Briefing on “Neither confirm or deny” – a police tactic for secrecy

On April 5th, there will be a preliminary hearing for the Undercover Policing Inquiry, where the Metropolitan Police Service argue for further delays to the Inquiry and to reduce its scope. This is simply the latest attempt by the police to prevent information coming to light about their abusive undercover policing tactics. To illuminate this pattern of avoiding accountability and disclosure of any information about their shady practices, today we are publishing a briefing on their tactic of ‘Neither Confirm nor deny.’

To support the fight back against police secrecy, come to the demo on April 5th.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) state they have a ‘policy’ of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ (NCND) in relation to undercover officers. This means that when asked whether one of their officers is an undercover, they reply to the effect of “We can neither confirm nor deny that XXXX was an undercover officer”.

NCND is first and foremost a stance adopted by the security and intelligence services whose officials are deployed in intelligence gathering operations. It doesn’t have any legal standing. The police’s use of it is much more recent, and no evidence has been presented of it as a written MPS policy, despite being ordered to present it by a court.

Pitchford has refused to allow a blanket application of NCND in the Inquiry, and instead has insisted on looking individually at each situation where the police are asking for secrecy. He has asked them to apply for restriction orders in each situation, and will test any proclaimed risk of harm against the public interest of revealing what the undercover police have been up to. It is through this process that the police are now seeking secrecy and delays to the Inquiry.

The Inquiry into Undercover Policing has come about through the hard work of the people affected, activists, and a whistle blower. The police have fought at every turn in court, to avoid having to give any information publicly about their secret political policing units. They use NCND, and their applications for restriction orders, as a shield to avoid proper scrutiny of their actions, and to cover up the illegal and immoral activities of political undercover police officers.

Want to stand with the people affected by undercover policing and demand the truth about the activities of these abusive political policing units? Come to the demo, outside the Royal Courts of Justice, 9-10am on the 5th of April.

Find out more you can do to support the fight for truth around undercover policing.



PRESS RELEASE: Metropolitan police withdraw motion to strike out womens’ case, as legal battle continues

In a surprise move today the solicitors for the Metropolitan Police have withdrawn their application to strike out the case of women who were deceived into intimate relationships with undercover police. The application was the latest in a series of attempts to avoid answering the claims made by the women and hide behind a veil of secrecy.

Despite clinging to their assertion that they can neither confirm nor deny the identities of any former undercover officers they say that in the light of the announcement by the home secretary of a public enquiry into undercover policing “it is now not proportionate or appropriate for the claims to be struck out.”

Today the women said:

“We welcome this long overdue decision to withdraw an application which we were were confident no court would grant. The previously inconsistent approach by the Police in which they took part in a TV series about the Special Demonstration Squad and had confirmed the identity of some officers, and the information already in the public domain means that this application was farcical. The Police have failed thus far to provide a substantive response to the claims, and we hope that they will now  do so without further delay. We expect the police to stop prevaricating and acknowledge the harm done by their officers.”

In a statement last week, the women said:

“Neither Confirm Nor Deny” should not be used as a shield to prevent any illegal and immoral activities by the police from ever coming to light. Effectively they are attempting to use NCND to evade accountability and avoid any genuine scrutiny of their actions.”

Since publicising this case the women have been inundated with expressions of public support and outrage at the police’s actions.  The women will keep pushing for truth, justice and to prevent this deceitful abuse from ever happening again.


Harriet Wistrich, Birnberg Peirce & Partners (

Background Notes

This application involved 5 women who were deceived into intimate relationships by undercover police officers in the Special Demonstration Squad – Bob Lambert, John Dines, Jim Boyling and Mark Jenner.  It is linked to the case of another 3 women who were deceived into relationships with Mark Kennedy of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.  Further information about the case is available on the website:



Secrecy Hearing – why “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” should not stand

At a court hearing this month, the police are applying to have the women’s case struck out, asserting that their claimed ‘policy’ of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ (NCND) means that they cannot comment or respond to the women’s claims – and therefore a trial should not take place because it would be unfair to the police.

