Police fail to close down undercover relationship case following new revelations

Today in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) [1], the police failed in their attempt to close down Kate Wilson’s [2] human rights claim [3] about secret political policing and her relationship with the undercover officer, Mark Kennedy.

This was the police’s fourth failed application to limit the extent of the IPT investigation. After seven years of litigation, they still haven’t answered the detailed claims made.

Continue reading “Police fail to close down undercover relationship case following new revelations”


Police seek to avoid accountability in Human Rights case over abusive relationships by undercover officers

  • A woman deceived into a relationship with undercover officer is fighting in court this Friday [1] to have her claim about human rights abuses to be allowed to continue, and be held in the open.
  • Ms Wilson’s claim [2], being heard in the Investigatory Power’s Tribunal (IPT), states that that the police violated her Human Rights under Articles 3, 8, 10, 11 and 14 of the European Convention of Human  Rights (ECHR) [3]
  • Ms Wilson was deceived into a long-term, intimate relationship with an undercover police officer, Mark Kennedy (MK).
  • If successful, this case will finally give clarity whether sexual relationships between undercover officers and members of the public are unlawful.

In 2017, Kate Wilson [4] became one of eight women who have won an historic apology [5] from the Metropolitan Police over their relationships with undercover police. She is now taking the Metropolitan Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers to Court over human rights abuses she was subjected to by undercover officers. Ms Wilson’s claim questions the legitimacy of such political policing in a democratic society [6], and the legality of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) that is used to authorise such operations [7].

Ms Wilson said; “Article 3 of The ECHR refers to the right to live without being tortured or  subjected to inhuman or degrading treatments. The Metropolitan police, themselves told me in a public apology that what happened to me was abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong and a gross violation of personal dignity and integrity and that it caused significant trauma. Yet no clear, legally binding limits have been imposed on the kind of relationships officers form while undercover. We need clarity to protect the public from anything like this ever happening again.”

Despite having withdrawn their defence in Ms. Wilson’s Civil Claim [8], paying substantial compensation and issuing a personal apology [4] to Ms. Wilson acknowledging that these relationships were a violation of her human rights, the police have also stated that they intend to contest this claim, and are applying for it to be struck out.

This is the first ever human rights case to be heard by the IPT relating to undercover relationships. It comes after almost six years of stays, obstructions and delaying tactics by police in the Royal Courts of Justice, where this claim originated, and they are now asking the IPT to consider throwing out the claim because, they argue, it is “out of time”.  This is yet another example of the police’s delaying and blocking tactics in legal actions looking for accountability and disclosure around undercover policing, and must not be tolerated by the Judge.

They continue to seek secrecy around undercover policing, and will apply for the case to be held behind closed doors, contesting Ms Wilson’s right to attend hearings, get disclosure, or respond to any evidence  they present. The IPT is able to hear cases such as this in complete secrecy,  with the claimant having no opportunity to argue their case in court,  contest evidence against them, or receive a reasoned judgement [9].

In  the light of all the information about these officers already in the public domain, and the  ongoing Public Inquiry into the events in question, the claimant is urging the IPT to hold an open hearing this time [10].

Key background information

1] This is the first hearing of the case. It will be held at Employment  Appeal Tribunal (EAT) located in  Fleetbank House, Salisbury Square,  London, EC4Y 8JX. The hearing will start at 10.30am, 23rd June 2017, in court 5.

2] https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/human-rights-case/human-rights-pleadings/

3] The Human Rights Claims
The most significant claim refers to the right to live without being tortured or subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment (Art.3 ECHR).   There are no circumstances where this can be lawful. Article 3 (EHCR) is  an  unqualifiable right. 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].

Such inhuman 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).

Furthermore, in addition to MK’s gross violation of her intimate private life and bodily integrity, 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 co-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).

