Review of secret police condemned as a “whitewash”

A review of undercover policing as ordered by the Scottish Government has been condemned as a “whitewash” and an “insult” to the victims of secret Met Police units who abused their powers.

The Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS) said that the decision to ask the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) to carry out a review of secret policing was akin to asking the police to “mark their own homework”.

Last month the Scottish Government ordered a review of undercover policing following a decision by the Home Office not to extend the Pitchford Inquiry to Scotland.

The Pitchford Inquiry was established last year to examine undercover policing in England and Wakes after it emerged that Met Police officers abused their powers during covert operations.

Some officers entered into long term relationships with women they were spying on, resulting in the Met issuing an apology and paying out compensation.

There have also been scores of miscarriages of justice relating to the actions of former and now disgraced officers, some of whom allegedly broke the law themselves.

After Pitchford was established there were subsequent calls for the inquiry to be extended to Scotland when it emerged that Met units at the heart of the scandal also operated north of the border, but the Home Office ruled out extending the remit of the inquiry.

The Ferret – along with the Sunday Mail, Sunday Herald, Daily Record and other media – has reported widely on the issue over the past year highlighting calls for a full public inquiry to be held in Scotland.

In response to the Home Office’s refusal, Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson directed HMICS to carry out an independent review of undercover policing in Scotland.

However, COPS visited Scotland last week and held public meetings in both Dundee and Glasgow to demand that a full public inquiry be held in Scotland.

COPS told The Ferret: “Britain’s political secret police units have spent 50 years abusing citizens in the furtherance of their counter-democratic remit. They engineered huge numbers of miscarriages of justice and undermined efforts of grieving families in their search for the truth. Scotland was a significant part of their activity, most known officers were active here.

“The vast catalogue of outrages comes from a small proportion of the officers who have been exposed by their victims. The police have blocked efforts to uncover the truth. Which Scots have been abused? Which Scottish campaigns have been stymied?

“The inquiry commissioned by the Scottish government has been handed to the most inappropriate body in Scotland. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) is a body of senior police officers.

“Their English counterpart, HMIC, already have a track record of whitewash on this very issue with their discredited report from 2012. The Chief Constable of Scotland, Phil Gormley, oversaw both spycops units. His wife works for HMIC. In light of these facts, the decision to use HMICS appears not merely useless but actively corrupt.

“The Metropolitan police concede that the sexual relationships with women they spied on was ‘manipulative, abusive and wrong’ and a breach of the women’s human rights. Several of these relationships were furthered in Scotland but will be ignored as the HMICS report has arbitrarily been limited to events after 2000.

“No other group would be allowed to self-investigate. If there were a secret unit of doctors performing unethical experiments on patients without consent, nobody would think their colleagues should be the ones to look into it, with a remit prohibiting examination of 80% of the period that the outrages occurred.”

“These deeds are so serious that, in England, the victims are being given a full public inquiry. The Home Office has decided that victims in Scotland do not warrant the same access to justice. In asking police to mark their own homework, the Scottish government is agreeing with Westminster that English people deserve justice but Scots do not.

“It is an insult to the victims of spycops, to the people of Scotland and to the cause of justice.”

Donal O’Drsicoll of Undercover Research Group, will be a key witness at the Pitchford Inquiry after being spied upon by the most notorious spycop, Mark Kennedy, who is known to have worked in Scotland 14 times.

O’Driscoll spoke in Dundee and later said: “The Inspectorate of Constabulary is drawn from police officers, and basic common sense says you don’t get police to investigate police abuses, especially where there are vested interests.

“It strikes me as a cynical attempt to continue covering-up spycop abuses that took place on Scottish soil. The Scottish Government has offered only an unacceptable whitewash, when what is needed is proper, independent inquiry.”

Helen Steel also spoke in Dundee and explained how she was tricked into a long term relationship with an undercover officer called John Dines who used the alias, John Barker, when he met her after infiltrating London Greenpeace, a group she belonged to as an environmental activist.

Steel later successfully sued the Met Police saying that she felt violated and traumatised by the actions of Dines who used the identity of an eight year boy who’d died of leukemia.

Dines worked undercover posing as an anti-capitalist activist for five years to infiltrate environmental groups.

During that time, he met Steel, a longstanding social justice campaigner, and they started a two-year relationship, telling her that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. 

He concealed from her the fact he was a member of a secret Met Police unit, the Special Demonstration Squad, that was tasked with spying on political groups.

By the summer of 1991, Dines appeared to start having a mental breakdown, telling Steel he wanted to run away to escape his inner demons and that his parents had abused him.

In March 1992, he vanished and Steel was left not knowing whether he was alive or dead, fearing he could kill himself.

You can listen to Steel’s story here, as explained last week in Dundee.

Steel backed calls for a full public inquiry in Scotland.

She said: “Political policing continues very much up to this day, just with a name change. We also now have the PREVENT strategy which claims to be about preventing terrorism but which actually seeks information on anyone who is said to have extreme views, so that they can be checked out by the police.

“And obviously extremism is never actually defined but basically it means anyone who disagrees with the status quo. And all of this, is all part of an agenda which undermines the right to protest, and the effectiveness of protest, by falsely equating protest with extremism or even terrorism, and so deterring people from getting involved in protest and activities to bring about change and a better society.

“What we know is that at least 460 groups across the UK were spied on by these units, that’s actually been revealed in one of the official reports into undercover policing but the true picture will probably be bigger.”

Harvey Duke, a Dundee based campaigner with COPS, said: “There is wide cross party support in Scotland for some form of inquiry into undercover policing in Scotland. Environmentalists, trade unionists – including blacklisted Scots, and others spied upon purely because they are activists are rightly demanding a full Public Inquiry.

“Now that Theresa May has left a Scotland sized hole in Pitchford and refused a Scottish Government request to include Scotland, we believe that the Scottish Government must launch its own inquiry, and involve the spied upon, wherever they come from, where spying has taken place in Scotland.

“This should include investigating private intelligence agencies who are known to have spied upon activists in Scotland. Relying upon an internal police inquiry is of no value, as leading police officers in Scotland have histories of overseeing undercover spying and are not credible or independent.

“Until there is a full Public Inquiry into spying in Scotland, people living, working and visiting Scotland will have less human rights. That is wrong and is an injustice which COPS Scotland will campaign against.”

In reply to the above criticism, HMICS said: “The Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson has directed HMICS to carry out an independent review of undercover policing activities in Scotland.

“We will now consult with key stakeholders, and prepare a detailed Terms of Reference including our projected timescale for completing this review. HMICS is established in statute and the Chief Inspector of Constabulary is not a serving police officer. He is appointed under royal warrant to provide independent scrutiny of policing matters.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The review to be conducted by the independent HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland will be essential in gathering the facts about the existing and historical position on undercover policing.

“The review will cover undercover policing activity in Scotland over the period during which the Scottish Parliament has had responsibility in this area. We have no plans to reconsider the period prior to then.”


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