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


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.

Continue reading

Crucial hearings on openness of Pitchford Inquiry


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.

Continue reading

The Met Police must suspend domestic extremism unit now

typewriter partPeter Salmon / Undercover Research Group,
8 January 2016

The shocking story of deliberate destruction of police surveillance on Baroness Jenny Jones throws into stark relief what we all feared – the Metropolitan Police are going to obstruct the public inquiry into undercover policing.

Today, the redoubtable Rob Evans of the Guardian broke the story that a whistleblower in the National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (the former National Domestic Extremism Unit which employed notorious spycops such as Mark Kennedy) had written to Baroness Jones to reveal the systemic destruction of records relating to her among other allegation of impropriety in the unit. Continue reading

The Pitchford Inquiry’s Geographical Blinkers

Most known spycops worked abroad

First published at the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance blog, 30 October 2015.

The public inquiry into undercover policing is in a stage of active preparation, with the hearings expected to start properly next summer.

We’ve already had the inquiry’s Terms of Reference set out by the Home Secretary. It will

…inquire into and report on undercover police operations conducted by English and Welsh police forces in England and Wales since 1968.


[This] will include, but not be limited to, the undercover operations of the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.

More than half the exposed officers from those units worked outside England and Wales. They spied in at least seventeen different countries over a period of 25 years (the Undercover Research Group has produced a detailed list of dozens of instances). If this is the case with the known officers, it’s safe to presume many of their colleagues did it too.

Some officers are known to have committed crimes whilst working undercover abroad. It’s Continue reading

Qualms about Pitchford’s first ruling

Pitchford Inquiry logoPeter Salmon and Eveline Lubbers / Undercover Research Group
26 October 2015

We looked forward to last Wednesday’s ruling on core participation from the Undercover Policing Public Inquiry for a number of reasons. Partly as we hoped to be hearing if we were granted core participation (we didn’t), but also it gave us an early chance to see how the Inquiry might shape up.

It is clear that the inquiry team has been somewhat overwhelmed by the interest in the Continue reading

Investigating undercovers: How we work

typewriter part
Peter Salmon and Eveline Lubbers / Undercover Research Group
23 October 2015

At the recent hearing of the Pitchford Inquiry into Undercover Policing, the Judge asked the Undercover Research Group whether it ‘was its purpose to out undercover policemen.'(1) It is a good question and the answer is more nuanced than a simple yes or no. In this post we aim to give you some insight into how we work and how we make our judgements.

To be clear, we do not have a list of unconfirmed undercovers through which we are steadily working in preparation to systematic exposure. What we have is a bunch of fears and concerns from individuals and groups, who we think have valid questions. Continue reading

Victims of undercover policing may be denied a voice at inquiry

Emily Apple, targeted by various police and corporate spies herself, wrote a report on the first hearing of the Pitchford Inquiry for The Canary, 8 October 2015.

The Inquiry into Undercover Policing has opened with applications from individuals and organisations who want to be core participants in the process. Hundreds have been affected by the undercover policing scandal, which employed officers to spy on protest and social justice campaigners. However, with former officer and whistleblower, Peter Francis, claiming to know of at least 100 other such officers, and with undercover operations starting in 1968, the number could reach the thousands.

The spread of groups targeted is staggering, and ranges from the Stephen Lawrence Campaign, campaigning for justice following the death of loved one, to environmental protesters, trade unionists, and peace activists. Given it is known the police kept secret files on Jeremy Corbyn, there is a strong likelihood he has had contact with, and been reported on by these officers.

Read the full report at The Canary.

What to consider before making a submission to the Pitchford Inquiry.

Pitchford Inquiry logo
Have you had an encounter with an undercover copper as part of your political activism? The Pitchford Inquiry is an opportunity for that story to be heard as part of a wider investigation into the targeting of protest by undercover police. We explain the practicalities of what this means and of how you can get involved.

Whatever you think of the likelihood of a state-organised Inquiry exposing whole truth about undercover police operations targeted against campaigners, the Pitchford Inquiry is the best opportunity so far to find out more about the undercover spying operations and political policing over the past 40 years in the UK. If nothing else, it is a way to keep the pressure on and to increase public awareness of the unaccountable, unregulated and unscrupulous activities of Britain’s undercover police spies.

Remember that the only reason undercovers have been exposed was because of activist research, and that the only reason there is an inquiry now is because of the pressure that we have managed to build up.

There are two ways of being involved in the Inquiry. The simpler, smaller one is as being a witness. In this, you merely present an account of your experience with undercover police and the Inquiry may ask you further questions or actually to appear in person. The second, bigger one is as a ‘core participant’ as an interested person. This will be more suited to those who have multiple or very significant interactions with an undercover – relationships, actions and activities, or a key part of your group, etc. It can be done as an individual or a group.

Alternatively, the Undercover Research Group is applying for core participancy to be able to represent those who do not want to be involved personally.

So, what do you need to know, and what do you need to think about. Continue reading

Public Inquiry – How to get core participancy

Pitchford Inquiry logoThe Undercover Research Group wants to get into the Pitchford Inquiry to speak for people spied upon but not (legally) represented yet. We now republish a useful blog post by the COPS campaign explaining to apply to get core participancy.

We encourage you to spread the word to those who may not have seen this yet. And please do contact us if you want us to represent you or want to know more.
COPS logo
Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS)
19 August /repost 21 August 2015

The Inquiry’s priority is to discover the truth… I wish to encourage all those with material evidence to give to make themselves known to the Inquiry team.
– Lord Justice Pitchford, 28 July 2015

The public inquiry into undercover policing, chaired by Lord Pitchford, is being prepared.

Some people who are particularly involved can be granted the status of ‘core participant’. This means that they are likely to have greater access to documents and that the costs of their legal representation may be covered. This is how. Continue reading