Police admit managers supported serious human rights abuses, but try to obstruct court from learning more

  • The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has admitted that a sexual relationship a police officer had while he was undercover was a violation of her  fundamental right not to be subjected to torture or inhumane and degrading treatment

  

  • They have admitted that he had the backing of his cover officers and line manager to  have that relationship.

 

  • They are now seeking to prevent the Tribunal from examining the legality of the operations, the role of sexism and political persecution in the decisions made, and the involvement of senior commanding officers.

 

 

The case[1] is a Human Rights Claim in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) [2], and concerns undercover officer Mark Kennedy. The Claimant is Kate Wilson [3], a social and environmental justice campaigner, who had a two-year intimate sexual relationship with Mr Kennedy. She stated today:

“It has taken me eight painful years to discover that managing officers really did conspire to deceive and abuse me, something the police had consistently denied. The wider questions for society here are massive, this is about institutional sexism, senior police officers sanctioning sexual abuse, and the systematic violation of human rights because of political beliefs, and we still don’t have the whole truth. The police should not be allowed to evade the serious questions this case raises. Until we have a proper court hearing that examines the evidence, they will always be able to lie.”

Ms Wilson is one of eight women who brought a case against the police over undercover relationships. This resulted in a landmark public apology in November 2015 [4] that conceded that such relationships were “abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong.” The apology insisted that they would “never be authorised in advance” and that they were the result of “failures of supervision and management”.

However, the police have admitted to the Tribunal that an as yet unknown number of cover officers and a line manager knew about and acquiesced to the relationship [para 8(1) amended defence] This means at least 8 police officers were complicit in deceiving Ms Wilson in a long-term, intimate relationship, and suggests a deliberate strategy, and not a ‘failure of supervision’ as claimed.

In a startling but highly significant concession, police accepted that not only was Mr Kennedy’s relationship with Ms Wilson a breach of Article 3 of the Human Rights Act, which protects the “right to live without torture or inhuman or degrading treatment”, but that the “severity” of this violation was increased as a consequence of the complicity of managers. They also admit violating Article 8 – The right to a private and family life; Article 10 – The right to freedom of expression; and Article 11 – The right to freedom of association. [5]

They had been ordered by the Tribunal to disclose relevant secret documents, but yet again they have failed to do so, and at a hearing on 3 October 2018 [6] the police will seek to reverse that disclosure order. They wish to prevent the Tribunal from discovering the extent of senior officers’ involvement in the abuse; from assessing the lawfulness of the involvement of at least seven other undercover police officers in Ms Wilson’s life [7]; and from assessing whether such intrusion violated the principle that human rights should be enjoyed by all, without discrimination on grounds of sex or political beliefs [8].

The police argue it would cost too much to make the necessary disclosure. They also state that these issues will be examined by the ongoing public inquiry into undercover abuses. However, these attempts by police to cover up their abuse are mirrored in the floundering Undercover Policing public inquiry, which will not be hearing evidence any time soon [9].

Ms Wilson’s claim is of significant public interest. It deals with human rights violations that raise serious questions about the role of senior officers in sexual abuse, the legitimacy of such political policing in a democratic society [10], and the very legality of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) that is used to authorise such operations [11].

Harriet Wistrich, Kate’s Solicitor from Birnberg Peirce, says

“Having represented Kate Wilson along with 12 other women subject to very similar patterns of deception by the police, it is quite clear that we are dealing with a form of institutionalised sexism on a horrifying scale. It is quite extraordinary to see the police admitting to a human rights violation of the gravest kind worsened by the extent of complicity by other officers and managers. Now this has been acknowledged, surely the argument that RIPA must be reformed to unequivocally outlaw such relationships is unassailable.”

Demonstration in support of Kate on Wed 3rd October:

Call for demonstration as police seek to shut down undercover relationships Human Rights case

Key background information:

[1] Kate Wilson against The Metropolitan Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. This is the first ever human rights case to be heard by the IPT relating to undercover relationships https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/human-rights-case/human-rights-pleadings/

[2] https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/ipt/

[3] https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/our-stories/kates-story/

[4] http://news.met.police.uk/news/claimants-in-civil-cases-receive-mps-apology-138574?utm_campaign=send_list&utm_medium=email&utm_source=sendgrid
Kate Wilson has since been given this apology as well.

