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.Strathclyde’s Intelligence Unit & the SCDEA

It’s not one, there are multiple points in Whitelock’s career that make him one of the worst possible choices to oversee the review into undercover policing in Scotland. They revolve around the constant criss-crossing of personnel between the Strathclyde Police’s Crime Division Intelligence department and with the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA). At times it can be hard to distinguish between the two organisations.

In both organisations, Whitlock played an active role in overseeing the deployment of undercovers, He had significant contact both directly and indirectly with officers leading Special Branch in Strathclyde, though he does not appear to have served there himself (nothing we have found confirms or rules it out).

It is remarkable just how tight the network of people around Whitelock actually is. As the following notes and diagrams show, there is an on-going series of links between high ranking officers and Whitelock, with him either in the middle or serving long side them. As a result, many of the people he is being asked to investigate are former close colleagues.

Thus, in one sense Whitelock is the perfect person to do the review, as he was there in the middle of it all and knows all the key players. But to call such a set of conflict of interests ‘independent’ is beggars belief, and above all an insult to all those who were abused by spycops.

Profile of Stephen Whitelock


Timeline of Whitelock and other senior officers (click to enlarge).

Prior to joining the HMICS, Whitelock had a long career with Strathclyde police. Having joined in 1978, he was a detective inspector in Glasgow in the 1990s dealing with serious crime. By 1996, he was Detective Chief Inspector, heading up the force’s drug squad, and in 1997 he moved on to head the Force Intelligence Bureau where he also oversaw the Child Protection Unit. In 2000 he was a Superintendent running undercover police operations against fly-tippers.

2001, Whitelock was appointed Head of Intelligence for the SCDEA, where his deputy was DCI Gordon Meldrum. The Director General was James Orr, a former Assistant Chief Constable of Strathclyde (and ex-Head of Special Branch), while the Deputy Director was Philip McDonald, who had previously been Deputy Head of Strathclyde Special Branch.

In 2003/2004 Whitelock returns to Strathclyde as Deputy Director of Intelligence, and fits in a bit of training at Teesside University where he studies the role of an authorising officer for covert policing. The head of Special Branch at this time is Det. Supt. Johnny Gwynne. As head of intelligence, Whitelock would have worked closely with Special Branch, and with the Special Operations unit which oversaw and authorised covert operations within the Strathclyde area in general. A number of subsequent leading officers such as Russell Dunn, a later head of Special Branch also served with him at this time.

This is a crucial period for the spycops saga, with Kennedy visiting as noted above and the G8 protests, the largest known mobilisation of spycops in relation to a single event.

By February 2007, Whitelock is Director of Intelligence as Detective Chief Superintendent and remains in place until November 2008 when he transfers to the SCDEA. There he initially serves for five months as its Interim Deputy Director General, but is not formally appointed to the post, that going to Johnny Gwynne. Nevertheless he remains at the SCDEA as a senior officer under Director General Gordon Meldrum. In 2010, he is head of the newly created Scottish Intelligence and Coordination Unit within the SCDEA. Eventually in January 2013, Whitelock is appointed Deputy Director General; though in May that year he takes up the position of Lead Inspector at HMICS.

Finally, we note that Whitelock received a Certificate in Terrorism Studies from St. Andrews University in 2008. The Certificate is issued by the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, which happens to have leading spycop boss David Veness as a professor emeritus, and was where spycop chief Bob Lambert began teaching in September 2008.

The Strathclyde / SCDEA network


Strathclyde intelligence units & SCDEA with Whitelock’s positions highlighted (click to enlarge).

Phase I

A leading player is James A. Orr, who in 1995 and 1996 was head of Strathclyde Special Branch, where his deputies were Gordon Irving and Philip McDonald. In this period Whitelock becomes head of the Force Intelligence Bureau, a sister unit to Special Branch. Another sister unit is the Drugs & Surveillance Unit under Robert Lauder, who in 1998 became Deputy Director of Intelligence (previously he had been head of the covert assets unit).

In 1996 James Orr becomes Assistant Chief Constable for Crime serving under his brother John Orr. In this role he oversees all CID operations including Special Branch and the Force Intelligence Unit.

Gordon Irving becomes Head of Special Branch and will later come to public attention when – as head of security for Scottish Power – he is exposed for hiring private intelligence firms to infiltrate environmentalists protesting against the company’s power plants. This is also the period that London-based undercover Mark Jenner visited Scotland.

Phase II

In June 2000 James Orr became the first Director General of the newly formed Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA). He headhunts various detectives, many from Strathclyde to lead his team. Philip McDonald becomes Deputy Director General. Whitelock is selected as the first Head of Intelligence, with DCI Gordon Meldrum serving under him. First Head of Operations is Robert Lauder.

The SCDEA was an intelligence lead organisation which relied on covert policing techniques.

