IN THE MEDIA
Several women from our group have contributed to the new BBC podcast about Mark Kennedy, and we’re very pleased to be working with the BBC team on the new series that’s in the pipeline.
Also, the latest Channel 4 documentary following the anti-corruption unit at Avon and Somerset police force reminds us of the case of ‘Mary’ – revealed in the Guardian in September 2023. ‘Mary’ was deceived into a nineteen-year relationship by an undercover officer employed by Avon and Somerset Constabulary with whom she had a child. She discovered in 2020 and her fight for justice is underway.
IN THE PUBLIC INQUIRY
Later this year, the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing (UCPI), will start hearing evidence again on July 1st. Whilst many of us are still Core Participants in the inquiry, the whole process is causing considerable stress and feels like a further intrusion of privacy by state bodies.
We have engaged in the UCPI in good faith. We hope the Judge gets to the truth, and that the recommendations in his final report will be in line with our aim to end the abuse of women by state spies. We are not relying on this inquiry, however, and it’s not the only weapon in our arsenal. Police Spies Out Of Lives will be launching a number of fundraising initiatives to support our women holding the state to account – more on this later this year – and we’re working hard to build support to reform the Covert Human Intelligence (Criminal Conduct) [CHIS] Act.
Also, we’re working with a number of women’s organisations to protect women and girls from the psychological violence perpetrated by undercover operatives who abuse their position. The Criminal Justice Bill, for example, currently in the committee stage of the House of Commons, includes a section about ethical policing.
We are very grateful to Jess Phillips for namechecking us in Parliament last week (Thursday January 25th2024) when speaking to amendments to this Bill. She gave ‘recognition that women in our country do not trust the police’, and contextualised our experience of abusive undercover deployments within this broader crisis of trust. She spoke to a number of amendments including one to stop police officers having sexual relationships with members of the public:
Furthermore, subsection 2A(a) in amendment 135 refers to,
“sexual relationships with members of the public whilst acting in their capacity as a police officer”.
Section 1 of the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act 2021—some of us were on that Bill Committee as well—amended part II of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 so as to enable the authorisation of CHIS. That includes enabling under- cover police officers to participate in conduct that would otherwise be criminal.
A number of groups, including … Police Spies Out of Lives, are very concerned about that in light of the significant history of undercover officers engaging in deceitful sexual relationships during the course of their under- cover deployment. A specific prohibition against such relationships should be included in the police code of ethics, making it clear that any such relationship is a breach of the code of ethics and of the duty under the standards of professional behaviour in schedule 2 to the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2020—to
“behave in a manner which does not discredit the police service or undermine public confidence in it, whether on or off duty.”
IN COLLEGE OF POLICING GUIDANCE
Just the day before, on 24th January, the College of Policing meanwhile, published their new ‘Guidance for ethical and professional behaviour in policing’ which appears to include the specific prohibition Jess Phillips called for.
Covert operatives will comply with the Undercover policing APP, which makes it clear that it is neveracceptable for an undercover operative to have an intimate sexual relationship with those they aredeployed to infiltrate and target or encounter during their deployment.
So far, so good, and at first glance this is definitely an improvement on where some of us found ourselves more than a decade ago when the police tried to argue in the case of Mark Kennedy that he was authorised to have these intimate, sexual relationships.
This College of Policing Authorised Professional Practice (APP) relating to covert operations still includes a caveat, however, that permits UCOs to engage in a sexual relationship to mitigate a perceived threat so long as they report it to their cover officers and a COM-UC who will be at least Inspector rank:
If a UCO engages in an intimate sexual relationship (for example, they perceive an immediate threat to themselves and/or others if they were not to do so) this activity will be restricted to the minimum conduct necessary to mitigate the threat. UCOs must record and report this to the cover officer and COM-UC immediately.
The AO must be informed immediately by the COM-UC. The circumstances must be investigated and the facts reported to the AO. The AO must consider whether the operation should continue. Referral to oversight and governance bodies must be considered where appropriate.
Inclusion of this detail in this document makes redundant the argument put forward by those who, in 2021, supported the introduction of the Covert Human Intelligence (Criminal Conduct) [CHIS] Act that no limits should be set as to what constitutes authorised actions: they argued that legislating against sexual contact between CHIS and members of the public would give potential criminal targets a ‘test’ with which to flush out any spies in their midst. It is clear from this guidance that police already have the permission to engage in an intimate sexual relationship under certain circumstances and the fear of this hypothetical ‘test’ is irrelevant.
IN YOUR HANDS – REFORM THE CHIS ACT
Furthermore, the remit of the CHIS Act stretches beyond the activities of police officers to include a number of other institutions including the security services. From the evidence so far gleaned by the UCPI, it is clear that the Metropolitan Police Special Branch units (many of whose officers have been responsible for the most outrageous abuse of women’s human rights) have been tasked by and shared information with MI5. For women to be protected, all covert agents must be prohibited from having sex with members of the public, not just those working for the police.
It is not acceptable for anyone to be deceived into an intimate sexual relationship by someone working covertly. It is a straightforward abuse of power for a covert operative to exploit their fake identity (provided for them by their employees, and funded by tax payers) to manipulate women for their own sexual gratification.
We are arguing, therefore, for reform of the CHIS Act and hope that as many parliamentarians and members of the public will support our campaign to ensure the lives of women and girls are protected. We urge the following be included in future amendments:
“CHIS are expressly forbidden from entering into intimate or sexual relationships whilst in their covert persona.”