Women outraged by Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s comments to Home Affairs Select Committee

For the eight women taking out legal action against the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, Hogan-Howe’s comments to the Home Affairs Select Committee on 27 November in which he states it is ‘almost inevitable’ that undercover officers will have sex with those they target is both outrageous and alarming. Although claiming not to condone such behaviour as acceptable ‘strategy’, he made no effort to express remorse for the actions of his officers, which have caused serious psychological damage to the women concerned, nor to show compassion for the devastating experiences of the women. The suggestion that ‘boys will be boys’ and are incapable of acting with self restraint towards women in political movements shows institutionally sexist attitudes are prevalent at the very highest levels of the Metropolitan police. Instead Hogan-Howe should be sending a message to his officers that such conduct is not acceptable in any circumstances.

The commissioner’s comments contrast sharply with comments made by the ACPO lead on serious organised crime, Chief Constable Jon Murphy, commented in respect of sexual relationships, last year “It is never acceptable for an undercover officer to behave in that way… 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.

For further information, contact Harriet Wistrich at hw@birnbergpeirce.co.uk or 0207 911 0166.

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High Court hearing 21.11.12 – 23.11.12

Over the last two and a half days, the High Court has considered the police’s application to hide the women’s claims in the IPT. The judge has now retired to consider the issues raised and has not yet indicated when the judgement is likely to be handed down. We will publicise the date when known.

Thank you for all the support, both outside the High Court and elsewhere.

 

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Statement condemning the Metropolitan Police’s attempt to have case heard in secret

“The police cannot be permitted to hide behind the cloak of secrecy, when they have been guilty of one of the most intrusive and complete invasions of privacy that can be imagined.”

The approach of the Metropolitan Police to the litigation has been obstructive from the outset, refusing to provide any substantive response to the allegations and hiding behind a ‘neither confirm nor deny’ policy about the activities of their officers. Now, to add insult to injury, following one of the most intrusive invasions of privacy imaginable, the police are attempting to strike out the women’s claim by arguing that the case should have been started in a shadowy secret court known as the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). [1]

The IPT exists for the sole purpose of maintaining  secrecy, and under its jurisdiction the case could proceed with the  women denied access to and unable to challenge police evidence, and powerless to appeal the tribunal’s decisions. This will mean that neither they, nor the public will ever find out the extent of the violations of human rights and abuses of public office perpetrated by these undercover units. Thus, the women, who have suffered a totally disproportionate, unnecessary and extremely damaging invasion of their privacy, may be denied access to justice by the very legislation which was purportedly designed to protect their rights.

The public outrage at the phone hacking scandal earlier this year focused on the cynical intrusion into lives of individuals by the press and the police. Today’s hearing relates to levels of intrusion far more invasive than phone hacking, yet so far most mainstream politicians remain silent.

What little information the women have garnered indicates that for 30 years or more these undercover units had (and still have) a rolling brief to inform on political movements and keep files on individuals (simply because they are or were politically active), without investigating any specific crime, and with no apparent intention to participate in any criminal justice process.[2] As a part of this, undercover officers lied and manipulated their way into people’s lives whilst their cover officers, back-room teams and the rest of the police command structure monitored and controlled people’s private lives and relationships. In certain cases, the false identity established by the police was able to be exploited by individual officers to continue their deceit after their deployment had officially ended, seemingly with no safeguard for the women involved, even fathering children in the process.

These massive intrusions into people’s lives are reminiscent of the activities of the Stasi in East Germany and those responsible should be brought to public account. These cases are, therefore, being brought in an attempt to expose the damage done by the Metropolitan Police and to make them publicly accountable for their actions.

