Met police finally concede undercover relationships were an abuse of power and violated women’s human rights

Statement by the eight women:

In the apology issued today by Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, the Metropolitan Police finally conceded that “officers, acting undercover whilst seeking to infiltrate protest groups, entered into long-term intimate sexual relationships with women which were abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong” and that “these relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma”

AC Hewitt issued this public apology on behalf of the Metropolitan Police as part of the settlement of seven out of our eight claims arising from intimate relationships we were decieved into by undercover police officers Bob Lambert, John Dines, Mark Jenner, Jim Boyling (all Special Demonstration Squad officers) and Mark Kennedy (of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit), all of whom infiltrated environmental and social justice campaigns.

The apology is the result of our four-year legal battle to bring to public attention these state sponsored, deceptive relationships and to prevent future abuses. We have worked together on this painful and deeply personal legal case in order to expose the serious and systemic abuse of power by undercover police officers and their managers. Although no amount of ‘sorry’, or financial compensation, can make up for what we and others have endured, we are pleased the police have been forced to acknowledge the abusive nature of these relationships and that they should never happen.

Our relationships, spanning a period of nearly 25 years, had remained hidden until we exposed them through a series of media reports starting late in 2010. By linking our cases together we have been able to evidence a clear pattern of abusive, discriminatory behaviour towards women which amounts to institutional sexism by the Metropolitan Police.

Five years ago it would have seemed inconceivable to the public that state employees would go to such lengths, but the scale of the abuse uncovered demonstrates that this was accepted practice for many years. Other cases arising from intimate relationships are still ongoing and we are aware of more relationships yet to be publicly exposed.

While the UK purports to be a democratic country, the level of deception perpetrated by state agents seeking to undermine movements for social change is more akin to that of the Stasi in East Germany. These professionally supported relationships – some of which bore children – lasted as long as nine years and have remained hidden from the public for decades. Indeed, the police still refuse to publicly acknowledge the harm caused to the children born of and into these relationships or even bring themselves to refer to them in their apology today.

One of the key reasons we brought the case was to ensure that such relationships would not happen again. As part of the settlement, the Metropolitan Police acknowledged that “sexual relationships between undercover police officers and members of the public should not happen”, that “these cases demonstrate that there have been failures of supervision and management” and they recognised “that this should never happen again and the necessary steps must be taken to ensure that it does not.” The police also recognise that “these relationships, the subsequent trauma and the secrecy around them left these women at risk of further abuse and deception by these officers after the deployment had ended.”

Alongside this comprehensive apology, the Metropolitan Police made substantial financial settlements to seven of us, meaning we are unable to take this matter forward to open court. However, one of us is able to continue her case and the rest of us will support her and continue the fight to obtain disclosure, and to have the legal framework governing undercover policing examined by the courts.

The apology from the Metropolitan Police is a clear admission of responsibility for what happened to us, and we will now be working hard together and with others to ensure that the Public Inquiry into undercover policing is robust and transparent. Secret political policing undermines social progress for justice and equality and should have no place in our society.
Personal Statements from the women

Please note that in accordance with the relevant court order, some names are pseudonyms.

‘Rosa’

I was in a relationship for 9 years with a man who initially introduced himself to me as fellow activist, Jim Sutton. We moved in together. Months later I weathered his mental abuse when he claimed to be suffering a breakdown, I searched for him for a year and a half when he went missing, clung to my sanity when my tracking exposed that he did not exist whilst he emailed me riddles and telling me to speak to noone. Then he walked into my work. The new tales he told me – of being the partner I knew and slept next to every night, the misunderstanding of his deployment, that he was the only one, that our country doesn’t spy on peace or green movements, of being a turncoat and needing my help to escape the police – they were more believable than the truth. The unlikely truth was this: my life partner was fabricated by the state. He never existed. I was pregnant within two weeks of his reappearance and bore children by the actor, a random police officer, who had played my partner. A stranger planted in my political movement, one of many, trained to undermine both everything I stood for and my traumatised self. He used his professional skills of deception and manipulation to try to control my feelings and actions. He had me isolated from all my friends, comrades and associates, and I lived in an abusive relationship with him. I eventually escaped to a women’s refuge with my children.

