Police seek to avoid accountability in Human Rights case over abusive relationships by undercover officers

  • A woman deceived into a relationship with undercover officer is fighting in court this Friday [1] to have her claim about human rights abuses to be allowed to continue, and be held in the open.
  • Ms Wilson’s claim [2], being heard in the Investigatory Power’s Tribunal (IPT), states that that the police violated her Human Rights under Articles 3, 8, 10, 11 and 14 of the European Convention of Human  Rights (ECHR) [3]
  • Ms Wilson was deceived into a long-term, intimate relationship with an undercover police officer, Mark Kennedy (MK).
  • If successful, this case will finally give clarity whether sexual relationships between undercover officers and members of the public are unlawful.

In 2017, Kate Wilson [4] became one of eight women who have won an historic apology [5] from the Metropolitan Police over their relationships with undercover police. She is now taking the Metropolitan Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers to Court over human rights abuses she was subjected to by undercover officers. Ms Wilson’s claim questions the legitimacy of such political policing in a democratic society [6], and the legality of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) that is used to authorise such operations [7].

Ms Wilson said; “Article 3 of The ECHR refers to the right to live without being tortured or  subjected to inhuman or degrading treatments. The Metropolitan police, themselves told me in a public apology that what happened to me was abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong and a gross violation of personal dignity and integrity and that it caused significant trauma. Yet no clear, legally binding limits have been imposed on the kind of relationships officers form while undercover. We need clarity to protect the public from anything like this ever happening again.”

Despite having withdrawn their defence in Ms. Wilson’s Civil Claim [8], paying substantial compensation and issuing a personal apology [4] to Ms. Wilson acknowledging that these relationships were a violation of her human rights, the police have also stated that they intend to contest this claim, and are applying for it to be struck out.

This is the first ever human rights case to be heard by the IPT relating to undercover relationships. It comes after almost six years of stays, obstructions and delaying tactics by police in the Royal Courts of Justice, where this claim originated, and they are now asking the IPT to consider throwing out the claim because, they argue, it is “out of time”.  This is yet another example of the police’s delaying and blocking tactics in legal actions looking for accountability and disclosure around undercover policing, and must not be tolerated by the Judge.

They continue to seek secrecy around undercover policing, and will apply for the case to be held behind closed doors, contesting Ms Wilson’s right to attend hearings, get disclosure, or respond to any evidence  they present. The IPT is able to hear cases such as this in complete secrecy,  with the claimant having no opportunity to argue their case in court,  contest evidence against them, or receive a reasoned judgement [9].

In  the light of all the information about these officers already in the public domain, and the  ongoing Public Inquiry into the events in question, the claimant is urging the IPT to hold an open hearing this time [10].

Key background information

1] This is the first hearing of the case. It will be held at Employment  Appeal Tribunal (EAT) located in  Fleetbank House, Salisbury Square,  London, EC4Y 8JX. The hearing will start at 10.30am, 23rd June 2017, in court 5.

2] https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/human-rights-case/human-rights-pleadings/

3] The Human Rights Claims
The most significant claim refers to the right to live without being tortured or subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment (Art.3 ECHR).   There are no circumstances where this can be lawful. Article 3 (EHCR) is  an  unqualifiable right. A Civil Court has already entered judgement  that  MK’s sexual relationship with Ms Wilson was Assault [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35350095, https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/new-met-apology/withdraw-defence/, http://thejusticegap.com/2016/01/12400/ ], and the police themselves have described such relationships as “abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong”, a “gross violation of personal dignity and integrity” that “caused significant trauma” [http://news.met.police.uk/videos/mps-apology-long-term-sexual-relationships-21074].

Such inhuman and degrading treatment of women in order to obtain intelligence forms part of a culture of institutional sexism within the Metropolitan Police, violating the principle that human rights should be enjoyed by all, without discrimination on grounds of sex or political  beliefs (Art.14 ECHR).

Furthermore, in addition to MK’s gross violation of her intimate private life and bodily integrity, at least 5 other officers have been identified as having intruded in Ms Wilson’s private and family life (Art.8 ECHR).  Over more than ten  years, at least 6 officers played false roles in her  life, ranging from  lover to close friend, housemate and co-activist  [2]. These infiltrations took place because of her involvement in  protest  groups, infringing her rights to freedom of expression and  association  (Art.10&11 ECHR).

4] https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/our-stories/kates-story/

5] http://news.met.police.uk/news/claimants-in-civil-cases-receive-mps-apology-138574?utm_campaign=send_list&utm_medium=email&utm_source=sendgrid

6] The targeting of environmental and social justice groups such as Reclaim the Streets, and campaigns against Immigration Detention reflects an extremely  worrying assumption on the part of  Metropolitan Police that it is  “proportionate and necessary” to target people for their  political  beliefs and involvement in political campaigns in the UK and  abroad. The SDS was established in 1968 to “deal  with the lack of police knowledge of what was happening on  demonstrations”. It was shut down in October 2006 as part of a  restructuring of the Met, though continued to exist until October 2008.  Since it has been closed down, the National Public Order Intelligence  Unit, an agency that monitors so-called domestic extremists performs a  similar role in the UK today. http://powerbase.info/index.php/Special_Demonstration_Squad, http://powerbase.info/index.php/National_Public_Order_Intelligence_Unit

7]   Neither RIPA nor the Codes of Practice mention sexual  conduct by undercover officers, and the existing legal frame work has neither sufficient clarity nor sufficient safeguards for RIPA authorisations to be “in accordance with the law”. This is consistent  with findings of  the Home Affairs Select Committee and the Royal Court  of Justice. The Home Affairs Select Committee  stated that “there  is an alarming degree of inconsistency in the views of Ministers and  senior police officers about the limits of what may and may not be lawfully authorised.”  and “the  current legal framework is ambiguous to such an extent that it fails  adequately to safeguard the fundamental rights of the individuals  affected.”  (https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmhaff/837/130205i.htm). Judge Tugendhat said in a ruling in the Civil Court that “There is no doubt that, in enacting RIPA, Parliament intended to override fundamental human rights” http://www.statewatch.org/news/2013/nov/uk-police-spies-out-of-lives-secret-hearing-case-decision.pdf

8] The IPT oversees human rights claims about the states infringement of privacy through covert surveillance. Although it claims independence, the IPT operates from within the Home Office
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/mar/05/independence-ipt-court-mi5-mi6-home-office-secrecy-clegg-miliband,  and it has only upheld a handful of claims (probably less than 0.01%)  in it’s history. Most of the hearings are held in secret: applicants are  given no right to be present at the hearing; no right to the disclosure  of evidence relied on by the opposing party; no right to cross-examine  opposing witnesses; no right to funded representation or costs; no right  to a reasoned judgment and no right of appeal. In short, it is a  fitting judicial instrument for a process intended to override  fundamental human rights. Recently,  the IPT has been criticised for  being secretive so there have been  moves for more cases to be held in  the open.

9]   The claimant will argue that many of the factual matters raised by the  claim are already in the public domain  and  that the Courts have found  that the Police are not able to rely on the Neither Confirm Nor Deny  policy in relation to those matters [https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/uploads/2014/07/Final-high-court-judgement-on-NCND.doc, https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/womens-statement-high-court-ruling-met-police-cannot-maintain-blanket-ncnd-to-cover-up-gross-abuses-of-intimate-relationships-while-undercover/].   This is a case of great public interest, and Kate should be entitled  to  get disclosure from the police, which she has not had to date, in  order  to be able to engage in proceedings and argue the case.

10] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35350095, https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/new-met-apology/withdraw-defence/, http://thejusticegap.com/2016/01/12400/

— end of background information —

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