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Secret Police, Secret Powers, Secret Abuse

Strike-article-imgThis article was originally written for STRIKE! Magazine.

Police Spies Out of Lives was formed, at the beginning of 2012, as a support group for eight women who were deceived into long-term intimate relationships with undercover police officers.

The women have been pursuing a legal battle against the Metropolitan Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers for over three years now. They brought this action to not only uncover the truth for themselves but to prevent the continuation of psychological, emotional and sexual abuse of campaigners and others by undercover officers. There have been victories and defeats along the way, but the struggle for an acknowledgement of the damage caused and measures to ban this from ever happening again continues.

Looking back, we now know that police spies formed relationships in order to infiltrate campaign groups from at least 1984. The police, echoed by the media, have tried to frame the constant stream of revelations about their actions as a historical problem caused by the ‘now disbanded’ rogue Special Demonstration Squad. Although this Special Branch unit was closed in 2008 it’s operations were already being expanded from 1999 by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit. Which in turn merged with NECTU in 2011 to form the current National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (NDEDIU) run by SO15, the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command.

We have called for the past to be thoroughly and openly investigated, so that the damage may be acknowledged, those responsible may be held to account, and that as a society we may come to terms with what has happened and heal the wounds that have been inflicted. To date, this has not happened.

Over 15 official inquiries by the police and government bodies, including the ongoing Operation Herne, have failed to hold any undercover officer or their bosses accountable for the damage they have wreaked on individuals and groups. Theresa May announced last March that there will be a public inquiry into undercover policing which should begin this year. We demand that this fully investigates the role of senior police officers in encouraging and sanctioning the forming of relationships by undercover officers.

In the High Court, the Met have constituently tried to evade giving any evidence relating to undercover policing by claiming this falls under a ‘policy’ of NCND, neither confirm nor deny. Successful arguments by the women’s lawyers demonstrated that no such policy exists and the Met were forced by the judge to confirm that Andrew Boyling and Bob Lambert were police spies. The latter has been named in parliament as having planted an incendiary device in a Debenhams store in 1987, one of three simultaneous arson attacks causing millions of pounds worth of damage, for which two animal rights activists were jailed.

He rose to become a Detective Inspector in Special Branch, and supervised other spies who infiltrated groups such as Reclaim the Streets, anti-fascist groups and campaigners against genetically modified crops. A police whistleblower has also directly implicated Lambert in police attempts to spy on, smear and discredit Steven Lawrence’s family’s campaign about the police failure to investigate Stephen’s racist murder in 1993. He is now at the centre of a campaign by Islington Against Police Spies to have him sacked from his position as senior lecturer at the London Metropolitan University’s John Grieve Policing Centre.

NCND was maintained, however, by the police regarding undercover cops Mark Jenner and John Dines. Helen Steel, who had a two-year relationship with 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.”

The case against Mark Kennedy concerns relationships he formed after the Human Rights Act came in to force in 2000, as such the police have pushed for these cases to be held in the secret Investigatory Powers Tribunal unless the women are able to appeal the decision. At every stage the Met have sought to obstruct justice being done. The CPS recently announced that it wouldn’t be bringing criminal proceedings against the undercover officers who deceived women into relationships. But the women continue their fight for truth in the civil courts.

We are also calling for a change in the law to prevent this abuse from ever happening again. There are no circumstances in which it would be acceptable for an undercover officer to engage in intimate relationships with either targets or members of the public under the guise of their undercover identity. However, senior officers and some politicians are attempting to maintain a ‘never say never’ position. Recent Select Committee hearings on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000), which governs undercover policing, have failed to include any changes to its Code of Practise to prevent the forming of relationships.

Politicians have pointed to the fact that this document refers in turn to the College of Police’s Code of Ethics which was updated in April 2014 to include the guidance to “not establish or pursue an improper sexual or emotional relationship with a person with whom you come into contact in the course of your work who may be vulnerable to an abuse of trust or power.” But the Code of Ethics is just a set of guidelines, the breaking of which is dealt with internally. We are calling for a complete overhaul of RIPA. The Court of Appeal judged that: “In the present context, there is no doubt that, in enacting RIPA, Parliament intended to override fundamental human rights.” We stand with all those whose lives have been affected by undercover policing and fight for the defence of everyone’s right to participate in the struggle for social and environmental justice, without fear of persecution, objectification, or interference in their lives.

