460 groups spied upon…?

Herne logo Undercover Research Group, 22 June 2016

For a long time it was not known how many groups had been spied upon by undercover police since 1968. Without the cover names the #spycops used it was impossible to even to speculate.

However, at a press conference two years ago, the Metropolitan police surprisingly revealed a specific number of groups. The occasion was the release of the third of the Operation Herne reports on 24 July 2014, looking at the Special Demonstration Squad and its history. Mick Creedon, the Chief Constable of Derbyshire having direct responsibility for Operation Herne, stated specifically

…that over the 40 years when the SDS were operating, they infiltrated over 460 groups, across a huge spectrum of ideology and motivation.

The full text of what was said at the press conference is provided below, but first we want to look at this figure a bit closer. What does it tell us? How close to the truth is ‘over 460 groups’ spied upon?

For a start, it does not include the groups spied upon by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, so the actual number spied upon is going to be many more. Also, it covers groups on all sides, left and right-wing, single issues campaigns, family justice campaigns and so on.

Most of the 460 groups are likely to have a London focus as this is where the SDS were primarily active; but it is known that a number of them travelled to other parts of the country. For instance, Matt Rayner was at actions in Merseyside and made a point of befriending and visiting activists in the north of England.

We can only speculate how Operation Herne reached this number. Our suspicion is that it comes from collating all the groups that have been cited in internal SDS intelligence reports and similar documents (see the Ellison Report for such examples) – as far as those were kept on file and have not been shredded since. We don’t believe there has ever been a pre-existing and carefully distinguished list identifying which groups were primary targets of infiltration, and which were ‘collateral’ – as the police likes to call that. (Not that we accept there was any such thing, we think all intelligence was of interest for the SDS and its successors.)

Our reason for believing this, is that while each officer will have been given a group as a primary objective, that would have been merely an entry point to a wider number of groups. For example, Mark Jenner’s association with the Colin Roach Centre would have provided access to a wide number of campaigns of different types which would have been reported back on. Thus the degree to which each group was a target, and which was caught up through association is not entirely clear. However, from our examination of available material, at least some of the officers were directed to central points which gave them access to multiple sources of intelligence, for example Lambert’s participation in London Greenpeace, or Simon Wellings in Globalise Resistance. The group the undercover simply known as ‘N81‘ was placed in, would have allowed him or her to gain intelligence on many family justice campaigns without necessarily being at the heart of them.

It may also be that several different undercovers were reporting on the same group from different directions. The interest of NPOIU undercovers in social centres for instance (Lynn Watson at the Common Place, Mark Kennedy and Rod Richardson at the Sumac Centre, for example) bears this out.

Some undercovers would have more access than others; while reading between the lines on the activities of other undercovers, it would appear that some would have been tasked to focus on specific campaigns or issues only and told to ignore other issues altogether (for example the apparent strict division between infiltrating animal rights and environmentalists that can be observed in NPOIU undercovers). Another factor to take into consideration is the quality of the undercover concerned; there is quite a range here. In the jargon, while some were ‘deep swimmers’ such as Lambert, Dines and Jenner, able to go deep and wide, others were ‘shallow swimmers’ such as Chitty, barely scratching the surface.

Last but not least, we should point out that Operation Herne is not viewed as a particularly credible investigation, especially when contrasted with the Ellison Review that drew quite startling different conclusions from the same material. Nevertheless, that the police were able to quote this figure of 460 is telling enough. It indicates that a count has been done, and that the names of the groups are known. Likewise, the police are claiming that some of their officers are at risk even if only their cover names would be exposed, (a claim we will continue to challenge). It is obvious that to be able to make such a risk assessment, the police must have made the effort to go through all those groups spied upon to evaluate the present danger they impose.

The true extent of undercover policing abuses cannot be understood without knowing which groups were spied upon in the first place. For this reason, the Undercover Research Group adds its name to the other campaigners demanding that this list of groups be made public (and the list of cover names used by the #spycops too!).

Continue reading

Germany Asks to Join Spycops Inquiry, Scotland and Ireland to follow soon…

spycops memeRepost from the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance blog, 13 June 2016 –  written in tandem with the Undercover Research Group.

The German government have formally asked to be included in the forthcoming Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing. Five officers from Britain’s political secret police units are known to have been in the country.