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

5] http://news.met.police.uk/news/claimants-in-civil-cases-receive-mps-apology-138574?utm_campaign=send_list&utm_medium=email&utm_source=sendgrid

6] The targeting of environmental and social justice groups 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 in the UK and  abroad. The SDS was established in 1968 to “deal  with the lack of police knowledge of what was happening on  demonstrations”. It was shut down in October 2006 as part of a  restructuring of the Met, though continued to exist until October 2008.  Since it has been closed down, the National Public Order Intelligence  Unit, an agency that monitors so-called domestic extremists performs a  similar role in the UK today. http://powerbase.info/index.php/Special_Demonstration_Squad, http://powerbase.info/index.php/National_Public_Order_Intelligence_Unit

7]   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 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

8] The IPT oversees human rights claims about the states infringement of privacy through covert surveillance. Although it claims independence, the IPT operates from within the Home Office
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/mar/05/independence-ipt-court-mi5-mi6-home-office-secrecy-clegg-miliband,  and it has only upheld a handful of claims (probably less than 0.01%)  in it’s history. Most of the hearings are held in secret: applicants are  given no right to be present at the hearing; no right to the disclosure  of evidence relied on by the opposing party; no right to cross-examine  opposing witnesses; no right to funded representation or costs; no right  to a reasoned judgment and no right of appeal. In short, it is a  fitting judicial instrument for a process intended to override  fundamental human rights. Recently,  the IPT has been criticised for  being secretive so there have been  moves for more cases to be held in  the open.

9]   The claimant will argue that many of the factual matters raised by the  claim are already in the public domain  and  that the Courts have found  that the Police are not able to rely on the Neither Confirm Nor Deny  policy in relation to those matters [https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/uploads/2014/07/Final-high-court-judgement-on-NCND.doc, 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/].   This is a case of great public interest, and Kate should be entitled  to  get disclosure from the police, which she has not had to date, in  order  to be able to engage in proceedings and argue the case.

10] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35350095, https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/new-met-apology/withdraw-defence/, http://thejusticegap.com/2016/01/12400/

— end of background information —







Call for demo as police seek secrecy in undercover relationships human rights case

When? 10 am Friday 23rd June (the hearing will start at 10.30am in court 5)
Where? Employment  Appeal Tribunal (EAT) located in Fleetbank House, Salisbury Square,  London, EC4Y 8JX
What about? Showing public support for a woman’s fight to outlaw the abusive and chilling practice of undercover cops deceiving women into intimate relationships
Who should come? Anyone who cares about or right to participate in social justice campaigning without fear of abuse at the hands of the state

Kate Wilson is one of the women, whose stories of their abusive relationships with undercover police, have shocked the nation. She is taking what might be a unique case against the Metropolitan Police concerning the abuse of her human rights when she was deceived into a long term intimate relationship with Mark Kennedy, an undercover officer infiltrating social and environmental justice groups. It is being held at the Investigatory Powers tribunal, the secretive court that oversees complaints about the states covert intrusion into our lives.

There is a demo called before a case hearing, where the police are applying to have the whole case heard in secret, meaning Kate or her solicitors would not be able to attend the hearings, argue her case in court, hear or contest any of the police’s evidence, or even hear a reasoned judgement at its conclusion.

It is essential that such appalling abuse of Kate’s and other women’s human rights is challenged, and that this is done in the open, so the truth about what happened can come out, and the public can be reassured that it is being dealt with properly and accountably. Relationships are one of the most profoundly disturbing tools of social control so far unearthed as part of the decades-long activity of undercover units. It is essential that people are able to participate in social and environmental justice campaigning without fear of such abuse.

This case is the first time the Police have had to answer human rights claims about their undercover officers’ deception of women into intimate relationships. Kate is in an almost unique position to be able to do this, and it is possibly our best opportunity yet to force changes in the laws that oversee undercover policing.

Public outrage at the treatment of women at the hands of the police has meant that they have not been able to sweep these cases under the carpet, and it is essential that we continue to show our support for and solidarity with these brave women holding the state to account.

Come to the demo to show your support! Come into the court hearing itself at 11am, and show the Judge the level of public interest.

If you can’t make it, then make noise on social media – talk about it to your friends, or write to your MP. We must keep up the public pressure and hold the state to account.








