No faith in new undercover policing guidelines

Eigwhere we standht women who were affected by relationships with undercover officers, and who started Police Spies Out of Lives, have issued the following statement in response to the new guidelines for undercover policing issued by the College of Policing. These guidelines are out for consultation until midnight Wednesday 10th August 2016.

It is only through the actions of women such as ourselves, political activists, whistleblowers and journalists that abusive undercover relationships have been exposed, the police would have covered them up forever if they could get away with it – as witnessed by their continuing stance of ‘neither confirm nor deny‘ in the face of all the evidence and despite the serious abuses committed.

  • We have no faith that the measures proposed by the College of Policing will stop further human rights abuses;
  • There are no circumstances in which the use of undercover intimate sexual relationships are justified;
  • The use of such relationship amounts to institutional sexism and serious sexual violation;
  • There is no excuse for abuse and that those who commit or sanction such abuse should be subject to prosecution;
  • The infiltration of political movements is an affront to any decent society and represents an interference with the right to freedom of expression and assembly; and that within this context undercover relationships have a particularly harmful affect on the ability of women to exercise these rights.

We will do our best to ensure that the Public Inquiry brings to light the true extent of the abuses committed by these political policing units and that action is taken to prevent the abuses from ever happening again.”

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New undercover guidelines contain absurd get-out-clause

The College of Policing published a draft ‘Authorised Professional Practice’ for Undercover Police. This is the first time that such Guidelines have been published, and it is welcome as previously the world of undercover policing has been completely opaque. It should be recognised, however, that  they have been forced to publish it by huge pressure for change from people affected by undercover infiltration, and the public at large. standwus-icon

Its contents are not hugely reassuring. Positively, they do state that intimate sexual relationships will never be authorised or used as a tactic:

“It is never acceptable for a UCO (undercover officer) to form an intimate sexual relationship with those they are employed to infiltrate and target or may encounter during their deployment. This conduct will never be authorised, nor must it ever be used as a tactic of a deployment.”

However they go on to give themselves an unnecessary and absurd get-out-clause, suggesting it is ok for an officer to have sex if his life is being threatened, or similar:

”If a UCO engages in unauthorised sexual activity for whatever reason (for example, they perceive an immediate threat to themselves and/or others if they do not do so) this activity will be restricted to the minimum conduct necessary to mitigate the threat. In such extreme circumstances UCOs must record and report this to the cover officer at the earliest opportunity. The authorising officer will be informed immediately and the circumstances investigated for welfare and training purposes, potential breaches of discipline or criminal offenses and to allow an appraisal of the operation.”

There is no need for this get-out-clause. It suggests there is enough grey area that officers just need to find themselves an excuse for committing these abuses. It risks enabling these abuses to continue.

It is also essential that these guidelines are not seen as enough. Many of the women, deceived by undercover officers into intimate sexual relationships, see the practice as tantamount to rape. The psychological abuse that ensues from it is devastating, and the police themselves have admitted it is an abuse of human rights. It therefore should be outlawed in legal statute. Voluntary guidelines like these are not enough. The police have shown that they cannot be trusted to regulate themselves. The absurd get out clause in these voluntary guidelines makes it all the more important to have it written in legislation. The infiltration of social justice movements and abusive relationships with female activists over many years show clearly we cannot trust their judgement on what is proportionate and necessary.

Outlawing relationships in statute would mean amending the regulatory power act, but actually we would like to see it completely rewritten. Legislation needs to prevent undercover policing abusing human rights. People have the right to a private and family life. They have the right to be free from degrading and inhuman treatment. There needs to be legislation to prevent this political policing, aiming to silence dissent, and to reinstate people’s right to freedom of expression, and of assembly and association.

These guidelines are in draft form, and they invite you to comment on them. Tell them to get rid of the get-out-clause, and to outlaw this behaviour in legal statute!

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Police continue to stall in Undercover relationships case

On Tuesday 7th June, a legal case over undercover police relationships was in the High Court. It was the latest battle in a four year campaign to hold the police to account, and in it the police continued to try to stall these civil proceedings and avoid disclosing evidence. The claimants, two women and a man [1], are suing The Metropolitan Police, South Wales Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers over sexual abuse committed by an undercover police officer in Cardiff – “Marco Jacobs”. [2]Marco_Jacobs

Significantly, the Police backed down from asserting a blanket “Neither confirm nor deny” policy (NCND) to resist disclosing documents relevant to the case, and have now been directed by the court to apply by 23rd September 2016, if they wish, to withhold disclosing documents on the ground that it would damage the public interest.

Despite having very publicly apologised to 8 women for such deceitful long-term intimate relationships and abuses, Police continued their stalling tactics in this case, attempting to put back the timetable to trial as far as possible. This found no favour with Master Davison, nor did their shabby attempt to compel the Claimants to disclose their medical records and endure examination by their psychiatrist before the Police had given evidence.

It is likely that there will now be a hearing in the Autumn on the Police’s disclosure of evidence and public interest immunity, the trial is now set to take place around March 2017.

