29th January 2018
Those with longish memories may remember the name Operation Herne. An internal police investigation into undercover policing, it started life back in 2011. The unmasking of spycop Mark Kennedy, and the trail of other revelations that followed, formed the broad context for its launch. The more immediate stimulus was the unwholesome revelation that undercover police had been stealing the identities of dead children to use as cover names for their deployments.
Herne has had what could charitably be described as a chequered history. Lowlights include its now long discredited claim that the identity of only one dead child had been co-opted by undercover officers (it was in fact normal practice in the Special Demonstration Squad). Then in 2014 it announced that there had been no undercover police surveillance of the Stephen Lawrence campaign. The independent Ellison report published the same day concluded that the family campaign had indeed been spied upon. That report formed a major trigger for the Undercover Policing Public Inquiry announced the following year.
Remarkably, despite its record of comprehensive failure to properly investigate or report in accordance with its brief, Operation Herne still rumbles – or stumbles – on 7 long years later. It has even found a stablemate. The small but disproportionately costly Operation Sparkler/Operation Nitrogen was initiated in Spring 2016. By January the following year it had already cost £250,000. Its focus is the Debenhams anti-fur bombings of 1987, for which two people were convicted thanks to intelligence provided by spycop Bob Lambert. Many believe that Lambert himself planted one of the bombs, and Sparkler/Nitrogen is investigating that claim.
Some individuals have recently been visited by police officers pursuing these investigations. Such approaches have usually occurred without prior warning and sometimes at anti-social hours or in unexpected locations. Some of those approached report the police demeanour and behaviour as intimidating.
PSOOL joins with other groups working in this area in the view that it is inappropriate for the police to investigate themselves in this way, and that the Public Inquiry is the place for these matters. We have released a joint statement, reproduced below.
STATEMENT ABOUT ONGOING POLICE INVESTIGATIONS
INTO UNDERCOVER POLICING OPERATIONS
There have been a number of incidences recently of the police contacting victims of spycops infiltration directly to ask them to co-operate with ongoing investigations related to their undercover operations.
Being contacted by the police can be intimidating and isolating, particularly for people affected by abuses of police power. We therefore want to make the following points clear for anyone who finds themselves in that situation:
You are under no obligation to talk to the police
You are not alone
We have no confidence in the police investigating their own wrongdoing. These operations, Herne and Nitrogen/Sparkler, are conducted by the Metropolitan Police who have a poor history of honestly investigating themselves.
Operation Herne was shown to be actively covering-up when it failed to report the spying on the Lawrence family, pretending nothing was amiss. The Ellison Independent Review, published on the same day clearly demonstrated otherwise.
Operation Herne also asked very invasive questions of the private lives of women targeted for relationships, yet refusing to confirm or deny whether the men involved were police officers or not. A collective decision was taken back in 2013 by many of the women involved not to cooperate with the investigation1.
It was the lack of trust in the police that lead for calls for a public Inquiry in the first place. Thus, we believe the appropriate places for the activities of the undercover units to be investigated are currently the Inquiry, for all its flaws, and the legal claims being brought against the police.
So, if you are contacted by the police:
- Know your rights2
- Just say “no comment”
- If you have a lawyer representing you, tell them to speak to your lawyer.
- Please contact any of the groups listed below to let us know if you are being bothered by these police investigations, and for support, advice and help finding a lawyer if you need one.
For more background see Police Self-Investigators are Doorstepping Spycops Victims
1 Read the women’s statement
2 Legal Defence and Monitoring Group, link to guide to your rights No Comment