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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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Posted in News | Comments closed

New undercover guidelines contain absurd get-out-clause

The College of Policing published a draft ‘Authorised Professional Practice’ for Undercover Police. This is the first time that such Guidelines have been published, and it is welcome as previously the world of undercover policing has been completely opaque. It should be recognised, however, that  they have been forced to publish it by huge pressure for change from people affected by undercover infiltration, and the public at large. standwus-icon

Its contents are not hugely reassuring. Positively, they do state that intimate sexual relationships will never be authorised or used as a tactic:

“It is never acceptable for a UCO (undercover officer) to form an intimate sexual relationship with those they are employed to infiltrate and target or may encounter during their deployment. This conduct will never be authorised, nor must it ever be used as a tactic of a deployment.”

However they go on to give themselves an unnecessary and absurd get-out-clause, suggesting it is ok for an officer to have sex if his life is being threatened, or similar:

”If a UCO engages in unauthorised sexual activity for whatever reason (for example, they perceive an immediate threat to themselves and/or others if they do not do so) this activity will be restricted to the minimum conduct necessary to mitigate the threat. In such extreme circumstances UCOs must record and report this to the cover officer at the earliest opportunity. The authorising officer will be informed immediately and the circumstances investigated for welfare and training purposes, potential breaches of discipline or criminal offenses and to allow an appraisal of the operation.”

There is no need for this get-out-clause. It suggests there is enough grey area that officers just need to find themselves an excuse for committing these abuses. It risks enabling these abuses to continue.

It is also essential that these guidelines are not seen as enough. Many of the women, deceived by undercover officers into intimate sexual relationships, see the practice as tantamount to rape. The psychological abuse that ensues from it is devastating, and the police themselves have admitted it is an abuse of human rights. It therefore should be outlawed in legal statute. Voluntary guidelines like these are not enough. The police have shown that they cannot be trusted to regulate themselves. The absurd get out clause in these voluntary guidelines makes it all the more important to have it written in legislation. The infiltration of social justice movements and abusive relationships with female activists over many years show clearly we cannot trust their judgement on what is proportionate and necessary.

Outlawing relationships in statute would mean amending the regulatory power act, but actually we would like to see it completely rewritten. Legislation needs to prevent undercover policing abusing human rights. People have the right to a private and family life. They have the right to be free from degrading and inhuman treatment. There needs to be legislation to prevent this political policing, aiming to silence dissent, and to reinstate people’s right to freedom of expression, and of assembly and association.

These guidelines are in draft form, and they invite you to comment on them. Tell them to get rid of the get-out-clause, and to outlaw this behaviour in legal statute!

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Police continue to stall in Undercover relationships case

On Tuesday 7th June, a legal case over undercover police relationships was in the High Court. It was the latest battle in a four year campaign to hold the police to account, and in it the police continued to try to stall these civil proceedings and avoid disclosing evidence. The claimants, two women and a man [1], are suing The Metropolitan Police, South Wales Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers over sexual abuse committed by an undercover police officer in Cardiff – “Marco Jacobs”. [2]Marco_Jacobs

Significantly, the Police backed down from asserting a blanket “Neither confirm nor deny” policy (NCND) to resist disclosing documents relevant to the case, and have now been directed by the court to apply by 23rd September 2016, if they wish, to withhold disclosing documents on the ground that it would damage the public interest.

Despite having very publicly apologised to 8 women for such deceitful long-term intimate relationships and abuses, Police continued their stalling tactics in this case, attempting to put back the timetable to trial as far as possible. This found no favour with Master Davison, nor did their shabby attempt to compel the Claimants to disclose their medical records and endure examination by their psychiatrist before the Police had given evidence.

It is likely that there will now be a hearing in the Autumn on the Police’s disclosure of evidence and public interest immunity, the trial is now set to take place around March 2017.

“Though the abandonment of the false defence of ‘neither confirm nor deny’ is to be welcomed, the request for claimants to disclose medical records before the release of any police evidence whatsoever, illustrates how Police continue to try to avoid being held to account” – Tom Fowler, 3rd claimant

“It beggars belief, that after five years, and despite hand-wringing public assertions that sexual relationships are an abuse and cannot be authorised as a police tactic, the Defendants have continued to bob and weave in this litigation in reliance on technicalities and police procedure.  Jules Carey, Solicitor for the three.

NOTES:

  1. AJA, ARB, & Thomas Fowler (Claimants) -v- Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis,  Chief Constable of South Wales Police, & Association of Chief Police Officers (Defendants)
  1. The Undercover Officer spent 5 years infiltrating anti-capitalist, anarchist, environmental, animal rights and other campaign groups, developing a number of close personal relationships, and in common with several other undercover police who have been exposed, engaged in the sexual abuse of a number of his targets.
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Solidarity picket demanding police disclose evidence

After the success of our main case, where the women won an apology from the Met Police, and the Police withdrew their defence, we are now supporting other people who have been affected by the relationships with undercover police, through legal action against the Police, and through the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing. These include the following people from the Cardiff Anarchist Network, we are hoping you will support at their demo outside their court hearing on Tuesday 7th June.

