Public Inquiry Progress Briefing

stayinformedWe have written a Progress Briefing on the Inquiry into Undercover Policing. Below is the introduction, written by Harriet Wistrich, Solicitor for the Eight Women Case. The briefing is downloadable here: Inquiry Progress Nov16.

When the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced in parliament on 6 March 2014 that she was persuaded of the need for a judge led public inquiry to look into undercover policing, it was only a couple of days before we were due to go to court to defend a strike out application brought by the police against five of the original eight PSOOL has been supporting.  The strike out application made by the police was on the basis that they had a policy of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ in relation to undercover policing which meant that they couldn’t defend the claim.  The was the second ‘strike out’ application the police had brought, the first one being in relation to the other three women’s cases, where the police argued that the claims were wrongly started in the High Court and should have been brought in the highly secretive Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

As a result of the Home Secretary’s announcement, the police dropped their strike out application, although they maintained their stance of Neither Confirm Nor Deny.  I wondered how on earth the state could conduct a truly public inquiry into undercover policing, given the level or secrecy and resistance faced thus far.  To date after several years of civil litigation and now 16 months in to the public inquiry, there has still been no disclosure of any information regarding the operations of the undercover police units let alone any details revealed of the nature the undercover police activity in respect to any of the eight women.  So six years on from the first discoveries of this activity by the police, almost all that is known about the scandalous activities of the police is as a result of the women and other activists’ own detective work.

In this briefing, we provide a detailed update of all the steps that have been taken so far by the public inquiry since its formal commencement sixteen months ago.  Further details of all of this can also found on the public inquiry website.  In broad summary, progress has felt incredibly slow, as the inquiry has painstakingly gone through attempting to determine various legal procedures for assisting its decision making in terms of revealing details of undercover police officers cover names, providing any disclosure and offering any undertakings as to non prosecution with regard to evidence provision to the inquiry.  The most significant decision taken so far concerned the legal principles to be applied in respect of ‘restriction orders’, where fortunately, Lord Pitchford rejected the police argument that because of NCND the public inquiry could effectively be closed to the public!  However, the process now in terms of decisions in respect to the revealing of cover names of undercover police officers or in respect of what can be disclosed to the non police core participants, is painstakingly slow and complex.  It is not yet clear how many officers are likely to be offered anonymity and how much disclosure will be provided.  There are now four former undercover officers whose cover names have been revealed, all of who had sexual relationships with activists, Bob Lambert, Jim Boyling, Marco Jacobs and Carlo Neri.   In addition Mark Kennedy and Peter Francis are represented separately from the other undercover officers.  There are many more pending applications for restriction orders which are unlikely to be determined till late spring or summer next year and we don’t know how many of these will be successful.  Until this process is completed, it is not anticipated that there will be any public hearings.  We do not yet have much of an idea how the public hearings will work and what will be the scope of evidence taking in relation to the issues that fall within the terms of reference.

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‘Undercover policing, democracy and human rights’ seminar

When: Thursday, 14 April 2016 from 5-7pm
Where: Lecture Theatre A, Roscoe Building, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL

The Undercover Policing Inquiry was appointed following revelations that undercover police officers kept lawful political campaigns under surveillance, assumed the identities of deceased children and deceived women into having sexual relationships.

This Manchester School of Law seminar, that is open to the public, will hear from three speakers who are directly involved:

Alison’ gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee on her experience of having been deceived into a five year relationship by undercover officer Mark Jenner.

Harriet Wistrich, Human Rights Lawyer of the Year 2014, represents numerous women (including Alison) who have successfully pursued civil claims and obtained an apology from the Metropolitan Police, and others that will be giving evidence to the Undercover Policing Inquiry.

Dr Eveline Lubbers is a member of the Undercover Research Group and has published research on the activities of undercover police officers. She is also the author of Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark: Corporate Spying on Activists and Battling Big Business: Countering Greenwash, Front Groups and Other Forms of Corporate Deception.

Core issues that will be raised before the Undercover Policing Inquiry, relating to lawful police surveillance, the right to privacy and family life, freedom of expression and the law on sexual offences, will also be discussed at the seminar.