“Though the abandonment of the false defence of ‘neither confirm nor deny’ is to be welcomed, the request for claimants to disclose medical records before the release of any police evidence whatsoever, illustrates how Police continue to try to avoid being held to account” – Tom Fowler, 3rd claimant

“It beggars belief, that after five years, and despite hand-wringing public assertions that sexual relationships are an abuse and cannot be authorised as a police tactic, the Defendants have continued to bob and weave in this litigation in reliance on technicalities and police procedure.  Jules Carey, Solicitor for the three.

NOTES:

  1. AJA, ARB, & Thomas Fowler (Claimants) -v- Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis,  Chief Constable of South Wales Police, & Association of Chief Police Officers (Defendants)
  1. The Undercover Officer spent 5 years infiltrating anti-capitalist, anarchist, environmental, animal rights and other campaign groups, developing a number of close personal relationships, and in common with several other undercover police who have been exposed, engaged in the sexual abuse of a number of his targets.
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Solidarity picket demanding police disclose evidence

After the success of our main case, where the women won an apology from the Met Police, and the Police withdrew their defence, we are now supporting other people who have been affected by the relationships with undercover police, through legal action against the Police, and through the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing. These include the following people from the Cardiff Anarchist Network, we are hoping you will support at their demo outside their court hearing on Tuesday 7th June.

Solidarity Picket with people affected by relationships with undercover police
11am Tues 7th June, Royal Courts of Justice

Marco_JacobsFollowing the infiltration of Cardiff Anarchist Network by an Undercover Police Officer calling himself “Marco Jacobs” a number of activists are taking legal action against South Wales Police and the Metropolitan Police in an attempt to hold the system to account.

Since they first filed an application in court, both sets of Police lawyers have attempted to obstruct justice, giving a “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” defence of all aspects of Officer Jacobs deployment.

At 12noon on Tuesday 7th June there will be a Case Management Hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Join us in a Solidarity picket of the court before the hearing starts at 11am.

Can’t make the picket?
Share our social media messages, or make your own to show your support.

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Brief Summary of Public Inquiry Secrecy Hearing

IMG_0576This week, on 22nd & 23rd of March, Pitchford heard arguments around how much secrecy there should be at the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing. Full transcripts of the day one and day two are available.

The hearing started with a lively demonstration outside the court, with singing and chanting about stopping secrecy, the police’s policy of ‘Neither Confirm nor Deny’, and asking the courts to release the cover names of the Undercover officers.

The court then filled up, and over flowed, with public and core-participants wanting to witness the process of the Public Inquiry. The two days saw the barristers representing different parties involved in the Inquiry speak. Pitchford, the judge presiding over the Inquiry, started by saying how important the hearing was, and the impact it would have on the whole Inquiry.

The Metropolitan Police were represented by a barrister who argued that it is wrong to decide the level of secrecy on widespread public or ministerial concern, and that the overriding public interest was in protecting the undercover police and their methods. He faltered when questioned by Pitchford about how the secrecy they were asking for would actually work. Barristers for the National Crime Agency and the Secretary of State for the Home Office also spoke.

Phillipa Kaufman QC represented the 150-200 non-state core participants in the Inquiry who are victims of undercover policing, including the women we support. Kauffman delivered a barrage of impressive points, saying all victims have a pressing need to know what happened to them and whether it was institutionally sanctioned. She said it was clear that the Inquiry could not rely on the Police self-disclosing, and that unless the cover names of officers were released, the victims could not come forward to give evidence on the abuse. She talked about the extensive public interests against secrecy, including accountability of the Police, the rule of law, and fulfilling the terms of reference of the Inquiry.

Squires QC represents Elected Representatives who have been spied on by undercover police. These include Ken Livingstone, and Jeremey Corbyn. He put to the hearing that these people were spied on because they were left wing. He said this was incompatible with democracy, and must be brought to light, as it is crucial the police are seen to be politically neutral and democratically accountable. He called for the release of the cover names, and stated that MPs had been promised they would be told who was targeted and why.

Peter Francis, former undercover cop and whistle blower was also in court, represented by a barrister. The hearing was told that Francis wants to expose unethical, unlawful undercover policing practices, contrary to rule of law. Francis believes that cover name exposure would not imperil the safety of the officers or their family saying he himself feels at no risk. He said that he had never been promised lifelong confidentiality or been told about a policy of NCND. Interestingly, he also said that the techniques that the Police argue need to be protected were not sophisticated, and are already largely known about. He said the failure to reveal spy cover names would shield from public scrutiny the exact thing the inquiry was set up to examine.
The media were also represented, and they asked for Pitchford to allow their right to report on the Inquiry, and to continue their work to expose wrong doing.

Helen Steel was the only core participant to represent herself, and her powerful statement got a huge round of applause from the public gallery. She cut through the legal speak, shattered the police’s arguments around NCND (exposing it as a policy developed to protect them during the recent courtcase), and argued that victim’s had a right to know what had happened to it – no one should have to wait 24 years to hear the truth as she had.

Pitchford has now retired to deliberate on the decision, which he will not announce until April.

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