Just another cover-up?

I’ve been researching undercover policing ever since the boyfriend I knew as Mark Cassidy left me in spring 2000. Like the other female activists bringing cases of undercover police abuse to light, I have become skilled in scouring documents, interrogating and interpreting evidence. We’ve fought a legal case against the Metropolitan police to expose its institutional sexist practices, and waited for five years for an apology that should have been given much earlier.

Now I’m one of the 180 “non-state core participants” (NSCPs) in the public inquiry into undercover policing. Established in March 2015, the inquiry was due to report in July 2018, but it’s looking unlikely any evidence will be heard until 2019, and the end date is no longer even in sight.

Sir John Mitting, the inquiry chair, is sitting for three days this week in the Royal Courts of Justice in London, listening to legal arguments and counter-arguments about police anonymity. He obliquely responded to a letter from October signed by 115 NSCPs expressing our concern about the inquiry’s lack of openness and transparency, stating that his priority was to “discover the truth”.

For many of the ordinary people attending as core participants, the Royal Courts building – with its endless gothic corridors – is intimidating and alien.

Sitting in the public gallery of court 76 is a collection of journalists, core participants, and our friends and family. We are listening to the lawyers discuss principles established in case law that very few of us sitting at the back will understand. We usually sit politely and wait in good faith, as we’ve been doing now for two years, for crumbs of information about the police officers who collectively used and abused us. But yesterday morning was different. Vocal interventions from core participants expressed our frustration at a process which, despite the judge’s reassurance, is looking more likely to obfuscate than reveal the truth.

Because nothing is being revealed. Not even the full list of the groups spied on. Despite the Metropolitan police apology issued to me and the other women, Mark Jenner (who I knew as Mark Cassidy) is the only officer cited in our case whose identity has still not been officially confirmed by either the Met or the inquiry. No reason has been given. The latest tranche of documents promised that some names would be revealed: a few cover names (including HN81, who infiltrated the Stephen Lawrence family campaign) and some real names. Each officer is coded by an HN number, and the list is dizzying.

But many officers we will learn nothing about. The judge has already made some orders for some evidence to be heard in secret, and it will no doubt be so heavily redacted before it reaches the public as to be meaningless.

In these cases, he will rely on information collected by the police about their own officers. How can this be fair? How can a judge determine the impact of secret deployments if those who were targeted are not told who spied on them?

Without transparency, how do we know if these nameless HN numbers infiltrated other family justice campaigns? How do we know if they had abusive, intimate relationships with those they spied on? How do we know if they passed on information to private corporations resulting in trade unionists being blacklisted from work? And how do we know if they acted within the law?

Trying to access and make sense of their redacted evidence buried deep within the inquiry’s website is hugely challenging. Like the corridors of the building, the complexity of the website renders many of us bewildered and disengaged from a process in which our participation feels anything but “core”.

Despite institutional racism being central to the setting up of the inquiry, when it was revealed that the Lawrence family was spied upon, the inquiry team is all white. It is predominantly male and is now being chaired by a judge who is a member of the men-only Garrick Club. A letter sent to the home secretary in September, requesting a meeting to discuss the inappropriateness of the new judge, has been ignored.

Instead of recognising the damage done to those of us who tracked down our ex-partners, various witnesses are characterising our searches as malicious. And the emphasis the police are placing on the right of the abusers to protect their families contrasts sickeningly with their total lack of regard for the families they intruded upon.

Mitting must appreciate the context in which his inquiry is now taking place. Since the recent revelations about abuse of women by men in the film industry, parliament and elsewhere, the misogyny of our society has become unignorable. What happened to us was sustained abuse.

The men who have been exposed in other spheres have been named and shamed. Harvey Weinstein, Max Stafford-Clark and Kevin Spacey cannot hide who they were when they were abusing their positions of power.

Sexual abusers should not be able to rely on a court anonymity order

Undercover police officers, by contrast, were given state-sponsored identities. From what we know thus far, it’s likely that many committed long-term and far-reaching human rights abuses, for which they may never be held publicly responsible if their real names are concealed. If they didn’t commit these wrongdoings, what are they afraid of? If their targets were legitimate, why do they need to hide behind fake names? Sexual abusers should not be able to rely on a court anonymity order. No one else alleged to have committed such abuse is offered this privilege.

We know that three officers who had intimate, sexual relationships with activists (John Dines, Bob Lambert and Andy Coles) all went on to reinvent themselves, taking on public roles as advisers and consultants to international police departments and university criminology courses, or holding public office as a deputy police and crime commissioner.

Without knowing the real names of the officers involved in our lives and the lives of others, how do we hold to account those who have since created illustrious careers advising policymakers on police matters? Many of us feel this inquiry is turning into another attempt at an establishment cover-up. Our patience is running out.

