The Met’s Chaotic and Dysfunctional Record Keeping

Shelves-full-of-disordered-filesStorage facilities with most documents missing or misfiled, systems repeatedly described as ‘chaotic’ by the police themselves – internal documents reveal that the Met is having big problems sorting out its records management before it can even tell the Pitchford Inquiry what’s gone on.

Guest posting at the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance blog by Peter Salmon of the Undercover Research Group, unpicking recent statements from the force. 19 August 2016.

The issue of police disclosure and how public it can be is a matter taxing all involved in the Pitchford Inquiry. We know that behind the scenes there has been considerable discussion between the Inquiry team and the Metropolitan Police over how the Inquiry accesses the vast amount  of police material.

Recently, the Inquiry website published two statements from Det Supt Neil Hutchison, responding to questions from the Inquiry team. With dozens of supporting documents, they shed some light on what has been happening within the Metropolitan Police. The first statement deals with conflicts of interest and the prevention of the destruction of relevant records. The second focuses on the state of the Met’s record keeping and what is being done about it through Operation FileSafe. In this post we look at the latter issue.

Inadequate record management

What jumps out is just how much embarrassment was caused at the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) by Mark Ellison’s seismic 2014 report, the Stephen Lawrence Independent Review, in which he criticised the force’s inadequate record keeping.[1]

Ellison’s concern was that part of the difficulty in getting to the truth was the necessary records were not available. The force’s own internal follow-up reviews of record keeping used the word ‘chaotic’.[2] A supporting document states, remarkably, that the reviews had: identified wholesale dysfunctional, inconsistent handling of unregistered material across the MPS.[3]

Another document notes that of the material held in ‘deep storage’ on a site controlled by logistics contractors TNT, 54% of the records supposedly there were missing or misfiled.[4]

And all that before one gets to the actual material of concern. The importance of locating police records impacts not just on the inquiry into undercover policing, but on historical anti-corruption / child abuse cases, the related disclosure required by the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel and the  Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry and any similar investigations in the future.

As a result, since late 2014 the Metropolitan Police Service has been doing a ‘clean sweep’ of all its buildings and systems, in what is known as Operation FileSafe, not expected to be complete until 2018.

FileSafe is an off-shoot of the catchy acronym AC-PIT (Assistant Commissioner – Public Inquiry Team), formerly known as Operation Beacon. Headed by Neil Hutchison, AC-PIT was set up to co-ordinate responses to the issues raised by the various public inquiries. It answers to the Assistant Commissioner for Professionalism, Martin Hewitt, and is a sister unit to the Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) which provides most of the team for Operation Herne, the police’s own investigation into the spycop abuses, and which would oversee any future disciplinary cases if they were happen.

AC-PIT, working with the Directorate of Legal Services, is the Met’s point of contact for the Pitchford Inquiry and has responsibility for disclosure: it is they who will do the actual searches for material and redact it before passing it to the inquiry, via Legal Services.[5] Thus, its first job was to understand what the Met actually has – leading to the realisation that the records system needs cleaning up and sorting out if disclosure obligations are to be met. So, according to Hutchison, AC-PIT was split into two strands; the first dealing with Pitchford and Op FileSafe, the second with anti-corruption issues, such as the Daniel Morgan murder.[6]

Hutchison spends a lot his statement and its exhibits detailing how much effort is being put into FileSafe and the clean up of records across the Metropolitan Police. For example, they’ve identified ’83 different digital and paper based archives of potential relevance’.[5]

He also emphasises how much training and briefing is being given to relevant officers at all levels on retention of relevant documents. This focuses on Counter Terrorism Command (now in charge of the spycop units) and the Covert Intelligence Unit / SC&O35, but also encompasses every local police station.

Preventing destruction of documents

Following the publication of the Ellison Review in July 2014 there was a temporary halt on file disposal, which was lifted when new protocols were put in place in January 2015.[7][8]

These new protocols require that the heads of units give permission before any files relevant to issues covered by AC-PIT are destroyed. Where there is doubt, AC-PIT should be consulted directly. Hutchison mentions a number of examples of these requests being passed to him for final decision.

