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 Soracchi, Jim Boyling, James Straven, Mike Chitty, Andy Coles, Vince Harvey, Bobby ‘Antony’ Lewis, Rob Harrison.
- Legal claims: Common Law Claims for assault, misfeasance in public office, negligence, assault and deceit
- Solicitors for the cases: Sarah McSherry at Birnberg Peirce, Jules Carey at Bindmans, Cormac McDonough at Hodge Jones Allen.
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, was able to pursue 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 was the first time that the IPT has heard an Article 3 claim.
In September 2021, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal handed down its ruling in Kate’s ten-year legal battle. The detailed, ground-breaking, 156-page ruling identified a “formidable list” of breaches of fundamental human rights by the Metropolitan Police without lawful justification in a democratic society.
A more detailed account of Kate’s case and her victory in the IPT is here.
Two other women affected by deceitful intimate relationships (after 2000 when the HRA came into affect in the UK) with undercover police have also lodged claims in the IPT. There is currently no timeframe available for when these cases will be heard.
PSOOL 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 was 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.
In December 2017, seven of the first eight women to bring legal action lodged a complaint to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. They complained that the United Kingdom Government had failed to prevent institutionalised discrimination against women by the police. All the women suffered serious psychological harm through having been deceived into long term intimate relationships with undercover policemen and were victims of violations of the European Convention of Human Rights as a result of these relationships.
In one of the first complaints of its kind made to the committee, the case stood to trigger a potential investigation and finding against the UK government. The UK is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), under which the case was brought.
The women hoped that the committee would find that they have been subjected to discrimination and that their rights under the Convention had 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 have created pressure to do so.
However, the committee found that the seven women lacked victim status because of the nature of the final out of court settlement of the claims. Unfortunately, there is no right of appeal.
What the committee had not taken into account, however, was that disclosure (ie. their files and everything written about them) was something that the applicants wanted as part of their remedy. The NCND (neither confirm nor deny) position of the police made this impossible so that kind of remedy was not on offer.
The way that the CEDAW Committee express its decision suggests they thought they were being asked to re-open the entire settlement, and that the applicants have decided on reflection that they wanted more than they settled for. Whereas what we see as the problem is that the way this case was settled is that financial pressure to accept a “reasonable” level of damages is used as a way of silencing women, and doesn’t respect the women’s right to truth.
Interestingly, it’s been noted that the CEDAW Committee could have been much briefer on its exposition of the facts. There are many cases where the decision is very succinct. Whereas in our case, there is a recital in a lot of detail about the shortcomings in the attitude of the Chair of the Undercover Policing Inquiry (paragraph 5.6). So perhaps this decision still has value. Even though the ruling was that this case wasn’t admissible, the detail of what undercover policing meant for women is on public & international record.