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Andy Coles’ refusal to resign causing headaches for the rest of Peterborough City Council

 

There was a good turn-out for the demonstration at Peterborough Town Hall on Wednesday evening. From 5.30pm onwards, over thirty people gathered in the street outside, to leaflet passers-by, including the elected councillors on their way into the building.

 

 

Some of those councillors stopped to talk with the protestors. Most of the Tories walked past, refusing the leaflets and the opportunity to learn exactly what Andy Coles’ sordid past involved.

The full council meeting began at 7pm. By then, the public gallery was full, with a mixture of Peterborough residents and campaigners from further afield. It was a shock to see Andy Coles himself, occupying a seat in the back row of the council chamber beneath.

The mayor opened the meeting with a prayer and announcements. When he announced that no Questions had been received, there was palpable disquiet in the gallery up above.

‘Jessica’, the woman deceived by Andy Coles while she was still a teenager, had submitted an official Question to the Council, in time for this meeting:

“Is it appropriate that an ex-undercover officer, with a history of committing human rights abuses against women, when in a position of power, is now sitting on your council, as the Conservative Councillor for the Fletton and Woodston ward?”

 

This question was rejected, on the grounds that:

  • There are other ongoing inquiries into the matters raised by the question which the Council would not wish to prejudice;
  • The possible defamatory nature of the question;
  • That, in answering the question, confidential and personal information would be disclosed.”

Peterborough Conservative Party would dearly love to sweep this affair under the carpet. Since the news first broke, they have refused to respond to any questions, or make any comment, beyond Cllr John Holdich, Leader of the Council, stating that Councillor Andy Coles has his “full support”, even though he’s also admitted that he knows “very little” about the situation.

In an interview yesterday he added “Unfortunately Cllr Coles is not allowed to speak for himself because the Met have told him he must not say anything and he is obeying that”. The Met have not prevented other ex-undercover officers from speaking out in public, making this excuse barely credible.

One member of the public couldn’t resist raising the issue of the rejected question, which most of the elected Councillors knew nothing about. Others joined in, with questions of their own and shouts of “Shame on you, Andy Coles”. A large banner, made by Jessica herself, was draped over the front of the gallery. It read: ‘Human Rights Abuser Andy Coles’. There were repeated demands for his resignation or suspension.

As soon as the protest began in the gallery, the Mayor halted the meeting temporarily, and sent the (only two) available police officers up to the gallery to ask everyone to leave, or at least make less noise. However the public refused to do this, saying they wanted answers to their questions, and the kind of transparency and accountability that Peterborough City Council claim to provide the electorate. Cllr Holdich was unwilling to visit the gallery in person, but did promise to meet with two or three of the group at a later date. Jessica is now planning to go and demand answers from him herself.

Meanwhile the Mayor didn’t care much for some of the new decorations adorning the chamber, and asked for Jessica’s colourful banner to be taken down. He received a simple response from the gallery: the banner was staying up while Coles remained in the building. But if he was sent home, then the protestors would go home too, taking the banner with them.

People feel very strongly that Coles shouldn’t be allowed to carry on with business as usual. It’s standard practice to suspend people from work while allegations of their misconduct are being investigated. He shouldn’t be sitting smirking at the back of the chamber while serious concerns are being raised about his suitability for any position of trust and accountability.

Why are the Tories so keen to hang on to Andy Coles? They are no longer in overall control of the Council. Losing just one member will make it even harder for them to operate. However they are playing a dangerous game. The people of Peterborough are angry, and sick of being ignored. Even traditional Tory voters are disgusted at what Coles has done, so this is harming his party’s chance of gaining votes in any future elections.

The truth about these abusive spycops units began to come out with the exposure of Mark Kennedy way back in 2010. Since then, activists have done lots of digging, and managed to piece together more information about these units, the officers who worked in them, the spycraft techniques they employed, and much more. There are now full profiles of many former officers – including Coles – on the Undercover Research Group website. The Government set up the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing back in 2015, and it’s inevitable that more of the truth will be uncovered as the years go on.

Coles (pictured in the centre of the photograph on the left, in a dark grey suit) knew that it was just a matter of time before his past caught up with him. So why did he decide to stand for election in May 2015? Was he so arrogant that he thought he wouldn’t be found out? Did he not realise that being listed as a Councillor would make it even easier for activist researchers to find him? Does he care about how this could affect the reputation of Peterborough City Council, and his colleagues? Did he warn them that this might happen one day?  What has he told his friends and family about his past?