But what happened prior to January 2015? We learn that the when it comes to Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) which now has responsibility for the legacy of the spycop units, that he asked whether any relevant documents may have been destroyed. He talked directly to two of heads of SO15, Duncan Ball and Dean Haydon, but interestingly failed to ask Richard Walton, in charge for a key bit of this period and who retired from the police following criticism of his role the saga.

For Hutchison, it is sufficient that an unnamed Head of Compliance and Assurance through whom such requests would have supposedly been routed, has said nothing relevant had been destroyed while Walton was in his post.[9] All in all, we are reliant on the word of the commanding officers as given to Hutchison only.

Likewise, Hutchison provides us with a considerable amount of material on the standards officers are expected to adhere to, but given that it’s misconduct in office which is at the heart of this and other inquiries, this rings loud and hollow. If we could blithely trust the probity of Metropolitan Police officers there would be no need for a public inquiry in the first place. No other organisation would allow people who committed serious abuses to be custodians of the evidence against them.

If there is one concern he has met, it is that they are aware of conflicts of interest. To that end they have taken appropriate steps and ensured that no member of AC-PIT has been an undercover or served in the Special Demonstration Squad / National Public Order Intelligence Unit. They are, however, a bit more woolly on whether AC-PIT members have been involved in the management of undercovers.

Disclosure Still Isn’t Happening

So where does this leave us on the all-important issue of the Inquiry getting actual access to the material? Hutchison’s statement provides useful insight on a number of issues.

For a start, there still does not appear to be a formally agreed protocol for the Metropolitan Police to release documents to the Inquiry. Draft versions have gone back and forth between the MPS and the inquiry, which have yet to be circulated for comment to the ‘non-police/state core particpants’ (NPSCPs) – the people admitted to the inquiry because they were significantly targeted by spycops.

This is of considerable concern, not just in terms of time scale, but because the process is not being facilitated by input from the NPSCPs, a key stakeholder in the inquiry, who needless to say have issues with what they have seen so far.

At The Monitoring Group / Centre for Crime and Justice Studies conference in April 2016 attended by many NPSCPs, representatives of the inquiry pointed out that the MPS and the undercover policing Inquiry (UCPI) were still negotiating various obstacles. In particular, the access that the UCPI team themselves would have in order to conduct searches or supervise them.

It remains a very serious concern that there is not oversight to ensure the MPS is delivering all relevant material, and that vast tranches of important material remain in the control of the police rather than being turned over to the Inquiry.

It is also a concern that decisions to restrict evidence may be agreed only between Pitchford and the police, with NPSCPs having to apply retrospectively to have them lifted. This is seen by NPSCPs, and the wider public,as damaging to the transparency of the inquiry. While a lot of effort is going in to meet the needs of the police, there is a growing feeling that the victims in all this are being excluded from important decision-making processes that affect them.

Against Their Nature

Hutchison makes an interesting admission about the way this is challenging to the police instinct for defensiveness and secrecy when he writes:

‘The UCPI should be aware that the extent of disclosure of sensitive material required by AC-PIT is unprecedented and liaison is required to ensure staff comply with disclosure demands which run contrary to their training and previous experience’.[12]

This is reinforced by an alarming note, buried in exhibit D754[10] – an internal briefing on the public inquiry and record keeping by Counter Terrorism Command (which has taken over responsibility for the old spycop units) – that the head of Operation Herne, Mick Creedon, is critical of CTC’s lack of compliance with Metropolitan Police policy on review, retention and destruction of records. The implications of Creedon’s criticism do not appear to be addressed anywhere by Hutchison, implying he seems to think everything is fine. Interestingly, the briefing was signed off by one Richard Walton.

Earlier this year that a police whistle-blower came forward to let leading Green Party politician Jenny Jones know that her files were being wrongfully destroyed. The allegations say a number of officers shredded files they knew should have been retained but whose existence would embarrass the MPS. Hutchison only gives a short paragraph dealing with this concern, raised by the UPCI with him in a separate request. Half the paragraph is redacted; the gist of the rest is that, if substantiated, it will lead to charges. We are not even told if it is subject to an ongoing investigation by AC-PIT.

