#Spycops and Strikers: Grunwick to now

Strike to #spycopsSpycops and Strikers is a public event in London on Wednesday 15th February, part part of a series of Grunwick 40 memorial events.
7-9pm, Malet Suite, Student Central, 2nd Floor, Malet Street London WC1E 7HY. Reserve a seat in advance.

Should Grunwick strikers and their supporters be involved the Pitchford Inquiry to find out more about undercover policing? How to deal with the policing of strikes today?

In 1976, six workers walked out of Grunwick Film Processing Laboratory in Willesden and ignited an historic two-year dispute which united thousands to demand better rights for poorly treated workers. The workforce had a significant number of Asian women who were at the forefront of the struggle.

The events of 1976-78 are still remembered as an important moment not just in local history, but in the fight for equal rights for women and ethnic minorities. They brought people of different races and backgrounds together in support of the rights of migrant women workers, shattered stereotypes about Asian women in Britain, and changed the face of trade unionism. Grunwick 40 was set up to commemorate this vital moment.

Such a large, diverse and unified movement attracted serious attention from the Metropolitan Police. Continue reading

Simon Wellings – profile of #spycop now up

Image of Simon Wellings

Simon Wellings, spycop with the Special Demonstration Squad (2001-2004)

Undercover Research Group, 23 January 2017

Today we’ve put up our profile of undercover officer Simon Wellings, our 13th such profile of the spycops who targeted protest groups. Though not the most high-profile spycop, there are a number of things that make his story important nevertheless.

Wellings infiltrated anti-globalisation group Globalise Resistance from 2001 to 2004. He was part of the group’s steering committee and in a position to gain information on the activities of other groups as well. These included the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Campaign Against Climate Change, Campaign Against the Arms Trade and Disarm DSEi, as well as the Socialist Workers Party and trade unionists. With Globalise Resistance he travelled abroad a number of times, taking part in protests at international summits in New York, Seville and Evian.

Being found out

Wellings is notable for the method by which he was discovered – while being debriefed about his spying , he accidentally caused his phone to ring an activist friend. That friend was out, so a copy of the conversation he was having was captured on their answering machine. Continue reading

Counter-terrorism money to sort out police chaotic record keeping

police chaos record keepingEveline Lubbers, Undercover Research Group, 13 January 2017

Last week, the Police Oracle revealed that nearly £750,000 from the counter-terrorism budget is being spent on an IT system to analyse police documents submitted to the Pitchford Undercover Policing Inquiry. Ian Weinfass of the weekly police outlet obtained documents under the Freedom of Information Act confirming that the Home Office approved the spending.

We had a good look at the article, found some nuggets and we have some questions about how this extra funding will be spent.

Sorting out police chaos record keeping

The IT contract will only handle documents from the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) to see if they need redacting before being released to the Pitchford Inquiry and subsequently to the public. The NPIOU existed from 1999 to 2011 and focused on activist groups outside of London for much of its history.

It is not clear why a second IT system is needed. An existing IT contract is covering documents relating to the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad. This contract has already been paid for through contributions from all regional forces – although the costs for that are not known yet. Continue reading

Policing Hillsborough: What the new Thatcher papers reveal

Repost of Evan Smith’s highly recommended blog Hatful of History, 10 January 2017.

The newly released files discussed here confirm what the Hillsborough campaigners have always maintained: ‘For the Thatcher government in the wake of Hillsborough, the focus was on crowd control and dealing with unruly elements of football crowds. The actions of the police, at this point in time, were never questioned by the government.’

Evan (@Hatfulofhistory) is an Australian-British academic interested in history, politics and criminal justice issues mostly related to activist and left-wing past and alternative scenes.