NOTE: Entry is free but advance booking is required.

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Watch: Police corruption, spying and racism conference

On Friday 5 and Saturday 6 February 2015, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and The Monitoring Group held the Police corruption, spying and racism conference at Conway Hall, London. The video footage from many of the sessions is now available to view here.

A summary of the Twitter coverage of Day 1 and Day 2 of the conference is also available to view.

Here are the talks by claimant Helen Steel and solicitor Harriet Wistrich:

Police Spies out of lives – Challenging Undercover Intimate Relationships

 

Police Spies Out of Lives

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PRESS RELEASE: Metropolitan Police confirm identity of undercover officers following legal challenge by women

Press release on behalf of women deceived by undercover police – issued by Birnberg Peirce and partners, 14 August 2014

The Metropolitan Police have formally confirmed, for the first time, the identities of two undercover police officers serving in the much criticised, highly secretive, Special Demonstration Squad. This followed an application made by a group of women who were deceived by undercover officers into long-term intimate, sexual relationships. The application resulted in a judgment by Mr Justice Bean that the police could no longer rely on their purported policy of “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” (NCND) in respect of two of the four officers named by the Claimants. Bob Lambert, who was known as political activist, Bob Robinson in the mid 1980’s, and Andrew James Boyling, who was known as Jim Sutton, a political activist in the late 1990s have both been confirmed as undercover officers by the Metropolitan police in an Amended Defence served in consequence of the Judge’s order.

The police, whilst publicly stating that the actions of undercover officers entering into long term sexual and intimate relationships was morally reprehensible, had until this point steadfastly refused to provide any information to the women Claimants during their three year legal battle for justice. The Amended Defence also confirms that Bob Lambert and Jim Boyling were in sexual relationships with three of the women as they have alleged. However, the Defendant, goes on assert that the relationships were based on “mutual attraction and genuine personal feelings”. The Defendant who trained these officers in deception and deployed them which enabled them to enter into such relationships, denies any responsibility or liability for the abuse and damage caused.

The Amended Defence also refuses to confirm the identities of two other former SDS officers who were known as John Barker and Mark Cassidy, despite the Claimants producing ample evidence from their own painstaking research, that these men were in fact undercover police officers, John Dines and Mark Jenner. Even more bizarrely, and showing contempt for both the women and the judgment of the court, the Amended Defence refuses to confirm any details about the existence and operation of the Special Demonstration Squad, despite this having been stated elsewhere in the public domain including reports by Operation Herne.

“The police have been pulled, kicking and screaming, to this first extremely significant development in the litigation brought by the women in their long battle for justice and accountability. It represents a partial victory with the police being forced to acknowledge the identities of undercover police officers who committed serious violations of women’s rights” said Harriet Wistrich, the women’s solicitor. “However, the confirmation does not go far enough, it is mealy mouthed, offensive and lacking in any acknowledgment of the huge abuse of power and harm caused to my clients.”

Belinda Harvey, one of the Claimants in the case, said: “I am very upset that the Defence suggests that my relationship with Bob Robinson over twenty-five years ago, is said to be based on ‘mutual attraction and genuine feelings.’ How can a relationship be genuine when it is based on a massive web of lies? He pretended to be a man with noble ideals and political commitments, when in reality he was a police officer spying on our friendship network. He pretended he was committed to the future when he always knew he would go back to his real job and wife and kids. That doesn’t show genuine feelings; it is abuse and I would never have consented to such a relationship had I known. This relationship was a total violation of me and my life.”

Helen Steel, another of the Claimants, who had a two-year relationship with John Barker who she now knows to have been undercover officer John Dines said: “It is disgusting that the police continue to hide behind NCND even though the Judge acknowledged that the evidence we had collected was strong and it appeared on the face of it that the police were just delaying the inevitable confirmation. Rather than apologise for the abuse inflicted on us, the police’s attitude towards this litigation is creating still more distress. Their continued attempts to hide behind NCND and refuse to provide any acknowledgement of the extreme pain they have caused, greatly aggravates the original violation.”

