“More consistency needed” – women respond to College of Policing’s comments re new training programme

Eight women taking legal action against police after being duped into long-term intimate relationships with undercover police officers say they can only give a cautious welcome to comments by Alex Marshall of the College of Policing , in which he declared that a “new training programme” would “explicitly” state “that sexual activity while undercover is not allowed”. The women say more consistency is needed, and that those affected by a 25-year pattern of abuse are still facing an unnecessarily bitter fight for justice.

They point out that Mr Marshall’s comments to the Home Affairs Select Committee represent just one of many contradictory statements from police sources. Bernard Hogan-Howe said last week that superior officers would “not condemn” past sexual conduct. Two weeks ago police lawyers claimed in court that parliament must have intended that sexual conduct by undercover officers could be authorised – a claim disputed by the women’s legal team.

Since June the women have been calling for ‘a clear and unambiguous statement that the abuse has ceased, and will never, in any circumstances, be permitted’; and ‘action and change to prevent these human rights abuses from ever happening again’. They say Mr Marshall’s statement about a new training programme represents just a small step.

A spokesperson on behalf of the support group for the legal action said: “It’s a welcome step but we must be cautious. We’re still not getting the consistency and action that the public is owed. We are talking about deep abuse of people’s lives, the violation of their human rights, that we know has taken place over the last 25 years. The abuses indicate a profound level of institutional sexism, and also institutional prejudice against members of the public who engage campaigning for social and environmental justice.

“There are still many questions which need answers: When does the new training start? What’s happening in the meantime? What about past transgressions? Are any officers facing disciplinary action – or are their superiors taking Hogan-Howe’s stance? Is there any protection for whistle-blowers? Will the police change their legal tactics – or are they going to continue to make their victims have to fight for justice?”

Additional links:

– A selection of contradictory police statements (part of HASC evidence February 2013)

Where We Stand – statement from the women and their supporters

Police Spies Out Of Lives – support group for women’s legal action

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Failures and frailty: initial responses and questions over Hogan-Howe comments

Following on from Bernard Hogan-Howe’s statement and comments, as we published earlier today, the solicitor for this case has made a response comment, and we want to raise some questions over what Hogan-Howe has said.

First of all, below is an extract of what we think we can hear in the video (note that this is not an official transcript).

Jenny Jones AM: The Mayor has said several times that sexual relationships should not occur in an undercover project.

Hogan-Howe: I also said at the same time, which has been misrepresented by a certain journalist, which was that when I acknowledged that human behaviour means you cannot prevent this, this is human behaviour and that I was saying this is what the boys do. I was not saying that at all. I was just saying that any policy cannot prevent human beings sometimes failing. What we need to know is if that should happen, an individual does have some sexual activity, that their manager knows and we react to that.

That is all I have ever said. Our policy is we should never send out people with this as part of our strategy. Does human behaviour sometimes allow this sort of thing to happen? Possible, but what we need is transparency when it happens. The individual involved lets us know and we deal with it as a problem, but do not condemn.

Response comment from Harriet Wistrich:

Solicitor Harriet Wistrich, who is representing the eight women in this legal action, said:

“To say rules cannot prevent ‘human beings failing’ is ridiculous. The best way of enforcing rules about not permitting officers to have sex is to make it an immediate offence of gross misconduct – that would send a clear message to any officers that if they experience such failures of human frailty, they will face the consequences, which might in turn strengthen their resolve to comply with the policy.”

Questions we are asking:

Here are just a few questions which we are asking, relating to one key comment from Hogan-Howe, relating to what he says should happen:

The individual involved lets us know and we deal with it as a problem, but do not condemn.

What does this mean? Is he saying they do not condemn the men for having feelings? What then do they do about the behaviour? Do those whom an officer should ‘let know’ have any understanding of the nature of the abuse they are hearing about? How do they deal with it? What are they doing to prevent members of the public from being ‘condemned’ to having their lives and bodies abused?

And a key question that we are asking, as we study these comments from such a senior law enforcement officer: Does he not know how you enforce rules for human frailty when it causes serious harm to others?

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Hogan-Howe falls short

Bernard Hogan-Howe, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, yesterday spoke at the London Assembly, answering questions over undercover officers having sex with targets and members of the public. You can see the video here.

His comments and attitude fall well short of the assurances we are seeking over current practices.

To reiterate: “We call for a clear and unambiguous statement that the abuse has ceased, and will never, in any circumstances, be permitted.” – see Where We Stand.

Hogan-Howe’s comments are not the statement we are calling for. It was not the reassurance that the public is owed. Far from it.

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Note: The eight women bringing this legal action are doing so to highlight and prevent the continuation of psychological, emotional and sexual abuse of campaigners and others by undercover police officers.

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Alison & Helen interviewed on Women’s Hour

Today, BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour featured interviews with Alison and Helen about the case.  The programme also features Chief Constable Mick Creedon, who heads Operation Herne (the police review of undercover policing and the Special Demonstration Squad).

The programme can be heard via the BBC iPlayer site HERE.  The interviews start at 00.50 and run until 24.45.

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