Press release: Women reject secrecy of undercover policing inquiry

For immediate release: Eight women suing* the Metropolitan police for the harm caused by undercover police officers forming fraudulent long-term, intimate, sexual relationships with them, have written to Chief Constable Creedon to say that they will not cooperate with Operation Herne**. Chief Constable Creedon had asked them to provide detailed statements about their intimate relationships, but had simultaneously asserted that it is necessary for the police to maintain a “policy” of “neither confirm nor deny” (NCND) – meaning that the women could never know the outcome of the investigations.

The women say their trust in the police has been so fundamentally undermined by their experiences of deceit at the hands of the police that they will only cooperate with an independent investigation and /or public inquiry. They have however welcomed Chief Constable Creedon’s statement that such intimate, sexual relationships should not be permitted under any circumstances, a position which he says reflects the view of the three lead officers on undercover policing from the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Despite this acknowledgement that the relationships could not be justified, it appears that the Police are determined to prevent any public scrutiny of their highly intrusive practices – the Metropolitan Police have threatened to apply to have the claims struck out as unfair to the police and to apply for a “closed material procedure” hearing under the powers of the new Justice and Security Act. A CMP means that the police can keep evidence secret – they could put material before the judge which neither the Claimants or their lawyers would be able to see or challenge.

This comes on top of their efforts to have the Human Rights claims heard in the extremely secretive Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the women have taken this challenge to the Court of Appeal and a hearing is fixed for 15 and 16 October 2013.

The women condemn the police for spending from what appears to be an unlimited pot of public money on legal arguments that seek to hide details of practices that amount to grave interferences with the women’s fundamental rights to privacy, personal integrity and protection from inhumane and degrading treatment. The only way that the women can hope to achieve justice is if the police are willing to be open and publicly accountable for their actions

Harriet Wistrich, solicitor for the eight women, said

“It is time for the police to come clean and admit to the undoubted wrongdoing. All these women have been seriously harmed by a practice which is now acknowledged as wrong under any circumstance. The effect of being spied upon has fundamentally undermined my clients’ ability to trust not only the police but relationships in general. The obstructive and secretive response of the police to these cases is only serving to undermine it further.”

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

*Legal action was commenced in December 2011 against the Metropolitan Police on behalf of eight women who were deceived into having long term intimate relationships with undercover police officers. The five undercover officers were all engaged in infiltrating environmental and social justice campaign groups between the mid 1980’s and 2010 and had relationships with the women lasting from 7 months and the longest spanning 9 years. The five undercover officers are Bob Lambert, John Dines, Jim Boyling, Mark Cassidy and Mark Kennedy.

The women assert that the actions of the undercover officers breached their rights as protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, including Article 3 (no one shall be subject to inhumane and degrading treatment) and Article 8 (respect for private and family life, including the right to form relationships without unjustified interference by the state), The women are also bringing claims for deceit, assault, misfeasance in public office and negligence, and seek to highlight and prevent the continuation of psychological, emotional and sexual abuse of campaigners and others by undercover police officers.

** Chief Constable Creedon is in charge of Operation Herne – a police review of the use of undercover officers in the Special Demonstration Squad

Please also refer to https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/ where copies of the relevant correspondence between Operation Herne and Birnberg Peirce and partners will be available later this afternoon [30 August 2013].
UPDATE: The correspondence has now been released and can be found here.

For further information contact the claimants’ solicitor, Harriet Wistrich at Birnberg Peirce and Partners – 020 7911 0166 or email hw@birnbergpeirce.co.uk (checked after hours).

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