Statement re today’s Appeal judgment

Below is the full text of a public statement from three of the women in this case. These three women, alongside three other claimants, appealed against their human rights claims being sent to a secret court. This statement is in response to the judgment on that appeal as handed down today at 10.30am, and it outlines two key decisions made by the Appeal judges.

Public Statement: Tuesday November 5th 2013

The Court of Appeal has today decided against us in the first part of our appeal, namely our attempt to have our human rights cases against the police heard in open court, and have upheld the decision that the claims should be heard by the shadowy and secretive Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). [1] 

However, we welcome the clarity from the Court of Appeal that the actions of the police were intrusive and amount to a breach of Human Rights. They said:

“The establishing and/or maintaining of an intimate sexual relationship for the covert purpose of obtaining intelligence is a seriously intrusive form of investigatory technique. We do not think that it is in issue that it amounts to an invasion of an individual’s common law right to personal security and of a most intimate aspect of the right to privacy under article 8 of the Convention.”  

However, despite this recognition of the extreme gravity and potentially abusive nature of this technique, they ruled that the only forum that can adjudicate on the human rights violations, and the “necessity and proportionality” of its uses, is the IPT.
The second part of our appeal was successful, which lifts the stay on High Court proceedings, allowing the common law part of the claims to proceed. We welcome this decision, with which the court recognises our “right to have [our] claims heard in open court in accordance with procedures which have been developed and designed to provide a fair route to a just result.” However, we are very disappointed that human rights abuses by the police are not subject to the same fair route to justice. 

The civil claims being brought before the High Court may now be our only access to justice.  However, the approach of the Metropolitan Police to this litigation has shown that they intend to obstruct our access to truth and justice by any means necessary, regardless of costs. They have stated that they will apply for ‘closed materials proceedings’ in the event of claims reaching the High Court, and they are currently applying to strike the other five claims in our case out of the High Court on the basis of their wish to ‘neither confirm nor deny’ that the men involved were undercover officers. [2] 
In allowing the High Court stay to be lifted for the common law part of our case, the court has recognised the severe limitations of the IPT procedure.  They described the original decision by Mr Justice Tugendhat to allow the IPT to take precedence as “flawed and plainly wrong”, and described the IPT as being a forum that “…is ill-suited to the determination of claims that involve many issues of fact relevant to both liability and damages.” recognising that hearings before the IPT…

“…may take place in the absence of the applicants; applicants have no  right to the disclosure of evidence relied on by the opposing party or  to know the case against them; there is no right to cross-examine  opposing witnesses or to representation or funded representation; there  is no right to a reasoned judgment and no right of appeal.”

It is alarming then that the human rights claims aspect of our case will proceed to the IPT. The judges’ conclusions also highlight the extreme shortcomings of the RIPA legislation, stating that “There is no doubt that, in enacting RIPA, Parliament intended to override fundamental human rights” The Act purports to protect our rights but in fact exists only to override them. 

We remain painfully aware that the contradictions and obstructions that surround our fight for justice continue. Last week the College of Policing re-iterated the words of other senior police officers by stating that undercover police entering into intimate sexual relationships with those they are surveiling is morally reprehensible and should be banned. Yet this week the Court of Appeal decision would seem to indicate that RIPA, the legislation covering these issues, is capable of authorising such relationships.   
It is surely now time for the public to demand a thorough overhaul of legislation that can effectively allow state agents to abuse people and then limit the scrutiny of their actions to a secret court process.

The IPT is an affront to the principles of natural justice, and has only upheld a handful of claims in it’s history [3] while the RIPA legislation is deeply flawed and requires a total overhaul if human rights in this country are genuinely to be respected. 

1 This hearing formed a part of the legal action against the police by women who were deceived into long-term intimate relationships by undercover officers. Read an outline of the legal battle so far.
2 The police’s application to strike out the claims will be heard in the High Court on the 20th or 21st November 2013
3 Alan Travis Time to review the surveillance tribunal, The Guardian, 2nd August 2010


The case so far – twists and turns – UPDATED

stayinformedThanks so much to everyone who’s supported the case so far. Even though it’s still in its early days it’s turned into a complex legal battle. With every twist and turn the real issues could get obscured, so we’ve written this brief update of where things stand.

