International Women’s Day

On International Women’s Day, it is with a growing sense of impatience that I reflect on the progress of the UCPI, the public inquiry set up to investigate undercover policing in England and Wales. I am a core participant in this inquiry, as I am one of a number of women activists deceived into long-term relationships by spycops (I lived with, and was engaged to, the notorious Special Demonstration Squad officer ‘Carlo Neri’ for two years).

In August last year I wrote here of my hope that Sir John Mitting, the newly-appointed Chair, would see through the web of state-sponsored lies and obfuscation, that he would listen to our stories in an insightful and impartial way. Unfortunately, with each new tranche of anonymity decisions, it becomes worryingly more apparent that the Chair holds the rights of perpetrators in higher regard than the rights of victims. He clearly sees the officers’ human rights as sacrosanct, withholding the names of the spycops who invaded our homes, our families and our intimate lives.

Let’s not forget, at the very core of this inquiry is the need to scrupulously investigate and expose institutional sexism and racism. Let’s not forget that the undercover units breached our human rights: to privacy and family life; to freedom from discrimination; to freedom from torture. The police have admitted this. Their treatment of us was inhumane.

For us ‘participants’, our current levels of frustration are unsustainable. We do the right thing and attend the almost farcical inquiry hearings, only for the supposedly impartial Chair to follow whatever course is recommended by the army of police lawyers. Mitting even told our QC, Phillippa Kaufmann, he would be meeting her ‘with a brick wall of silence’ should she question him further on two of his anonymity decisions! Secrecy pervades this so-called ‘public’ inquiry, where officers who abused our rights are granted private hearings with the Chair to convince him to protect their privacy.

In cases where the real name is not already in the public domain and where Mitting is aware that an officer has been involved in a deceitful intimate relationship – ‘wrongdoing’ he calls it – he will release the real name. Except there’s a catch – only to the woman affected. Should she then wish to make that name public and hold the perpetrator to account the burden then falls on her, and not the inquiry, to do so.

Surely that’s an unacceptable weight of responsibility for the victim to hold? These men should be held to account by the inquiry, not by individuals affected who can potentially be singled out as ‘vengeful’.

At Mitting’s second hearing as chair in February, he offered us a profound insight into his archaic and misinformed views, compounding what we suspected already. This is one of his most extraordinary statements yet:

We have had examples of undercover male officers who have gone through more than one long-term permanent relationship, sometimes simultaneously.

There are also officers who have reached a ripe old age who are still married to the same woman that they were married to as a very young man. The experience of life tells one that the latter person is less likely to have engaged in extra-marital affairs than the former.”

He is in effect telling us that if a man has stayed married to one woman for a long time then he will not have deceived the women activists he spied on into sexual relationships.

This statement caused outrage in the Royal Courts of Justice. The normally staid public gallery of court 76 erupted. As the whistle-blower Peter Francis – a former undercover himself – acknowledged: these men being investigated are highly trained, highly skilled liars. How on earth can Mitting take what they say at face value? All of the men who we know were engaged in deceitful and abusive relationships were married. These marriages often only broke down when the women activists themselves uncovered the truth.

Helen Steel, who was deceived into a long-term relationship by John Dines, pointed out at the same hearing that, in several cases, officers’ wives were pregnant whilst their husbands were living with activists who believed they were in fully committed relationships.

How’s that for a picture of sexism? The disgusting and immoral practice of deceiving women into long-term relationships has had a devastating impact on those of us affected. And we know there are more women yet to find out.

Given that sex, race and class discrimination are at the very heart of this scandal, is Mitting really the right man for the job? He is after all a member of the Garrick Club, a men-only dinosaur of an institution.

Alison, deceived into a five year relationship by Mark Jenner, is leading a call for a panel of experts to be appointed, who can properly represent and understand the issues at the heart of this scandal. For Alison, the length of time it is taking for Jenner to be officially named by the inquiry is unfathomable, given that her successful case against the Metropolitan Police was launched in 2011. She is one of the eight women, including Helen Steel, who were given a ground-breaking apology by the Met in 2015.

This has been the year of the “Me Too” movement. We have witnessed international outrage at the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment of women in society, in the workplace. Where does that leave us? The crimes perpetrated on us by these agents of the state must be exposed. This was systematic, misogynistic abuse. They must be held to account.

One more thing as I sit here and reflect: just how amazing this group of women is. The impact this discovery has had on my life has been profound, but I cannot imagine how it might be without their support, wisdom, friendship and solidarity.

None of us deserved this.

For us, the personal is the political.

Until the truth is uncovered, our campaign is far from over.

This article was written by ‘Andrea’, and published in the Morning Star on 8th March 2018. More information about the women’s stories can be found here.


Undercover police abused female activists. But the inquiry is a farce

For those of us who have been caught up in the ‘spycops’ scandal – referred to as “core participants” in the public inquiry into undercover policing – this week’s hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice comprised little more than hours of legalese and Kafkaeseque arguments based on redacted documents and closed sessions.

Continue reading “Undercover police abused female activists. But the inquiry is a farce”


Jessica calls for Andy Coles to resign his position on Peterborough City Council

In her own words:
“I welcome the news that Andy Coles has resigned from his post as Cambridgeshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner.

I would like to know whether he also intends to step down from his position on Peterborough City Council, as Conservative Party councillor for Fletton and Woodston.

This is just the start of what is going to be a very long legal process, to try and get some answers from him and his superiors.

These events highlight the need for transparency and accountability, and the need for the Pitchford Inquiry to help us uncover the truth about what has happened to us”.

Jessica’s full statement is here. She was also interviewed on ITV Anglia today.
His resignation came after his exposure at the weekend, as #spycop Andy Davey, part of the same controversial “SDS” unit as Bob Lambert, John Dines, Mark Jenner etc.

‘Andrea’, another of the woman who was deceived by an undercover officer, published an opinion piece on Comment Is Free today.

She said:
” Like Jessica, I too was deceived. I understand the shock, disbelief and disorientation that come from this appalling discovery, that someone so close and so trusted could actually be a spy sent to infiltrate and disrupt legitimate protest and political movements.”

” I was tricked into a long-term relationship with the SDS (Special Demonstration Squad – the Met’s undercover unit) officer who I knew as Carlo Neri.”

“I hope too that Jessica’s journey toward holding the state to account is quicker and less obstructive than for those who have come before. Several of us are still engaged in legal cases against the police, and the resounding apology given to the eight women has not eased this path. Our fight for truth and justice continues.”



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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