Women affected by undercover relationships are among those calling on the Inquiry into undercover policing to release the cover names of officers. A letter sent yesterday to the Pitchford Inquiry was signed by 133 core participants, including many women from various legal actions against the police over undercover relationships. The letter expresses grave concerns that only a fraction of those affected are so far able to come forward.
This follows a call last month for the names to be released and the police files to be opened to those affected, with parallels being drawn with Stasi secret police files. Following last November’s apology by the Met to seven women over undercover relationships – the first time the Met admited the relationships and the damage caused – all of the women spoke out in the media about their concerns for other women who’s lives are likely to have been similarly affected by the infiltrations. They called for the names released so that women, and possibly further children, are able to find out the truth.
Further information about the letter and signatories can be found at the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance. The full text is below:
Dear Lord Justice Pitchford,
As 133 of the Inquiry’s Core Participants, we write to share our collective view that a fundamental requirement for the Inquiry’s success is to instruct police to disclose, as soon as possible, a list of names of all the organisations about whom intelligence was gathered; the cover names (not the real identities) of the individual officers responsible for infiltrating and reporting on activists and campaigns; and the individual Special Branch reports for each Core Participant group or individual.
We are aware that Preliminary Hearings are due to deal with anonymity and disclosure issues, but we feel it is vital to raise this broader point now on our own behalf and for those whose personal lives or political activities may have been profoundly affected by undercover policing but who are in no position to participate in the Inquiry because of the failure to identify the cover names of undercover agents or the groups spied upon.
Without this basic information, it is effectively impossible for the Inquiry to have a full picture of undercover policing. The only Core Participants in any position to give even a partial summary of facts they might eventually rely upon are the limited number who have already themselves researched and revealed, largely by chance, the existence of undercover officers, or those who have been informed by the media they had been subject to covert surveillance. Even then, it is difficult for non-state core participants and witnesses to contribute in any meaningful way while virtually all the documentary evidence remains in the hands of the police.
On top of this, Operation Herne [police self-investigation into the SDS & NPOIU] confirmed in July 2014 that the SDS alone targeted at least 460 groups for surveillance. When added to the unknown number of operations by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, there are hundreds of organisations who still have no idea that they were spied upon. This means the overwhelming majority of individuals and organisations targeted since 1968 have had no opportunity to consider the possible consequences of the actions of undercover officers on their work and cannot currently participate as witnesses.
Core Participants and other current and potential witnesses are likely to struggle to provide testimony as long as there remains inadequate or non-existent information available to them. We are deeply concerned that a unique and historic opportunity may be lost unless the Inquiry is able to provide the vital details we seek.
The terms of reference of your Inquiry are broad: to examine the scope and motivations of undercover police operations in practice and their effect upon individuals in particular and the public in general. We therefore believe the issue of disclosure is absolutely critical. In our view, if the Inquiry is to have any realistic prospect of providing accurate insight into the “purpose, extent and effect of undercover police operations targeting political and social justice campaigners” it must do more than look at the activities of the tiny proportion of officers – less than 10% of the total from the SDS and NPOIU – that have already received publicity and exposure.
By their own admission, police records were patchy and much of what was documented has subsequently been lost or destroyed. Even without the resistance to genuine openness and transparency we are expecting, it is plain the police alone cannot provide an adequate narrative of their actions. The only way to discover a true picture of the impact of their undercover operations is to hear the testimony of those about whom intelligence has been gathered – and this is only possible if they know who spied on them and can reflect on the possible scale, implications and potential disruption caused by undercover officers.
We appreciate that the police will use every possible argument against providing greater openness and transparency, although there is no evidence that the public exposure of any undercover officer to date has either placed them at personal risk or posed any threat to national security. In our view, the police’s ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ policy is less about protecting individuals and far more about blocking exposure of misdeeds.
We believe such a policy is untenable in a transparent public inquiry and that full disclosure is essential to discovering the truth. We urge you to set the tone for the future work of the Inquiry by insisting police disclose the information we need to fully participate.
[133 Core Participants to the Inquiry]
For an overview of concerns over the inquiry and relationships, see our Inquiry page.