Delay: Police try to shield former #spycops from Pitchford Inquiry

Pitchford Inquiry logoEveline 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

Ireland Commissions Another Police Self-Investigation

Mark Kennedy (centre) at Shell to Sea protest in Co Mayo

Mark Kennedy (centre) at Shell to Sea protest in Co Mayo

Repost of the COPS blog, 23rd October 2016, Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance.

The Irish government has ordered a report on British undercover officer Mark Kennedy’s activity in the Republic. Any hope that this might be useful is obliterated by the most cursory look at the detail.

The police will investigate this police wrongdoing. They will only look at Kennedy, even though three of the other 16 known officers – John Dines, Jim Boyling and Mark Jenner – were also in Ireland. Who knows how many of the remaining 100+ unknown officers went there too?

This self-investigation mirrors the Scottish government’s recent announcement – get implicated police to investigate, give them a narrow remit that is incapable of seeing the full picture, nobody gets disgraced by their systematic human rights abuses being exposed. Continue reading

How the Met failed their #spycops – until the Pitchford Inquiry came along

SpecialbranchfileslogoEveline Lubbers, Undercover Research Group, 5 October 2016

Quite a few retired undercover officers carry a serious grudge against their former employer, that much the Metropolitan police acknowledge in submissions to the Pitchford Inquiry. In applications currently under review, however, the Met spells out the efforts made to gain the trust of these spycops and the subsequent time spent on mental support.

We think there is a bit more to say about this sudden concern for the wellbeing of the long-lost spycops. As a matter of fact, the submissions reveal how little the police cared so far. Until late last year, the Met had no clue whatsoever where to find their most secret former employees. In addition, the details published now confirm that the Met has failed their undercover officers for decades. They had no welfare policy in place, and even after Mark Kennedy was exposed and the scandal broke, nothing happened – until the Pitchford Inquiry came along.

The revealing submissions to the Inquiry come from two officers tasked by the Met with locating and liaising with former spycops, known as ‘Operation Motion’. Code-named ‘Karachi’ and ‘Jaipur’, the pair were chosen because of their long careers in Special Branch – careers very similar but not identical to that of the undercover officers (or so they say). This closeness is said to be essential to build rapport with the spycops. Continue reading

Voices of the Spied Upon public meeting – 10th October

Note from URG: the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance are hosting another of their Voices of the Spied Upon public meetings. These are a great place to find out more about the issue of spycops and how they have impacted on people. Several people from the Undercover Research Group will be also going. More details from the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance below. Please spread the word.

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How Many Spycops Have There Been?

COPS placardRepost of Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance blog, 1 Sep 2016, written with support of Undercover Research Group. 5 September 2016

Political spying is not new. The Metropolitan Police founded the first Special Branch in 1883. Initially focusing on Irish republicanism in London, it rapidly expanded its remit to gather intelligence on a range of people deemed subversive. Other constabularies followed suit.

But in 1968, the Met did something different. The government, having been surprised at the vehemence of a London demonstration against the Vietnam War, decided it had to know more about political activism. The Met were given direct government funding to form a political policing unit, the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS).

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Operation Herne’s concerted efforts to limit the Pitchford Inquiry

Herne restrictedEveline Lubbers, Undercover Research Group, 7 September 2016

To date, the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into undercover police abuses, Operation Herne, has made publicly available three Reports. Its fourth report, an Update, issued in February 2015, was classified as ‘Restricted’ and only internally circulated rather than being published on the official Herne website.ju

Following a Freedom of Information request, the Undercover Research Group received a redacted copy, which (as opposed to hidden in the Met’s disclosure log) we are making available for all to read.

Much to our surprise, the amount of redaction was minimal. As set out below, we believe the reason for being restricted is that it has a number of points which cause the Metropolitan Police embarrassment.

Our first analysis of the Update confirms the utter disarray in record keeping we wrote about in August, and exposes – once again – the rationale behind Operation Herne. We have found derogatory remarks about the little amount of official complaints and legal claims, and disturbing suggestions to limit the reach of the Pitchford Inquiry. Far from being independent, Operation Herne does not only serve as the Met’s self-investigation into the spycops scandal – it is actively seeking to scale down the scope of the Public Inquiry in every possible way. Continue reading

The Met’s Chaotic and Dysfunctional Record Keeping

Shelves-full-of-disordered-filesStorage facilities with most documents missing or misfiled, systems repeatedly described as ‘chaotic’ by the police themselves – internal documents reveal that the Met is having big problems sorting out its records management before it can even tell the Pitchford Inquiry what’s gone on.

Guest posting at the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance blog by Peter Salmon of the Undercover Research Group, unpicking recent statements from the force. 19 August 2016.

The issue of police disclosure and how public it can be is a matter taxing all involved in the Pitchford Inquiry. We know that behind the scenes there has been considerable discussion between the Inquiry team and the Metropolitan Police over how the Inquiry accesses the vast amount  of police material.

Recently, the Inquiry website published two statements from Det Supt Neil Hutchison, responding to questions from the Inquiry team. With dozens of supporting documents, they shed some light on what has been happening within the Metropolitan Police. The first statement deals with conflicts of interest and the prevention of the destruction of relevant records. The second focuses on the state of the Met’s record keeping and what is being done about it through Operation FileSafe. In this post we look at the latter issue. Continue reading

Why is the State Still Spying on Peaceful Protesters?

