It has come to our attention that the Crown Prosecution Service has made a decision that no undercover officer will be prosecuted for having non-consensual sexual relations with any member of the public. If any member of the public is approached by any state party, including the police, either as a potential witness or victim, our current advice is to contact us so that we can advise you further and/or recommend a lawyer. We strongly advise that you do not make a statement without speaking to us first.
SDS officer Carlo Neri was named on Twitter earlier this week by an investigative journalist who has a particular interest in police corruption. The real name of Carlo Soracchi is now in the public domain.
Carlo Soracchi had long-term relationships with three women whilst undercover, from 2001-2005. He posed as a locksmith and left-wing activist, joining the Socialist Party and becoming involved in anti-racist campaigning. He befriended several well-known trade union activists, also changing many of their locks to ‘improve security’. He was often seen on picket lines. Several of the men he befriended were blacklisted workers.
Sir John Mitting promised when he took over as Chair of the UCPI that if during the course of the Inquiry a woman discovered she had a relationship with an undercover police officer she had a right to know the officer’s real name, and the Inquiry would inform her of it.
He then went on to state that it would be herdecision whether or not to publish the real name in the public domain. In doing this, Mitting has misrepresented it to be a personal and moral issue. We believe that this is a deeply unfair burden for any woman who has been deceived into an abusive relationship to have to carry. And it is not merely a personal issue – these inhumane and degrading relationships were state-sanctioned. This is part of a shocking anti-democratic scandal and should be viewed in this context, as a political issue.
In Soracchi’s case, the women affected were not made aware that the journalist would make the name public. They were not informed of the name by the Inquiry but had discovered it themselves, with researchers and activists, when they found out the truth about Carlo in 2015. Mitting initially refused to grant a restriction order on Neri’s real name but then went on to appeal to the ‘humanity’ and judgment of the women affected to keep the name confidential, for the sake of his family.
“We have been placed in an extremely difficult and distressing position by Mitting’s approach, which was to use emotional blackmail to silence us. We believe the Inquiry should have named him. Carlo Neri waived his anonymity when he chose to deceive, manipulate and emotionally and sexually abuse women in this appalling way. We are relieved that Soracchi’s name is now in the public domain and that finally there is some accountability, but the way in which it has happened is not ideal for us or for his family who were also victims of the Met’s institutional sexism and abuse of power. If Mitting had dealt with it appropriately from the outset, this whole mess could have been avoided.”
Mitting’s track record in dealing with violence against women is appalling, as seen in the case of Nicola Stocker, which was rightly overturned on appeal recently by five judges who noted Mitting’s legal error and failure of common sense.
Our own experience is an example of how he perceives the rights of women who have been subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment by men. In our case, by a man who was trained and paid to abuse by the state.
The Inquiry is not fit for purpose. With the current chair and no supporting panel of advisors, it cannot deliver the justice and accountability we need and the public deserve.
This is why we’re crowd funding to pursue legal avenues to get the answers about how and why our most private lives were violated. Those responsible still need to be held to account and a clear message sent that such behaviour by the police must never happen again.
Please support us to continue our fight for truth and justice:
Wearing masks to protect their anonymity and #Spycops #MeToo t-shirts, women deceived into long-term intimate relationships by undercover police officers visited the Home Office yesterday.
They handed over 6,000 postcards signed by the public supporting their campaign and a letter the Home Secretary (published below), calling on him to appointment a panel of advisors to support Sir John Mitting who they consider wholly unsuitable to chair the public inquiry into undercover policing.
Letter to Home Secretary
Dear Mr Javid,
Undercover Policing Public Inquiry – ongoing concerns
We have written to the Home Secretary before (19.9.17 and 3.4.18) to explain our serious concerns with the lack of progress and integrity of the Undercover Policing Inquiry.
We are women whose human rights were violated by unethical and unlawful police deployments which included deceiving each of us into long term intimate relationships. This Inquiry came about as a direct result of our investigations into the disappearances of our ex-partners and the subsequent revelations of their true identities as Metropolitan Police Service undercover officers.
