Eveline Lubbers and Dónal O’Driscoll, Undercover Research Group
First published at openDemocracy, 31 October 2016
In 2010, Mark Kennedy was exposed as an undercover police office by fellow activists who no longer trusted him. A lot has happened since then. We now know that the Special Demonstration Squad has been infiltrating political campaigns since, in 1968, a demonstration against the Vietnam War got out of hand. Fifteen more so-called spycops have since been uncovered. Using the birth certificates of children who died young, they each adopted a fake identity to live the life of an activist each for about five years.
After a dozen internal police inquiries, and the Metropolitan Police refusing to acknowledge what had happened, then home secretary Theresa May was forced to announce a judge-led independent inquiry into undercover policing in March 2014. The tipping point was the confirmation that Doreen and Neville Lawrence had been spied upon when campaigning for justice for their son killed in a racist attack, as had a lot of other bereaved black family campaigners. So far, the Metropolitan police has done nothing but frustrate efforts to hold spycops to account. A case filed by eight women who were deceived into intimate relationships by these officers ended in an unreserved apology and an undisclosed financial settlement a year ago now. Nonetheless, the end to the court case also meant the police managed to evade disclosure on these secret operations. To this day, the Met still refuse either to confirm or deny whether the men actually were police officers.
While there would not have been an Inquiry without the tireless efforts of those spied upon, whether it is going to bring some truth and justice remains to be seen. The Undercover Research Group supports people in investigating their suspicions about possible undercover officers. Our aim is to know what has happened, to find truth and get justice. The people spied upon found out their groups and their lives had been infiltrated because they no longer trusted someone in their midst. What started with the exposure of Mark Kennedy in late 2010 began an outpouring of revelations of the undercover policing, a scandal which eventually led to the launching of the Pitchford Inquiry, intended to investigate any wrongdoing. It is important not to forget that without these investigations, we would not have an independent inquiry in the first place.
The public inquiry into political undercover policing is already a year in and little progress has been made. The Metropolitan police are engaging in major delay tactics. They are making applications they must know that the inquiry’s Chair, Lord Justice Pitchford, will reject. The latest and most astonishing so far is this one: the police producing anonymous risk assessments arguing for their own anonymity. Continue reading