Once they have you conceive by them, they permanently have a surveillance officer placed in your life, who can never be removed as he gains legal voting rights in your family. The operation never ends. Looking at what little we have uncovered of the 100 officers deployed, I believe there are many more families and children affected. I have been damaged and traumatised for ever by my relationship with Jim Boyling. He has fathered children with me who never asked to be tainted by the extreme levels of state abuse and manipulation. Both he and his police handlers are responsible for generations of damage. The police have yet to extend this apology to my children nor even refer to them in the apology today. I am angry after all we have lived through.
‘Naomi’

I had an eight month intense relationship with a man I knew as Mark Stone. I had been involved in social justice campaigning since I was a teenager and met Mark through a friendship network of people connected with those campaigns. During our time together we went travelling, went to my brother’s wedding and connected over a shared belief in openness and honesty. When I ended the relationship he cried in my arms. Our close friendship over the next five years was influenced by that relationship. That all ended when I received a call five years ago to tell me that Mark Stone did not exist and was actually an undercover policeman called Mark Kennedy. He had been paid by the Metropolitan police for the seven years that I knew him to spy on me and everyone I loved. In the time since then I have struggled to reconcile my personal memories with everything I have learned about Mark Kennedy and the police force that controlled him.

I would never EVER have consented to this relationship if I knew who he was or what he was doing and why. The fact that all eight of us are here today demonstrates that this institutionalised sexism and abuse has gone on for decades.
‘Lisa’

My name is given as “Lisa” and I was in a six year relationship with Mark Kennedy. He was my closest friend, my partner and my confident for most of my 30’s. I believed him to be part of my family. I found out that he was an undercover officer whilst we were still together, and it has had a profound traumatic effect on me. I have had difficulty forming relationships ever since I discovered the truth and it will continue to have an impact on my life for years to come.

This is not simply about a man lying in a relationship, it was a deception perpetrated, overseen and supervised by the state. He had a handler that knew his every move. There were anonymous back-room faces who will have listened to our telephone conversations, read all of our intimate text messages, seen our holiday photos, may have even come along to monitor him from afar on our holidays. There were employers instructing and supporting his deception with fake I.D. and overtime paid. I welcome the fact that The Metropolitain Police have admitted responsibility for their actions, and have clearly stated that what happened to us was wrong, but no amount of money or ‘sorry’ will make up for the lack of answers about the extent to which I was spied upon in every aspect of my most personal and intimate life.
Kate Wilson

I’ve been active in environmental and social justice movements for over 20 years. From 2003-2005 I lived with a man calling himself Mark Stone. He not only became part of my world but also that of my parents and my brother’s family. After we separated he kept in close contact, travelling to see me even after I moved to Spain and then Germany. For 7 years I believed he was one of my closest friends and companions. In 2010 friends uncovered that he was, in fact, Mark Kennedy, a police infiltrator working for a unit that targetted political movements in the UK and abroad. The personal implications of that discovery for my life’s projects, and my sense of who I am and what I can believe, have been devastating, and I remain haunted by unanswered questions.

Even after four years of litigation, the police are still refusing to give us any disclosure. I recently made a DPA application for my police files: the response does not mention Mark or any of the 5 other police spies I now know that I have known, or the GPS tracker that I found under my car. Was I targetted for my political beliefs and they are lying to cover it up? Or am I simply “collateral intrusion” in a secret operation against political dissent, that sidelined my life, my family, my body and myself, and did not even consider it worthy of a mention in an operational authorisation? The political implications of either of those possibilities are also devastating. I am not able to discuss what occurred during our mediation proces with the police. However I can say that my courtcase will continue, and I hope that through that process, through the public inquiry, and through the amazing work of activists and whistleblowers, that we will eventually get answers.

Helen Steel

I had a two year relationship with a man who called himself John Barker but who was in fact an undercover policeman called John Dines. We met through London Greenpeace and became close friends over the next three years before starting a relationship and renting a flat together. Our relationship seemed ideal and we made plans for the future and discussed starting a family. Then John followed the SDS pattern of appearing to have a breakdown and disappearing abroad.