Hutchison only presented directly to senior managers in the spycop unit (now called National Domestic Extremist and Disorder Intelligence Unity) to brief them on FileSafe on 13 May 2015,[11] yet the whistle-blower came forward six months later, when all the new preservation protocols were supposed to be firmly in place. It does not appear therefore that the NDEDIU is taking this seriously or that AC-PIT is adequately overseeing things.

If that is the case, the Inquiry is failing at its first challenge. If it is prevented from getting the facts about what police have done, it cannot investigate.

=====

Part two to this article, focusing on other points of interest to those following the inquiry closely and a brief timeline shall appear on the Undercover Research Group blog.

References

  1. Ellie Pyemont & Penny Coombe, MPS Progress in the field of Information Management since the publication of the Stephen Lawrence Independent Review (exhibit D759), Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police Service, 13 July 2015.
  2. Penny Coombe & Ellie Pyemont, Operation FileSafe – Information Management: briefing for the Information Assurance and Security Board (exhibit D758), Metropolitan Police Service, 15 July 2015 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  3. Penny Coombe & Ellie Pyemont, An overview of activities undertaken as part of Operation FileSafe between July 2014 and March 2015, hightlight key milestone and future risks (exhibit D786), Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police Service, 6 March 2015 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  4. Penny Coombe & Ellie Pyemont, Operation FileSafe – Options Paper regarding MPS unregistered archives – Version 8 (exhibit D788), Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police, 2 March 2015 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  5. Neil Hutchison, Briefing to Management Board on Public Inquiry into undercover policing (exhibit D748), Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police Service, 10 July 2016 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  6. Neil Hutchison, Witness Statement on Rule 9-12 (PARTIALLY REDACTED) to Undercover Policing Inquiry, Metropolitan Police Service, 17 June 2016.
  7. Jeremy Burton, FileSafe Update (exhibit D777), email of 10 September 2014, Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police Service (accessed 20 July 2016).
  8. Following the paper trail (exhibit D780), Metropolitan Police Service (intranet article), 26 January 2015.
  9. Neil Hutchison, Witness Statement on Rule 9-10(a) to Undercover Policing Inquiry, Metropolitan Police Service, 6 June 2016.
  10. Counter Terrorism Command, Management of Information within SO15 version 1.0 (exhibit D754), Metropolitan Police Service, 11 June 2015.
  11. Neil Hutchison, Briefing note re Records Management (exhibit D767), Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police, 30 June 2014.
  12. Neil Hutchison, Witness Statement on Rule 9-12 (PARTIALLY REDACTED) to Undercover Policing Inquiry (paragraph 46), Metropolitan Police Service, 17 June 2016.

Why is the State Still Spying on Peaceful Protesters?

PSOLAndy Rowell, repost of his blog for Oil Change International Exposing the true costs of fossil fuels July 25, 2016

Here’s a simple question for you. Given the intense security pressures law enforcement agencies are under globally, why are the US authorities still wasting precious time and resources spying on peaceful environmental activists?

Last week, the Intercept reported that back in May when 300 protesters assembled in Colorado for an auction of oil and gas leases on public lands, “several of the demonstrators were in fact undercover agents”.

The story was based on emails obtained through open records requests which revealed that the local Police Department collected information about the protest from undercover officers as the event was being planned. During the auction, “both local law enforcement and federal agents went undercover among the protesters.”

The Intercept noted that the police monitored the groups participating in the “Keep it in the Ground” network such as 350.org, Break Free Movement, Rainforest Action Network, and WildEarth Guardians. The law enforcement agencies were relying on intelligence gathered by one of the largest oil and gas producers in the region, Anadarko.

“Despite a relatively uncontroversial protest” write Lee Fang and Steve Horn for the Intercept, “the tactics revealed by the emails, recent public statements, and other maneuvers suggest that the federal government is beginning to take a more aggressive stance toward the Keep it in the Ground movement.”