The fact that parliament and the police have resisted meaningful change and that these relationships have taken place repeatedly, despite being morally wrong and unjustifiable, demonstrates a institutional sexism (women have been used to shore up undercover identities, without regard for those women’s right to a private life) and an institutional prejudice against members of the public who engage in social justice and environmental campaigning. Both these forms of institutional prejudice must be challenged and stopped; each has reinforced the other.

We call for: a clear and unambiguous statement that the abuse has ceased, and will never, in any circumstances, be permitted; the past to be thoroughly and openly investigated; and meaningful action and change to prevent these human rights abuses from ever happening again, including stronger support for whistle-blowers and greater protection for rights of association and expression.

Until these things happen, 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. We welcome allies who wish to engage with the above issues in this spirit of democratic empowerment.


A Brief History of Undercover Cops

Policing Dissent

This article was written for Occupied Times.

On a cold October night in 2010 Mark Kennedy admitted to his partner of six years and a group of close activist friends to being an undercover cop. This event cracked the dam of secrecy that had allowed the police to infiltrate and undermine social movements and campaigns for decades with impunity. It led to a trickle and then a torrent of revelations about other undercover operations which, five years on, still show no signs of abating.

As such, it is worth remembering that it was only through the investigative work of those activists close to Kennedy that led to his capitulation. Likewise, Helen Steel, who had already exposed McDonald’s corporate spies in the longest-running legal case in English history, spent years uncovering the truth that John Dines, her former partner, was also an undercover cop. In the most prominent case concerning undercover officers deceiving women into relationships eight women have been fighting to expose the truth for three years. Several other cases are under way, some just beginning. The strength and dedication to confront the power of the state and corporations by those most damaged by undercover policing continues to inspire. It is a battle that is as old as class struggle itself.

E.P. Thompson in his The Making of the English Working Class illustrates the ways in which, even before the formation of a police force, the state deployed a two-pronged approach to maintaining control of the population. Firstly, local magistrates (Justices of the Peace) offered rewards to informers if their slander resulted in the conviction of Jacobins, Luddites and later Chartists. If this failed to undermine the organising of workers and mass protest spilled out into the streets then the army was used to violently demonstrate what happened to those who sought change. The most famous example being the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester on the 16th August 1819, in which the cavalry charged into a demonstration killing 15 and wounding over 400. Nothing has changed much. Infiltration by police spies combined with mounted police charges into mass demonstrations are still two of the state’s preferred tactics to maintain social control.

The Thames River Police Act of 1800 established the first official police force in the UK. As its name suggests it was created to control the trade and workforce of the London docks. Tony Bunyan, in his excellent The History and Practise of the Political Police in Britain, quotes the human rights lawyer Ian MacDonald on this point: “From the very outset, therefore, there was nothing impartial about the police. They were created to preserve for a colonial merchant and an industrial class the collective product of West Indian slavery and London wage labour.” The Metropolitan Police was created by the Police Act of 1829 and a few years later a Select Committee of the House of Commons was investigating the case of plain-clothes officer William Popay, who had spent a year infiltrating the National Political Union of the Working Class.

Special Branch was formed in 1883 to formalise information gathering, especially dealing with militant Irish nationalism but within five years it turned its attention to European immigrant anarchists. By 1954 the then Commissioner of the Met was describing the remit of Special Branch as “to keep watch on any body of people, of whatever political complexion, whose activities seem likely to result sooner or later in open acts of sedition or disorder.” This is effectively the definition of ‘domestic extremism’ which the police use to justify undercover operations today.

