First Spycops Relationship Case Settled

More than a dozen women who were deceived into relationships with undercover police officers are known to be bringing cases against the Metropolitan Police. Last week, the first case was settled.

Jacqui was a 22 year old animal rights activist in 1984 when she met Bob Robinson, ten years her senior. They lived together for several years and had a son. Robinson was actually police officer Bob Lambert who knew that he would abandon his child as a toddler. Jacqui is certain that Lambert kept tabs on her after he left. Nonetheless, he had no contact, paid no maintenance.

After Lambert was outed by activists in 2011, he issued an apology. It mentions another partner, Belinda Harvey, but not Jacqui with whom he had a much more involved relationship. Lambert’s children with his wife had both died, yet he had not contacted Jacqui to warn her to get her son tested and treated.

Undercover officers went to elaborate lengths to ensure they weren’t suspected after they left. It was essential to maintain the vulnerability of campaigns to future infiltrators. The most powerful trick in the spies’ spellbook was the ignorance of their targets. Put simply, nobody would believe that they did it. So they would feign mental breakdown over a period of months and disappear to get their heads together, never to be seen again.

If we maximise the benefit of the doubt for Bob Lambert we might say he couldn’t have dropped a one-line card to Jacqui to warn of their son’s medical risk as it would have compromised the undercover method. This excuse evaporates once he was outed. If he had any concern for her and their son he would have run to their door. But still he did not tell Jacqui, a decision that could have cost their son his life.

Jacqui only found out the truth by chance eight months later, seeing it in a newspaper. She described it as ‘like being raped by the state’ and has since been receiving psychiatric care. She also says that, had she not stumbled across the truth and made all the effort to find Lambert, she believes he would have taken the secret with him to his grave.

When her son was young she initiated a bid to have him adopted by her new partner. Getting a child adopted without a still-living parent’s agreement isn’t easy. Adoption services made efforts to find him but their report says

I made several attempts including letters and telephone inquiries to contact Mr Robert Robinson… but I was unsuccessful. An informant, Mrs Moseley who shared the same flat with him at Nightingale Estate, Hackney, East London, told me that Mr Robinson’s whereabouts are unknown. She maintained he is unlikely to surface in the future because of his intense political involvement with the Animal Liberation Movement activities.

Adoption report on the search for Bob 'Robinson'The address Lambert lived at appears to have been demolished several years before ‘Mrs Moseley’ made her comment. Jacqui is convinced that this person was a Special Branch plant. The name, Moseley, may well be a warped joke on their part. How it must have seemed to Special Branch that all the loose ends were being tied up.

Jacqui’s new partner died not long after, the second dad her son had lost in his seven years. She returned to bringing him up as a single parent, a few miles from where the well-remunerated Lambert worked.

Considering the full cost of bringing up a child plus her ongoing care, even on purely financial terms the payout of £425,000 seems paltry.

The Metropolitan Police said

From the outset we have dealt with this lengthy case with professionalism and sensitivity, completely understanding the gravity of the circumstances.

Jacqui brought her case in 2012. Numerous other women brought theirs earlier. The Met refused to even admit that Lambert had been an undercover officer until two months ago despite the fact that, as Jacqui said, there was the absolute proof in the form of six foot of Lambert’s DNA walking round. The Met still won’t admit most of the well-established officers such as John Dines and Mark Cassidy were, in fact, undercover officers.

The settlement is testament to the tenacity of Jacqui and her lawyer Jules Carey. It comes despite the unprofessional, insensitive attitude of the Met. No amount of money will buy back Jacqui’s capacity to trust. Looking beyond that to a wider view of justice, as she said, money is an irrelevance.

There is the money, but there is no admission by the police that what they did was wrong, there is no meaningful apology and most importantly there are no answers.

But the legal system effectively forced her to take the money. If she had continued to court and won, but the damages awarded were below the police’s previous £425,000 offer, then she would have had to pay the police’s legal bill.

The women whose cases are still ongoing are likely to get lower amounts as they did not unwittingly have children to raise. This means the police costs could even exceed the damages awarded. In that position who could afford to push onward for disclosure and justice?

The claimants – many of whom would surely forego any money if they could have answers – will have to take the money (then vicious newsmedia comments sections will fill up with accusations of them being gold-diggers all along).

Effectively, the police are buying their way out of a damning court case. Those in charge retain their promotions and pensions whilst those they abused are left to rely on their own fortitude to repair the damage that was done to them for having the temerity to campaign for a fairer world.

As eight other women bringing similar cases reiterated

we have no reason to believe that these abhorrent abuses have stopped, or that the police acknowledge their actions are wrong, and that they must change.

There can be no excuse for undercover officers having sexual relationships whilst in their undercover persona. It is already illegal in Germany and there is no detrimental effect to German society. After all the damage done and, at long last, admissions from the police of it, it is surely time to change the law.