The Intercept’s great story is sadly just another example of the state spying on peaceful protesters. The US authorities have always seen the environmental movement as a threat, and its latest attempts to spy on the “Keep it in the Ground” movement is an extension of a strategy that has been going on for years.

Three years ago, the Guardian reported how the FBI had been spying on activists opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline, in violation of its own guidelines.

The truth is the FBI has been spying and trying to discredit environmental activists for decades.

Twenty years ago, I wrote the book Green Backlash – Global Subversion of the Environment Movement, that looked in part in how the FBI set out to “neutralise” direct action group such as Earth First! Activists were spied on, framed and even labelled as terrorists.

One of the most famous miscarriages of justice happened to Judi Bari, a new breed of Earth First! activist who was a key organiser of the “Redwood Summer” of 1990, a campaign of civil disobedience aimed at stopping the logging of ancient redwoods.

Bari and a colleague, Darryl Cherney, were blown up by a home-made pipe bomb under their car in May of that year. In the hours and days that followed, the pair were essentially framed by the FBI who tried to make the victims become the villains. The “bombing would be used as an unprecedented event to collate information and intelligence on environmentalists by the FBI”, I wrote.

Indeed you can trace the FBI’s antic’s against Bari back to the infamous director of the FBI, Edgar Hoover and his COINTELPRO programme which had started in the late 1950s which had used “classic misinformation, surveillance, psychological warfare, legal harassment, dirty tricks and infiltration” to spy on political and social activists.

The bottom line is that law enforcement has always misguidedly seen environmentalists as the enemy within.

Nor is the US alone in the way it treats environmental activists. The UK has been rocked in recent years by the activities of under-cover police officers, who whilst posing as fellow activists fathered children with protesters, or used the identities of dead children as cover.

There is currently a Public Inquiry into the undercover policing policy, with increasing calls for all the political groups that were infiltrated by the police to be made public.

Research by a colleague who works with the Undercover Research Group, reveals that the number of political, environmental and animal rights groups in the UK that have been spied on since the sixties by the Police is over four hundred and sixty. About 16 police spies have so far been uncovered – while roughly estimated some 120 must have been around since 1968, each for a tour of duty of five years.

Maybe its time for the Undercover Research Group, which has so far been focussing on Police spies in the UK and Europe, to extend its reach to the US.

It would be interesting to see what they found out.

(N.B. The paragraph on research by the Undercover Research Group has been corrected for minor mistakes and links – URG)

The case of Gary R & Abigail L … another two unconfirmed undercovers.

SPEAK logoDonal O’Driscoll and Eveline Lubbers, Undercover Research Group, 13 July 2016

Today the Undercover Research Group is able to release profiles of two individuals strongly believed to have been undercover police officers infiltrating animal rights groups in Oxford. They particularly associated with the high-profile SPEAK campaign against a local vivisection laboratory. They turned up in 2006 as a couple, with Abigail leaving in 2008 and Gary in 2010.

URG believes that, as we set out below, everything now points to them being undercover police, though nothing official has been found to confirm this definitively. This is why we have not provided their full cover names or images at this stage. Nevertheless, their connections to several high profile cases means the danger of miscarriages of justice cannot be ignored either, and hence why we have decided to publish at this stage.

Abigail and Gary have been a difficult case for Undercover Research Group. Suspicion regarding Gary began early on – while he was still active – and our extensive research shows that he and the woman he presented as his partner fit the profile of undercover officers – as we will explain below. Most importantly, they don’t seem to exist in official records, outside the time they were active in Oxford. It is clear to us that the lack of background is strong enough to say that Gary and Abigail are effectively ‘ghost identities’.

Much of our research work involved the effort to actually find these two people, to disproof the suspicions by showing that they just moved on from being activists and lost contact with old friends. We followed as many leads as possible, difficult in places as their apparent background stories overlapped with those of other people who really exist – perhaps deliberately so.

