Undercover political policing scandal in brief
These cases take place within a wider context of public concern about undercover policing. While Police Spies Out Of Lives is a support group for people affected by relationships with undercovers only, we have compiled some links to significant background information below. If you think we have missed something, please let us know, providing an external link. Thank you.
Alongside the issue of their relationships, which is covered in depth on this website, there are several issues which have caused concern and alarm across the political spectrum, issues which suggest both that the officers and command units of undercover police have become corrupt, serving corporate interests rather than the public interest, and which show that the very premise of their role is problematic. These issues include:
No scrutiny – The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) allows for police to “gather intelligence” not evidence, creating an environment where police were able to deploy resources without accountability and without scrutiny. No court scrutinises the decision to send in an infiltrator, despite the far-reaching effects infiltration has on people’s lives and on movements for social change. The lack of scrutiny means operations may become subject to the whims and personal opinions of the officers and the handlers, who may in turn reinforce each other’s notion of what behaviour they think warrants infiltration.
Perjury, breaching legal confidentiality – appearing in court while using a false name, and abusing the confidentiality of the legal process.
- The Guardian – 19 October 2011 and 20 October 2011
- Newsnight – 19 October 2011
- Channel 4 News – 19 October 2011
Concealing evidence – see RIPA above; the police are not disclosing evidence which might prove innocence; one trial has collapsed, other convictions may be unsafe.
Smear campaigns – attempting to discredit the family and friends of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, in order to undermine the campaign seeking justice in the aftermath of his racist murder.
Stealing dead children’s identities – further abuse of people’s lives
- The Guardian – 3 February 2013
- Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee – Intermediate Report 26 February 2013
Agents Provocateurs – creating crime in order to justify deployments and resources
Protecting police violence – one officer said he witnessed police violence, and became the subject of it, yet it is not clear how or whether he or his handlers did anything to challenge this violence in the culture of the police. Other officers were – incredibly – infiltrating groups who were organising against police violence, police racism and police corruption. This in itself is police corruption.
- The Guardian – 2 February 2012
- Big Issue In The North – 11 March 2013
- The Guardian – 24 June 2013
- The Guardian – 25 June 2013(i)
- The Guardian – 25June 2013 (ii)
Pre-emptive arrests – attempting to discourage protest, rather than protecting people
Protecting corporate interests – including via private investigation companies
ACPO as private company – lack of scrutiny and accountability (see also The Command Structures)
Infiltrating and discouraging protest on an international scale – further lack of accountability, problematic co-operation with other police forces, sometimes breaking laws in other countries:
– Guardian 14 January 2011
– New York Times – 15 March 2013
The context in which undercover abuse and corruption has taken place is one in which successive UK governments, alongside other governments, undermine democracy by criminalising dissent and discouraging citizens from organising for social and environmental justice. During the period covered by the deployments linked to this case, new laws were introduced including suppression of union organising, rights to assembly, and squatting. While these issues may not be heard in court as part of the case, this context must be understood – and, we hope, addressed.
“We are united in believing that every woman, and every person, has a right to participate in the struggle for social and environmental justice, without fear of persecution, objectification, or interference in their lives.”
– from Where We Stand
Other campaigns on these issues – a number of organisations are working on campaigns which tackle these issues. Some are listed here; they need your support.
COPS – Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance : An alliance of people spied on by Britain’s political secret police.
Blacklist Support Group : Supporting trade unionists who were spied on by undercover police officers, and blacklisted by major construction companies as a result.
Undercover Research Group : Investigating political policing, spying on activists and the undermining of dissent.