The scandalous behaviour of 39 year old Greg Wilson sentenced to a six year prison sentence has recently been in the news.
Pretending to his fiancée Coleen Greenwood that he was a firefighter called James Scott, he failed to mention to her that he had a wife and children, and he lied about having a vasectomy. He showed her a fake document he claimed was proof of the procedure, and she later got pregnant.
During the court case, he admitted £100,000 of fraud and to making a false statement by naming himself as James Scott on his son’s birth certificate. These offences justified his custodial sentence.
The similarities between Coleen’s experience and that of many women deceived by undercover police officers into intimate relationships is stark. In an interview with Winifred Robinson on Radio 4’s You and Yours, we hear Coleen describe the huge impact this deceit has had on her and her family’s life. For those of us affected by abusive spycops deployments, it makes for uncomfortable listening.
Wilson was clearly an expert manipulator. He was able to forge documents and create a credible new persona that was evidenced and believable. Working on his own, motivated by self-interest, he drew Coleen into his web of lies and used her to fulfil his selfish ambitions of leading a prosperous and extravagant lifestyle, albeit one based on a foundation of illusions and deceit.
It could be argued the motivation for these deceptions is different: Wilson was driven by personal aggrandisement; the undercover police will say were doing their jobs. The psychological make up of these men, however, seems very similar. Coleen is reported as saying ‘[Wilson] is a narcissist who gets a kick from thinking he is cleverer than everyone else, that he can fool anyone because he’s the smartest guy around. In fact he’s just cruel and sickeningly selfish.’ Many of us have described our ex-partners in similar terms.
When the case against Wilson went to court and Coleen’s experience was reported in the media, she says many people commented that they would never have been so easily duped. Indicating a profound lack of understanding of how narcissistic sociopaths operate, these people suggested she was naïve, and they would have not allowed themselves to be manipulated in this way. This also rings true for many of us. We too have been repeatedly asked whether there were no clues during the relationship to suggest the scale of deception that later became apparent. There were not.
It is here, however, the similarities end – both in terms of the way the abuse was perpetrated and by the legal sanctions deemed appropriate by the Crown Prosecution Service. And it is these differences that go to the heart of the discrimination experienced by women abused by undercover police.
It is what makes our experience often misunderstood by the wider public, and it’s why we continue to campaign to raise awareness of the significance of these abusive deployments and to hold the police and the state to account.
Unlike the individualised work of Wilson, our abusers had a fully funded team to support their premeditated deceit. Behind their efforts to create new identities, was a state-sponsored machine. With official passports, driving licenses and national health numbers in their fake persona, our deceivers had professional back up. They were trained to develop a ‘legend’, role playing scenarios to stress test their ability to lie convincingly.
In comments beneath our media contributions, we often see people argue that our experience is no different to someone fooled by a lying boyfriend. We’ve set out here why this is not the case. It is an argument often put by those struggling to make sense of the complexity of the intrusion we experienced, and it is sometimes said to minimise the political significance of how the undercover policing of political activists has functioned for decades.
What both Coleen Greenwood’s and our experience demonstrates is that the courts do not recognise the harm to women’s lives by unscrupulous liars as a criminal act. The psychological impact of the deceit does not translate into a measurable prison sentence. The reason Wilson is behind bars and the officers who deceived us are not, is because there is evidence of his financial and legal fraud. We have been told by the Crown Prosecution Service that the officers who manipulated and deceived us were involved in relationships based on ‘genuine feelings’ and therefore no crime had been committed. This is rubbish.
The integrity of women’s emotional and most intimate lives is not protected by the current system. Deceit only matters, it seems, if it’s monetised.
We stand in solidarity with all women deceived, manipulated and abused by narcissists, and want the police officers who deceived us to be considered to have acted as criminally as Greg Wilson.