Scotland – A total lack of independent scrutiny

Stephen Whitelock, Lead Inspector at HMICS

Stephen Whitelock

Recently the Scottish government announced HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland would review the activities of controversial Special Branch undercover police units in its territory. Two weeks ago it was announced the review would be carried out by HMICS’ Stephen Whitelock.

In this article we demonstrate how Whitelock has been a key player in a network of officers in and around Strathclyde Police intelligence units and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency over the last two decades. Some of these networks continue to exist to this very day, and include links between the notorious spycop units and the top echelons of Police Scotland. Many of these individuals would have known of spycop activity taking place in Scotland. So much for independent scrutiny.

Dónal O’Driscoll, Undercover Research Group, 27 November 2016

Mark Kennedy’s visit to Scotland

Not long ago, the Undercover Research Group learned that spycop Mark Kennedy went out of his way to visit Scotland in 2004-2005. At one point he drove friends several hundreds of miles to go to a meeting just south of Glasgow. As he was not involved in the meeting himself, it was seen as a remarkably generous thing to do, and it cemented his reputation as a helpful comrade. However, what we have learned to date is that more than likely he was interested in Faslane Peace Camp as well as upcoming protests for the G8.

This was not a simple trip with friends, but a visit to a place of interest to the political police. It has the hallmarks of a targeted operation, conducted with the knowledge of local Special Branch chiefs who would have played some role in authorising it. Intelligence he gained would  no doubt have been shared with Strathclyde and Ministry of Defence Police, who between them had oversight of policing of the regular protests in and around the Faslane naval base, where a permanent peace camp had been established.

Kennedy would be back repeatedly in summer 2005, as part of his role as a logistics co-ordinator for G8 protests. He was certainly back on Strathclyde’s patch as Glasgow hosted national meetings to prepare the protests, and during the G8 itself at the important protest convergence centre in the city. Other undercovers from the NPOIU spycop unit were present in Glasgow that year as well, including Jason Bishop.

The HM Inspectorate of Constabulary Review

Fast forward a decade to the present. The spycops scandal has exploded, after the exposure of Kennedy. The Pitchford Inquiry is now investigating activities of undercover officers. However, it is limited to England and Wales despite many abuses taking place abroad, particularly in Scotland. This has led to considerable pressure on the SNP Government to get Scotland included in the Pitchford Inquiry or to launch its own independent one.

Having been knocked back by Theresa May when it came to getting into Pitchford, the response from the Justice Minister, Michael Matheson was to pass the buck to HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS). Another debatable decision as HMICS is – like its English & Wales counterpart – mostly staffed by police. Furthermore, the new head of Police Scotland, Phil Gormley is someone who used to oversee one of the spycop units, and his wife Claire Stevens is also an Inspector with HMIC in England.

Last weekend a series of new issues emerged with HMICS when the Scottish Herald uncovered that the man leading the review for HMICS was one Steve Whitelock, who had been involved in overseeing covert policing for the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA). This led the government rush to reassure campaigners that HMICS was independent.

We strongly beg to differ. Here is why. Continue reading