In 2015, his former employers made a very public apology to women who had relationships like Jessica’s. On behalf of the Metropolitan Police, Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt stated that “relationships like these should never have happened. They were wrong and were a gross violation of personal dignity and integrity”. They were “a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma”. The Met described their own officers’ actions as “abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong”.

Peterborough’s Councillors were forced to have a lengthy coffee break while negotiations went on. Andy Coles was seen coming back into the chamber, despite the growing clamour for him to leave. After almost an hour, the Mayor decided that he’d had enough, and that any attempt to re-start the meeting with Coles present would lead to continuing protest and disruption from a small but determined crowd. He announced that the entire meeting was over for the night, and that they would reconvene on the following Wednesday instead.

Most of the local protestors have already announced their intention to come back next Wednesday, the 26th July, to make sure that Andy Coles does not continue to go unchallenged. There’s a call-out for more people to come and join them. The Leader of the Council, John Holdich, has announced that they’ve made plans to keep the public out of the gallery next time, and only let them view proceedings via a screen in another room. There will probably be far more than two police officers present.

Concerned citizens of Peterborough are planning to organise a petition to the City Council, with the aim of forcing some proper discussion of this issue. They will be working to get the word out on the streets of Cambridgeshire, especially in Fletton and Woodston. Members of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Labour Parties have all offered support to the campaign so far.

It was disappointing to see the Lib Dems’ group leader, Nick Sandford, then describe Jessica’s home-made banner as “deeply offensive”. What is truly offensive is the lack of accountability and integrity displayed by Cllr Coles. His stubborn refusal to leave the meeting meant that the entire thing was cancelled, causing inconvenience to every other Councillor and delaying discussion of other important issues.

Trade unionists, peace campaigners, environmentalists, animal rights campaigners and others have come together to fight for justice, for Jessica and everybody else who was targeted by these secretive undercover units. This week has shown that when we all stand – or sit – together, we have a lot of power, and we can make sure our voices are heard.

Jessica’s voice can be heard here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Call out for Demo to demand Andy Coles’ resignation

What: Demonstration outside Peterborough Council meeting calling for former abusive spycop and current Tory Councillor Andy Coles to resign.

Where: Town Hall, Bridge Street, Peterborough, PE1 1HF

When: 6pm, Wednesday 19th July

Why: Andy Coles deceived a teenager into an intimate relationship when he was an undercover officer.
 
In May, Andy Coles, the then Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire, and current Peterborough Tory Councillor was exposed as a former undercover cop. It was revealed he had deceived then teenager “Jessica” into an intimate relationship, telling her he was 24 years old, when he was 32. “Jessica” has said she feels like she was groomed:
 
“Although not legally underage, I feel that my youth and vulnerability were used to target me. I was groomed by someone much older, and far more experienced… I was manipulated into having a sexual relationship with him.  I didn’t even know his real name.”
 
It is entirely inappropriate for someone who has committed these admitted human rights abuses to be in a position of respect and authority. Andy Coles has resigned his post as Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner, and he must now step down from his post as Councillor as well. 
 
It is important that the Andy Coles and the Council see the public outrage at these revelations. Without this, they may be able to sweep it under the carpet. He is one in an ever increasing line of undercover police revealed to have abused women in this way, and it is essential that we demand accountability for these actions.
 
Show your disgust at Andy Cole’s actions, and join us in calling for his resignation.
Come to the demonstration, bring banners & placards.
Make a noise about it on social media
Talk to your friends
If you would like help with travel costs please let us know, by 10th July, on our email: contact@policespiesoutoflives.org.uk
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Inquiry progress briefing #5

We are pleased to today publish our progress briefing number 5, summarising progress in the Undercover Policing Inquiry. This version is for public consumption – if you are a core participant in the Inquiry, you can get a more detailed version from your solicitor.

This Inquiry Progress Briefing number 5 includes a summary of progress so far (principles and protocols, anonymity applications, and evidence gathering), the outstanding issues (Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, Disclosure of personal files, Witness evidence protocol, Disclosure of cover names and individuals files) as well as sections on the Inquiry Strategic Review and appointment of Mitting.