We are central to the setting up and the purpose of this Inquiry yet we do not feel our voices are being listened to. We are deeply concerned that the Chair’s lack of experience and understanding of sexism, racism and class discrimination is leading to a failure to engage with and investigate fully the range and depth of the abuses committed by these secret political policing units. We fear that, in turn, this failure will mean lessons will be missed and such human rights abuses could easily happen again.
Our support group, Police Spies Out of Lives launched a partnership campaign with the cosmetics company Lush to draw public attention to our concerns and to invite people to write to you on our behalf requesting additional panel members to assist the Inquiry Chair, Sir John Mitting. We have thousands of postcards we are keen to deliver.
When in the past we raised issues about the Chair’s approach and requested that a panel should be appointed, we were told that the Home Secretary will “continue to keep the need for a panel under review”. For the reasons set out below, we believe strongly that now is the right time to reconsider the Home Office’s position both on the appointment of additional panel members and on the suitability of Sir John Mitting.
Having met privately with Sir John Mitting to discuss some of our concerns we remain unconvinced that he has some of the skills necessary for the particularity of this investigation. His comments during the private meetings revealed a profound lack of understanding of issues relating to institutional sexism and discrimination. We enclose a witness statement of Harriet Wistrich setting out these comments in detail; this statement was provided as evidence in the recent judicial review challenge of your decision not to appoint additional panel members. Regrettably, the court refused permission for this judicial review to proceed on 7 November 2018.
Since this time, new information has come to light which we hope will influence you to reconsider your position.
When Sir John Mitting took over chairing the Inquiry, he made a promise that, subject to restriction orders, if during the course of the Inquiry a woman learns she had a relationship with an undercover police officer then she has a right to know that officer’s real name and the Inquiry would inform her of it. He stated that it would then be her decision whether or not to publish that name in the public domain. Sir John Mitting’s intention in this approach has been framed as a moral obligation to the woman concerned.
The problem with this approach, however, is its lack of understanding regarding the institutional nature of these abusive relationships. These were not simply intimate relationships between two consensual individuals on an equal footing. The Chair treats the relationships as solely personal interactions; a very similar approach to that of the Crown Prosecution Service which references the ‘genuine feelings’ upon which they believe these partnerships were founded. These positions strip away the context. They remove from the equation the fact that these men were on-duty, publicly-funded, undercover police officers. By giving the responsibility of publishing their real names to the women, the Inquiry is adding to the stress and trauma already suffered. Where two or more women have had a relationship with the same officer, they may not agree whether or not to publish his name. The affected women have suffered enough without this added level of responsibility and distress.
The men concerned committed these abuses as serving police officers and they should be held to public account. Subject to restriction orders, therefore, their real names should be published on the Inquiry website and we urge you to affect this change.
A recent Supreme Court appeal hearing (24.1.19) has drawn new public attention to a judgement made by Sir John Mitting in 2016 in the case of Stocker v Stocker. This was a defamation case brought by a man against his ex-wife who he had subjected to domestic violence, after she attempted to alert his new partner to the risk of violence. In a Facebook post she referred to her ex-husband trying to strangle her. Sir John Mitting ruled that Ms Stocker was guilty of defamation on the basis of the dictionary definition of ’strangle’, since the husband had asserted he did not intend to kill her and was only trying to silence her. This approach demonstrates a woeful lack of understanding of both the threat and impact of male violence against women. In 2018 the Court of Appeal upheld this judgment. However the case has recently been considered by the Supreme Court (judgment awaited) amidst protests from a range of domestic violence charities who, having become aware of the case, have raised serious concerns about it wider implications.
This case has particular resonance for us. We see in this ruling, Sir John Mitting’s reductive approach to interpreting the law. Again, we witness him stripping away the context of the relationships, being blind to their power dynamics and by so doing discriminating against women in his judgments. We do not feel such a person is appropriate to preside over an investigation at the heart of which is discrimination against women, at least not without the assistance of an expert panel who do understand these issues.