Bunyan’s detailed study of Special Branch published in 1976 fails to mention the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) established eight years earlier in 1968. This is no surprise. The SDS was created as a small secret unit of officers who, rather than conduct an undercover operation then return to uniformed duties, lived long-term within the cultures of those groups they were infiltrating. The complex genealogy of political police units and secret services tasked with preventing radical social change is due in part to the state being forced to develop new tactics to control shifting social movements. The SDS is no exception. Chief Inspector Conrad Hepworth Dixon developed the idea of the SDS in direct response to escalating protests against the Vietnam War in March 1968. As the radical left mobilised in Paris and across Europe the authorities in London needed a way to gather intelligence to undermine this increasingly anarchic movement. Demanding “take me to your leader” was no longer an option.

Undercover SDS officers Bob Lambert, John Dines, Mark Jenner and Andrew James Boyling, it has been revealed, formed long-term intimate relationships with female activists in order to embed themselves within movements and gain the trust of fellow organisers. This was a widely used tactic because activists were far more trusting of a respected woman’s partner than a lone stranger. There are probably many more who we will never know about. Rob Evans and Paul Lewis in Undercover estimate that between 100 and 150 police spies worked for the SDS and its successors. Fellow SDS officer, turned whistleblower, Peter Francis has given further damning testimony concerning the use of dead babies’ names, the infiltration of anti-racism campaigns and the monitoring of at least 18 families seeking justice for family members murdered by the police or in cases where the police obstructed justice.

Despite some recent media reports focusing on the ‘now disbanded’ SDS, which was wound up in 2008, several new units had already taken over and have actually expanded upon the work of the SDS: The National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU) was set up in 2004, and Mark Kennedy spied for the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) formed in 1999. Both of these were run by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), a private company. In 2010 they were amalgamated and brought back under the Met’s SO15 Counter Terrorism Command as the National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit which continues to place undercover officers in groups advocating for social change. In June 2013, the Guardian reported that a Freedom of Information request had found that this unit had files on 8,931 individuals.

Over 15 official inquiries by the police and government bodies have failed to hold any undercover officer or their bosses accountable for the damage they have wreaked on individuals and groups. The largest of these is the Operation Herne ‘inquiry’ which has produced three reports – the last of which especially seems more concerned with public perceptions of the police than getting to the truth. This is what happens when the elite are left to judge each other. Theresa May has stated there will be a public inquiry into undercover policing, probably to begin in 2016, but hasn’t stated what will be included in its remit.

The women continue to battle for justice. After three years they have forced the Met, via the courts, to admit Lambert and Boyling were undercover officers but the police have been able to maintain their stance of ‘neither confirm nor deny’ regarding Dines and Jenner. The case against Mark Kennedy will be heard by the secret Investigatory Powers Tribunal unless the women are able to appeal the decision. The CPS has announced that it will not be bringing criminal proceedings against the undercover officers who deceived women into relationships. But the women continue their fight for truth in the civil courts.


Solidarity shown to Cardiff #spycops case over #NCND

Last night, 24 March 2015, saw a gathering outside Cardiff Central Police station to protest against undercover relationships, and to express disgust at the police’s use of Neither Confirm Nor Deny (NCND) to delay legal actions against them and to cover up the truth. The protest was held ahead of a court hearing today (Weds 25 March 2015) where NCND will be challenged in by another group of claimants, this time those who were targetted by “Marco Jacobs” in Cardiff. The legal action is against South Wales Police, ACPO and of course the Metropolitan Police. We extend our solidarity to this case and to all those affected by abuse by undercover police officers.

For more information on the Cardiff case, see: Cardiff Anarchists – Solidarity Against Spycops
For further information on NCND, as it was used against the case of 8 women, see: Neither Confirm Nor Deny

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Mark Jenner confirmed as ‘100%’ SDS undercover cop by whistleblower

Mark Jenner

Mark Jenner – former SDS undercover officer

A statement from Peter Francis, former undercover officer turned whistleblower, confirms that Mark Jenner (aka Mark Cassidy) was “100% one of my fellow undercover SDS Police Officers”. The High Court had controversially allowed the Metropolitan Police to hide behind their ‘neither confirm nor deny’ stance regarding Jennner – who deceived ‘Alison‘ into a 5 year relationship before disappearing from her life in 2000.

Alison said living with a police spy has had an “enormous impact” on her life and “impacted seriously” on her ability to trust.

