Harriet Wistrich and Gareth Peirce with Kate Wilson

Since the first women began to expose these human rights violations perpetrated against them by Metropolitan Police Special Branch units in 2010, our fight has brought to public attention shocking revelations about political policing that would otherwise have remained a British state secret.


This case was first lodged in December 2011 against the Metropolitan Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers(ACPO). It concerned eight women who were deceived into long-term intimate relationships by five officers who had infiltrated social and environmental justice campaigns. The women were represented by Birnberg Peirce and partners.

“The women assert that the actions of the undercover officers breached their rights as protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, including Article 3 (no one shall be subject to inhumane and degrading treatment) and Article 8 (respect for private and family life, including the right to form relationships without unjustified interference by the state). The women are also bringing claims for deceit, assault, misfeasance in public office and negligence.”
– Press Release – December 2011

The women’s case included common law claims and human rights claims. In both parts of the case the women faced legal battles from the police, who have attempted to strike out the case, have it sent to secret court, and who have attempted to hide behind Neither Confirm Nor Deny. The women asserted that the actions of the Metropolitan police officers breached their human rights, subjecting them to inhumane and degrading treatment, and disrespecting their private and family life and their right to form relationships without unjustified interference by the state. The Metropolitan Police agreed that they had abused their human rights, in their full apology, which was part of the settlement of the initial case.


Police attempt to force use of secret court: 2013. Judge Tugendhat ruled that human rights cases should be held in the IPT but common law-only ones should be in open court (Jan 2013), but that the case should be delayed until after IPT hearings – High Court permits secrecy – Jan 2013. After appeal in Oct 2013 Tugendhat’s judgement upheld, but that delay was removed. – Response to appeal judgment – Oct 2013

Police attempt to “strike-out” the case  : The police try to avoid adhering to normal civil court procedures – Police climb down and withdraw ‘strike-out’ application  – March 2014

Challenging NCND : June 2014 – the women force police to adhere to normal civil court procedures and issue legal challenge to NCND in court winning a partial NCND victory in August 2014 when the Met police finally admit Lambert & Boyling were cops.

Further background:
The Case > Our Stories – the eight claimants
The Case > The Officers – the specific deployments which this case concerns
The Case > The Command Structures – the subjects of the legal action
The Case > Legal Battles – an introduction to legal battles and legal procedures around the case


The case brought by the first eight women in 2011 was a groundbreaking victory in many ways. In November 2015, the Metropolitan Police gave a full apology, conceding that they had abused the women’s human rights, as part of a settlement. This apology has since been offered to some other people affected by relationships with undercover policing but by no means all. Many are still fighting their cases.


The case in brief:

In 2011 Tom, ‘Deborah’ and another individual initiated a court action against the Metropolitan Police Force, South Wales Police force, and the Association of Chief Police Officers over the actions and impact of Undercover Officer, Marco Jacobs’, intrusion in their lives and the distress it has caused. This case has now been settled.

Background information:


The Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing was established largely because of the public outrage at undercover officers deceiving women into intimate relationships. The Inquiry started in July 2015. More information about the pubic inquiry here.

CEDAW (Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women – United Nations)

Individuals who have been subjected to discrimination under the  Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)  and who have exhausted all domestic remedies can make complaints to the UN committee which monitors the implementation of CEDAW. The committee of 23 independent experts on women’s rights from around the world.

In December 2017, seven of the first eight women to bring legal action lodged a complaint to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. They complained that the United Kingdom Government had failed to prevent institutionalised discrimination against women by the police. All the women suffered serious psychological harm through having been deceived into long term intimate relationships with undercover policemen and were victims of violations of the European Convention of Human Rights as a result of these relationships.  

In one of the first complaints of its kind made to the committee, the case stood to trigger a potential investigation and finding against the UK government. The UK is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), under which the case was brought.

The women hoped that the committee would find that they have been subjected to discrimination and that their rights under the Convention had been breached as set out in their complaint. Whilst the government isn’t obligated to follow any remedies outlined by the committee, it would certainly have created pressure to do so.

However, the committee found that the seven women lacked victim status because of the nature of the final out of court settlement of the claims. Unfortunately, there is no right of appeal.

What the committee had not taken into account, however, was that disclosure (ie. their files and everything written about them) was something that the applicants wanted as part of their remedy. The NCND (neither confirm nor deny) position of the police made this impossible so that kind of remedy was not on offer.

The way that the CEDAW Committee express its decision suggests they thought they were being asked to re-open the entire settlement, and that the applicants have decided on reflection that they wanted more than they settled for. Whereas what we see as the problem is that the way this case was settled is that financial pressure to accept a “reasonable” level of damages is used as a way of silencing women, and doesn’t respect our right to the truth.

Interestingly, it’s been noted that the CEDAW Committee could have been much briefer on its exposition of the facts. There are many cases where the decision is very succinct. Whereas in our case, there is a recital in a lot of detail about the shortcomings in the attitude of the Chair of the Undercover Policing Inquiry (paragraph 5.6). So perhaps this decision still has value. Even though the ruling was that this case wasn’t admissible, the detail of what undercover policing meant for women is on public & international record.