For the back ground to the inquiry go here, and for previous briefings, go here.

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Police seek to avoid accountability in Human Rights case over abusive relationships by undercover officers

  • A woman deceived into a relationship with undercover officer is fighting in court this Friday [1] to have her claim about human rights abuses to be allowed to continue, and be held in the open.
  • Ms Wilson’s claim [2], being heard in the Investigatory Power’s Tribunal (IPT), states that that the police violated her Human Rights under Articles 3, 8, 10, 11 and 14 of the European Convention of Human  Rights (ECHR) [3]
  • Ms Wilson was deceived into a long-term, intimate relationship with an undercover police officer, Mark Kennedy (MK).
  • If successful, this case will finally give clarity whether sexual relationships between undercover officers and members of the public are unlawful.

In 2017, Kate Wilson [4] became one of eight women who have won an historic apology [5] from the Metropolitan Police over their relationships with undercover police. She is now taking the Metropolitan Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers to Court over human rights abuses she was subjected to by undercover officers. Ms Wilson’s claim questions the legitimacy of such political policing in a democratic society [6], and the legality of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) that is used to authorise such operations [7].

Ms Wilson said; “Article 3 of The ECHR refers to the right to live without being tortured or  subjected to inhuman or degrading treatments. The Metropolitan police, themselves told me in a public apology that what happened to me was abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong and a gross violation of personal dignity and integrity and that it caused significant trauma. Yet no clear, legally binding limits have been imposed on the kind of relationships officers form while undercover. We need clarity to protect the public from anything like this ever happening again.”

Despite having withdrawn their defence in Ms. Wilson’s Civil Claim [8], paying substantial compensation and issuing a personal apology [4] to Ms. Wilson acknowledging that these relationships were a violation of her human rights, the police have also stated that they intend to contest this claim, and are applying for it to be struck out.

This is the first ever human rights case to be heard by the IPT relating to undercover relationships. It comes after almost six years of stays, obstructions and delaying tactics by police in the Royal Courts of Justice, where this claim originated, and they are now asking the IPT to consider throwing out the claim because, they argue, it is “out of time”.  This is yet another example of the police’s delaying and blocking tactics in legal actions looking for accountability and disclosure around undercover policing, and must not be tolerated by the Judge.

They continue to seek secrecy around undercover policing, and will apply for the case to be held behind closed doors, contesting Ms Wilson’s right to attend hearings, get disclosure, or respond to any evidence  they present. The IPT is able to hear cases such as this in complete secrecy,  with the claimant having no opportunity to argue their case in court,  contest evidence against them, or receive a reasoned judgement [9].

In  the light of all the information about these officers already in the public domain, and the  ongoing Public Inquiry into the events in question, the claimant is urging the IPT to hold an open hearing this time [10].

Key background information

1] This is the first hearing of the case. It will be held at Employment  Appeal Tribunal (EAT) located in  Fleetbank House, Salisbury Square,  London, EC4Y 8JX. The hearing will start at 10.30am, 23rd June 2017, in court 5.

2] https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/human-rights-case/human-rights-pleadings/

3] The Human Rights Claims
The most significant claim refers to the right to live without being tortured or subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment (Art.3 ECHR).   There are no circumstances where this can be lawful. Article 3 (EHCR) is  an  unqualifiable right. A Civil Court has already entered judgement  that  MK’s sexual relationship with Ms Wilson was Assault [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35350095, https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/new-met-apology/withdraw-defence/, http://thejusticegap.com/2016/01/12400/ ], and the police themselves have described such relationships as “abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong”, a “gross violation of personal dignity and integrity” that “caused significant trauma” [http://news.met.police.uk/videos/mps-apology-long-term-sexual-relationships-21074].

Such inhuman and degrading treatment of women in order to obtain intelligence forms part of a culture of institutional sexism within the Metropolitan Police, violating the principle that human rights should be enjoyed by all, without discrimination on grounds of sex or political  beliefs (Art.14 ECHR).

Furthermore, in addition to MK’s gross violation of her intimate private life and bodily integrity, at least 5 other officers have been identified as having intruded in Ms Wilson’s private and family life (Art.8 ECHR).  Over more than ten  years, at least 6 officers played false roles in her  life, ranging from  lover to close friend, housemate and co-activist  [2]. These infiltrations took place because of her involvement in  protest  groups, infringing her rights to freedom of expression and  association  (Art.10&11 ECHR).

