Despite the public awareness we have raised about this policing scandal and the unprecedented apology from the Metropolitan police to the first eight women, many people are unaware that women fighting for justice are still facing battles with the police and other state bodies. We set out here some of these legal fights and welcome your support.
- Officers involved: “Carlo Neri”, Jim Boyling, James Straven, Mike Chitty, Andy Coles.
- Legal claims: Common Law Claims: for assault, misfeasance in public office, negligence, assault and deceit
- Solicitors for the cases: Harriet Wistrich, Birnberg Peirce and Jules Carey of Bindmans
It is expected that the number of women bringing claims will increase during the evidential hearing stages of the UCPI (June 2019 – October 2021) as more information about these operations enters the public domain.
These cases offer redress to the women and help to hold the MPS to account. Understanding what happened is a crucial part of reparation and, in addition to compensation, we seek disclosure from the police through these claims.
Regrettably, police tactics in response to the legal claims often compound the original trauma. The MPS has attempted to defend proceedings by neither confirming nor denying the existence of officers and has steadfastly refused to provide disclosure of evidence, denying the women the opportunity to understand what happened to them and why. Victims have also been required to undertake humiliating and invasive interviews with psychiatrists appointed by the police to assess the damage done to them. PSOOL adopts a holistic approach and attempts to mitigate the impact of these responses, offering practical and emotional support throughout the litigation process. More information about the legal framework of these civil claims is here.
HUMAN RIGHTS ACT (HRA) CLAIMS
In the UK, claims under the Human Rights Act (HRA) which relate to unlawful surveillance by public bodies are heard in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT).
Kate Wilson, one of the first eight women to bring a civil claim, is currently pursuing a claim in the IPT for breach of her Article 3, 8, 10, 11 and 14 rights under the Convention. The importance of this case, and the severity of the abuse, is indicated by the fact that is the first time that the IPT has heard an Article 3 claim. A more detailed account of Kate’s case is here.
In response to her claim the MPS has admitted to breaching her Article 3, 8, 10 and 11 rights. For the first time, it has also admitted that more senior officers knew or ought to have known about the intimate relationship, raising serious concerns about the veracity of the apology. If Ms Wilson obtains funds to continue the case to trial, more revelations about the extent of the abuse are likely.
While PSOOL has been actively campaigning for legislative change to ensure that the police cannot continue to engage in these abuse relationships, thus far, only the College of Policing guidelines have been amended; and unfortunately it is not mandatory for the police to follow these guidelines. The Regulatory Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), the statute which governs the authorisations of covert human intelligence sources (CHIS) in the UK, remains the same.
At the end of the trial the Tribunal will make declarations about the extent of the human rights abuses and is likely to highlight deficiencies in the RIPA regime.
The Tribunal may also make declarations about deficiencies in the relevant statutory regimes, which would be likely to result in legislative change. Even if the Tribunal does not make recommendations, PSOOL will be able to use the findings to put pressure on Parliament to amend RIPA and to create new laws protecting women from this type of abuse (see further below).
The IPT is unique in that it is a costs-free jurisdiction. This means that a claimant cannot obtain legal aid to fund representation and nor can they recover their costs from the other side if they are successful. In theory, a claimant does not have to hire a lawyer, but when faced against a well funded state body instructing senior counsel to defend the claim, a claimant would be at a very severe disadvantage if they did not.
PSOOL has supported Monica who was deceived into an intimate relationship by an undercover officer, to bring a judicial review challenging the lawfulness of the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) decision not to prosecute him under the Sexual Offences Act 1956, or for the offences of procurement or misconduct in public office.
This case has a significant wider public interest as it is testing the law on the circumstances where consent is vitiated by deceit which is currently in flux and changing to adapt to new circumstances in which intimate relationships can take place.
Monica’s judicial review was unsuccessful. Working with her legal team, they are considering next steps and the other options available, including bringing private prosecutions of the undercover officers who perpetrated sexual assaults.
DATA PROTECTION ACT (DPA) CLAIMS
Subject to limited exemptions, individuals are entitled to access personal data held on them by public institutions under the DPA. However, citing exemptions under the Act, the police have refused to provide any meaningful disclosure in response to DPA requests made by women deceived into relationships with undercover officers. These responses are almost certainly unlawful.
Apart from the limited disclosure in Kate Wilson’s IPT claim, no other affected women have received any information from the police about why these officers were in their lives or what information was gathered on them.
In order to heal, affected women need answers about their own relationships. Kate Wilson and one other woman have launched DPA claims but these are currently on hold as there is no funding available to continue. If you are able to support us to fund these claims, please donate here.
If we are able to pursue these and more DPA claims, and the women were successful, it would contribute to their recovery.
CEDAW (Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women – United Nations)
Individuals who have been subjected to discrimination under the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and who have exhausted all domestic remedies can make complaints to the UN committee which monitors the implementation of CEDAW. The committee of 23 independent experts on women’s rights from around the world.
An application has been made on behalf of seven women. All of the women are victims of violations of the European Convention of Human Rights as a result of their relationships with undercover officers. CEDAW also looks at specific discrimination against women and can, for example, rule on the impact of these violations on the women’s reproductive rights. They continue to be victims due to the failure of the state to provide effective remedies. This claim aims to hold the UK government to account for these abuses of women’s human rights.
The women hope that the committee will find that they have been subjected to discrimination and that their rights under the Convention have been breached as set out in their complaint. Whilst the government isn’t obligated to follow any remedies outlined by the committee, it would certainly create pressure to do so and we would ensure that further pressure is applied through complimentary campaign work.
Thus far, the women’s complaint has been funded by a combination of anonymous donors and crowd funding. This funding has now been exhausted. Further funding is likely to be needed to enable the women to provide a detailed response when the UK government submit their reply to the complaint. If you’re able to help, please donate here.