I was left distraught and I spent years searching for him. In the course of that search I found he had been using the identity of a child who had died. The discovery that someone I thought I knew so well didn’t actually exist has had a lasting impact on my life. I spent 19 years searching for the truth, while the police took active steps to conceal it from me. It was only through Rosa that I found out the truth, her ex partner Jim Boyling had confirmed it.

I am glad that the Metropolitan Police have finally admitted that these undercover relationships are abusive and indefensible and I call on them to now come clean about political undercover policing. Through our case alone we know that these relationships spanned a period of nearly 25 years, while the vast majority of undercover officers who have been exposed by campaigners are known to have had relationships while undercover.

The public is entitled to know the true extent of these and other human rights abuses committed by undercover political policing units. To that end the police and the Public Inquiry should now release the cover names of those officers who spied on campaign groups so that those who came into contact with them can make sure the truth is heard by the Inquiry.

‘Alison’

I am known in the public domain as ‘Alison’. I had a five year relationship with Mark Jenner who was known to me as Mark Cassidy. We lived together in what I believed was a monogomous relationship for more than four of these years. I met him when he joined the Colin Roach Centre in Hackney where I was a member. The Colin Roach Centre worked to expose police corruption, to promote trade unionism and to challenge racism and fascism. Mark and I attended relationship counselling for over a year before he disappeared in Spring 2000 because I wanted children and he did not. I later discovered he was married with children throughout this time. I loved him very deeply and have suffered significant psychological damage from the experience of suspecting and then proving he was an undercover police officer.

Five years of my life, documented in photographs and videos, are tainted by the presence of a person I never really knew. The experience has eroded my confidence in my own judgement and impacted negatively on my ability to trust new people. I have a strong sense of having been violated by this relationship which to date I have been unable to resolve. Since beginning the litigation, the Metropolitan Police has maintained a position of neither confirming nor denying Mark Jenner’s identity which has aggravated the damage done to me. Answers and disclosure would help me piece together the missing parts of my life; continued obfuscation and avoidance of the truth simply prolongs the pain. I hope the public inquiry, therefore, will be robust and transparent.

Additional background: Belinda Harvey

Belinda met a man using the name Bob Robinson at a friend’s party in 1987. They had an intense relationship lasting over 18 months which led her to believe they would be together for ever. However he announced he had to go on the run from the police but he would send for her when it was safe. She never heard from him again. In August 2012 she was contacted by Helen Steel to tell her that she had found out he was really an undercover police officer called Bob Lambert

Additional background: ‘Ruth’

Ruth met a man in the mid 1990s presenting himself as Jim Sutton, an activist in Reclaim the Streets. They had a deep and serious relationship lasting over 18 months. Ruth was not aware until January 2011 that Jim Sutton was really Jim Boyling, an undercover police officer. She has joined with the other eight women in working to expose the outrageous misconduct of the police, and even now, is still struggling to come to terms with the obscene level of intrusion into her personal life.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

When it started
In Dec 2011 Birnberg Pierce launched a legal action on behalf of eight women who were deceived into long-term intimate relationships by five police officers who had infiltrated social and environmental justice campaigns. The claims included human rights claims and common law claims.
“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 common law claims for deceit, assault, misfeasance in public office and negligence.”
Why

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

‘We come from different backgrounds and have a range of political beliefs and interests, and we are united in believing that every woman, and every person, has a right to participate in the struggle for social and environmental justice, without fear of persecution, objectification, or interference in their lives.’  – ‘Where we stand’ Statement.

Key stages in legal battle
Battle against secret court (IPT): Police attempt to force use of secret court. Judge Tugendhat rules that human rights cases should be held in IPT but common law-only ones should be in open court (Jan 2013), but delayed until after IPT.
– High Court permits secrecy – Jan 2013
After appeal in Oct 2013 Tugendhat’s judgement upheld, but that delay removed.
– Response to appeal judgment – Oct 2013
Fighting the police’s attempt to “strike-out” the case: One line of attack in struggle to force the police to adhere to normal civil court procedures.
NCND: Another line of attack in struggle to force police to adhere to normal civil court procedures.
– Women issue legal challenge to NCND in court – June 2014
Partial NCND victory – Met police finally admit Lambert & Boyling were cops  – Aug 2014
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