Alison is one of eight women who successfully took legal action against the Metropolitan police over the conduct of undercover officers. Most of the women have chosen to remain anonymous. This piece was published in the Guardian newspaper on 21 November 2017.

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Briefing on “Neither confirm or deny” – a police tactic for secrecy

On April 5th, there will be a preliminary hearing for the Undercover Policing Inquiry, where the Metropolitan Police Service argue for further delays to the Inquiry and to reduce its scope. This is simply the latest attempt by the police to prevent information coming to light about their abusive undercover policing tactics. To illuminate this pattern of avoiding accountability and disclosure of any information about their shady practices, today we are publishing a briefing on their tactic of ‘Neither Confirm nor deny.’

To support the fight back against police secrecy, come to the demo on April 5th.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) state they have a ‘policy’ of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ (NCND) in relation to undercover officers. This means that when asked whether one of their officers is an undercover, they reply to the effect of “We can neither confirm nor deny that XXXX was an undercover officer”.

NCND is first and foremost a stance adopted by the security and intelligence services whose officials are deployed in intelligence gathering operations. It doesn’t have any legal standing. The police’s use of it is much more recent, and no evidence has been presented of it as a written MPS policy, despite being ordered to present it by a court.

Pitchford has refused to allow a blanket application of NCND in the Inquiry, and instead has insisted on looking individually at each situation where the police are asking for secrecy. He has asked them to apply for restriction orders in each situation, and will test any proclaimed risk of harm against the public interest of revealing what the undercover police have been up to. It is through this process that the police are now seeking secrecy and delays to the Inquiry.

The Inquiry into Undercover Policing has come about through the hard work of the people affected, activists, and a whistle blower. The police have fought at every turn in court, to avoid having to give any information publicly about their secret political policing units. They use NCND, and their applications for restriction orders, as a shield to avoid proper scrutiny of their actions, and to cover up the illegal and immoral activities of political undercover police officers.

Want to stand with the people affected by undercover policing and demand the truth about the activities of these abusive political policing units? Come to the demo, outside the Royal Courts of Justice, 9-10am on the 5th of April.

Find out more you can do to support the fight for truth around undercover policing.

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Inquiry Progress Report 2 published

We are pleased to publish our second progress report on the Undercover Policing Inquiry.

At the moment, the Inquiry is in its preliminary phase, and the participants are experiencing the Inquiry as extensive legal arguments between their lawyers and the Inquiry team, conducted mostly via email.  Hearings and the taking of evidence are delayed and yet to start.

We hope that our briefings can help Inquiry core participants, press, and public alike, make sense of what is going on in this crucial inquiry.

This Progress Report contains sections on:

  • The confirmation of officers,
  • New core participants,
  • Protocols,
  • Witness evidence process, costs,
  • The release of cover names, groups, and individual’s files

If you find this report helpful, please look back over the other briefings and reports we have written on the Undercover Policing Inquiry.

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Women’s statement: Full investigation needed on undercover policing in Scotland

openthefilesFour women deceived into relationships with undercover officers have made a joint statement criticising the new HMICS review into undercover policing, and demanding a full Public Inquiry into the undercover policing in Scotland.

Full Statement from the four women:

“One of the major concerns we have about the scope of the Inquiry into Undercover Policing is that the terms of reference are currently limited it to operations conducted by the police forces of England and Wales. It is very concerning that the activities of the Metropolitan  police’s spies whilst in other countries are excluded.

 As women who had relationships with undercover officers, we spent time abroad with these men, whom we believed to be a  friend and close partner.

 We know that Mark Kennedy’s major operations involved G8 summits in Scotland and  Germany, and it would make a mockery of the inquiry if these events were to be left out of its scope. Mark Kennedy spent further time with his partners, “Lisa” and Kate, attending protests and meetings in Ireland, Spain, France, Denmark, Iceland and Italy, he also spent time every year of his deployment on holiday with “Lisa” and friends in Scotland. Carlo Neri spent time with his partner, “Andrea”, in Scotland and Italy. Mark Jenner spent time with his partner, “Alison” in Ireland, and Scotland.

 On all of those visits abroad, the men were being paid by the Police, using the characters created within the undercover units,  working with activists from the UK in these countries, continuing their deceitful relationships with us wherever they went.  Therefore it would allow police to cover up whole chapters of outrageous behaviour if the investigations into their conduct did not include their activities in these countries. 

 The review into Undercover Policing set up by HMICS in Scotland is an insult to those of us who were spied on there. It is the Police investigating the police, with the people affected by undercover policing being given no voice. Our experience  would lead us to expect a cover up. HMICS is staffed with ex-police, some of whom will return to policing with the force they are examining, and some of whom actually have links to undercover policing in Scotland. It is also limited to events from 2000. Those of us who were spied on in Scotland before that date will not even be included.

