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.

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The Special Branch Files Project, where released files are shared.

files in bagEveline Lubbers / Undercover Research Group,
13 January 2016

Launched today, the Special Branch Files Project is a live-archive of declassified files focussing on the surveillance of political activists and campaigners, revealing political policing of protest since 1968.

In the past three months, I was part of a small team working with a few key journalists who generously made their files available for the project. I am quite proud of what we have been able to put together within a short time and on a shoe-string budget. Here is why.

The Special Branch Files Project is sharing files that have been disclosed in the past and would be refused now. The site provides access to the documents themselves, complemented with engaging analysis in background stories. The documents reveal the intricate details recorded by Britain’s secret police about a range of protest movements in this country since 1968.

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National Undercover Scrutiny Panel – more minutes released

Peter Salmon / Undercover Research Group
6 July 2015

In the last week we have had a successful Freedom of Information request in relation to minutes of the meetings of the Undercover Policing Scrutiny Panel for July 2014 and February 2015. We have also spoken to Peter Jukes, one of the people invited to attend the July 2014 meeting and Sophie Khan who quit the Panel.

Overall there is nothing startling to be revealed. The first meeting appears to have been quite informal, with the focus being on the dilemma of marring the conflicting needs of transparency and the need to break stories on one side, with the need to protect the undercover officers on the other side. That is, how to create public scrutiny without putting the undercovers themselves at risk. The group also seems to go by the alternative title ‘Undercover Policing Oversight Group’.

Since then numbers in attendance seem to have fallen dramatically, with only a third present in some form at the February meeting, and only four apologies. Continue reading