Special Demonstration Squad whistleblower Peter Francis says he was the first officer to work abroad when he was sent to an anti-racist gathering in Bavaria in 1995. Francis was accompanied by his handler who stayed in a nearby hotel – the infamous former officer turned overseer Bob Lambert. The recently exposed officer known as RC is also reported to have been in Germany around ten years after Francis.

Mark Kennedy was also a frequent visitor to the country, and in 2007 went with fellow officer Marco Jacobs. Kennedy was arrested in 2006 in Berlin for arson after setting fire to a dumpster, and again at an anti-G8 protest in 2007. He gave his false name to authorities which – along with arson, of course – is a crime in Germany.

Like the Scottish government’s similar request, the German demand follows years of sustained effort by parliamentarians from the left-wing and Green parties. Tenacious parliamentarian Andrej Hunko has been working on this since Kennedy was first uncovered, and this week he welcomed his government’s call and spelled out the seriousness and breadth of the issue.

SCOTLAND WAITS AND WAITS

The forthcoming Pitchford inquiry is planning to only examine actions of spycops in England and Wales. As the majority of exposed officers were active in Scotland (and Scottish chief constable Phil Gormley had oversight of both spycops units at the key time) it is patently absurd to exclude Scotland from the inquiry.

Despite their government formally asking to be included last year, and even Tories demanding Theresa May accede, there has been no real response. It has been six months now, yet we have merely been told time and again that “talks are ongoing”.

With the preliminary sessions of the inquiry mostly over, it is starting to look like the Home Office is simply stalling and that the lack of a response will effectively become a refusal once the inquiry begins.

For their part, two representatives of the inquiry fielded questions at the recent conference hosted by the Monitoring Group and Centre for Crime and Justice Studies. They told those attending that it would be nonsense to exclude part of an officer’s story just because it happened abroad, and the inquiry would want the full picture.

Whilst this is some comfort, it is far from good enough. Firstly, the spoken assurance of underlings is very different to the declared decision of the Chair.

More importantly, it avoids many of the real issues. Spying abroad raises questions far beyond the officers’ own stories. Who organised it? Who decided their remit and purpose? How much did the host country know? Who is responsible for crimes committed by officers whilst abroad?

Peter Francis says SDS officers were given

absolutely zero schooling in any law whatsoever. I was never briefed, say for example, if I was in Germany I couldn’t do, this for example, engage in sexual relationships or something else.

NORTHERN IRELAND ALSO IN THE QUEUE

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) says police weren’t even told that spycops were being deployed there. Yet German police confirmed to Andrej Hunko that Mark Kennedy was directed and paid by German police. Which operations were done which way, and why?

That mention of ignorance is the first official comment from police about spycops being in Northern Ireland. SDS officer Mark Jenner was there in August 1995 fighting with nationalists in a violent clash with the loyalist Apprentice Boys of Derry march.

This week PSNI’s Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton told the BBC that nobody in the Northern Ireland police was ever aware the SDS were there, nor of any information being passed to them from the SDS.

With myriad other undercover operations going on in Northern Ireland during the conflict, to have sent Met officers in seems dangerously blase at best. Hamilton said

risk assessments have to be carried out. Anybody who’s deployed here without those assessments would be, in my view, an act of madness.

It seems hard to believe the SDS were so cavalier as to send their officers blundering in like that. Perhaps their contacts in the Northern Irish police aren’t admitting anything. Perhaps the SDS was working with some other arm of the British state. Or maybe this really is another area where the SDS simply didn’t think about the possible impacts on the people it worked among.

All this only refers to the SDS in Northern Ireland. Mark Kennedy, of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, was active in Belfast in 2008. He was there with activist Jason Kirkpatrick who has had confirmation that the Northern Irish government has also asked to be included in the Pitchford inquiry.

ALL IRELAND SPYING

Kennedy was a repeat visitor south of the border as well, notably fighting with police in a Mayday demonstration in 2004. It’s been five years since this was made public knowledge and Michael D Higgins TD – now president of Ireland – demanded an explanation.

SDS officer Jim Boyling was there in the mid 1990s so it’s clear the Republic, like the North, has a long history of being targeted by both of Britain’s main spycops units.

HOW MUCH MORE?

Last year we compiled a list of 17 countries visited by spycops over a period of 25 years. It is barely the beginning. All of these instances come from the fifteen exposed officers from the political secret police units. There are over a hundred more about whom we know nothing.