 We call for a full Public Inquiry to get to the truth of what happened in Scotland, and in all the countries these undercover officers operated in. We call for everyone who was spied on to be given access to the police files held on them in all of these countries. These units were political policing units, akin to the Stasi of East Germany. They must be closed, and held accountable for their actions.”

Signed: ‘Andrea’, ‘Alison’, ‘Lisa’ and Kate Wilson

 

— end of statement —

Key Background information

1.The women who made this statement have all been affected by undercover police. It is the first time they have come together to make a statement. ‘Alison‘ had a long term relationship with Mark Jenner, ‘Lisa‘, and Kate Wilson had a long term relationships with Mark Kennedy, and ‘Andrea‘ had a long term relationship with Carlo Neri. ‘Alison’, ‘Lisa’ and ‘Andrea’ are pseudonym as they have anonymity upheld by the courts.

2. Three of these women have recently written a letter to Scottish Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson, along with eleven other core participants in the Undercover Policing Inquiry, requesting to meet in light of release of terms of reference for the HMICS review of undercover policing in Scotland.

3. The  HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) review into under cover policing, commissioned by Justice Micheal Matheson has recently issued its terms of reference.

4. ‘Alison’ and ‘Andrea’ have been in the Scottish Press recently attacking the lack of proper investigation into undercover officers operating in Scotland. Alison gave an interview to Scotsman and Andrea gave a interview to the Scottish Sunday Herald.

5. These women have all made legal claims against the Metropolitan Police arising from their deception into long-term intimate relationships with police officers who had infiltrated social and environmental justice campaigns. These are both common law claims, including deceit, assault, misfeasance in public office and negligence, and human rights claims.

6. As part of an out-of-court settlement, the Met police issued a comprehensive apology to two of these women (Alison & Lisa) in November 2015. A public inquiry has also been launched.

7. These women aim to highlight and prevent the 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.’  – from ‘Where we stand’ Statement.

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Andrea speaks out revealing institutional sexism around undercover policing

neriAndrea story in her own words was printed in two articles by Union News this week. She is one of the women targeted for long term intimate relationships by an undercover officer. It is part of a pattern of institutional sexism, where officers used women to shore up their fake identities and gain trust with activists. In the first article she tells the story of being targeted by Neri, an undercover officer. In the second article, she writes about the impact of discovering he was an undercover officer.

The trauma of discovering your ex partner was an undercover policeman is huge, and their stories deeply personal. It enormously brave for her, like the other women before her, to share her story publicly. It is these women’s stories that are proving to be our most powerful tools to stopping these abuses happening again.

She talks about the strength of their relationship. “We were inseparable. Within six weeks he’d moved in with me. It felt right, and three months later we got engaged.” The relationships these officers had whilst undercover were often very serious for the women involved, as the officers played the role of the perfect partner.

She tells the now familiar story of the breakdown that Neri faked before he left her, which was devastating for her. He even used the emotionally manipulative tool of telling her he was going to kill himself.

Andrea talks about the effect of discovering Neri was an undercover officer “When this happens to you, when your narrative becomes a fiction, life itself becomes fragmented.  There’s a ripple effect.  It impacts on your relationships, your work, your family, and when you start to uncover the truth, you still find out only a part of that truth.  It is an enormously cruel thing to do.

Andrea reflects on why this happened to her – why she was one of many women used by undercover police in this way. “I don’t know why I was chosen. Wrong place, wrong time? A mere convenience? It seems I provided a cover so that this man could infiltrate the trade unions and movements that he was sent to spy on.

Many of the undercover officers that have been revealed so far had deceitful intimate relationships while undercover. These relationships shored-up the cover-stories of the officers – by definition the undercover officers had no real background, friends or family, and by having a relationship with a trusted female activist, they would be accepted into their target groups more readily.

In conceding the a previous similar case, the police admitted that supervising officers had been negligent and had acted improperly in causing or allowing the relationship to happen. It was not the actions of rogue officers, but instead had been authorised or allowed to happen by the supervisory structure. This reveals a sexist mind-set, that it is ok to abuse women like this, to shore up the identity of an undercover officer.

It is the bravery of women like Andrea speaking up, which is revealing the extent of this abusive practice, and the institutional sexism that surrounds it. The Pitchford Inquiry into Undercover Policing MUST officially recognise this institutional sexism for it to change. We have seen the power of the McPherson Inquiry recognising racism in the Met, and this is what is needed to cause real change and to stop women’s lives being abused like this in the future.

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