We welcome the announcement today that a Public Inquiry into undercover policing will take place as soon as possible.
However, we have serious concerns about what such an inquiry will be able to achieve given continuing claims by the Metropolitan Police that they can ‘neither confirm nor deny’ any allegation about undercover policing, and given their legal threats against a potential key witness, the whistleblower Peter Francis. Any public investigation of these events must require the Met Police stop this obstructive approach.
It is a matter of grave concern that policing units such as the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit were expressly set up to target political dissent, and were used to undermine the public’s right to protest and seek change, despite international human rights laws protecting such activities. In the process, the police have also violated the rights of ourselves and others to privacy and respect for family life, and to be free from inhumane or degrading treatment.
The announcement about the inquiry coincides with the announcement of the intelligence committee report into the massive, illegal GCHQ spying operations revealed by Edward Snowden, and with calls for more surveillance powers. The simultaneous announcement of this Public Inquiry must not be used as a smokescreen to silence widespread public concern about the extent of spying and intrusion by security services in the UK. Greater levels of surveillence will undoubtedly lead to more abuses of our fundamental rights.
Revelations in recent years about the extent and methods of undercover policing, spying and data retention make it clear that the systematic abuse of people’s rights to privacy, political protest and even bodily integrity are not the exception, but the norm. The expansion of the surveillance state and the targetting of all forms of political dissent poses an alarming threat to freedom, democracy, protest and hopes for change, it preserves the status quo and inequality. If we are to achieve a fairer, more just society, it must be stopped.
Police Spies Out Of Lives is a support group for eight women who are taking legal action against the Metropolitan Police after they were deceived into long term intimate relationships with undercover police officers who were infiltrating environmental and social justice campaign groups. These 8 women had relationships with five different officers who were in either the Special Demonstration Squad (Bob Lambert, Jim Boyling, Mark Jenner and John Dines) or the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (Mark Kennedy). Theirs is not the only case of its kind being brought against the police. The fact such relationships took place over a period spanning more than 25 years, and involving different police units, demonstrates this was an institutional practice not an individual one. To date, there has been no satisfactory official response that reassures us that these practices are not still ongoing.
- a clear and unambiguous statement that the abuse has ceased
- the past to be thoroughly and openly investigated
- for all those whose rights have been or are being violated in this way, and who may not be aware of that fact, to be informed and given the right to redress
- action and change to prevent these human rights abuses from ever happening again