How much more of this – and what else that we haven’t even imagined – did they do? What campaigns did they infiltrate? Whereabouts were they? What crimes did they commit? Which children are still looking for disappeared fathers under false names?

Their actions – which the Met itself describes as “manipulative, abusive and wrong” – were perpetrated against uncounted numbers of people. The apologies and inquiry apply to actions in England and Wales, but it is no less abhorrent if the victim is abroad and/or foreign.

The German request is a major event. The extensive incursion of spycops into politically sensitive Irish territories surely means there will surely be more demands for inclusion and information coming from there as well. Affected activists have also initiated a legal case in Northern Ireland to force inclusion in the inquiry, a tactic that may well spread to other countries. Yet the disdain with which the Scottish government’s long-standing demand has been treated by the Home Office means the fight is far from over.

The arrogant disregard for the personal integrity and wellbeing of individuals was carried over to the laws and statutes of entire countries. Everyone who has been abused by spycops deserves the full truth, be they a solitary citizen or a sovereign nation.

Undercover policing back in court, as police attempt to withhold evidence

Marco Jacops Tuesday 7 June 11am demo at High Court before hearing for Cardiff Anarchist Network vs #spycops Marco Jacobs at 12 am

Preview of Emily Apple in The Canary, 6 June 2016.

The remaining civil case being taken against the police for their use of undercover officers in social justice movements is back in court on Tuesday for a case management hearing.

While the Metropolitan Police apologised and withdrew their defence in the case of eight women who were suing them following long-term relationships they were deceived into by undercover officers, they have yet to apologise or settle several other cases – one is that of Mark Jacobs, who infiltrated protest movements in Brighton and Cardiff.

The case, which is being taken against both the Metropolitan and South Wales police forces, is being pursued by two women who had relationships with Jacobs, and one man, Tom Fowler.

Fowler told The Canary:

It is really disgusting that having admitted the wrongdoing of undercover officers, the police continue to hide behind procedure, heaping extra suffering on the people they targeted.

Instead of admitting liability as they did in the case of the other women, the police appears to be pursuing this case. Central to the arguments in court on Tuesday will be whether the case can follow normal procedures, with documents disclosed in open court.
(…)
Jules Carey, the solicitor who is representing the three people involved in the case, told The Canary:

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

– Read Emily Apple’s full piece in The Canary.
– Read our profile of Marco Jacobs

Why Police Chief is unfit to lead Operation Herne (spoiler: he oversaw #spycop Mark Kennedy)

Mick Creedon Billy Briggs, The Ferret, 30 June 2016 – in tandem with Donal O’Driscol, the Undercover Research Group

The policeman leading an internal investigation into the undercover policing scandal at the Met Police is “unfit” for the role because he once oversaw disgraced police spies who abused their powers, according to a research group.

Mick Creedon, Chief Constable of Derbyshire Police, was appointed to lead Operation Herne in 2013 by Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

At the time, Home Secretary Theresa May welcomed the appointment saying there must be independent scrutiny of the review at the Met.

Operation Herne was launched in 2011 after revelations by The Guardian that undercover Met officers operating with a unit called the Special Demonstration Squad used the identities of dead babies.

The review was initially supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and led by a senior Met officer, but May told MPs that a police chief from an outside force would lead the inquiry.

Chief Constable Creedon was chosen because of his lengthy experience as a detective, having joined the police in 1980 at the age of 22 years old. He’s been in his present role at Derbyshire Police since 2007.

However, campaigners seeking the truth about the undercover Met Police scandal say he should not have been appointed to lead Operation Herne because of his past links to the disgraced units currently under investigation.

Undercover Research Group (URG) – a project formed to enhance the public’s understanding of the scandal while exposing police spies in the public interest – said Creedon is an “insider” and “unfit” to lead Operation Herne.

URG added that it has lost trust in the internal Met investigation.

Donal O’Driscoll of URG, said: “Piecing together the timeline of his career, showed us that Creedon has been overseeing operations of undercover officers targeting protest groups at various points in time.”

“The new proof of his involvement in the very undercover policing he is supposed to investigate independently make him an insider, and as such effectively unfit/unsuitable to lead Operation Herne. Moreover, it completely undermines the trust in the investigation – or what was left of that.”

