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

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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.

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Helen Steel confronts #spycop John Dines in Australia

Helen Steel confronts John Dines in .au9 March 2016

The follow statement was released this morning by campaigners Islington Against Police Spies. Another statement has been released via the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance. The Guardian has also published an article with video footage of Helen Steel confronting John Dines and getting an apology from him; it has more background material as well.

In the last 5 years campaigners, journalists and whistleblowers have brought to light the shocking tactics of political undercover policing in the UK. Tactics used by police units spying on environmental and social justice campaigns include officers deceiving women into intimate relationships while undercover; fathering children with political activists; spying on the grieving families and friends of victims of racist murders or police malpractice, passing information to private companies responsible for blacklisting of trade unionists, deceiving the Courts leading to miscarriages of justice and stealing the identities of children who have died. These shocking revelations have culminated in the Home Secretary announcing a Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing, which is now in its preliminary stages.

This week it was revealed that former UK political police spy John Dines, who was part of the widely discredited Special Demonstration Squad, now works at an Australian police training school and is course director for a training program for Indian police officers, which includes training in ‘emerging challenges, viz, Left Wing Extremist and other low-intensity conflicts’.

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Crucial hearings on openness of Pitchford Inquiry

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Repost from Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance
6 March 2016

How much of the public inquiry into undercover policing will be held in secret? How much of the police’s information will be revealed?

Later this month, the inquiry is holding a crucial preliminary hearing on disclosure. It will take oral submissions which, in addition to written representations, will be considered before taking a decision. There will be a demonstration outside the High Court on 22 March, ahead of the hearing, calling for the release of all ‘cover names’ of political undercover police.

The ruling on this hearing is announced for 3 May 2016.

Tamsin Allen is a partner at Bindman’s and one of the lawyers representing political activists targeted by Britain’s political secret police who are ‘core participants’ at the inquiry. She represented victims of phone hacking at the Leveson inquiry and was Lawyer of the Year 2014 in Media & Information Law. She explains what the forthcoming hearing is about and what we can expect.

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Upcoming Roundtables: Leeds, Manchester & Liverpool

Undercover Research Group are hosting a series of roundtables in the north of England for those who encountered spycops or have strong suspicions that they were.

These are roundtables for people in to come together to discuss their experiences and learn more about how different groups are fighting back against #spycops, including through the upcoming Pitchford Inquiry. These events are open to people from across the broad left spectrum, justice campaigners, animal rights activists, environmentalists, etc. who encountered undercovers or who have suspicions that they were targeted by them in some way. If you are thinking of coming, please get in touch. It is hosted by the Undercover Research Group and supported by the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance. It is closed to the media, and we ask people to respect the fact that people may be sharing quite personal stories and to keep this a safe space.

For more information see our Invitation: Were you targeted by undercover police?.

Leeds: Tuesday, 15th March at Oblong @ 7pm

Manchester: Wednesday, 16th March at MERCi @ 7pm

Liverpool: Thursday, 17th March at CASA Bar @ 7pm

Let us know if you are coming or if you have any questions, do get in touch, or follow us on Twitter and DM.