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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Inquiry progress briefing #5

We are pleased to today publish our progress briefing number 5, summarising progress in the Undercover Policing Inquiry. This version is for public consumption – if you are a core participant in the Inquiry, you can get a more detailed version from your solicitor.

This Inquiry Progress Briefing number 5 includes a summary of progress so far (principles and protocols, anonymity applications, and evidence gathering), the outstanding issues (Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, Disclosure of personal files, Witness evidence protocol, Disclosure of cover names and individuals files) as well as sections on the Inquiry Strategic Review and appointment of Mitting.

For the back ground to the inquiry go here, and for previous briefings, go here.

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Undercover Policing Inquiry: Latest progress briefing

Want to understand what has happened recently in the preliminary stages of the Undercover Policing Inquiry?

Read our latest Progress Briefing available for download here.

It covers the period mid March to mid May 2017 and includes:

  • 5/6th April Hearing
  • Disclosure of personal files
  • Protocols
    • Draft disclosure protocol
    • Restriction protocol
  • Rehabilitation of Offenders Act submissions

For those people that are core participants in the Inquiry, a slightly different version will be available via your lawyers, that contains information that is private between you and your lawyers.

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Press release: Women write to Irish Government:

Full investigation needed on undercover policing in Ireland

Mark kennedy in Ireland

Today, four women deceived into relationships with undercover police in the UK [1,2] have written to the Irish Prime minister, Minister for Justice and Equality, and Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade.

Their letters [3] ask why they were targeted in Ireland for abusive relationships by UK undercover officers, and demand a full Inquiry into the activity of UK undercover officers in Ireland.

These letters are in response to the secret “report” prepared by the An Garda Síochána in 2011 [4] attempting to justify the activities of undercover police officers from the UK in Ireland.

They highlight the fact that the relationships they had with these officers, which took place in part on Irish soil, have been admitted to be human rights violations [5]. This means the report’s claims that police activities in Ireland were limited to tracking “external activists with a track record for violence” are false.

These officers activities in the Republic of Ireland will not be investigated as part of the Pitchford Inquiry into Undercover Policing [6], and so  far, the response of  the Justice Minister and Garda has been to conduct secret, internal reviews into these revelations and to deny their grave  importance [7]. The women are demanding a full and public investigation into the activities of these officers, detailing any offenses they committed in Ireland. They also specifically ask:

  • Who authorised these undercover operations in Ireland?
  • Do Irish police hold files on us, and when will we be given access to those files?
  • How does the Irish state justify foreign police officers having deceptive intimate relationships with women, in violation of our human rights and bodily integrity?
  • How many more UK police officers operated in Ireland and how many more women were abused by the police on Irish soil?

Kate Wilson travelled to Dublin with her partner, Mark “Stone” (Kennedy) in May 2004 said “The MPS apologised for the violation of my human rights in the UK, but those rights were also violated in Ireland. Someone authorised Mark to take me to Ireland with him, and engage in an abusive sexual relationship on Irish soil. We are asking for answers, and the Irish government is responding with denials and secret reports. That should be of great concern to anyone who wants to believe in accountability and human rights in Ireland”

Mark Kennedy also met up with “Lisa” as she travelled back from protests in Rossport against the Corrib gas pipeline. Lisa was deceived by the police into an abusive relationship with him that lasted six years before she exposed his real identity in 2010. She said “The UK undercover officers crossed borders regularly, and seemingly without oversight. Their operations extended far outside the remit of the current investigations. Was he authorised to continue our relationship in Ireland? Was he being paid? Did the Irish authorities know?”

“Alison” was in a five year relationship with Jenner who she knew as Mark Cassidy. She said “When it was suggested that the Colin Roach Centre send a delegation to the West Belfast Festival in the Summer of 1995, Jenner was keen to offer his van to drive people there. The journey included a stop-over in the Republic of Ireland. Were the authorities there informed that a Special Branch agent was operating in their territory? And if not, why not?”