4] https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/our-stories/kates-story/

5] http://news.met.police.uk/news/claimants-in-civil-cases-receive-mps-apology-138574?utm_campaign=send_list&utm_medium=email&utm_source=sendgrid

6] The targeting of environmental and social justice groups such as Reclaim the Streets, and campaigns against Immigration Detention reflects an extremely  worrying assumption on the part of  Metropolitan Police that it is  “proportionate and necessary” to target people for their  political  beliefs and involvement in political campaigns in the UK and  abroad. The SDS was established in 1968 to “deal  with the lack of police knowledge of what was happening on  demonstrations”. It was shut down in October 2006 as part of a  restructuring of the Met, though continued to exist until October 2008.  Since it has been closed down, the National Public Order Intelligence  Unit, an agency that monitors so-called domestic extremists performs a  similar role in the UK today. http://powerbase.info/index.php/Special_Demonstration_Squad, http://powerbase.info/index.php/National_Public_Order_Intelligence_Unit

7]   Neither RIPA nor the Codes of Practice mention sexual  conduct by undercover officers, and the existing legal frame work has neither sufficient clarity nor sufficient safeguards for RIPA authorisations to be “in accordance with the law”. This is consistent  with findings of  the Home Affairs Select Committee and the Royal Court  of Justice. The Home Affairs Select Committee  stated that “there  is an alarming degree of inconsistency in the views of Ministers and  senior police officers about the limits of what may and may not be lawfully authorised.”  and “the  current legal framework is ambiguous to such an extent that it fails  adequately to safeguard the fundamental rights of the individuals  affected.”  (https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmhaff/837/130205i.htm). Judge Tugendhat said in a ruling in the Civil Court that “There is no doubt that, in enacting RIPA, Parliament intended to override fundamental human rights” http://www.statewatch.org/news/2013/nov/uk-police-spies-out-of-lives-secret-hearing-case-decision.pdf

8] The IPT oversees human rights claims about the states infringement of privacy through covert surveillance. Although it claims independence, the IPT operates from within the Home Office
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/mar/05/independence-ipt-court-mi5-mi6-home-office-secrecy-clegg-miliband,  and it has only upheld a handful of claims (probably less than 0.01%)  in it’s history. Most of the hearings are held in secret: applicants are  given no right to be present at the hearing; no right to the disclosure  of evidence relied on by the opposing party; no right to cross-examine  opposing witnesses; no right to funded representation or costs; no right  to a reasoned judgment and no right of appeal. In short, it is a  fitting judicial instrument for a process intended to override  fundamental human rights. Recently,  the IPT has been criticised for  being secretive so there have been  moves for more cases to be held in  the open.

9]   The claimant will argue that many of the factual matters raised by the  claim are already in the public domain  and  that the Courts have found  that the Police are not able to rely on the Neither Confirm Nor Deny  policy in relation to those matters [https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/uploads/2014/07/Final-high-court-judgement-on-NCND.doc, https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/womens-statement-high-court-ruling-met-police-cannot-maintain-blanket-ncnd-to-cover-up-gross-abuses-of-intimate-relationships-while-undercover/].   This is a case of great public interest, and Kate should be entitled  to  get disclosure from the police, which she has not had to date, in  order  to be able to engage in proceedings and argue the case.

10] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35350095, https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/new-met-apology/withdraw-defence/, http://thejusticegap.com/2016/01/12400/

— end of background information —

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Radio 4 PM, Eddie Mair speaks to ‘Jessica’

Bravely ‘Jessica’ continues to speak out about the appalling abuse she suffered.

‘Jessica’ was a young (19 years old) animal rights campaigner when she was targeted in 1992 by Andy Coles, an undercover officer, and had a relationship with him. In her own words she talks about the now unfolding story:

“It is with utter disgust but no real surprise that I discover there have been more women coming forward with stories of how they were targeted by undercover police officer Andy Coles.

I intend to ask the Peterborough Council why they haven’t asked him to resign as Conservative Cllr for Fletton and Woodston and how his behaviour fits the Council’s Code of Conduct.”

Here is the link to the online interview.

Here is ‘Jessica’s’  background story.

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