Here are the key developments so far:

1. What laws are the police facing in this legal action?

The police are facing civil claims under two different kinds of law: common law, and a parliamentary act, the Human Rights Act.

All eight of the women in this case are bringing claims under  common law – for “deceit, assault, misfeasance in public office and negligence”.

They also all assert that their human rights were breached, 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”.

Although all of the women had their human rights breached by what happened, only three of them are able to make claims under UK law. This is because the European Convention on Human Rights wasn’t incorporated into UK law until 2000, when the Human Rights Act was introduced. So only the women whose lives were disrupted after 2000 are able to bring claims under that law.

An important point to remember: while the European Convention hadn’t been incorporated into UK law until 2000, the UK has been a signatory to it since 1950, and it became effective in signatory states in 1953. So the women whose lives were abused before 2000 still had those legal rights, it’s just that UK courts won’t hear claims based on events before that date. Claims can be taken to the European Court, but not until all other UK remedies – right up to the supreme court – have been exhausted.

Just to make it clear: the police had the responsibility to respect the relevant human rights of all of the women, not just the three who can currently bring claims in the UK courts.

2. What’s the secret court thing about?

The Human Rights Act meant that people could bring human rights claims in UK courts, rather than going to the European court. But around the same time they also passed RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act). RIPA covers how specific agencies of the state can engage in covert intelligence gathering.

The government was concerned that the right to privacy could be raised in relation to any intrusive surveillance by the state, leading to claims under the Human Rights Act, and didn’t want to secret intelligence gathering techniques and personnel to be exposed to scrutiny in open court. So as part of RIPA, it set up a special secret court – the Investigatory Powers Tribunal – to hear these claims away from the public eye.

3. What happened during the legal battle over the secret court question?

Firstly, in November 2012, there was a hearing in which the women’s lawyers argued that Parliament didn’t say anything in RIPA about intimate sexual relationships, and so hadn’t authorised police officers to have relationships. This was significant, because if the police weren’t operating within the powers that Parliament had given them in RIPA, then RIPA didn’t apply. And if RIPA didn’t apply, then the secret court of RIPA – the IPT – shouldn’t apply. With us so far?

At the hearing, Judge Tugenhat listened to these arguments, and also heard the police lawyers argue that maybe Parliament did mean to allow for sexual relationships. Tugendhat ‘reserved judgment’ (went away to have a think about what everyone had said) but in January he gave his judgment: yes to the secret court.

Not only that, but he said that the three women who were making human rights claims would have their common law claims (remember them?) put on hold until after the IPT court was done with the human rights bit.

But the women’s legal team applied to appeal his decision, and in mid-October 2013, the Court of Appeal had a hearing in which everyone put their arguments forward again – once more with feeling. Again, the three judges in the Court of Appeal initially “reserved judgment” (went away to think). But only a few weeks later, on 5 November, the Appeal judges gave their verdict.

4. So are the human rights claims going to the secret court?

Yes, they are. As soon as this was announced (on 5 November 2013), the women said in a statement: “We are very disappointed that human rights abuses by the police are not subject to [a] fair route to justice”. They also declared that “The IPT is an affront to the principles of natural justice” pointing out that it “has only upheld a handful of claims in it’s history.”

At the time of writing, the Appeal judgment is still fresh; we may yet provide further updates concerning the full implications of the commentary that the judges gave over RIPA and the IPT. For now it seems that they did not necessarily agree that Parliament had authorised sexual relationships, but more that Parliament had not formulated the the wording of RIPA enough to exclude sexual relationships. The judges also agreed that such an intrusion would be very serious:

“The establishing and/or maintaining of an intimate sexual relationship for the covert purpose of obtaining intelligence is a seriously intrusive form of investigatory technique. We do not think that it is in issue that it amounts to an invasion of an individual’s common law right to personal security and of a most intimate aspect of the right to privacy under article 8 of the Convention.”