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New Report, Same Old Whitewash

HMIC logoA massive new report on undercover policing from police satellite body Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary was published yesterday.

As with the huge stack of similar reports on the issue, it gives us quite a few dry facts and criticises some administration but fails to tackle the key, shocking issues.

It reveals that 1,229 officers are trained for undercover work. However the police’s National Undercover Index only lists 568 of them. This ‘renders the database unsuitable to the task for which it was created,’ says the report.

Seven types of deployment are listed, but there is no mention of the political spycops. For a report commissioned as a response to the revelation that the Stephen Lawrence campaign had been spied on, after several years’ groundswell following the exposure of Mark Kennedy in 2010, this is no mere oversight. It’s a dodge.

Campaigning for social justice or for the proper investigation of the death of a loved one due to incompetent or malevolent police is left entirely unmentioned in all 206 pages, unless they somehow count among ‘those who seek to commit serious crimes, eg acts of terrorism’.

The report is only critical of administration, training and support for officers, rather than the impacts on citizens and the sinister intent of certain undercover operations. It essentially saying that a little bit more oversight and authorisation will make everything alright.

The authors find it ‘reassuring’ there is apparently ‘a universal understanding by the undercover officers and those managing them’ that intimate relationships aren’t allowed and ‘there are good safeguards in place’ to prevent it.

But out of the 14 spycops so far exposed, 13 had sexual relations with citizens they spied on. Three had kids. One – Bob Lambert –  became a manager overseeing a new crop of officers who did it. Citizens have not been ‘protected’ from the most complete invasion of privacy that it is possible for the state to enact. They have been subjected to it in such a comprehensive way that it can only be seen as accepted standard practice and strategy.

It shows a staggering amount of gall to even suggest that there is ‘universal acceptance’ of it being wrong and there is therefore no problem.

There are 49 recommendations at the end of the report. None are about the known outrages of these relationships, let alone others such as undermining family justice cases and political campaigns, and the police collusion with illegal corporate activity.

We need a simple law that bans sexual relationships whilst undercover outright. It is already illegal in Germany for spies to have sexual relations in their undercover persona and German society is not suffering because of that restriction. It is needless, inexcusable institutionalised sexism.

But the report tells us that

if society wants the police to identify & apprehend some of its most dangerous criminals, it has to allow individual police officers to “get their hands dirty”.

The report does concede that the ‘neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND) policy “is not grounded in legislation” & mustn’t be used if it risks a miscarriage of justice. This is to be welcomed. But as words in isolation, it is meaningless. Police lawyers are obstructing a legal bid for justice by a group of women, saying that NCND is essential.  Those same lawyers also argued that the supposedly safeguarded-from sexual relationships are actually legally authorised. The women’s group has already condemned the new report.

This report is yet another bucket of bitter whitewash written by police and their associates. It insults those who’ve been abused by the undercover officers from the counter-democratic political police units. Beyond that, it insults anyone who believes in the right to make a stand for environmental and social justice.

It is another decoy, papering over deep cracks in a rotten architecture. It must not distract from the need for a full, open, public inquiry that examines each aspect of undercover political policing in detail and takes testimony from all those impacted by it. COPS will continue to campaign for such an inquiry.

We will continue to host events and support those organised by the various groups and individuals who have been targeted. You can support our campaign by coming to those events and getting your trade union, campaigning organisation or other group to affiliate to us.

Did Spycops Commit Other Crimes?

CPS logo

The attention paid to the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute undercover police officers focused, rightly, on the invasion of privacy and bodily integrity in their sexual contact with women they spied on.

But in the same statement, the CPS ruled out several other charges.

MISCONDUCT IN PUBLIC OFFICE

In order to prosecute misconduct in public office, the prosecution would have to show that an officer knowingly abused their position in order to bring a sexual relationship about

The police have readily and unequivocally admitted such relationships are abhorrent and an abuse of their position. Speaking for the Association of Chief Police Officers, a body that ran several of the political policing units, Jon Murphy said

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.

In March this year the second Operation Herne internal report into undercover policing declared

there are and never have been any circumstances where it would be appropriate… Such an activity can only be seen as an abject failure of the deployment, a gross abuse of their role and their position as a police officer and an individual and organisational failing

So there we have a police report saying it’s a gross abuse of the officer’s position, but the CPS said there’s insufficient evidence that any officer knowingly abused their position.

Everyone admits the relationships happened and they were a gross abuse. If it is a gross abuse then there is a gross abuser. That must be either the manager who authorised it or the individual undercover officer who did it.

Whichever one it is, former officer Bob Lambert is culpable. He was an undercover officer who had a prolonged relationship including fathering a child with a woman he targeted. After he was promoted to running the squad he mentored Jim Boyling who did the same thing.

If Operation Herne is right and it is both an individual and organisational failing then we should see several officers held responsible for each relationship. Even if they blame the individual officer and claim they disobeyed their guidance, it is negligence on the part of the managers.