PSOLAndy Rowell, repost of his blog for Oil Change International Exposing the true costs of fossil fuels July 25, 2016

Here’s a simple question for you. Given the intense security pressures law enforcement agencies are under globally, why are the US authorities still wasting precious time and resources spying on peaceful environmental activists?

Last week, the Intercept reported that back in May when 300 protesters assembled in Colorado for an auction of oil and gas leases on public lands, “several of the demonstrators were in fact undercover agents”.

The story was based on emails obtained through open records requests which revealed that the local Police Department collected information about the protest from undercover officers as the event was being planned. During the auction, “both local law enforcement and federal agents went undercover among the protesters.”
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The case of Gary R & Abigail L … another two unconfirmed undercovers.

SPEAK logoDonal O’Driscoll and Eveline Lubbers, Undercover Research Group, 13 July 2016

Today the Undercover Research Group is able to release profiles of two individuals strongly believed to have been undercover police officers infiltrating animal rights groups in Oxford. They particularly associated with the high-profile SPEAK campaign against a local vivisection laboratory. They turned up in 2006 as a couple, with Abigail leaving in 2008 and Gary in 2010.

URG believes that, as we set out below, everything now points to them being undercover police, though nothing official has been found to confirm this definitively. This is why we have not provided their full cover names or images at this stage. Nevertheless, their connections to several high profile cases means the danger of miscarriages of justice cannot be ignored either, and hence why we have decided to publish at this stage.

Abigail and Gary have been a difficult case for Undercover Research Group. Suspicion regarding Gary began early on – while he was still active – and our extensive research shows that he and the woman he presented as his partner fit the profile of undercover officers – as we will explain below. Most importantly, they don’t seem to exist in official records, outside the time they were active in Oxford. It is clear to us that the lack of background is strong enough to say that Gary and Abigail are effectively ‘ghost identities’.

Much of our research work involved the effort to actually find these two people, to disproof the suspicions by showing that they just moved on from being activists and lost contact with old friends. We followed as many leads as possible, difficult in places as their apparent background stories overlapped with those of other people who really exist – perhaps deliberately so.

However, every lead dried up. In particular, we have not been able to find birth certificates for either of them, and they effectively only have electoral roll records for the times they were active in animal rights, or the year before or after.

Of the various possibilities as to what they may have been, we believe on balance of probabilities, that both were serving police officers rather than, say, private intelligence agents. Much of their activity sits within the picture of police tradecraft built up from confirmed undercover officers. Given that at the time SPEAK was a very high profile campaign and that another strongly suspected undercover officer, ‘RC’, had recently exited the group, there is reason enough to believe that a replacement would be sent to focus on this group.

We reiterate, that in this case, as with RC, no proof has been found that is as conclusive as was the case with say Mark Kennedy or Carlo Neri. However, given the high chance of miscarriages of justice having taken place, given significant court cases Gary would have touched on, and having exhausted all other options, it seems to us that the consequences of not going public outweigh the residual risk that we are in error. As with RC, we are prepared to offer an apology if they come forward and clear up the various outstanding questions marks hanging over them.

Undercover active in Norway?

One of the reasons why we have decided to publish our research about Gary and Abigail now, is the possible connection to the court case of Debbie Vincent: Gary’s presence at an animal rights gathering in Norway. We may need to add him to the long list of undercover officers who have been active abroad.

Debbie Vincent is an animal rights campaigner currently in jail having been convicted of conspiracy to blackmail the research company Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) and its clients. Her trial, which revealed that an undercover officer posed as an employee of drugs company Novartis in an sting operation against her, is also interesting in the context of Gary R.

Court documents show that at least one NPOIU police officer attended an animal rights gathering in Norway to spy on Debbie Vincent, and reported back on who she was meeting. Careful reading of the short bit of prosecution evidence in Debbie’s case file implies that the officer was not an external monitor (though at least one other NPOIU officer, intelligence gatherer Ian Skivens was seen in hanging out in the back of an Oslo police vehicle), but someone with access to the group. This indicates that he was a relatively trusted individual known to the UK animal rights campaigners present.

This is the same gathering that Gary attended and is known to have volunteered to wash-up alongside Debbie.

Gary is also know to have associated with Mel Broughton, of the SPEAK campaign, and attended his court hearings on at least one occasion. Broughton was later sentenced to jail for an arson attack on Oxford University.

Continue to our profile of Gary and Abigail.

What we have found on Gary and Abigail Continue reading

UK Professor quit course over involvement #spycop John Dines

Dines current Eveline Lubbers, Undercover Research Group, 4 July 2016

At long last, the Undercover Research wiki website has a profile of John Dines, the undercover officer who infiltrated London Greenpeace, animal right groups and local groups in Hackney in the 1980s.

John Dines is most known for his relationship with campaigner Helen Steel, who spent years looking for him after he disappeared from her life in 1992 feigning a psychological breakdown (like many #spycops before and after him).

Earlier this year, Helen confronted John Dines in Sidney at the airport, where he was waiting for a delegation of police officers from India. As she found out, Dines is now working for the Graduate School of Policing & Security, part of the Charles Sturt University in Australia, as one of the directors of a capacity building course for the India Police Service.

We did some work on Dines’ current career as well, and found out that a UK professor teaching public order and crowd control to police forces at the course in India decided to quit when he realised Dines was one of the #spycops in the current undercover policing scandal – see below. Continue reading