Press release on behalf of women deceived by undercover police – issued by Birnberg Peirce and partners, 14 August 2014
The Metropolitan Police have formally confirmed, for the first time, the identities of two undercover police officers serving in the much criticised, highly secretive, Special Demonstration Squad. This followed an application made by a group of women who were deceived by undercover officers into long-term intimate, sexual relationships. The application resulted in a judgment by Mr Justice Bean that the police could no longer rely on their purported policy of “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” (NCND) in respect of two of the four officers named by the Claimants. Bob Lambert, who was known as political activist, Bob Robinson in the mid 1980’s, and Andrew James Boyling, who was known as Jim Sutton, a political activist in the late 1990s have both been confirmed as undercover officers by the Metropolitan police in an Amended Defence served in consequence of the Judge’s order.
The police, whilst publicly stating that the actions of undercover officers entering into long term sexual and intimate relationships was morally reprehensible, had until this point steadfastly refused to provide any information to the women Claimants during their three year legal battle for justice. The Amended Defence also confirms that Bob Lambert and Jim Boyling were in sexual relationships with three of the women as they have alleged. However, the Defendant, goes on assert that the relationships were based on “mutual attraction and genuine personal feelings”. The Defendant who trained these officers in deception and deployed them which enabled them to enter into such relationships, denies any responsibility or liability for the abuse and damage caused.
The Amended Defence also refuses to confirm the identities of two other former SDS officers who were known as John Barker and Mark Cassidy, despite the Claimants producing ample evidence from their own painstaking research, that these men were in fact undercover police officers, John Dines and Mark Jenner. Even more bizarrely, and showing contempt for both the women and the judgment of the court, the Amended Defence refuses to confirm any details about the existence and operation of the Special Demonstration Squad, despite this having been stated elsewhere in the public domain including reports by Operation Herne.
“The police have been pulled, kicking and screaming, to this first extremely significant development in the litigation brought by the women in their long battle for justice and accountability. It represents a partial victory with the police being forced to acknowledge the identities of undercover police officers who committed serious violations of women’s rights” said Harriet Wistrich, the women’s solicitor. “However, the confirmation does not go far enough, it is mealy mouthed, offensive and lacking in any acknowledgment of the huge abuse of power and harm caused to my clients.”
Belinda Harvey, one of the Claimants in the case, said: “I am very upset that the Defence suggests that my relationship with Bob Robinson over twenty-five years ago, is said to be based on ‘mutual attraction and genuine feelings.’ How can a relationship be genuine when it is based on a massive web of lies? He pretended to be a man with noble ideals and political commitments, when in reality he was a police officer spying on our friendship network. He pretended he was committed to the future when he always knew he would go back to his real job and wife and kids. That doesn’t show genuine feelings; it is abuse and I would never have consented to such a relationship had I known. This relationship was a total violation of me and my life.”
Helen Steel, another of the Claimants, who had a two-year relationship with John Barker who she now knows to have been undercover officer John Dines said: “It is disgusting that the police continue to hide behind NCND even though the Judge acknowledged that the evidence we had collected was strong and it appeared on the face of it that the police were just delaying the inevitable confirmation. Rather than apologise for the abuse inflicted on us, the police’s attitude towards this litigation is creating still more distress. Their continued attempts to hide behind NCND and refuse to provide any acknowledgement of the extreme pain they have caused, greatly aggravates the original violation.”
For further information and comment, including to speak to the women’s solicitor Harriet Wistrich, please contact Alex Phillips on 0207 391 0784, or email H.Wistrich#@#birnbergpeirce.co.uk (removing spam-prevention hashtags).
1. Full information of the women’s case, including their legal battles over the Met’s delaying and secrecy tactics, can be found at www.policespiesoutoflives.org.uk
2. The women’s legal challenge was to the Met’s attempt to hide behind Neither Confirm Nor Deny (NCND) rather than engage with the women’s legal action. In court, lawyers for the women cited many instances where the Met had confirmed undercover identities and publicly discussed undercover tactics. Background to the women’s challenge to NCND can be found here: https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/secrecy-hearing-why-neither-confirm-nor-deny-should-not-stand/ Further notes on NCND can be found here: https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/our-stories/belindas-story/
3. The women’s legal challenge to NCND was heard by Mr Justice Bean, who in his Judgment noted that Jim Sutton / Boyling had “been publicly named as an UCO by the Commissioner in person” and as such “reliance on the NCND policy to avoid admitting that he was an UCO is simply unsustainable” and similarly that NCND can no longer be relied on in relation to Bob Robinson / Lambert as “he has not only self disclosed, but has been publicly named by the IPCC as a former MPS officer”. Full coverage of the judgment can be found here: 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/
4. Specifically concerning NCND, Justice Bean said: “I do not accept that there is now, in 2014, any legitimate public interest entitling the Commissioner to maintain the stance of NCND in respect of this general allegation; […] there can be no public policy reason to permit the police neither to confirm nor deny whether an illegitimate or arguably illegitimate operational method has been used as a tactic in the past. I therefore rule that the defendant cannot rely on NCND to avoid answering the general allegation.” policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/uploads/2014/07/Final-high-court-judgement-on-NCND.doc