Phase III

Later Whitelock returns to Strathclyde as Deputy Director of Intelligence. By this time, the Director is Allan Burnett who had succeeded Irving as Head of Special Branch, with another old colleague of Whitelock, Ian McCandlish, as his deputy. In this period Special Demonstration Squad undercover Carlo Neri visits Scotland several times with one of the women he had deceived into a relationship.

When Burnett becomes Director of Intelligence in 2003, he is succeeded as Head of Special Branch by Johnny Gwynne. Assistant Chief Commissioner for Crime is Graeme Pearson who would go on to succeed Orr as Director General of the SCDEA in 2004 with Lauder as Deputy Director General.


This is a key year. Gwynne is still head of Special Branch so would have had notification of undercover activity on his patch from the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, such as Jason Bishop and Mark Kennedy. Whitelock’s old colleague Gordon Meldrum also makes an appearance, as head of the policing response to the G8 protests across Scotland, which – at least in part – would have been led by intelligence from undercover officers.

Whitelock himself is promoted to Director of Intelligence as Detective Chief Inspector. Serving with him is Det. Supt. John Sporran, freshly promoted from heading up Specialist Operations, where he had managed Strathclyde Police’s covert operations in relation to organised crime and counter-terrorism.

Phase IV

By 2007, a number of officers who went on to play leading roles in Scottish Police are now working near Whitelock. In particular is Russell Dunn, Deputy Head of Special Branch (along with Det. Supt. A Simpson), who would succeed him as Director of Intelligence. Whitelocks’ Deputy Director is John Hefron who served for several years under Det. Supt. A. Ronald in Lauder’s old unit ‘Drugs & Surveillance’.

Meldrum succeeds Lauder as Deputy Director General of the SCDEA.

The Assistant Chief Constable for Crime is John Corrigan, who in 2006 had taken up the post of ACC for Counter-Terrorism and is the ACPOS lead on that. This means he was very likely a member of ACPO TAM, which oversaw the NPOIU.

Phase V

Whitelock moves back to the SCDEA in 2009 where he succeeds Meldrum as Interim Director General, though the post eventually goes to Johnny Gwynne. Meldrum has become Director General. This causes a shuffling of posts in Strathclyde, where Dunn succeeds him as Director of Intelligence and Ronald is promoted to Deputy Director, positions they hold for the next couple of years. Simpson takes over from Dunn as head of Special Branch. It is in this year police were caught approaching Glasgow based activists with the environmental group Plane Stupid to become informers. It is strongly suspected it was Strathclyde Special Branch was behind this attempt.

Dunn would eventually become Assistant Chief Constable for Crime, and a general reorganisation takes place within Stratclyde’s intelligence units as the new models of policing around counter-terrorism take hold.

Whitelock remains with the SCDEA for the next few years under Meldrum and Gwynne. There he heads up the Scottish Intelligence Coordination Unit, making him one of the most senior intelligence officers among the Scottish police forces. He finally holds the position of Deputy Director General in 2013 for several months.

Elsewhere, former close colleague Robert Lauder is pursuing leading positions as the Scottish Regional Director for the Serious Organised Crime Agency, and Director for Specialist Investigations at its successor unit, the National Crime Agency until he retired in 2015.

Phase VI

Following the reorganisation of Police Scotland which sees the SCDEA effectively dissolved, Whitelock goes to HMIC. Gwynne, Lauder and Meldrum are seconded to the National Crime Agency where they join Phil Gormley, who had formerly overseen the Metropolitan Police Special Branch which ran the Special Demonstration Squad. Gormley becomes Chief Constable of Scotland in January 2016, and in August 2016 is joined by Gwynne who is appointed Deputy Chief Constable for Crime and Operational Support.

National Undercover police unit links

Founded in 1999, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) ran undercover policing units targeting political and protest groups on a national level. Its officers included Mark Kennedy, Marco Jacobs and Lynn Watson, and many were active in Scotland. The NPOIU was an off-shoot of the Association of Chief Police Officers in England and Wales’ Terrorism and Allied Matters Committee (ACPO TAM). It was merged in 2016 with a sister unit, the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU) into the National Domestic Extremism Unit.

ACPO TAM was unusual as it was the only such ACPO committee to include a representative from ACPO Scotland, usually the Counter Terrorism Coordinator. In 2006-2008, this latter post was held by Whitelock’s boss, John Corrigan, ACC for Counter-Terrorism at Strathclyde. Another holder of this post was Allan Burnett, who can also be counted a close colleague of Whitlelock at Strathclyde over a number of years. Another officer who served as ACPOS Counter Terrorism Coordinator in 2010 and who had close relations with ACPO TAM was John Marshall, who was Head of Special Branch in 2006.

Finally, we note a curious link. On retiring, Gordon Meldrum becomes a board member of vetting firm Agenda Resource Management in 2015, where he joined former head of the National Extremism Coordination Unit (NETCU), Steven Pearl.

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