For further information and comment, including to speak to the women’s solicitor Harriet Wistrich, please contact Alex Phillips on 0207 391 0784, or email H.Wistrich#@#birnbergpeirce.co.uk (removing spam-prevention hashtags).

NOTES:

1. Full information of the women’s case, including their legal battles over the Met’s delaying and secrecy tactics, can be found at www.policespiesoutoflives.org.uk

2. The women’s legal challenge was to the Met’s attempt to hide behind Neither Confirm Nor Deny (NCND) rather than engage with the women’s legal action. In court, lawyers for the women cited many instances where the Met had confirmed undercover identities and publicly discussed undercover tactics. Background to the women’s challenge to NCND can be found here: https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/secrecy-hearing-why-neither-confirm-nor-deny-should-not-stand/ Further notes on NCND can be found here: https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/our-stories/belindas-story/

3. The women’s legal challenge to NCND was heard by Mr Justice Bean, who in his Judgment noted that Jim Sutton / Boyling had “been publicly named as an UCO by the Commissioner in person” and as such “reliance on the NCND policy to avoid admitting that he was an UCO is simply unsustainable” and similarly that NCND can no longer be relied on in relation to Bob Robinson / Lambert as “he has not only self disclosed, but has been publicly named by the IPCC as a former MPS officer”. Full coverage of the judgment can be found here: https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/womens-statement-high-court-ruling-met-police-cannot-maintain-blanket-ncnd-to-cover-up-gross-abuses-of-intimate-relationships-while-undercover/

4. Specifically concerning NCND, Justice Bean said: “I do not accept that there is now, in 2014, any legitimate public interest entitling the Commissioner to maintain the stance of NCND in respect of this general allegation; […] there can be no public policy reason to permit the police neither to confirm nor deny whether an illegitimate or arguably illegitimate operational method has been used as a tactic in the past. I therefore rule that the defendant cannot rely on NCND to avoid answering the general allegation.” policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/uploads/2014/07/Final-high-court-judgement-on-NCND.doc

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PRESS RELEASE: Met police admit for first time in legal case that undercover officers in intimate sexual relationships are not appropriate

At a High Court Hearing today, 6 June 2014, the Met police were finally forced to admit that if the claims brought by eight women, who alleged they were in long term intimate relationships, are true then such relationships would not have been justified as an undercover police tactic.

Mr Justice Bean was hearing an application brought by five of the women requiring the Metropolitan police to drop their “neither confirm nor deny” (NCND) stance. NCND has been one of many delaying tactics used by the Met to maintain secrecy over the legal action against them, despite the very serious allegations that have been made by the Claimants. In dramatic scenes at the court today, the judge would not accept further hedging and obfuscation from leading counsel for the Commissioner. He demanded that she go away and take instructions from her client. After a short delay, Ms Carss-Frick, returned and said, “I am able to tell you …that if proved that the Claimants had long term relationships with individuals who were undercover operatives the Defendant would not consider such relationships justified as a UCO tactic”

Harriet Wistrich, solicitor for the eight women said: “We have been fighting this case for nearly three years and despite everything that is in the public domain, this is the first time the police have been forced to engage in a central issue in the proceedings. This is a very important step on my clients journey towards getting the answers and justice they deserve”

Mr Justice Bean has reserved judgment on the question as to whether the police are required to serve a proper defence rather than rely on NCND and say nothing.

NOTES:
1. Full background on this hearing is here.

2. Further background on NCND can be found here.

3. Delaying tactics from the police included a strike-out claim on the basis of NCND – which was dropped at the last minute in March of this year. Two large files of evidence were submitted to the Court by the women’s lawyers to counter the strike out claim. These files detailed instances where the police had confirmed the identities of undercover officers; commented on operational tactics of these political policing units; show the identities of the undercover officers reported in the media; and where the women had meticulously compiled evidence demonstrating that they can show the true identities of the officers.

4. This hearing concerned five of the eight women; the other three women are also bringing claims under the Human Rights Act, including suffering “inhumane and degrading treatment” and disruption of their “private and family life, including the right to form relationships without unjustified interference by the state”. They are fighting a separate battle to stop their claims being sent to a secret court, the IPT.

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