Brief Summary of Public Inquiry Secrecy Hearing

IMG_0576This week, on 22nd & 23rd of March, Pitchford heard arguments around how much secrecy there should be at the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing. Full transcripts of the day one and day two are available.

The hearing started with a lively demonstration outside the court, with singing and chanting about stopping secrecy, the police’s policy of ‘Neither Confirm nor Deny’, and asking the courts to release the cover names of the Undercover officers.

The court then filled up, and over flowed, with public and core-participants wanting to witness the process of the Public Inquiry. The two days saw the barristers representing different parties involved in the Inquiry speak. Pitchford, the judge presiding over the Inquiry, started by saying how important the hearing was, and the impact it would have on the whole Inquiry.

The Metropolitan Police were represented by a barrister who argued that it is wrong to decide the level of secrecy on widespread public or ministerial concern, and that the overriding public interest was in protecting the undercover police and their methods. He faltered when questioned by Pitchford about how the secrecy they were asking for would actually work. Barristers for the National Crime Agency and the Secretary of State for the Home Office also spoke.

Phillipa Kaufman QC represented the 150-200 non-state core participants in the Inquiry who are victims of undercover policing, including the women we support. Kauffman delivered a barrage of impressive points, saying all victims have a pressing need to know what happened to them and whether it was institutionally sanctioned. She said it was clear that the Inquiry could not rely on the Police self-disclosing, and that unless the cover names of officers were released, the victims could not come forward to give evidence on the abuse. She talked about the extensive public interests against secrecy, including accountability of the Police, the rule of law, and fulfilling the terms of reference of the Inquiry.

Squires QC represents Elected Representatives who have been spied on by undercover police. These include Ken Livingstone, and Jeremey Corbyn. He put to the hearing that these people were spied on because they were left wing. He said this was incompatible with democracy, and must be brought to light, as it is crucial the police are seen to be politically neutral and democratically accountable. He called for the release of the cover names, and stated that MPs had been promised they would be told who was targeted and why.

Peter Francis, former undercover cop and whistle blower was also in court, represented by a barrister. The hearing was told that Francis wants to expose unethical, unlawful undercover policing practices, contrary to rule of law. Francis believes that cover name exposure would not imperil the safety of the officers or their family saying he himself feels at no risk. He said that he had never been promised lifelong confidentiality or been told about a policy of NCND. Interestingly, he also said that the techniques that the Police argue need to be protected were not sophisticated, and are already largely known about. He said the failure to reveal spy cover names would shield from public scrutiny the exact thing the inquiry was set up to examine.
The media were also represented, and they asked for Pitchford to allow their right to report on the Inquiry, and to continue their work to expose wrong doing.

Helen Steel was the only core participant to represent herself, and her powerful statement got a huge round of applause from the public gallery. She cut through the legal speak, shattered the police’s arguments around NCND (exposing it as a policy developed to protect them during the recent courtcase), and argued that victim’s had a right to know what had happened to it – no one should have to wait 24 years to hear the truth as she had.

Pitchford has now retired to deliberate on the decision, which he will not announce until April.

facebooktwitterlinkedinmailfacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Open Inquiry, Open Justice – A guide to submission to the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing

We have produced a guide to the submission by non-police non-state Core Participants to the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing, in response to police and state requests for secrecy.  Consisting of quotes from the submission itself, it can be found here: Open Inquiry Open Justice guide to NPSCP submission.

On 22-23 March 2016 a crucial hearing will take place in London, as part of the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing. The two-day preliminary hearing is set to determine if the inquiry will be open and transparent or whether it will be a secret process, which would largely exclude both the public and non-state Core Participants.

In advance of the hearing, different sets of Core Participants to the Inquiry have made submissions, setting out their legal arguments for the Chair’s consideration.

In their submissions, several police bodies and the Home Office argued that the Inquiry should largely be held in secret and that the policy of Neither Confirm Nor Deny should be upheld throughout. In a previous briefing, we provided an overview of these secrecy submissions.

Now the non-police non-state Core Participants (NSPCP) – that is, people who are part of the inquiry because they were affected by the police infiltrations – have had their submission published on the Inquiry website. They support the principle of open justice, and argue that it is essential that the public inquiry is just that: public.

For this crucial hearing, we believe strongly that every member of the public should have a chance to understand what is at stake.  To aid this understanding, we have a produced a guide to the ‘open justice’ submission, which consists almost wholly of extracts from the submission itself.  The guide can be found HERE.

This summary is an essential companion to our earlier briefing on the police and state requests for secrecy. That earlier briefing can be found here.

All of the above submissions, and others, can be found at the Inquiry website.

Further action: Demo Tues 22 March / Share a solidarity photo

facebooktwitterlinkedinmailfacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Public asking Police to come clean ahead of hearing next week

People are showing their solidarity to those fighting to keep the public inquiry PUBLIC, and asking the police to COME CLEAN over abuses. To do this, they are sharing photos of themselves on social media.

This is response to the call out by Cardiff against Police Spies and is in the lead up to the Inquiry Preliminary hearing and demo next week.

collage

Want to take action?