[5] Article 3 (EHCR) is an unqualifiable right. There are no circumstances where breaking it can be lawful. A Civil Court has already entered judgement that MK’s sexual relationship with Ms Wilson was Assault [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35350095, https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/new-met-apology/withdraw-defence/, http://thejusticegap.com/2016/01/12400/ ], and the police themselves have described such relationships as “abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong”, a “gross violation of personal dignity and integrity” that “caused significant trauma” [http://news.met.police.uk/videos/mps-apology-long-term-sexual-relationships-21074].

Furthermore, at least 5 other officers have been identified as having intruded in Ms Wilson’s private and family life (Art.8 ECHR). Over more than ten years, at least 6 officers played false roles in her life, ranging from lover to close friend, housemate and fellow activist [2]. These infiltrations took place because of her involvement in protest groups, infringing her rights to freedom of expression and association (Art.10&11 ECHR).

[6] Case Management hearing of the Kate Wilson vs The Metropolitan Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. This one-day hearing is scheduled to take place on the 3rd October at the Employment Tribunal, 2-6 Salisbury Square, London EC4Y 8AE. There will be a support demonstration outside the building from 9.30am.

[7] Due to her commitment to environmental and social justice, for a period of twelve years Ms Wilson’s life became a real-life Truman show – colleagues, house-mates, lovers and casual acquaintances have all turned out to have been undercover police. Officers named in the claim include confirmed undercover officers Jim Boyling (“Jim Sutton”), “Jason Bishop”, “Marco Jacobs”, “Lynne Watson”, “Rod Richardson”, and Mark Kennedy (“Mark Stone”) as well as two men who visited, claiming to be “friends of Mark Stone”, introducing themselves as “Vinny” and “Ed”. These are the officers known to have had contact with Ms Wilson. Of course, there may be others whose identity is not yet known.

[8] Such inhumane and degrading treatment of women in order to obtain intelligence forms part of a culture of institutional sexism within the Metropolitan Police, violating the principle that human rights should be enjoyed by all, without discrimination on grounds of sex or political beliefs (Art.14 ECHR). Despite having publicly said (in their apology) that the abuse of women by undercover officers was a result of problematic “attitudes towards women” within the police, the MPS are now refusing to respond to this. Instead they are asking the Tribunal not to even consider this part of the claim.

[9] The Inquiry itself is tied up with a barrage of police applications for secrecy and facing serious delays https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/may/10/undercover-policing-inquiry-will-not-deliver-final-report-before-2023 . Non-state core-participants have walked out of hearings in protest https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/undercover-policing-inquiry_uk_5ab24bd5e4b008c9e5f3132b?guccounter=1 and a Judicial Review of the Chair’s decisions is now underway https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/05/undercover-policing-inquiry-victims-launch-legal-action.

[10] Targeting of the groups that Ms Wilson was involved in such as Reclaim the Streets, and campaigns against immigration detention, reflects an extremely worrying assumption on the part of Metropolitan Police that it is “proportionate and necessary” to target people for their political beliefs and involvement in political campaigns.

[11] Neither RIPA nor the Codes of Practice mention sexual conduct by undercover officers, and the existing legal frame work has neither sufficient clarity nor sufficient safeguards for RIPA authorisations to be “in accordance with the law”. This is consistent with the findings of the Home Affairs Select Committee and the Royal Court of Justice. The Home Affairs Select Committee stated that “there is an alarming degree of inconsistency in the views of Ministers and senior police officers about the limits of what may and may not be lawfully authorised.” and “the current legal framework is ambiguous to such an extent that it fails adequately to safeguard the fundamental rights of the individuals affected.” (https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmhaff/837/130205i.htm).
Judge Tugendhat said in a ruling in the Civil Court that “There is no doubt that, in enacting RIPA, Parliament intended to override fundamental human rights” http://www.statewatch.org/news/2013/nov/uk-police-spies-out-of-lives-secret-hearing-case-decision.pdf

— end of background information —

 

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