Peter Salmon / Undercover Research Group
23 April 2015
The role of Assistant Commissioner is the third highest in the policing hierarchy, so when someone is appointed ‘in a new Assistant Commissioner role responsible for the MPS response to the public inquiry on undercover policing’ you know they are taking the matter seriously. Martin Hewitt got this job in June 2014.
It turns out that Hewitt official title is Assistant Commissioner for Professionalism and he has all sorts of interesting roles to those following the sagas of undercover policing and police corruption. It is he who now has oversight of the investigation into the mass shredding of Operation Othona files – a large intelligence based operation investigating corrupt Met officers, including a number associated with the investigating into the deaths of Stephen Lawrence and Daniel Morgan. Both very long standing issues of great sensitivity for the Met. He is also leading the Met’s response to the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel.
And indeed, in line with his long history of cover-ups, within a month of being appointed Assistant Commissioner, Hewitt is making comments to the effect that whatever cooperation the Met give the public inquiry to undercover policing, their first and foremost agenda is to protect their officers:
The Met will hand over all the records we can find to the public inquiry, but we will ask that some of them remain confidential in order to protect both the safety of the officers and others that may be exposed by the deployment, and to protect the tactics used.
This sounds very much like the defence of Neither Confirm Nor Deny that the police are using as often as they can, which is currently been taken down in High Court in cases brought by people that were spied upon to hold the Met to account.
He goes on to say:
It must also be made clear that undercover policing has already changed significantly since the 1990s. Units like the SDS, which was closed down in 2008, are no longer in existence and undercover operations today are unrecognisable from how that unit operated. There are now much stronger legal and ethical safeguards. Legislation requires an officer authorising an undercover deployment to take into account, and minimise, the risk of interference with the private and family life of people who are not the intended subjects.
A sleight of hand here, as the legislation he refers to, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), was introduced in 2000. These abuses continued right until 2010 at least – that we know of, and only last year the National Undercover Working Group was torn to shreds in a review by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary. So we can see the Met are clearly adopting their usual tactics of ‘go away, nothing to see’, with illusionary promises of change.
But should we be surprised. A quick look at Hewitt’s biography says otherwise. We are dealing with the man who was the line manager for the unit that shot Mark Duggan and in the minutes afterwards became Gold Commander dealing with that situation. He has always defended his officers, as his testimony at Duggan’s inquest shows.
Yet, it is the phone-hacking scandal that shows the extent of his willingness to engage in cover up. Hewitt, then a Commander, was one of the high-ranking officers who were part of Operation Varec. After the conviction of News of the World journalist Clive Goodman for hacking the phones of the Royal Family, there were consistent allegations that phone hacking was a wide-spread practice within the newspaper industry. Varec was set up to review this, and amazingly allowed its Head, John Yates , another leading Met officer overseeing spy units and anti-corruption, to tell Commissioner Paul Stephenson that there was no new evidence – a statement convincingly exposed as a bare-face lie during the Leveson Inquiry. For some reason Hewitt’s statement to the Leveson Inquiry has been sealed for 100 years. Yates went on to oversee the spycop units as Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations.
Finally, we’d note the name of the other officer of Commander rank on Operation Varec – Stephen Kavanagh, now Chief Constable of Essex. This former anti-terrorism officer was a founding member of John Grieve’s Racial and Violent Crimes Task Force, notable for its connections with Special Branch and for spying on Duwayne Brooks. From there he went on to the Met’s Anti-Corruption unit as head of intelligence. Later he was given responsibility for overseeing the Met’s investigations into the phone hacking scandal in 2012 (Operations Elveden, Weeting and Tuleta).
The pattern seen elsewhere is being repeated yet again here, trusted officers being placed at the heart of operations where the Metropolitan Police’s reputation is at stake. These are not officers whose primary concern is justice, their one and only goal seems to be protecting the Metropolitan Police, to tell us to ‘move along, nothing to see here’. We for one will be very surprised if he does anything other than obstruct the quest for justice by the many, many people whose lives have been invaded by undercover police.
Go to the full profile on Martin Hewitt.