However, every lead dried up. In particular, we have not been able to find birth certificates for either of them, and they effectively only have electoral roll records for the times they were active in animal rights, or the year before or after.

Of the various possibilities as to what they may have been, we believe on balance of probabilities, that both were serving police officers rather than, say, private intelligence agents. Much of their activity sits within the picture of police tradecraft built up from confirmed undercover officers. Given that at the time SPEAK was a very high profile campaign and that another strongly suspected undercover officer, ‘RC’, had recently exited the group, there is reason enough to believe that a replacement would be sent to focus on this group.

We reiterate, that in this case, as with RC, no proof has been found that is as conclusive as was the case with say Mark Kennedy or Carlo Neri. However, given the high chance of miscarriages of justice having taken place, given significant court cases Gary would have touched on, and having exhausted all other options, it seems to us that the consequences of not going public outweigh the residual risk that we are in error. As with RC, we are prepared to offer an apology if they come forward and clear up the various outstanding questions marks hanging over them.

Undercover active in Norway?

One of the reasons why we have decided to publish our research about Gary and Abigail now, is the possible connection to the court case of Debbie Vincent: Gary’s presence at an animal rights gathering in Norway. We may need to add him to the long list of undercover officers who have been active abroad.

Debbie Vincent is an animal rights campaigner currently in jail having been convicted of conspiracy to blackmail the research company Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) and its clients. Her trial, which revealed that an undercover officer posed as an employee of drugs company Novartis in an sting operation against her, is also interesting in the context of Gary R.

Court documents show that at least one NPOIU police officer attended an animal rights gathering in Norway to spy on Debbie Vincent, and reported back on who she was meeting. Careful reading of the short bit of prosecution evidence in Debbie’s case file implies that the officer was not an external monitor (though at least one other NPOIU officer, intelligence gatherer Ian Skivens was seen in hanging out in the back of an Oslo police vehicle), but someone with access to the group. This indicates that he was a relatively trusted individual known to the UK animal rights campaigners present.

This is the same gathering that Gary attended and is known to have volunteered to wash-up alongside Debbie.

Gary is also know to have associated with Mel Broughton, of the SPEAK campaign, and attended his court hearings on at least one occasion. Broughton was later sentenced to jail for an arson attack on Oxford University.

Continue to our profile of Gary and Abigail.

What we have found on Gary and Abigail Continue reading

UK Professor quit course over involvement #spycop John Dines

Dines current Eveline Lubbers, Undercover Research Group, 4 July 2016

At long last, the Undercover Research wiki website has a profile of John Dines, the undercover officer who infiltrated London Greenpeace, animal right groups and local groups in Hackney in the 1980s.

John Dines is most known for his relationship with campaigner Helen Steel, who spent years looking for him after he disappeared from her life in 1992 feigning a psychological breakdown (like many #spycops before and after him).

Earlier this year, Helen confronted John Dines in Sidney at the airport, where he was waiting for a delegation of police officers from India. As she found out, Dines is now working for the Graduate School of Policing & Security, part of the Charles Sturt University in Australia, as one of the directors of a capacity building course for the India Police Service.

We did some work on Dines’ current career as well, and found out that a UK professor teaching public order and crowd control to police forces at the course in India decided to quit when he realised Dines was one of the #spycops in the current undercover policing scandal – see below. Continue reading

New undercover guidelines contain absurd get-out-clause

standwus-icon Repost of Police Spies Out of Live blog.

Today 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, although  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, as well as in these codes of practice, which can only lead to disciplinary procedures.

These guidelines are in draft form, and they invite you to comment on them. Tell them to get rid of the get-out-clause, and to outlaw this behaviour in legal statute!

More:

  • ‘Lisa’ and comment on new guidelines at 48mins into Victoria Derbyshire – iPlayer.
  • Sex and drugs off limits for undercover police .Covert officers can have sex or take drugs with suspects only when ‘necessary and proportionate’ under new guidelines, Press Association, The Guardian, 29 June 2016
  • Actually the new guidelines grant them a loophole, they can use sex if feeling „threatened“. See on Twitter.

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