Undercover policing is difficult at the best of times. That is to say, if you are an undercover cop.
I speak from experience having worked undercover on Operation Julie back in the 1970’s. It seems that working undercover, at least in Britain, is going to be more difficult in the future.
In 2015 the UK Government announced that there would be a full public inquiry into undercover policing. The Home Secretary announced on 12 March 2015 that there was to be an Inquiry within the terms of the Inquiries Act 2005 into undercover policing; she announced that Lord Justice Pitchford would be the Chairman of the Inquiry. Further, the Home Secretary published the terms of reference for the Inquiry on 16th July 2015.
Undercover Policing Inquiry
And, for those interested this is the link to LJ Pitchford’s Opening Remarks. The terms of reference of the Inquiry are worth reproducing here:
Terms of Reference
9. The Terms of Reference for this Inquiry, about which I have been consulted,
were announced by the Home Secretary on Thursday 16 July 2015. They are as
1. To inquire into and report on undercover police operations conducted by
English and Welsh police forces in England and Wales since 1968 and, in
i. investigate the role and the contribution made by undercover policing
towards the prevention and detection of crime;
ii. examine the motivation for, and the scope of, undercover police operations
in practice and their effect upon individuals in particular and the public in
iii. ascertain the state of awareness of undercover police operations of Her
iv. identify and assess the adequacy of the:
a. justification, authorisation, operational governance and oversight of
b. selection, training, management and care of undercover police officers;
v. identify and assess the adequacy of the statutory, policy and judicial
regulation of undercover policing.
Miscarriages of justice
2. The inquiry’s investigations will include a review of the extent of the duty to
make, during a criminal prosecution, disclosure of an undercover police
operation and the scope for miscarriage of justice in the absence of proper
3. The inquiry will refer to a panel, consisting of senior members of the Crown
Prosecution Service and the police, the facts of any case in respect of which
it concludes that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred as a result of an
undercover police operation or its non disclosure. The panel will consider
whether further action is required, including but not limited to, referral of the
case to the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
4. The inquiry’s investigation will include, but not be limited to, whether and to
what purpose, extent and effect undercover police operations have targeted
political and social justice campaigners.
5. The inquiry’s investigation will include, but not be limited to, the undercover
operations of the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public
Order Intelligence Unit.
6. For the purpose of the inquiry, the term “undercover police operations”
means the use by a police force of a police officer as a covert human
intelligence source (CHIS) within the meaning of section 26(8) of the
Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, whether before or after the
commencement of that Act. The terms “undercover police officer”,
“undercover policing”, “undercover police activity” should be understood
accordingly. It includes operations conducted through online media.
7. The inquiry will not examine undercover or covert operations conducted by
any body other than an English or Welsh police force.
8. The inquiry will examine and review all documents as the inquiry chairman
shall judge appropriate.
9. The inquiry will receive such oral and written evidence as the inquiry
chairman shall judge appropriate.
10. The inquiry will report to the Home Secretary as soon as practicable1
report will make recommendations as to the future deployment of undercover
10. There are 43 police forces in England and Wales. Many, if not all of them, will,
during the last 50 years, have deployed undercover police officers for the
purpose of preventing and detecting crime. Statutory authorisation for such
activity was for the first time introduced by the Regulation of Investigatory
Powers Act 2000.
11. This Undercover Policing Inquiry will investigate the practice of undercover
policing in England and Wales from 1968 to the present. The year 1968 was the
year that the Home Office approved the formation by the Metropolitan Police of
the Special Operations Squad. The Squad was formed for the specific purpose of
infiltrating groups that may be planning incidents of major public disorder.
Undercover policing has, of course, been used for preventing and detecting
other forms of serious crime for many years. This Inquiry will investigate the
evolution of undercover policing for all purposes, not just in the Metropolis but
throughout England and Wales. It is to be noted that the Inquiry will not
consider undercover policing in Scotland or Northern Ireland and it will not
consider undercover activity managed by any agency other than the police
forces of England and Wales.
London’s Metropolitan Police Service were responsible for two undercover operations that directly led to the setting up of the Pitchford inquiry.
The case that has made the biggest headlines is that of Mark Kennedy. He was a former Met undercover officer who infiltrated environmental groups. What has made his case notorious is that it is alleged that he entered into long term sexual relationships in order to further his cover.