In the most recent Inquiry hearing (31.1.19) Sir John Mitting referred to himself as a ‘pedantic English lawyer’. The investigation into undercover policing is far too complex to be overseen by a pedant. Sadly, it has again been necessary to complain about insensitive remarks made by Sir John at the most recent public hearing, please see our letter to the Inquiry dated March 20th.It is noteworthy that while over three years has been spent by the UCPI allowing the police extensive latitude in making anonymity applications, and granting a significant number of these on the basis of not wishing to interfere with the officers’ right to privacy, in contrast Sir John Mitting displays little or no concern for the privacy and wellbeing of the victims of police spying. In our case we requested disclosure from the police about our relationships in 2011, but we have not received any documents to date either from the police or the Inquiry. We want to ensure that there is an end to these double standards regarding Article 8 rights.
On January 29th2019, the Inquiry announced there would be a further delay of one year before evidential hearings are to begin. This is likely to mean that provision of the final report is pushed back a year from 2023 to 2024, having originally been set at 2018. This delay alienates already frustrated core participants further, particularly when in meetings with Sir John Mitting, one of the key reasons given for not appointing additional panel members was the delay involved. We were told it takes approximately nine months to pass the required vetting procedures.
For the final report to be credible, the core participants and the public must have confidence in the Inquiry process. We ask you, therefore, to use this delay to vet and appoint a panel.
By appointing a panel of experts with experience and understanding of institutional sexism and racism, you could contribute to ensuring the final report is a comprehensive and robust account of the truth. The scope of these human rights abuses and how they were allowed to happen must be fully understood if the government wants to ensure they do not happen again with the consequent harm to citizens’ lives and resultant cost to the public purse.
We have waited years to discover the truth about our own past and are deeply dissatisfied with the Inquiry’s current status. If it is to regain the confidence of its core participants and the wider public, we believe it is essential the Home Office reconsiders the position of Sir John Mitting and the appointment of additional panel members.
Finally, we would like to repeat our request for a meeting with you so that we can express our concerns in person. We are aware you have met with other core participants, in particular the family of Stephen Lawrence and Duwayne Brookes. Given our equally central role to the establishment of the inquiry a meeting with a representative delegation of us would be appreciated.
Since 2011, women deceived into relationships with undercover police officers groups have been fighting for truth and justice.
Four years ago a public inquiry was established to investigate the wrongdoing of these Metropolitan Police Special Branch squads. Originally scheduled to report in 2018, the Inquiry has been fraught with delays caused by police obfuscation and applications for officers’ anonymity. Evidential hearings will not now begin until 2020 with a current reporting date of 2023.
For a range of reasons, including a lack of confidence in Inquiry chair, Sir John Mitting, the women affected have no faith that the Inquiry will provide the answers we need, the disclosure we’re looking for or result in a clear declaration that undercover officers forming intimate relationships with those they are spying on is not only unlawful but should be subject to criminal sanctions.
The Inquiry is not fit for purpose. With the current chair and no supporting panel of advisors, it cannot deliver the justice and accountability we need and the public deserve.
We still need answers about how and why our most private lives were violated. Those responsible still need to be held to account and a clear message sent that such behaviour by the police must never happen again.
So now what?
There are other legal avenues open that could achieve our objective of truth and justice. A case brought by Kate Wilson before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal has already started to produce disclosure and has the potential to lead to legislative change which would prevent these abuses from ever happening again. A second case is awaiting consideration at the United Nations (CEDAW) against the UK government, claiming this practice discriminates against women. These cases offer the opportunity to set a benchmark that could force more openness from the secretive public inquiry. As the reality of how these units operated becomes clearer, we are seeing increasing evidence of what we believe to be a ‘conspiracy to rape’ and the urgency of this search for answers becomes all the more apparent.
However, we can’t continue to fund these cases alone and need your support. Please follow this link, contribute now and share this page with your friends, family and on social media.