“This is not about just a lying boyfriend or a boyfriend who has cheated on you,” Alison said. “It is about a fictional character who was created by the state and funded by taxpayers’ money.”

Mark Jenner’s boss was Bob Lambert, who is the focus of a campaign to have him removed from his current position as a criminology lecturer at the London Metropolitan University.

blacklisted_fcThe statement was read by John McDonnell MP, as he chaired the official book launch of Blacklisted by Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlain at the House of Commons on the 12th March.




The full text of the statement is below:

Peter Francis

Peter Francis – SDS whistleblower

Statement from Peter Francis March 12th 2015

“I am humbled as well as honoured to be offered to speak tonight at such an important book launch here at the prestigious House of Commons.

However I cannot appear here for a number of reasons, including and primarily, because of some very serious outstanding legal issues/difficulties with the Metropolitan Police, that continue to hang over me ever since I became a whistleblower and therefore a potential criminal in their eyes.

I have received clear legal advice that me, even speaking here today, is likely to be considered a breach of the Official Secrets Act because I have not been granted permission from the Metropolitan Police or Home Secretary to speak to you.

This remarkable, well-researched and must-read book clearly shows how police spying on political activists has destroyed lives and that I, most unfortunately and regrettably, played a part in this.

The forthcoming Home Secretary’s public inquiry into undercover policing must include a forensic, independent (in other words, non-police) examination into all the blacklisting files compiled by the Consulting Association and then cross-reference them with corresponding Special Branch individual activists’ records to look at the areas of collusion.

There will be multiple duplicates. Of that I have no doubt at all.

Mark Jenner - former SDS undercover officer

Mark Jenner – former SDS undercover officer

In relation to Mark Jenner aka Mark Cassidy, exposed last week in the media as being a UCATT member.

An anonymous and unaccountable Scotland Yard spokesperson has obviously re-quoted their usual attempted ‘Get out of Jail Free card’ response by saying “We neither confirm nor deny the identity of any individual alleged to have been in a covert role. We are not prepared to confirm or deny the deployment of individuals on specific operations.”

But tonight, here in this supposed home of UK democracy, please let me state very clearly that Mark Jenner was 100% one of my fellow undercover SDS Police Officers deployed alongside me in the 1990s.

Jenner, who has now been very publicly exposed, should be forced to appear in person at the public inquiry to account for his spying on, amongst numerous other political protesters, the totally law-abiding construction union UCATT members whose only ‘crimes’ were being union members.

I would also like take this opportunity to unreservedly apologise to all the union members I personally spied upon and reported back on whilst deployed undercover in the SDS.

Including those not only engaged in working in the construction industry but also those in the National Union of Students (NUS), National Union of Teachers (NUT), Communication Workers Union (CWU), UNISON and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

As everything I have previously stated, I am prepared to repeat all of this under oath at the public inquiry and should UCATT or any other union or the blacklisted campaigners wish me to, in any court cases they might bring against the relevant UK authorities.

Yours in solidarity. Because at this precise moment in time, before the public inquiry, there is “No Justice”, there is “Just US”.


Peter Francis – former SDS undercover officer and now police whistleblower


Solidarity Pickets in Cardiff & London

NCND1“It has been over five years since we learned that Mark “Marco” Jacobs was not just another anarchist in the south Wales activist scene, but was actually an undercover police officer.

Since then a number of people who were directly effected by his use of sexual relations as an infiltration tactic have taken legal action to attempt to hold the system to account.

Sickeningly South Wales Police and the Metropolitan Police have maintained a “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” defence of all aspects of Officer Jacobs deployment.

On Wednesday 25th March three people from Cardiff will be in the Royal Courts of Justice in London attempting to strike out this non-defence.

Join us for protests to draw attention to the case and the problem of undercover political policing in general:

6pm Tuesday 24th March: outside Cardiff Central Police Station, King Edward VIII Avenue, Cardiff (Facebook event & in Welsh)

9am Wednesday 25th March: outside Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London, WC2 (Holborn or Temple tube) (There is a chance this will be moved to 9am Thursday 26th, we will update this as soon as we know or check twitter)

Neither Confirm Nor Deny = Neither Truth Nor Justice