This is a statement from supporters of eight women who are bringing legal against the Metropolitan Police. The eight women were deceived into long term intimate relationships with undercover police officers.  The Metropolitan Police has applied to have the cases heard by the  Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). [1] The application will be heard at the High Court on Wednesday 21 and Thursday 22 November 2012. Read the Press Release here

NOTES FOR EDITORS:
[1] The IPT is a little known tribunal set up under  section 65 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA, 2000) to  deal with claims brought under the Human Rights Act against the police  and other security services.
[2] The HMIC report  states that “for most undercover deployments the most intense scrutiny  occurs when the evidence they have collected is presented at court.  Accountability to the court therefore provides an incentive for police  to implement the system of control rigorously: but in the HMIC’s view,  this incentive did not exist for the NPOIU. This is because NPOIU  undercover officers were deployed to develop general  intelligence…rather than gathering material for the purpose of  criminal prosecutions.” Source:  HMIC “A review of national police units which provide intelligence on criminality associated with protest” (February 2012) p.7

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Press Release: Met Police try to have Women’s Case Heard in Secret

19 November 2012

Undercover policing legal case:
•    Metropolitan Police slammed for secret tribunal bid
•    High Court hearing to start Wednesday 21 November

On Wednesday 21 November 2012 at the High Court, the legal action against the Metropolitan Police over undercover policing will have its first day in court. Lawyers for the claimants will be battling against a bid by the Met for the case to be heard in secret. Supporters of the claimants today issued a statement condemning the Met’s bid for secrecy.

The unprecedented legal action is being brought against the Metropolitan Police by Birnberg Peirce and partners on behalf of eight women deceived into long term intimate relationships with undercover officers who were infiltrating political movements. The hearing on Wednesday 21 and Thursday 22 November will concern an application regarding three of the claimants, and a further three claimants from a separate case being brought by Tucker’s solicitors. The Metropolitan Police are attempting to have the cases heard in secret by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). [1]

In a statement today, supporters of the eight women said:

The police cannot be permitted to hide behind the cloak of secrecy, when they have been guilty of one of the most intrusive and complete invasions of privacy that can be imagined.

“The IPT exists for the sole purpose of maintaining secrecy; under its jurisdiction the case could proceed with the women denied access to and unable to challenge police evidence, and being powerless to appeal the tribunal’s decisions.

“Thus, the women, who have suffered a totally disproportionate, unnecessary and extremely damaging invasion of their privacy, may be denied access to justice by the very legislation which was purportedly designed to protect their rights.

A  demonstration will be held outside the High Court from 9.30am on both days – to protest against the police’s attempt to have the case heard in a secret court, and in support of principles of open justice.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Legal action was commenced in Dec 2011 against the Metropolitan Police on behalf of eight women who were deceived into having long term intimate relationships with undercover police officers. The five undercover officers were all engaged in infiltrating environmental and social justice campaign groups between the mid 1980’s and 2010 and had relationships with the women lasting from 7 months and the longest spanning 9 years.

The women assert that the actions of the undercover officers breached their rights as protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, including Article 3 (no one shall be subject to inhumane and degrading treatment) and Article 8 (respect for private and family life, including the right to form relationships without unjustified interference by the state), The women are also bringing claims for deceit, assault, misfeasance in public office and negligence, and seek to highlight and prevent the continuation of psychological, emotional and sexual abuse of campaigners and others by undercover police officers.

[1] The IPT is a little known tribunal set up under  section 65 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA, 2000)  to  deal with claims brought under the Human Rights Act relating to  surveillance activity by state agents including the police.

For more information, please contact the lawyer for the case, Harriet Wistrich, Birnberg Peirce & Partners –  0207 911 0166

Note to Picture Editors: Supporters of the Claimants will gather outside the High Court between 9.30am and 10.30am on the mornings of both Wednesday 21 November and Thursday 22 November

Read the full statement here

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Women’s Hour – BBC radio 4

A discussion on issues raised by the current legal proceedings against the Metropolitan Police took place on the BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour programme, broadcast on Tuesday 6th November 2012.  The programme gives some background to the case, and features a debate with Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Jan Berry, former Chair of the Police Federation.

Amongst other aspects, the piece covers the role of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), and the justification for a public inquiry into undercover policing.  It gives a good insight into why the issues raised by the case need to be brought into the open.

The eight-minute sound clip can be heard via the BBC’s website.

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