Recently the Pitchford Inquiry confirmed Roger Pearce as a former undercover police officer (as ‘Roger Thorley’); the Undercover Research Group had already exposed him last year. We had managed to identify him based on details released the first report from Operation Herne, the police’s own investigation into the abuses by notorious spycop unit, the Special Demonstration Squad. And as our profile of Pearce demonstrates, he did not shy away from talking about undercover policing publicly – coming forward to justify relationships and the theft of identities of dead children.
We have since learned there are some anomalies in the information the police released, apparent mistakes with dates that are difficult to explain… According to Operation Herne, N85 – as Pearce was referred to – was an undercover from 1978 to 1980, and subsequently Director of Intelligence from 2000 to 2004, in which role he was also head of Special Branch.
However, Rob Evans over at The Guardian has understood that Pearce’s tour of duty as a spycop lasted from 1979 to 1984. Additionally, the Metropolitan Police recently confirmed to us that Pearce was Director of Intelligence from November 1998 to March 2003.
These anomalies raise several issues. To begin with, it means we need to question the dates given for the third role that Pearce had in relation to undercover policing. Operation Herne puts him as head of the SDS 1986 to 1988. In fact, we think it was somewhat later, stretching into the 1990s.
Herne is investigating undercover policing, so making a mistake with the dates of service of an undercover officer is surprising in itself, though not totally impossible. However, for the dates of Pearce’s role as Director of Intelligence to be wrong as well… that adds to the suspicion something is quite amiss. Here Herne’s dates are out by years, and have him working after he actually retired in spring 2003.
The big question is why Operation Herne published such misleading data. One would almost think they are trying to hide something…
And once again we have to wonder how much we can rely on Herne at all.
Those of us campaigning around spycop abuses have been skeptical of Operation Herne for a long time – we know it is a whitewash. Its ‘nothing to see, move along’ approach became obvious when compared to the Ellison Review into the spying on the family of Stephen Lawrence and Duwayne Brooks. It is the Metropolitan police investigating its own units.
Not telling the full story is one thing, but to present obviously wrong data is quite another. That the Pitchford Inquiry has now confirmed Roger Pearce as an undercover, and did so in the public interest, only adds weight to the problem.
This is because Operation Herne is central to the Inquiry into Undercover Policing. Not only is Herne at the heart of the Metropolitan police’s own response to the Inquiry. Herne also holds the archives of the two key spycop units. And until the long-awaited secure database is in place, the Inquiry trusts them with securing the millions of files and with granting them the necessary access.
That the police retain control of the evidence causes those spied upon deep concern. It is hard to image another situation where this would be considered appropriate. There is already upset regarding police destruction of documents, something now subject to an IPCC investigation (another organisation that has managed to lose all of our trust). And now we discover out that Operation Herne is publishing misleading facts. Once again it has demonstrated why it has no credibility and it is time to pull the plug on it
We will be sending a letter to Operation Herne’s head Mick Creedon asking for explanations. If we get a substantive response we will post it.