But if this came to court, we could expect to see officers from both roles blaming each other. That would be a whole lot of dirty laundry being done in public, and would be likely to point to further abuses. This scandal has already become far too large for establishment comfort. It’s no surprise that the CPS – who helped ensure Mark Kennedy’s evidence was kept from court in the Ratcliffe case, leading to a miscarriage of justice and 20 wrongful convictions – has decided to defy the police’s own admissions of misconduct and keep these officers away from court as well.

BREACH OF THE OFFICIAL SECRETS ACT

The CPS also said that

In order to prosecute a breach of the Official Secrets Act the prosecution would have to prove that the suspect in question disclosed information that would, or would be likely to, damage the work of the security and intelligence services

This is thought to be because officers have named colleagues to civilians. Jim Boyling told the activist he married about several other officers’ identities. This led her to tell Helen Steel that her partner John Barker had in fact been police officer John Dines.

Peter Francis

Peter Francis

Additionally, when Mark Kennedy was confronted by activists who had discovered his true identity, he confirmed activist Lynn Watson had actually been a fellow police officer.

Whistleblower officer Peter Francis has been threatened with prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. The fact that neither Boyling nor Kennedy are to face charges for naming colleagues to the activists they targeted implies Francis faces something of an empty threat. The CPS appear to have declared it’s open season for him, and for any other officers who want to right some of their wrongs, to step forward and name names.

The End of the Neither Confirm Nor Deny ‘Policy’

A significant step was taken towards justice yesterday for five women who were deceived into sexual relationships with undercover police officers.

The police have been using an obstruction tactic of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’, claiming they have a long-standing, unwavering policy of not confirming whether anyone was ever an undercover officer. It is nonsense, as the women and their legal teams demonstrated, listing the many exceptions police and other officials have made.

Pointing out that the police have conceded sexual relationships were an abuse of position, Mr Justice Bean’s ruling said

there can be no public policy reason to permit the police neither to confirm nor deny whether an illegitimate or arguably illegitimate operational method has been used as a tactic in the past.

The court gave the Metropolitan Police 28 days to formally admit or deny that:

(a) officers of the Metropolitan Police Service, as part of their work as undercover officers and using false identities, engaged in long term intimate sexual relationships with those whose activities the MPS wished to observe;

(b) this was authorised or acquiesced to by senior management;

(c) ‘Jim Sutton‘ was such an officer; and

(d) ‘Bob Robinson‘ was such an officer.

If they fail to respond within that time, the court will take it as an admission that all these things are true.

The second point is particularly noteworthy. Despite police attempts to shift all blame on to the individual officers, the court overtly points to the fact that senior management must have known the relationships went on.

All but one of the officers so far exposed had sexual relations with activists they spied on, and most of them had long-term committed relationships. One of the worst, Bob Lambert, had a planned child with an activist he spied on, so he cannot have been ignorant of the possibility of such relationships when he was promoted to running operations.

The fact that his protegés embarked so enthusiastically on their relationships makes it clear that such practices were accepted and quite possibly encouraged, even planned and monitored. Of course, even if managers had been unaware of such relationships, that would have made them negligent and therefore still culpable. But, even with the facts we have so far, it is already a nonsense to pretend that senior management were unaware and disapproved.

That said, the police are not above nonsense to stall attempt at dragging the truth from them. Earlier this year they confirmed in court that Jim Boyling was a police officer but would not confirm he was an undercover officer – as if he might have come up with the Jim Sutton alias and spent years being an anti-capitalist activist as a personal hobby in his spare time.

Returning to yesterday’s ruling, the judge stopped short of compelling police to admit that all four officers named in this case were, in fact, police officers. Jim Boyling and Bob Lambert have both been previously named by officials and have confirmed themselves. Yet the other two are scarcely less public.

Everyone knows that Mark Cassidy was the undercover officer Mark Jenner. Everyone knows that John Barker was the undercover officer John Dines. The real John Barker was not an undercover police officer – he was a boy who died of leukaemia aged eight. Thier stories and pictures have been published in many places for years now. To leave any veil over them is absurd.

It was disappointing to see BBC Home Affairs correspondent Danny Shaw refer to the case as a mere ‘bid for compensation’. The integrity that drips from every word of the womens’ testimony and campaigning makes it plain that this is all about disclosure, truth and accountability.  They don’t want money, they want justice.

Despite shortcomings in the judgement and its coverage, it is nonetheless a major victory as it shreds the blanket use of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ which – as the women so comprehensively showed – was never a real policy, merely a convenient shroud for the police to obscure their history as they heap gruelling punishment on their victims for daring to ask for answers.

After three years the first real hurdle has just fallen, a tribute to the tenacity of these women and their lawyers. The outrageous denials from the police are becoming ever more starkly exposed for what they are. More will fall.