The undercover policing scandal has been unfolding since 2010. As victims of political policing in Scotland, we seek the truth as to why we were spied upon and why our lives were so cruelly disrupted. We have asked for an independent public inquiry, in line with England and Wales, but the Scottish Government has repeatedly refused. Michael Matheson, then Justice Minister, commissioned the police to write their own report in 2016. This was co-authored by none other than Stephen Whitelock, lead inspector at Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS). Unsurprisingly, the report concluded that there was ‘no evidence’ of police infiltrating campaign groups in Scotland.
Yet just this last month, we discovered that Scottish undercover officers, under Whitelock’s governance, incinerated ‘secret and highly sensitive files’ in a car park (Sunday Post 10 February 2019). This is disgraceful and corrupt, but as victims of undercover policing abuses we are not surprised.
In 2016, when it was announced that HMICS would conduct the review into undercover policing in Scotland, we warned that the report would be tainted by lack of impartiality. This is precisely what has happened. The HMICS review must now be considered seriously compromised. Inviting the police to investigate their own malpractice is farcical. The report only references operations from the year 2000, but we know that these secret undercover units have been operational since 1968. Finally, due to Whitelock’s central involvement in this damning case, and with his judgment, decision-making and treatment of the police whistleblower being seriously called into question, it is absolutely clear that his report is tainted by connection and corruption.
Many of us who were targeted by secret police in Scotland have been campaigning tirelessly for years to get answers, often carrying the weight of severe mental distress and trauma as a result of these state-sanctioned abuses. Amongst our number there are blacklisted construction workers, miners from the 1984/85 strike, union activists, environmental campaigners such as Tilly Gifford, and women like me, who were deceived into long-term sexual relationships. We have been fighting long and hard for truth, justice and access to our files.
MSPs are again calling for a full independent inquiry in order to have justice and clarity on the police abuses that have affected many people’s lives in Scotland. And still the police and the SNP government say ‘there is nothing to see here’. No need for scrutiny. And yet we see Police Scotland burning secret, perhaps crucial, files in a car park!
Were the destroyed papers from my file? I frequently visited family in Scotland with undercover officer, ‘Carlo Neri’, whom I believed to be a locksmith and union activist. I was engaged to him at the time, and we visited friends and family on a number of occasions. He was active in Scotland from 2002-2004. I want to know who was responsible for his activities in Scotland and which of his handlers secretly travelled with us when we crossed the border. Or did the incinerated files contain information on a construction worker who raised health and safety concerns on site, and who was subsequently and inexplicably condemned to a life of unemployment, put on the ‘blacklist’?
To be clear, this is not about the individual officer’s ‘integrity’. They were trained and paid to lie. We have seen from Kate Wilson’s ongoing Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) case (Guardian 3 October 2018) how these deployments were managed by multiple handlers, overseen and documented by seniors. Sexual relationships were known about and signed off by these managers. Deceiving women into long-term sexual relationships was part of the job they were employed to do. We frequently hear of an ‘absence of management’ leading to these police abuses. It is precisely this management we should be talking about, and we should not be fooled by the ‘few bad apples’ narrative. It is time for proper scrutiny and accountability.
A new report on Undercover Policing in Scotland by an expert witness, commissioned for Tilly Gifford’s legal case (BBC Scotland News 21 November 2018), is soon to be made public and will reveal more about the brevity of undercover policing practices in Scotland. It details undercover involvement at organisational level, from Scottish staff seconded to strategic positions, to the practical operational level. It also shows that the majority of the notorious Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) undercover unit – in which my ex ‘partner’ was a state spy – were active in Scotland prior to the G8 summit in 2005. The report lays out cases of suspected undercover activities, and there are new insights into Scottish police involvement in the blacklisting of union activists. None of these concerns, or the practice of deceiving women activists into long-term intimate relationships, were addressed by HMICS in its review. The extent of the corruption and the links between the SDS and Scotland are incontrovertible.
With the reach of undercover political policing becoming ever clearer and Whitelock’s questionable integrity now in the public domain, I sincerely hope that the government finally sees the need for an independent public inquiry in Scotland.