Human Rights Claims

Alongside the people affected’s common law claims, some of them are bringing claims under the Human Rights Act.

 

Undercover relationships – an appalling abuse of human rights

“I acknowledge that these relationships were a violation of the women’s  human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma.” Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, the Metropolitan Police.

Undercover officers having intimate and sexual relationships with members of public they are targeting is an abuse of their human rights. It is degrading treatment, that interferes with their private and family life, and their rights to freedom of expression and association. Another serious issue is the abuse of the human rights of the friends and families of targets, which is considered by police to be ‘collateral intrusion’ (see below), and which perversely seems to appears to require less rigorous tests to authorise than intrusion  into the lives of “suspects”

Taking the police to court over human rights claims

Although all of the people affected had their human rights breached by what happened, only some 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 people whose  lives  were disrupted after 2000 are able to bring claims under that law.

The law that oversees undercover officers is The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).   Unfortunately, anything authorised under RIPA, can only be challenged   in the secret court – the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, so these human   rights claims are currently being help in secret, where not even the   solicitors of the claimants allowed to attend, and when this court gives  its judgement, it does not have to give any reasoning. The fact the  RIPA  could authorise these relationships was challenged by the eight  women  case, but unfortunately the challenge was lost.

The European Convention of Human Rights

This  is an  international treaty to protect human rights and fundamental  freedoms  in Europe. It was incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights  Act 1998.  It’s first 18 articles spell out people’s main rights and  freedoms.

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.  The people 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.

Article 3 prohibits “inhuman or degrading treatment”

“It   turns your life upside down. Everything that you thought you knew   suddenly becomes unreal; everything changes. You do not know who you  can  trust any more. It destroys everything.” Helen Steel

“I have experienced  the psychological damage that these operations can cause. It is deep  and it is long lasting, and I think that the intrusiveness and the  psychological violence that is inherent in these tactics, and not just  the sexual relationships, but the intimacy, the abuse of trust, which is  completely inherent to any undercover policing  operation could be  seriously underestimated by anyone who has not been subjected to that  tactic.” Kate Wilson

Article 3 is an absolute human right – it is not possible to authorise someone to violate Article 3 under any circumstances.

In their apology, the Police admitted the relationships were a “gross violation of personal dignity and integrity,” and said officers “preyed on the women’s good nature and had manipulated their emotions to a gratuitous extent.

These  relationships caused serious long-term harm and psychological trauma to  the victims and others close to them. This, and the nature of the  deception involved, mean they were a violations of Article 3.   If this is upheld in court, a change in the law around the authorisation of intimate relationships by undercover officers might be  forced.

What happened to us has been akin to psychological torture” ‘Lisa

Article 8 provides a right to respect for one’s “private and family life.
“I have been abused in by an undercover police officer who was sent into my life, into my home, into my parents’ home, and into my bed by the Metropolitan Police.” Kate Wilson

 “I met him when I was 29, and he disappeared about three months before I  was 35. It was the time when I wanted to have children”Alison’

Intimate  and sexual relationships by undercover officers concealing their real  identity from the other person/s in the relationship/s represent a clear  violation of the right to respect for private and family life.  These relationships involved intrusion into people’s families, with  some officers attending family funerals, and helping women through the  grieving process. In their Apology, the Met Police admitted it was a “gross violation” of  the women’s privacy.

Article 10 provides the right to freedom of expression,  &  Article 11 protects the right to freedom of assembly and association.

“There is probably more damage and violence that happens on a regular basis  on  a Friday night in town centres when people get drunk, but there is  not a  proposal to infiltrate every pub in the country on the off-chance  that  you are going to be able to prevent violence and damage. This is  about  political policing and trying to interfere with what is actually  a  recognised right to freedom of association and freedom of  expression.” Helen Steel

“It has had a massive impact on my political activity…I suspected within   about a month of his disappearance, and after about 18 months of   different searches I came to believe it… I withdrew from political activity.” Alison

“I  have been the subject of systematic surveillance and violations of my  intimacy, my right to privacy, and my bodily integrity, for at least the  last 18 years by police forces that are cooperating across European  borders. Put simply it is a story of human rights abuse and persecution  by secret political police because of my beliefs and political  activities…..” Kate Wilson

Women  have been targeted because of their participation in social justice  campaigns. Intimate and sexual relationships have been used as a tactic  to infiltrate campaigning and political organisatons. These  relationships resulted in real psychological harm, violating the right to freedom of expression, and the right to freedom of assembly and association.

Any “like-minded activist” was considered a  valid target for infiltration, and further authorisation was not sought  for their inclusion into the operation, regardless of their relevance  to any investigation. This approach is clearly interferes with the right  to freedom of expression, and the right to freedom of assembly and  association.

Article 14 contains a prohibition of discrimination including that based on sex, with respect to rights under the convention.

Undercover  officers having sexual relationships with female activists plainly has a  discriminatory effect on women being able to exercise their human  rights under Articles 3, 8, 10 and 11.

“This  highlights the sexist mind-set that thought that it was acceptable for  the police to abuse women, and derail our lives in order to shore up the  fake identities of these undercover policemen so they could undermine  political movements and campaign groups.” Helen Steel

Qualified Human rights
Article 8, 10, 11, &14 rights are qualified rights, but interference is permissible only if there is a legal basis; the interference is necessary in a democratic society; or the interference is proportionate to what is sought to be achieved by carrying it out.

There  is nothing in law which states that if a police officer suspects an  individual of involvement with a political movement, that officer is  entitled to have a sexual relationship with the person to try to find  out. Sexual and intimate relationships cannot be said to be necessary –   there are a multitude of reasons why any individual might decline to  become intimate with another person.  Given  the level of invasion of privacy and the serious psychological harm  caused by such relationships they cannot be thought of as proportionate  for getting information on political campaign groups.

 

Collateral intrusion and human rights

“He is in my mother’s wedding photograph, and I and my current partner have to see him in that.” Alison

“There  is no justification for somebody coming to my father’s funeral with me.  There was no justification for putting an undercover cop into my  family’s life.” ‘Lisa’

Intrusion  into the lives of people associated with the targets of the undercover  officers is termed by the police ‘Collateral Intrusion.’ Perversely, its  authorisation appears to require less rigorous tests than intrusion  into the lives of “suspects”

The  depth of the intrusion into the claimants’ lives also meant a deep  intrusion into the lives of family members and close friends. For  example, undercover police officers “infiltrated” deeply emotional  family gatherings such as funerals, weddings and birthday celebrations.  The psychological harm inflicted, not only on the claimants, but on  close members of our family (including infirm, elderly relatives) cannot  be justified.

Collateral  Intrusion is, it seems, a euphemism for violating the fundamental human  rights of people who are not even the specific subjects of  surveillance, without any real consideration of the psychological damage  that such deep deceptions might cause. In the same way that it is not  considered necessary and proportionate for undercover officers to form  intimate sexual relationships, it is always wholly inappropriate for a  police officer to insert themselves into extended families, in the way  that being part of long-term relationships would necessitate.

Instead  of being seen as ‘Collateral Intrusion’ that can be easily authorised,  every individual whose Article 8 Human Rights may be breached by an  operation should be afforded the respect of having the merits of that  intrusion specifically considered and recorded, including the specific  reasons why it is considered necessary and proportionate.

 

This page was compiled by the support group.

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