In my previous post looking at the policing of acid house parties in the late Thatcher period, I noted that the Home Office complained:

No amount of statutory power will make it feasible for police forces to take on crowds of thousands on a regular basis. We cannot have another drain on police resources equivalent to policing football matches.[1]

Screen Shot 2017-01-10 at 9.00.33 pm.png

In the same tranche of documents released by the National Archives at the end of last year was a Prime Minister’s Office file dedicated to the policing of football hooligans and the Hillsborough disaster of April 1989. The file is primarily concerned with the Football Spectators Bill that was first debated in Hansard in January 1989. This Bill was wide-ranging and had been in development for three years, responding to the recommendations of the Popplewell Inquiry, which investigated the Bradford City fire and the riot at Birmingham’s St Andrews ground in May 1985. As well as proposing new criminal offences related to hooliganism, the extension of exclusion orders for convicted ‘hooligan’s from football grounds under the Public Order Act 1986 and electronic tagging for particular offenders, the Bill included a membership scheme, which meant that only registered members could attend matches and tickets for away fans to be highly restricted.

While this Bill was still in development, the Hillsborough disaster occurred and the Bill was temporarily shelved, although as the Hillsborough Independent Panel has shown, the Prime Minister and some of her colleagues wanted to press ahead with pushing the Bill through parliament, despite the need for an investigation into the disaster.[2] Continue reading

Policing Acid House Parties in 1989: What the new Thatcher Government papers reveal

Repost of Evan Smith’s highly recommended blog Hatful of History, originally posted 31 December 2016.

Evan (@Hatfulofhistory) is an Australian-British academic interested in history, politics and criminal justice issues mostly related to activist and leftwing past and alternative scenes.

The policing of house parties is of interest for the history of the undercover policing, because the roots of the #spycops units are in the policing of travellers, a scene that had quite a bit of overlap with free party one. The papers Evan saw did not contain any reference to the Northern or the Southern Intelligence Unit though.
We may have to go the the National Archives to see the none digitised files for that.


The latest round of papers from the Prime Minister’s Office have been released, relating to the final years of Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1989-90. While files on several topics have been opened, this post will look at the file dedicated the policing of ‘acid house parties’ (also known as raves) in 1989. screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-4-39-25-pm

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the phenomenon of acid house swept across the UK in the mid-to-late 1980s and while a number of clubs, such as the Hacienda in Manchester and Shoom in London, attracted large crowds for their club nights, raves exploded into open areas that were typical venues – warehouses, fields and other places left vacant by Thatcherism. For a number of reasons, including the noise generated by these parties and the use of drugs, these raves started to draw the ire of the police and of the authorities. One briefing note stated that the ‘main problem with acid house parties is the nuisance caused by the noise’ and curiously, stressed ‘[d]rugs are not the main issue’.[1] In a letter to the Leader of the House of Commons, Sir Geoffrey Howe, the new Home Secretary David Waddington wrote that there was also a concern that ‘criminal elements [were] becoming involved’.[2] This concern, ‘coupled with the need to reassure the public that the existing law can be made effective’, Waddington argued, required a new approach.[3] He also noted that 223 parties had been held in London and the South East in 1989, with 96 stopped by the police and another 95 prevented from going ahead.[4]

And so, after a localised and haphazard response by local councils and the police, in late 1989, the Thatcher government proposed a co-ordinated and nationwide effort to clamp down on these ‘illegal’ parties. Continue reading

Support Our Pitchford Project 2017!

250 Undercover Research Group, 3 January 2017.

The Undercover Research Group aims to dedicate the next two years to the Pitchford Project, to make the most of the current independent Undercover Policing Inquiry.

The Inquiry was called by Home Secretary (now PM) Theresa May to investigate uncover policing in England and Wales since 1968, and is chaired by Lord Justice Christopher Pitchford. Over 150 political activists and social justice groups overcame their scepticism and are now involved as ‘core participants’; more will be called as a witness.

The Pitchford Inquiry offers a narrow window of opportunity to get insight into decades of political policing and the associated human right abuses, and the Undercover Research Group wants to make the most of it. For those targeted by the spying truth finding is essential, and our Project is set up to maximise the options for disclosure under the 2005 Inquiry Act. Continue reading