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.
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.