguise his real identity and lure her into the relationship, subsequently having two children with him. She said today:

“They not only invaded my body, invaded my womb, they robbed my relationship to the world, my sense of safety, my sense of self, my ability to trust, years of my life and my children’s childhoods.”

She added,

“I entered this process not only for justice for myself and others, but to see an end to this practice now and in the future. We have not reached that point yet. I believe this practice is still continuing. If no officers are held to account, how can we have any confidence that it won’t happen again and again?”

Birnberg Peirce and Partners represent eight women who are seeking justice and accountability in respect of undercover officers who had long-term intimate sexual relationships with undercover police officers. Five of those women had relationships with four officers who were operatives within the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad (SDS).

The women recently achieved a partial victory in challenging the Met Police’s claimed policy of Neither Confirm Nor Deny following a legal challenge which resulted in the court stating that the police could not sustain their position in respect of Jim Boyling and Bob Lambert.

The Met’s Amended Defence to civil proceedings very recently admitted that Boyling and Lambert did have the relationships that were alleged, but denied that these were “expressly authorised or tacitly acquiesced”. It was suggested that these relationships were based on “genune feelings of mutual attraction”. But all the women say this response is utterly inappropriate and insulting. They say that their consent was undermined by the level of deception, not simply as to who these men were but as to the purpose of these relationships.

Operation Herne, in their second report published earlier this year, stated,

“it would be inappropriate 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 deployment, a gross abuse of their role and as a police officer and an individual and organisational failing.”

Harriet Wistrich, solicitor for the women stated,

“In light of the very public acknowledgement of the ‘gross abuse of their role’, it makes no sense to my clients that there can be no prosecution arising from the admitted activities of these police officers, particularly in the case where a credible complainant has already provided evidence to their inquiry. As usual, when it comes to prosecuting the police for criminal offences, there is a clear double standard. When a woman presenting as a man can be convicted of a sexual offence* in an otherwise consensual sexual relationship why not a male police spy pretending to be an activist?”

The women all agree that

“This isn’t just lying about already having a wife (though all the officers did), this isn’t even just about pretending to be the exact opposite of what they are. This si someone who is only in your life as a paid agent to undermine what matters most to you, a relationship controlled by an unseen committee of their superior officers. This is not informed consent. It is abuse.”

* R v McNally [2014] 2 WLR 200

For further information, contact Birnberg Peirce and Partners: 020 7911 0166

Note for editors / legal departments:
‘Laura’ and six of the eight women have anonymity orders and should not be identified.


PRESS RELEASE: Metropolitan Police confirm identity of undercover officers following legal challenge by women

Press release on behalf of women deceived by undercover police – issued by Birnberg Peirce and partners, 14 August 2014

The Metropolitan Police have formally confirmed, for the first time, the identities of two undercover police officers serving in the much criticised, highly secretive, Special Demonstration Squad. This followed an application made by a group of women who were deceived by undercover officers into long-term intimate, sexual relationships. The application resulted in a judgment by Mr Justice Bean that the police could no longer rely on their purported policy of “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” (NCND) in respect of two of the four officers named by the Claimants. Bob Lambert, who was known as political activist, Bob Robinson in the mid 1980’s, and Andrew James Boyling, who was known as Jim Sutton, a political activist in the late 1990s have both been confirmed as undercover officers by the Metropolitan police in an Amended Defence served in consequence of the Judge’s order.

The police, whilst publicly stating that the actions of undercover officers entering into long term sexual and intimate relationships was morally reprehensible, had until this point steadfastly refused to provide any information to the women Claimants during their three year legal battle for justice. The Amended Defence also confirms that Bob Lambert and Jim Boyling were in sexual relationships with three of the women as they have alleged. However, the Defendant, goes on assert that the relationships were based on “mutual attraction and genuine personal feelings”. The Defendant who trained these officers in deception and deployed them which enabled them to enter into such relationships, denies any responsibility or liability for the abuse and damage caused.

The Amended Defence also refuses to confirm the identities of two other former SDS officers who were known as John Barker and Mark Cassidy, despite the Claimants producing ample evidence from their own painstaking research, that these men were in fact undercover police officers, John Dines and Mark Jenner. Even more bizarrely, and showing contempt for both the women and the judgment of the court, the Amended Defence refuses to confirm any details about the existence and operation of the Special Demonstration Squad, despite this having been stated elsewhere in the public domain including reports by Operation Herne.

“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” said Harriet Wistrich, the women’s solicitor. “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.”

Belinda Harvey, one of the Claimants in the case, said: “I am very upset that the Defence suggests that my relationship with Bob Robinson over twenty-five years ago, is said to be based on ‘mutual attraction and genuine feelings.’ 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. This relationship was a total violation of me and my life.”

Helen Steel, another of the Claimants, who had a two-year relationship with John Barker who she now knows to have been undercover officer John Dines said: “It is disgusting that the police continue to hide behind NCND even though the Judge acknowledged that the evidence we had collected was strong and it appeared on the face of it that the police were just delaying the inevitable confirmation. Rather than apologise for the abuse inflicted on us, the police’s attitude towards this litigation is creating still more distress. Their continued attempts to hide behind NCND and refuse to provide any acknowledgement of the extreme pain they have caused, greatly aggravates the original violation.”

For further information and comment, including to speak to the women’s solicitor Harriet Wistrich, please contact Alex Phillips on 0207 391 0784, or email H.Wistrich#@#birnbergpeirce.co.uk (removing spam-prevention hashtags).


1. Full information of the women’s case, including their legal battles over the Met’s delaying and secrecy tactics, can be found at www.policespiesoutoflives.org.uk

2. The women’s legal challenge was to the Met’s attempt to hide behind Neither Confirm Nor Deny (NCND) rather than engage with the women’s legal action. In court, lawyers for the women cited many instances where the Met had confirmed undercover identities and publicly discussed undercover tactics. Background to the women’s challenge to NCND can be found here: http://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/secrecy-hearing-why-neither-confirm-nor-deny-should-not-stand/ Further notes on NCND can be found here: http://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/the-case-overview/legal-battles/neither-confirm-nor-deny/

3. The women’s legal challenge to NCND was heard by Mr Justice Bean, who in his Judgment noted that Jim Sutton / Boyling had “been publicly named as an UCO by the Commissioner in person” and as such “reliance on the NCND policy to avoid admitting that he was an UCO is simply unsustainable” and similarly that NCND can no longer be relied on in relation to Bob Robinson / Lambert as “he has not only self disclosed, but has been publicly named by the IPCC as a former MPS officer”. Full coverage of the judgment can be found here: http://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/womens-statement-high-court-ruling-met-police-cannot-maintain-blanket-ncnd-to-cover-up-gross-abuses-of-intimate-relationships-while-undercover/

4. Specifically concerning NCND, Justice Bean said: “I do not accept that there is now, in 2014, any legitimate public interest entitling the Commissioner to maintain the stance of NCND in respect of this general allegation; […] 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. I therefore rule that the defendant cannot rely on NCND to avoid answering the general allegation.” policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/uploads/2014/07/Final-high-court-judgement-on-NCND.doc