The abuse of powers by some undercover officers with the Met Police led to the establishment of Operation Herne and also the Pitchford Inquiry, a public inquiry set up last year to investigate undercover policing in England and Wales since 1968.

Dubbed ‘spycops’, Met officers infiltrated hundreds of political groups including animal rights organisations, CND and environmentalists.

(…)

URG’s concerns over Chief Constable Creedon and his suitability to lead Operation Herne, an on-going internal Met Police inquiry, centre on his role at Derbyshire Police as a senior officer who was responsible for undercover operations.

In tandem with The Ferret, URG have today published extensive details of Chief Constable Creedon’s police career to date, revealing that he would have been responsible for Met undercover officers, including Mark Kennedy, who operated in Derbyshire.

Read on:

How Peter Moffatt, Justin Webb & Radio 4 told a pesky #spycop survivor how she could “better understand” her own experience

BBC drama UndercoverSome of us have been following the BBC’s Undercover drama (while others could not be bothered, never watch telly anyway). So far we had nothing to add by way of review, to what ‘Alison’ wrote in the Guardian about the differences between the series and having been targeted by #spycops in real life – by Mark Jenner in her case. The true stories are crazier than anyone could have imagined, – in other words, the BBC drama is completely over the top in the wrong places.

In his effort to defend his storylines on Radio 4 this morning, the series’ screenwriter is just making things worse. Like the police, the CPS and the Court before him, he discards the stories of the women and what they have gone through, by patronizing ‘Alison’ and the others with her. One of the other women, Helen Steel calls this ‘institutional sexism’ – and that is what is happening here.

Sometimes it’s good to just look at what is being said to understand the depth of it, in his blog BristleKRS summarised the interview, adding the full transcript and the audio.

Judge for yourself.


It’s a mansplainer’s world: how Peter Moffatt, Justin Webb & Radio 4 told a pesky #spycop survivor how she could “better understand” her own experience.

Repost from Bristle’s Blog from the BunKRS,  | Leave a comment

I’ve not blogged in a while, but sometimes something just happens and you have to get it down.

This morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme ‘Alison’, who was preyed upon by Metropolitan Police spycop Mark Jenner for five years using his stolen activist identity ‘Mark Cassidy’, criticised the BBC television drama Undercover.

Here is what she said in the brief, prerecorded segment, as it aired: Continue reading

Scottish ex-officer Paul Hogan spills beans on #spycops unit NPOIU

Paul HoganEveline Lubbers, Undercover Research Group,
24 April 2016.

Updated 27 April 2016: A total of four top Scottish officers involved in the #spycops scandal at management level – and counting…

While the police are throwing their toys out of the pram to keep the Undercover Policing Public Inquiry behind closed doors (Judge Pitchford’s ruling on this expected 3th May), it is quite surprising to find a former #spycop showing off online about his work work – but that’s exactly what Paul Hogan has been doing.

A four-and-half year veteran with the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), the successor of the original Special Demonstration Squad, Hogan even had a year-long spell as a senior manager within the unit. Soon after excerpts of his LinkedIn profile were posted on Twitter earlier this week (thanks @piombo), Hogan took down his profile picture; when he returned from a golf trip to Turkey with mates and the press started approaching him, the profile disappeared entirely. In the spirit of openness we have archived it below, and included it in our profile of Paul Hogan.

Breaching Scotland Yard’s recently-claimed policy of Neither Confirm Nor Deny in every possible way, Hogan reveals in great detail how in 2007 the NPIOU was invited to Germany to export its experience of spying on anti-G8 activists accrued at the 2005 Gleneagles summit in Scotland, to help colleagues there prepare the infiltration of similar protests in Heiligendamm.

This was the first of a meaningful collaboration between the NPOIU and the German authorities and contributed to their strategic planning leading up to the event in 2007.

Continue reading

1993: the year the Grand National was sabotaged – with help from Special Branch

Chris PlowmanOne of those stories that make you wonder why political groups were infiltrated at all. Apparently protecting the identity of the undercover officer – Matt Rayner – was more important than sharing the intelligence he had gathered about the plot he was involved in to disturb the Grand National horse races. One for the Pitchford Inquiry to look in to… Must have happened more often, how often?