Solidarity Picket with people affected by relationships with undercover police
11am Tues 7th June, Royal Courts of Justice

Marco_JacobsFollowing the infiltration of Cardiff Anarchist Network by an Undercover Police Officer calling himself “Marco Jacobs” a number of activists are taking legal action against South Wales Police and the Metropolitan Police in an attempt to hold the system to account.

Since they first filed an application in court, both sets of Police lawyers have attempted to obstruct justice, giving a “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” defence of all aspects of Officer Jacobs deployment.

At 12noon on Tuesday 7th June there will be a Case Management Hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Join us in a Solidarity picket of the court before the hearing starts at 11am.

Can’t make the picket?
Share our social media messages, or make your own to show your support.

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“Put yourself in the situation of a witness” – Pitchford asked to widen undertakings for the spied-upon

Today saw another preliminary hearing of the ‘Pitchford’ Inquiry, the public inquiry into undercover policing which is being chaired by Lord Pitchford.

There’s been a whole series of these preliminary hearings, where Pitchford hears from the different parties about how the inquiry itself should be conducted. What decisions Pitchford makes may have an enormous impact on the inquiry. Hanging in the balance is whether the inquiry will be a step on the journey to truth and justice, or whether it will just be a waste of time.

Today’s hearing was about ‘undertakings’, promises given to witnesses that their evidence to the inquiry may not be used to prosecute them. These promises – ‘undertakings’ – are not given directly by Pitchford; but rather he decides what undertakings he will request from the Attorney General. (See our undertakings briefing for an explanation of how it works and the background to today’s discussions.)

There’s a principle of non-self-incrimination already in place, and Pitchford emphasised at the start of the hearing that this is already one of the undertakings he will be requesting of the Attorney General:


From this point onwards, two groups of core participants in the inquiry diverge.
State Core Participants (the police, state agencies) want everyone – all the witnesses – to be treated the same. (If that sounds like a bid for equality, be careful, because it’s not. One side knew what was going on, and had massive budgets and the apparatus of the state at their disposal, which they used to disrupt and undermine political movements, and the lives of those involved in the political movements. The other side did not know what was going on, are still being kept in the dark and are trying to rebuild their lives, while the things they were politically active about – for example, racism and climate change, to name but two – rage on. Go figure.)

On the other hand, the Non-State Core Participants (NSCPs) are asking that two sets of witnesses – the police and those they spied upon – be treated differently:


The crucial difference being:


Or as it was formally put at the hearing:


The Undercover Policing Inquiry – to give it it’s official title – is exactly that. It’s not an inquiry into what social and environmental activist do or don’t get up to. So the NSCPs are asking that evidence given by a spied-upon witness be given an extended undertaking: that it won’t be used to prosecute others either. This would mean that a witness could give evidence without incriminating their friends and comrades and leading directly to their prosecution. Given how the modus operandi of undercover officers was to embed themselves deeply into the lives, social networks and families of those they were spying upon, this is crucial.

In many cases the deploying of undercover officers into political movements is a smear in itself; many of those spied upon were not even remotely in danger of breaking any laws, and even with those who were:

Because the police have been so secretive (and, it should be noted, still have access to their own documents – the units which succeeded the now defunct Special Demonstration Squad have not been shut down, and no officers have yet been prosecuted), the inquiry will need the witness evidence of those spied upon for it to be any kind of Inquiry at all. So the Inquiry needs to secure the trust of the police’s victims.

And why would any of them have reason to trust any part of the establishment, given what has happened? At the hearing today, the need to secure the trust of those who were spied on was emphasised:


(This comment was referencing what was being proposed by the State Core Participants.)


Pitchford will now consider his decisions. As the QC for the NSCPs said:


As with previous hearings, a transcript of today’s will shortly be available on the Inquiry website, where the finer detail of the further discussions will be clear.

Meanwhile, in less than a week we will find out Pitchford’s decisions about the other crucial question for the inquiry: how much secrecy the police will be allowed. Decision due on May 3.

Thanks to: @tombfowler, @AKA_KatieT and @conradlandin

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I lived with an undercover officer – this BBC series gets it all wrong

Alison,’ one eight women who sued the police over being deceived into relationships with undercover cops, has spoken out in criticism of the BBC’s new drama series ‘Undercover.’ She had a relationship with ‘Mark Jenner’ an undercover cop she knew as Mark Cassidy (pictured).

Mark Jenner - former SDS undercover officer

Mark Jenner – former SDS undercover officer

She has written a piece in the Guardian, saying that despite advising the screenwriter Peter Moffat some years ago, she feels that the story he is portraying is misleading and inauthentic. It misrepresents “the deceitful individuals involved” and misunderstands “the power dynamics and sexual politics” that underpin the deployment of officers by these units.

‘Alison’ explains that “There is no precedent of officers having families with their targets then sustaining a happy marriage for two decades under the guise of their state-sponsored identity”. Instead, since 1996 all officers have been required to have wives and possibly children in their lives. Many officers cheated on, lied and exploited both their wives, and their activist lovers, with their dual domestic role.  ‘Alison’ feels that their “true stories… were sufficiently dramatic without requiring elaboration,” and that Undercover is a sensationalised misrepresentation of how the Met Special Demonstration Squad operated, and hopes that because of this it does not miss the opportunity to spark viewers to find out about the true stories of “abusive relationships condoned by the police in the name of law and order.”

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