It’s incredible that they are attempting to use their own refusal to disclose the truth about their actions to claim they then wouldn’t have a fair trial, and so deny any form of public trial or justice to the women who were abused.

Is there a ‘policy’ of NCND?

The women launched their legal action in December 2011, but it was not until June 2012 that the police first mentioned NCND in relation to the claim. You might think if there had been such a long standing policy this would have been highlighted in the first police response. No doubt the police do take measures to protect the identity of undercover officers and to ensure that operational methods are not widely disclosed, but that is not the same as a policy which prevents them from ever commenting, no matter what the circumstances.

Despite disclosure obligations required as part of the legal process the police have not provided any written document which sets out the purported policy. Such documentary evidence describing the policy, and requiring members of the force to comply with it, would ordinarily be expected given the stated purposes which the ‘policy’ serves.

The past shows no policy in place

In 2002 the Special Demonstration Squad co-operated with and gave their blessing to the TV series ‘True Spies‘ – former undercover officers and their supervisors were interviewed for the programme, and talked about operational undercover tactics.

In 2010, when Mark Kennedy was exposed by campaigners, the police confirmed to the media that he was an undercover officer. In 2011 they confirmed to the media that Jim Boyling was an undercover officer.

In October 2011 Met Police Chief Bernard Hogan-Howe was asked questions in relation to undercover officer Jim Boyling / Sutton at a meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority. He answered and did not refer to a policy of NCND. Is it really plausible that the Met Chief would not know about or adhere to such a policy if it was in place?

These are just some examples which indicate that ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ is not what the police claim it to be. In order to have the women’s case struck out the police are trying to present NCND as a policy that has no exceptions. They assert they have to adhere to this to protect the safety of officers. There appears to be little concern, however, about protecting members of the public from the actions of undercover officers and their commanders.

No hiding place

“Neither Confirm Nor Deny” should not be used as a shield to prevent any illegal and immoral activities by the police from ever coming to light. Effectively they are attempting to use NCND to evade accountability and avoid any genuine scrutiny of their actions.

The court hearing will begin on Tuesday 18 March 2014 – see here for details of a week of solidarity action. Supporters are asked to gather outside court on the first day of the hearing.


“More consistency needed” – women respond to College of Policing’s comments re new training programme

Eight women taking legal action against police after being duped into long-term intimate relationships with undercover police officers say they can only give a cautious welcome to comments by Alex Marshall of the College of Policing , in which he declared that a “new training programme” would “explicitly” state “that sexual activity while undercover is not allowed”. The women say more consistency is needed, and that those affected by a 25-year pattern of abuse are still facing an unnecessarily bitter fight for justice.

They point out that Mr Marshall’s comments to the Home Affairs Select Committee represent just one of many contradictory statements from police sources. Bernard Hogan-Howe said last week that superior officers would “not condemn” past sexual conduct. Two weeks ago police lawyers claimed in court that parliament must have intended that sexual conduct by undercover officers could be authorised – a claim disputed by the women’s legal team.

Since June the women have been calling for ‘a clear and unambiguous statement that the abuse has ceased, and will never, in any circumstances, be permitted’; and ‘action and change to prevent these human rights abuses from ever happening again’. They say Mr Marshall’s statement about a new training programme represents just a small step.

A spokesperson on behalf of the support group for the legal action said: “It’s a welcome step but we must be cautious. We’re still not getting the consistency and action that the public is owed. We are talking about deep abuse of people’s lives, the violation of their human rights, that we know has taken place over the last 25 years. The abuses indicate a profound level of institutional sexism, and also institutional prejudice against members of the public who engage campaigning for social and environmental justice.

“There are still many questions which need answers: When does the new training start? What’s happening in the meantime? What about past transgressions? Are any officers facing disciplinary action – or are their superiors taking Hogan-Howe’s stance? Is there any protection for whistle-blowers? Will the police change their legal tactics – or are they going to continue to make their victims have to fight for justice?”

Additional links:

– A selection of contradictory police statements (part of HASC evidence February 2013)

Where We Stand – statement from the women and their supporters

Police Spies Out Of Lives – support group for women’s legal action


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