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.


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.




Women spied on in Scotland, demand full investigation

openthefilesWomen we support, who were targeted for undercover relationships, have been speaking out bravely about being targeted in Scotland, and criticising the very limited investigations into the role of English Undercover Officers in Scotland.

Pitchford made the controversial decision not to extend the Inquiry into Undercover Policing to Scotland. The ensuing review, commissioned by the Scottish Government is extremely limited (only going back to 2000), and there appears to be links between HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) who are doing the reviewing, and the SDS & NPOIU.

Alison” speaking to Scotland on Sunday, expressed concerns over trips Jenner made to Scotland with her that will not be examined by a review set up by the Scottish Government.

“I just don’t understand the thinking of the Scottish review,” Alison said. “It makes you wonder if there is stuff they don’t want to uncover. By only going back to 2000, they’re writing huge chunks out of the story.”

Andrea“, speaking to the Scottish Sunday Herald said she made four visits north of the border with Neri, who she described as a “sociopath”. “Andrea” and “Alison” believe Neri and Jenner were being paid by the police every time they made a trip.

Criticising Pitchford’s decision to not extend the Public Inquiry into undercover policing to Scotland, “Andrea” said “I think it is absolute nonsense,” she said. “We know they were all active in Scotland.” She also criticised the HMIC review of undercover policing in Scotland: “It’s box-ticking exercise and serves no purpose.”

The targeting of women for relationships by undercover officers has been recognised as an abuse of their human rights, and this needs to be investigated wherever it happened. The use of undercover police against social justice and environmental campaigners is political policing, and needs to be halted immediately, and the files to be opened and investigated where ever this abuse of democracy has occurred.




I lived with an undercover officer – this BBC series gets it all wrong

Alison,’ one eight women who sued the police over being deceived into relationships with undercover cops, has spoken out in criticism of the BBC’s new drama series ‘Undercover.’ She had a relationship with ‘Mark Jenner’ an undercover cop she knew as Mark Cassidy (pictured).

Mark Jenner - former SDS undercover officer
Mark Jenner – former SDS undercover officer

She has written a piece in the Guardian, saying that despite advising the screenwriter Peter Moffat some years ago, she feels that the story he is portraying is misleading and inauthentic. It misrepresents “the deceitful individuals involved” and misunderstands “the power dynamics and sexual politics” that underpin the deployment of officers by these units.

‘Alison’ explains that “There is no precedent of officers having families with their targets then sustaining a happy marriage for two decades under the guise of their state-sponsored identity”. Instead, since 1996 all officers have been required to have wives and possibly children in their lives. Many officers cheated on, lied and exploited both their wives, and their activist lovers, with their dual domestic role.  ‘Alison’ feels that their “true stories… were sufficiently dramatic without requiring elaboration,” and that Undercover is a sensationalised misrepresentation of how the Met Special Demonstration Squad operated, and hopes that because of this it does not miss the opportunity to spark viewers to find out about the true stories of “abusive relationships condoned by the police in the name of law and order.”


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