Repost of RedBlackGreen blog
Originally posted 10 April 2016

How an undercover police officer played a key role in an action which cost the betting industry over £70 million.

Yesterday about 100 people demonstrated near the entrance of the Grand National against the cruelty of horse racing. Good though this turnout was – and not to mention another demo there on Friday and also one in London outside Channel 4 who broadcast the race – these protests will not by themselves bring about the end of the world’s most infamous steeplechase.

Many years ago, however, activists decided to do just by sabotaging the race. In 1993 they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams as it had to be abandoned and became “the race that never was”. The animal rights dimension has largely been written out of the story, however. Now for the first time online you will hear what really happened and also it will be revealed how an undercover police officer played a key role in an action which cost the betting industry over £70 million. Continue reading

Undercover Policing, Democracy and Human Rights

Repost of a blog by Graham Smith, in advance of a seminar about #spycops in Manchester next week. Speaking will be ‘Alison’ about Mark Jenner, the undercover in her life, lawyer Harriet Wistrich and Eveline Lubbers for the Undercover Research Group.

The Undercover Policing, Democracy and Human Rights Seminar, 5pm 14 April 2016, Roscoe Theatre A. Register for the seminar here 

Dr Graham Smith, Senior Lecturer in Regulation, School of Law, University of Manchester.
Originally published 6 April 2016

Dr Graham Smith

Dr Graham Smith

Policing is a tricky business. In the last twenty years or so the idea of democratic policing, which locates public police services at the heart of the rule of law and human rights protection, has taken hold globally. In contrast to regime policing, where police forces maintain unpopular state power, standards and principles of democratic policing position the police as professional services with responsibility for public safety. Triggered by the end of South American military juntas, South African apartheid and the Soviet Bloc, an international reform trend has pursued a winding path. The international community, including institutions of the United Nations and Council of Europe, national governments, criminal justice agencies and representatives of civil society have locked horns and grappled with problems of police organisation, power and accountability. Political questions on triangular relations between state, police and public are at the heart of policing dilemmas, and under the rule of law the police are subservient to law makers and have a duty to both enforce and adhere to law. Rather than the antithesis of regime policing, democratic policing represents a reconfiguration of the relations between state, police and public, and highly contested issues of law and practice dominate policing landscapes.

The international trend is clearly manifest in England and Wales. Continue reading

The case of Christian Plowman

Chris PlowmanPeter Salmon / Undercover Research Group
21 March 2016

Anyone who has been following the Pitchford Inquiry in any kind of detail will know that this week’s hearings are fundamental to how it is going to be conducted. At heart is how public or private the whole thing will be. Campaigners are calling for total transparency for justice to be done. The police are naturally demanding it is held in secrecy so nothing about identity or methods slip out – as that would be helping ISIS, paedophiles and organised crime (we kid you not).

At heart of the argument is Neither Confirm Nor Deny (NCND) which has been covered elsewhere, but it is useful to look at some of the evidence the police have submitted as justifying their stance. Particularly in the light of the experience of Christian Plowman.

Plowman was an undercover officer with the Met’s specialist covert policing unit SO10 (also called SCD10). As such he took part in many operations involving going undercover and would run several identities at any one time. Some of his work would revolve around getting close gun-runners and drug dealers.

Yet, in 2013 he published a warts-and-all biography of his time undercover, Crossing the Line, and how it had brought him to the brink of suicide. Continue reading

Triple Whammy! Helen Steel, Peter Francis & Scotland

Donal O’Driscoll / Undercover Research Group

Dines_confronted_in_Sydney

John Dines as he is confronted in Sydney by Helen Steel.

Even in the the roller-coaster ride that is the #spycop saga, yesterday will stand out. Keyboards were smoking as our various members sought to react to the breaking news. In case you missed it, we summarise the three stories that came out.

Top of the day was Helen Steel confronting the man she once called a soul mate. John Barker had been a north London activist who she had fallen in love with and they spoke of spending their lives together. When he vanished it was devastating to her and she spent many years tracking him down, discovering bit by bit that everything about him was a lie. Even his name. Years of destructive doubt followed.

He was really John Dines, undercover police officer who had been sent in to target her and her friends. Anyone who knows Helen knows she is a tenacious and fearless campaigner, but even for Helen this was a remarkably long and hard road. So when she finally tracked him down and confronted him we all cheered for her.

Continue reading