Dear Mr Brokenshire,
We are a group of women from different backgrounds and with different political views who share a common experience of having been deceived into intimate, sexual relationships by undercover police officers who were spying on campaign groups in the UK. These relationships span most of the fifty years since the establishment of the Metropolitan Police Special Demonstration Squad in 1968 and also encompass more recent policing units which were supposed to be RIPA compliant.
After all we have experienced, we are deeply concerned by the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill. We know first-hand how existing, ambiguous legislation governing such relationships has failed to protect our rights. In its current form, this Bill will enshrine in law the very wrongdoing and criminality we have been fighting to legislate against.
You have claimed that the Human Rights Act is a sufficient safeguard to prevent agents being authorised to commit serious crimes. This rings hollow when you consider our experiences.
By forming intimate, sexual relationships with us, undercover police officers violated our human rights, including Article 3 right to protection against inhumane and degrading treatment. The Human Rights Act became effective in 2000 in the UK. Mark Kennedy, Marco Jacobs, James Straven, Jim Boyling, Carlo Soracchi and Rob Harrison were all actively deployed undercover after 2000, conducting sexual relationships with women connected to their target groups. The Human Rights Act did not protect these women.
In 2015 the Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Sir Martin Hewitt apologised to seven women who brought the first case saying: ‘I acknowledge that these relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma.’
Despite this, there is still no law that specifies that sexual relationships between CHIS and members of the public are prohibited. Without this specificity, interpretation of the law can be warped by institutional prejudice and discrimination.
That is why it is essential that this Bill be amended to include strict limits on the crimes undercover agents can commit – including sexual exploitation and violence, as well as torture and murder.
Your legislation puts at risk ordinary people who may think this bill has nothing to do with them. It will enable an undercover officer to legally embark on an intimate, sexual relationship with any innocent person who happens to be of use. Maybe a woman living across the road from a pub where the criminal gang meet? Perhaps the sister of one of the gang? Ordinary women who would be written off, like us, as ‘collateral intrusion’.
The fact that the police remain incapable of stating clearly whether or not these relationships were authorised demonstrates the necessity for both express limits in the Bill and external oversight of any operations which interfere with people’s human rights. It is not acceptable for the police and security services to act not only as investigators, but as judge and jury as well.
Your bill will also deny complainants like us any right to redress, since authorised conduct will be made ‘lawful for all purposes’, even where authorisations are exposed to have been wrongly issued.
On November 2nd, more than six years since it was established, the Undercover Policing Public Inquiry begins. Although there is significant public interest in the proceedings, there will not be a live stream of the hearings, meaning that it will not truly be a public inquiry accessible to all.
Against this backdrop, your CHIS bill is being rushed through Parliament. We feel as if the goalposts are being moved, and that Parliament is signalling that the findings and recommendations of the Public Inquiry will not matter.
If this bill is passed unamended, state operatives will officially be above the law. A society that allows for authorised murder, torture and sexual offences is one that is brutalised and desensitised to violence and which has no respect for human rights. On behalf of all women deceived into intimate relationships by undercover agents, we call for this Bill to include express limits on the crimes such agents can commit, to ensure that what happened to us can never happen again.