In 2011, eight women who say they were deceived into long-term intimate relationships by five officers, including Kennedy, who had infiltrated social and environmental justice campaigns, began legal action against the Metropolitan Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).
Furthermore, it is also alleged that Kennedy committed the crime of arson. It appears that Kennedy has admitted to committing two criminal offences performing his role as an infiltrator:
In a Channel 4 interview broadcast on 14 November 2011, Kennedy stated that, in the guise of an environmental activist, he was used by the police forces of 22 countries and was responsible for the closing down of the Youth House community centre in Copenhagen.
Kennedy said he was hired by German police between 2004 and 2009 and allegedly committed two crimes on their behalf, one of which was arson.
The Metropolitan Police Service – MPS (or Force as it was known in my day) has a long history of corruption and malpractice. My service as a former police officer was in two provincial forces. The Met was generally despised by us. What’s more, it wasn’t trusted. It’s a shame because the corrupt activities tarnish the good name of all honest Met coppers both past and present.
The history that led to this Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI) is inextricably linked with the excesses of the MPS. That is why I say – trust them to fuck up again!
Why fuck up? I find it difficult to believe that any good will come out of such an Inquiry. It is almost inevitable that undercover policing will become too regulated and open to too much scrutiny.
That ‘new openness’ will lead to leaks and putting lives in danger.
There is a role for undercover policing and it can be a valuable tool properly used. But, it is by definition a clandestine activity. The less people who are aware of the activity the better.
Specialist Undercover Policing Unit
What is really needed is a specialist covert policing group. It needs to be established outside of existing police force structures. In that way it can be closely supervised and if necessary the reporting procedures can be streamlined. The senior officer in charge of the group could report directly to the Home Secretary thus minimizing the possibility of leaks.
I have many ideas as to how undercover policing ought to be operated and supervised. I have many thoughts on the recruitment and care of undercover officers. The best are the crème de la crème.
Undercover officers need to be cared for. I note that Mark Kennedy is reported as saying in an interview with the Mail on Sunday newspaper, arranged through his PR agent Max Clifford, that he suffered a version of “Stockholm syndrome,” although he denied becoming an agent provocateur within the movement, adding that he had been incompetently handled by his superiors and denied psychological counselling. According to The Guardian, Kennedy sued the police for ruining his life and failing to “protect” him from falling in love with one of the environmental activists whose movement he infiltrated. Source: Wikipedia.org.
The last part of his claim is pathetic!
Once more it is a classic case of a Met fuck-up. What is it about some Met officers, past and present, who take things way beyond excess?
Kennedy will probably be awarded a small fortune by the courts. I will be pissed if that happens. Me? I resigned from the police while off sick with a mental breakdown caused by my undercover work. Those bosses allowed me to do that. It wasn’t until many years later that I knew I had a case to sue the police authorities. So, I consulted a Liverpool solicitor. He assured me as he did a lot of Police Federation work that I had a case. “I’ll get back to you,” he said. I am still waiting!
There is no place in covert policing for rogue officers. They should never deceive to enter into a sexual relationship. They should never commit serious criminal offences. There is no need for any of those things.
I emphasize the word ‘serious’. You will read in my forthcoming book that I felt it necessary to use drugs to maintain my cover. I also committed another relatively minor criminal offence as part of my cover. Nevertheless, I will be seeking an immunity from prosecution if my evidence is given to this Inquiry.
The existence of this Inquiry only came to my notice recently. I have been in touch with the Inquiry Team in London. They replied and among other things wrote:
In light of the experiences you describe, we believe that you may have a contribution to make to the Inquiry.
Regarding your request for immunity against prosecution, you may find it helpful to visit our website at the following address: https://www.ucpi.org.uk/hearings/. You will note that there is a preliminary hearing scheduled for 27 April 2016which will ‘consider whether it is appropriate for the Inquiry to seek undertakings from the Attorney General and possibly others in relation to the use to which evidence given to the Inquiry can be put in any future criminal investigations, criminal prosecutions or disciplinary proceedings’. The submissions made by the various core participants on the subject of undertakings can found under the ‘written statements and submissions’ tab on our website.
We note that you have written a book about your time as an undercover officer in connection with Operation Julie and we would be most grateful if you could send us a copy.
I am unsure whether they want a signed copy. In any event I replied and told them it would not be published until later in 2016.
Perhaps a Lord Justice of Appeal will leave a review on Amazon? 🙂