Key background links

1] The women who made this statement have all been affected by undercover police. ‘Alison‘ had a long term relationship with Mark Jenner,  ‘Lisa‘,  and Kate Wilson  (previously under the pseudonym of “Lily”) had long term relationships with Mark Kennedy,  and Helen  Steel (previously under the pseudonym of “Clare”) had a long term  relationship with John Dines. ‘Alison’, & ‘Lisa’ are pseudonyms as they have anonymity upheld by the courts.    https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmhaff/837/130205i.htm

2]   These women 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 were both human rights claims and common law claims, including deceit, assault, misfeasance in public office and negligence.

3] https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/spycops-abroad/irish-inquiry-letter

4] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ministers-kept-in-the-dark-over-british-spy-6kp5shhgt?shareToken=2bfee46b3a0b361d78248ce189fd8e36

5] As part of an out-of-court settlement, the Met police issued a comprehensive apology [http://news.met.police.uk/videos/mps-apology-long-term-sexual-relationships-21074} to three of these women (Alison, Helen & Lisa) in November 2015. http://news.met.police.uk/news/claimants-in-civil-cases-receive-mps-apology-138574. The same apology was extended to the fourth woman (Kate) in March 2017.

6] A public inquiry has also been launched covering only England & Wales .https://www.ucpi.org.uk/

7] http://www.parliamentary-questions.com/question/7624-17/

8] 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.

— end of background information —

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Spying victims demand truth NOW Stop the Police cover up

Press release sent on behalf of the UCPI non-state, non-police core participants communications group

Royal Courts of Justice 5th April 2017 – picket 9-10am (photo opportunities)

On 5th/6th April at a High Court hearing of the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing, the Metropolitan Police will be seeking to continue their cover up of human rights abuses committed by political undercover policing units. The Inquiry started in 2015 but due to police delaying tactics has yet to reveal anything at all about political police spying in the UK.

Those who were spied on will be at the hearing to demand truth and justice.  They will address the Inquiry hearing to call for:

•    the immediate release of the cover names used by political undercover police officers
•    the names of the groups spied on
•    the personal files held on those spied on
•    fair representation at the Inquiry – at present around 200 victims are forced to share one legal team in court, while the police & state are represented by 5 separate legal teams

Core participants of the Inquiry sent written submissions to the Inquiry last week which explain their call, mandated by a meeting of 40 non-state, non- police core participants (NSPCPs).  This follows a letter sent a year ago signed by 133 NSPCPs seeking the same information.

Kate Wilson, who was deceived into an intimate relationship with undercover officer Mark Kennedy, and is one of the signatories of the letter, said;

“The Inquiry is investigating serious human rights abuses, miscarriages of justice and criminal offences committed by police. Yet much of the control over the evidence and proceedings has been left in the very hands of those being investigated. The police clearly have no sense of urgency about the Inquiry, in fact they have sought to prevent the victims of their abuses from finding out the truth. This creates a very real risk of compounding the harm and distress of those of us who suffered at their hands and who so urgently need to find truth.”

In 2010 revelations first started to surface about British undercover police officers infiltrating environmental and social justice campaigns.  By 2014 the scale & nature of the revelations had become so shocking that then Home Secretary Theresa May announced a Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing.

The revelations included that undercover police officers had:
– engaged in intimate sexual relationships with women while undercover
– even fathered children with women spied on,
– spied on the grieving family & friends of Stephen Lawrence and other victims of racist attacks & police malpractice
– colluded with private companies, including passing personal information to private companies & aiding the illegal blacklisting of trade union members and political activists,
– been involved in serious miscarriages of justice
– taken the identities of dead children

All the information of the abusive activities of these undercover policing units have so far been revealed by activists themselves, or by whistle blowers and journalists. The police have consistently acted to prevent the release of information and to cover up their responsibility for extensive human rights abuses.

Those spied upon seek truth and justice.

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