Saturday, December 17, 2011

undercover cops' girlfriends sue police

Eight women who had sexual relationships with undercover police officers are taking legal action against the Metropolitan police.

Jon Murphy of the Association of Chief Police Officers spoke about his undercover officers having sexual relations with the people they're sent to spy on.

It is absolutely not authorised. It is never acceptable for an undercover officer to behave in that way...

It is grossly unprofessional. It is a diversion from what they are there to do. It is morally wrong because people have been put there to do a particular task and people have got trust in them. It is never acceptable under any circumstances... for them to engage in sex with any subject they come into contact with.

Yet most of the unmasked undercover officers not only did so but formed emotionally committed relationships with their targets. Indeed, most of them aren't involved in this legal case - it concerns three of the established officers plus two new names.

These people were expensive assets, watched over by cover officers on a daily basis. The idea that their handlers didn't know who they were with for years on end is laughable. One of them, Bob Lambert, graduated from fieldwork to running the deployment. If Lambert thought his relationship had been a mistake, why were his subsequent agents encouraged to do the same thing?

Lambert was in charge of Jim Boyling's spy work; Boyling had relationships with two of the litigants. Lambert also oversaw Pete Black who says that sexual relationships were condoned by senior commanders.

Back in January ex-undercover officer Liam Thomas explained

At training school, it was drummed into your head that you are only limited by your imagination. The whole UC [undercover] model in the police is taken from the spooks, where an agent sleeping with the enemy is condoned.

The official Met line was 'don't do it', but unofficially it was condoned. I remember one senior detective saying to me, 'Have you embedded yourself in the community yet?'

Despite several exposed officers admitting the policy, Mark Kennedy has tried to downplay what happened.

He is also furious at what he calls a ‘smear campaign’ that he bedded a string of vulnerable women to extract information.

He said angrily: 'I had two relationships while I was undercover, one of which was serious'.

Yet three of the women taking action had long relationships with Kennedy during his seven years undercover.

The state trained these people in techniques to gain trust, to create a sense of intimacy and closeness. They then used this to deceive these women, and others, into having profound permanent sexual relationships.

Internet message boards and comment sections are awash with arguments about whether what was done is rape. The r-word is so emotive that it rapidly polarises discussion and often makes political allies turn against one another.

Some people say that these women were not giving informed consent, and so it is a form of rape. Indeed, when this point was put to Mark Kennedy he folded into sullen silence and did not deny it. Others point out that all relationships have secrets and many people lie about themselves in order to pull someone. If I tell someone in a club that I'm a commando it doesn't mean it's rape if they swoon for me.

The discussion is interesting and important, but off the point. This is not about a single instance of sexual activity. They did not lie to make themselves a bit more impressive in order to get laid. They went and integrated themselves into people's lives and families, became the closest possible companions, in long term emotionally committed relationships. The officers did so only as a paid agent in order to undermine everything that these women worked for and held most dear.

They did this under orders, and were withdrawn at very short notice leaving those who had loved them devastated.

It's not rape in the commonly defined sense. It's perhaps not fraud in the common sense. This is because the set definitions are for things that we have *had* to define. What happened to these women is so rare that we don't actually have a familiar definition or name for what crime it is. Just because that's the situation it doesn't alter the clear moral position of what was done.

Despite the press focus it is not about sexual assault. As they make clear in their statement, the womens' action is for many crimes committed against them, including deceit, misfeasance in public office and negligence as well as the Human Rights of protection from inhumane and degrading treatment, and respect for private and family life, including the right to form relationships without unjustified interference by the state.

The bravery and dignity of these women is admirable and impressive. Already intruded upon and destabilised, it would be completely understandable if they kept quiet and got on with their lives, yet they are putting the personal injustice they suffered into the public arena.

They have not hired publicity agents to splash them across the press for money, nor are they going for their specific cops individually. Instead, by going anonymously they emphasise the way police invaded their personal lives; by going collectively they demolish the lie that relationships were forbidden and Mark Kennedy was one rogue officer; and by suing the Met as an institution they go for the real villains and give the best chance of bringing the workings of this murky corruption out into the light.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

the next bucket of whitewash

You know the cliche about how a frog thrown into hot water jumps out, but a frog put in warming water stays put and gets boiled alive?

One all-encompassing cover-up report into the actions of undercover police officer Mark Kennedy and his colleagues would be such a hurricane of bullshit that it would cause outrage. Instead there are - count them - twelve separate narrow little inquiries reporting one at a time.

The frog dropped into a pond of whitewash jumps out; but slowly add whitewash to the pond and it doesn't notice until it's swallowed a load and gone blind.

Yesterday Sir Christopher Rose published his report.