  • Share a photo with the hashtags #spycops and #ComeClean – see the callout here – now extended to worldwide
  • Plan to come to the demo in London on Tuesday 22 March 2016
  • Write to your MP, expressing outrage that the Home Office is asking for secrecy in the Public Inquiry
  • Pass it on – ask your friends, family and colleagues to do the same

In the face of the police’s arrogance and impunity, every action can seem scarily small. But those who experienced the abuse most keenly don’t have the choice to turn away; sending them a message of solidarity, publicly, is a powerful thing. It says: we understand that it could have been any of us, and that it affects all of us. The police actions affect the fabric of our democracy and every part of our public discourse; we need to reclaim it all.

facebooktwitterlinkedinmailfacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Write to your MP about Home Office support for Police’s request for secrecy

The Home Office has supported the Police’s request for secrecy in the Public Inquiry at the forth coming hearing. We urge you to write to your MP to back the arguments that the Inquiry should stay public, and to make representations to the Secretary of State.

sorrynotenoughBelow is a short and long version of a letter to an MP which you could use to base your letter on. Find the address of your MP here.

 

SHORT VERSION

Dear MP

I am writing to complain in the strongest terms about a submission by the Home Office to the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing. The unnecessary submission backed police requests to have the inquiry held almost entirely behind closed doors. I am disgusted that the Home Office backed such a blatant attempt at a cover up, seemingly with no regard to the significant damage done to the victims of undercover policing, and without care for the impact on the fabric of our democracy. As your constituent, I insist that you pass on my concerns to the Secretary of State, and back the Public interest arguments that the Inquiry should stay Public.

For almost fifty years, individuals have been subject to covert policing because of their political views and/or involvement in justice campaigns. This goes to the heart of our democracy and the ability of its citizens to exercise their fundamental human, civil and political rights. Further public concerns include police interference with the democratic process by spying on serving MPs, Ministers, and political, environmental and social justice organisations; deception of the criminal courts leading to miscarriages of justice; officers engaging in sexual relationships, including fathering children, while undercover; spying on families seeking truth and justice over the deaths of loved ones, such as the Lawrences; utilising the identities of deceased children; and aiding the illegal blacklisting of trade union members and political activists.

I look forward to your reply saying you will take action to stop the abuse of the public by undercover units,

Yours sincerely,

 

 

LONG VERSION

Dear MP,

I am writing to complain in the strongest terms about a submission by the Home Office to the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing. The unnecessary submission backed police requests to have the inquiry held almost entirely behind closed doors. I am disgusted that the Home Office backed such a blatant attempt at a cover up, seemingly with no regard to the significant damage done to the victims of undercover policing, and without care for the impact on the fabric of our democracy. As your constituent, I insist that you pass on my concerns to the Secretary of State.

For almost fifty years, individuals have been subject to covert policing because of their political views and/or involvement in justice campaigns. This goes to the heart of our democracy and the ability of its citizens to exercise their fundamental human, civil and political rights. Further public concerns include police interference with the democratic process by spying on serving MPs, Ministers, and political, environmental and social justice organisations; deception of the criminal courts leading to miscarriages of justice; officers engaging in sexual relationships, including fathering children, while undercover; spying on families seeking truth and justice over the deaths of loved ones, such as the Lawrences; utilising the identities of deceased children; and aiding the illegal blacklisting of trade union members and political activists.

The Pitchford Public Inquiry’s terms of reference are to determine what has happened, whether the systems and procedures are adequate, and what recommendations can be made. The Inquiry can only be thorough and reliable if the police evidence is made public.

  • If it hears the evidence from the police in private, the Inquiry has no means of testing that evidence; recent history suggests relying on Police self-disclosure would not command public confidence.
  • Those affected cannot give meaningful, or even any, evidence if they remain in the dark about what took place.
  • Public confidence can only be restored if the public can be confident that the Inquiry has been fully able to identify the nature, extent and causes of past abuse.
  • The public and the victims must not be left feeling that there has been a cover up.

The Public Inquiry hearing takes place on 22 and 23 March, and we can only hope and trust that the Chair makes the right decision. But the stance taken by the Home Office cannot be ignored; the damage has already been done. I therefore ask that you take the following public action, and that you make representations to the Home Secretary to do the same:

  • Back the public interest arguments that the Inquiry should stay public and that restriction orders are only made as an exception to the primary position of open justice.
  • Insist that the cover names of all the officers be released, so that the true extent of the abuses can come to light.
  • Insist that the police extend their apology to all those affected by having intimate and sexual relationships with undercover police (not just the limited number so far).

I look forward to your reply saying you will take action to stop the abuse of the public by undercover units,

Yours sincerely,

facebooktwitterlinkedinmailfacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

“The primary position of open justice”: submissions opposing blanket secrecy go live

In advance of next week’s crucial hearing, over how ‘public’ the public inquiry into undercover policing will be, a joint submission by the non-police non-state Core Participants – that is, by people who know they suffered damage by the undercover units – has gone live on the Public Inquiry website (as submitted on 11 March).

Earlier today, we published a digest of the police’s blanket requests for secrecy – requests which, shockingly, had been backed up by the Home Office. This new submission can now be read in conjunction with that summary.

In contrast to the police and state’s bids for presumption in favour of secrecy, the new submission argues for “the primary position of open justice”, and argues that any individual “application for a restriction order must … be approached” from that standpoint, and “be fully justified”.

In other words, any instance where secrecy would be appropriate must be dealt with and argued on its own specific merits, each circumstance should be thoroughly hashed out out as it comes up within the course of the inquiry – whereas blanket secrecy at the outset of the inquiry (as the police are asking for) would be overkill, a fatal blow to the core purpose of the inquiry.

At 43 pages long to the police and state’s 70, the ‘open justice’ submission may look lighter, but the weight of what is at stake cannot be underestimated.

We’ll post further updates and digests as soon as we’re able. In the meantime, please share a solidarity photo, spread the word about the hearing and the demo, and consider writing to your MP to complain about the Home Office position.
cdfpic1thnl

facebooktwitterlinkedinmailfacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by A.N.

Up ↑