RIPA is now under heavy criticism as a deeply flawed piece of legislation. Its flaws are having a massive impact on the people who are fighting for justice after having their lives abused by police.

5. Who are the other people affected by the secret court question?

As we’ve mentioned elsewhere on this website, this case of eight women is not the only case against the police over undercover operations.

Three other people, represented by Tuckers solicitors, are taking legal action against the police for a breach of their human rights by undercover officers engaging in intimate relationships. These breaches also took place after 2000, and so the courts have organised that hearings take place together. That makes six people, three of whom are part of this case, three of whom are a separate case, whose human rights claims against the police are now going to secret court.

You’d be forgiven for thinking, by now, that there should be some kind of venn diagram to keep track of all this. But the key thing is that the number of cases and claimants shows that a) there were a lot of undercover relationships, that b) a lot of breaches of human rights as a result and that c) people really shouldn’t have to be fighting all these complicated and costly legal battles to get justice over something so obviously and utterly wrong.

6. What’s happened about the common law claims?

The five women in this case who can’t make human rights claims in the UK were scheduled to have their first day in court this month. Update: this has now been scheduled for mid-March 2014.

At this stage, only these five women are taking forward common law claims. The other three women (who are also making the human rights claims which have been sent to the secret court) may be bring their common law claims soon. While Tugendhat had ruled that these three had to wait until after the IPT (secret court), the Appeal judges disagreed, and ruled that “The stay on the High Court proceedings will be lifted”. The women had won a small victory. Eventually it is hoped that the full span of the police activities will be under scrutiny – over two decades’ worth – rather than only the activities up until 2000 – making it much harder for the police to argue that the intrusions are confined to the long-distant past or were isolated incidents, rather than an institutionalised pattern of abuse.

7. So what’s happening at the hearing in March over the common law claims?

Yet again, the police are trying to put blocks in the way of this legal action. The hearing in March (postponed from November) is a new legal battle – yet again, over secrecy.

The police are applying to have the whole case (of common law claims) “struck out”; they are applying to the court to dismiss the women’s claims before any information is disclosed by the police. (They applied to do this with the human rights claims too. Tugenhat disagreed with them, and wouldn’t strike out those claims.)

Over the coming weeks, we hope to explain further what issues the women will be facing in this latest round, but for now we can simply outline the two main points that the police are arguing:

Firstly, they say they have a policy called “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” – known in short as NCND. (This means that if they are asked whether so-and-so person is an undercover cop, they won’t confirm it, nor will they deny it. They will keep you guessing.) They say that they need to have this policy in order to protect the identities of the “brave” police officers who undertake undercover roles. They say that they – the police authorities – can’t answer claims of “deceit, assault, misfeasance in public office and negligence”, because of this policy – and so they want the claims struck out.

Secondly, they will be asking the court that if the claims aren’t struck out, that proceedings only go ahead with a ton of secrecy measures in place. We hope to explain these further in the build-up to the hearing.

So, in summary:

At this stage it seems to us that the police are mainly interested in covering up the whole scandal of how women’s lives were abused by their officers, and in hiding from questions about why campaigners for social and environmental justice were subjected to such appalling intrusion and disruption. In short, it looks like police authorities are more interested in protecting their backs, than in protecting the rights and lives of members of the public from abuse by their officers.

To keep updated about developments in this case, please follow us on facebook, twitter, and/or sign up to our supporters email list (see top right of this website). If you are a journalist or blogger, send an email request to be added to the press list: contact#@#policespiesoutoflives.org.uk (remove hashtags which are there to prevent spam)

This post was updated on 4 November to include the timing of the Appeal judgement, and again on 5 November to include the outcome of the Appeal judgment. It was further updated on 24 January 2014 with the new date of the NCND hearing, and to correct erroneous information which suggested that all 8 common law claims would be affected by that hearing. We apologise for any inconvenience caused by this temporary error.


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