The Crown Prosecution Service failed to mention they had transcripts of recordings made by Mark Kennedy at the meeting where activists planned to close Ratcliffe power station - evidence that exonerated many of those involved. Twenty people were convicted and a further six were on the brink of it when they demanded Kennedy's report; the prosecution refused and the trial collapsed.

Had activists not uncovered Kennedy, those convictions would stand. How many other people have been wrongly convicted due to the prosecution witholding evidence of undercover cops who, unlike Kennedy, were never found out?


Sir Christopher Rose was a poor choice to write the report (or a good one, if you want a cover-up). He was Surveillance Commissioner, a post that has the ultimate sign-off on deployment of undercover cops. He was one of the people who sent Kennedy and co in. This isn't the same state investigating itself, nor even the same institution; to some extent it's the same individual.

Did he find any systemic problems then? Have a guess.

As I said when the last Kennedy report was due to come out, when it gets caught doing the unacceptable, state power denies it's done anything wrong. When that fails, they hang a small number of lowlies out to dry. No officers went to jail for the American policy of torture exposed at Abu Ghraib. A solitary Second Lieutenant was convicted of the My Lai massacre. If they can do that for such atrocities, the spy cops thing is a walk in a finely kept park.

Just as the undercover cops were 'one rogue officer' (even though Kennedy did nothing that wasn't done by a slew of others subsequently uncovered), so Rose has found that the CPS' witholding of evidence was down to one rogue prosecutor, John Cunningham.

Which takes some brass balls to say, given that emails proving conspiracy between Cunningham and his superior were leaked months ago.

Cunningham exchanged a series of emails with Nick Paul, a more senior CPS prosecutor based in London, according to the documents. At that early stage Paul was also aware of a "participating informant" and "sensitive disclosure issues" relating to Kennedy's evidence.

And of course, there were many CPS staff who will have seen the transcripts of Kennedy's recordings. Rose admits

all involved were well aware

that they should disclose the evidence, yet he says

at no stage of the prosecution was there any deliberate, still less dishonest, withholding of information.

I know I should tell you something, I don't, yet I'm not deliberately witholding it? You fucking what?

The weaselling is done by essentially claiming that the Crown Prosecution Service didn't notice the hundreds of pages pertaining to Kennedy, or if they did they didn't think it would have any bearing on the case to have a transcript of what was said and by whom. (And let's just ignore all the police officers involved who were fully aware but stood by and watched a miscarriage of justice, they're in the clear too). This is a one-off, then, right?


But we already knew that one of Kennedy's predecessors, undercover cop Jim Boyling, had been arrested as an activist and been prosecuted under his false identity. (Truth, whole truth, nothing but the truth?).

This week we learned that Boyling had earlier been on a hunt saboteur action that ended in arrests, and he had supplied a witness statement for the defence. (In a poetic twist, the sabbers' lawyer was Kier Starmer, who these days is the Director of Public Prosecutions who ordered the Rose report).

What's interesting is that in that case the prosecution declared that they were witholding certain evidence. We still don't know what it was but the only obvious answer is that the 'sensitive' documents showed that the activist Jim Sutton was actually the police officer Jim Boyling.

If that's right then the CPS definitely knew about Boyling, and about undercover officers among activists, at that time. Which means that when Boyling was prosecuted later on, the CPS knew who he was yet it got waved through.

One of Boyling's contemporaries, Pete Black, says that prosecutions under false identities were commonplace in order to build the credibility of undercover officers.

This means that there are many other cases like the Ratcliffe one where the prosecution has pertinent evidence that mitigated or even exonerated the defendants, yet they witheld it.


The Director of Public Prosecutions, Kier Starmer, went on Newsnight last night to defend the Rose report's weapons-grade whitewash. He said that there was no need to go back through all the prosecutions involving undercover officers. Instead, he would look at any cases that concerned people bring to him.

He knows full well nobody can do that, it's yet another shutdown whitewash tactic. How can anyone know what cases to suggest if we don't know who the secret police officers are?

Either the CPS has to get a list of the spy cops and examine all cases, or they have to publish a list of the cops' names so we can say which cases we saw them in.


These enquiries and reports - despite all the evidence incontrovertibly proving otherwise - are saying there is no systemic corruption. They are a denial that there has been decades of this political policing. They are decoys to keep us from asking a larger question about what the mission has been and how far it has gone.

Beyond that there is a larger question still - who invented this role? Did the police invent it for themselves and the prosecutors and politicians keep nodding it through? Did they sit down and do it together? Or was it invented by politicians?

For such a large and long-running scandal, during this extraordinary past twelve months the politicians have been deafeningly quiet.