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Spy cops assured immunity at Pitchford Inquiry

Retired police officers who give evidence to an inquiry into undercover policing will not face retrospective action for wrongdoing, The Ferret can reveal.

The Met Police has confirmed that former undercover officers who give evidence to the Pitchford Inquiry will not face misconduct proceedings even if evidence of serious misconduct comes to light.

The assurance was given in response to a request by the most notorious former officer Mark Kennedy who asked for immunity.

Kennedy – who operated in Scotland at least 14 times – asked that no retrospective proceedings be taken against retired officers.

He submitted his request over fears that the new Policing and Crime Bill might allow for action to be brought against former officers.

The Pitchford Inquiry was established to examine undercover policing in England and Wales after a major scandal over the behaviour of police.

Officers abused their positions and duped women into long term relationships and caused miscarriages of justice.

Some stole the identities of dead babies and one officer fathered a child with a woman he was spying on before abandoning her.

Seven women successfully sued the Met as a result arguing their lives had been shattered due to deception.

Kennedy infiltrated protest groups in Scotland and spied on protestors at the G8 Summit at Gleneagles in 2005.

His request to the inquiry for immunity said: “In accordance with the undertakings ruling it is plainly in the public interest that those who are core participants before this inquiry are able to give open and frank evidence without fear of personal consequences.”

A Pitchford Inquiry official said that “any such undertaking would be issued by the relevant police force”.

The Met Police said in a statement: “The MPS has made its submission to the Public Inquiry regarding undertakings for former officers. The starting position is that the MPS would wish to consider disciplinary proceedings where evidence of serious misconduct comes to light on the part of serving, or if the law changes, former MPS officers.”

“However, the MPS has to balance the importance of officers having the confidence to provide full and frank evidence to the Inquiry to allow the truth to be established, and this point is raised by a number of core participants in their submissions.”

“As such the MPS is prepared to give an undertaking, if invited to do so by the Chairman, not to use the evidence given to the Inquiry by a former officer against that officer in any disciplinary proceedings or in deciding whether to bring such proceedings, should the law change in the future, to allow this to happen.”

“At present, the statutory position does not allow for misconduct proceedings to be brought against former officers.”

A former political activist called Jason Kirkpatrick who attended the 2005 G8 Summit and had a five-year friendship with Kennedy, said: “It is absolutely essential that the truth comes out as a part of the Pitchford Inquiry , that is of utmost importance.”

“What happens later with the facts that are exposed is a question I want to examine later. However, we have recently seen the surreal example from the Stephen Lawrence murder case, where a senior officer was allowed to retire to avoid disciplinary charges over an alleged plot to spy on the Lawrence family.”

“What I want is justice and accountability for those who have made decisions to wrongly target myself and others.”

Calls for a Scottish inquiry

Meanwhile, pressure was mounting on the Scottish Government to hold its own inquiry into undercover policing after the Home Office ruled out extending it north of the border.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “The onus is now very firmly on the SNP Government – all along they have said they would wait on the response from the UK Government before deciding what to do – well now we have the UK Government’s response and it is a refusal to extend the Pitchford inquiry.”

It would be completely and utterly unjust for Scottish victims to be denied access to the truth . There is now no other option available to the Scottish Government – they must hold their own inquiry into this scandal. I have today written to the Justice Secretary, Michael Mathieson calling on him to act.”

Neil Findlay MSP
Neil Findlay MSP

The call has been backed by trades union officials.

STUC Deputy General Secretary Dave Moxham said: “We know as a fact that Scottish trade unionists and other political activists were victim to these outrageous and anti-democratic practices.

“The STUC is concerned and angry at the refusal to extend the Pitchford Inquiry to Scotland. The Scottish Government must now act to ensure that justice is served here and we look forward to a swift announcement of an inquiry in Scotland.

Pat Rafferty, Unite Scottish Secretary, said:  “Unite have been pushing the Scottish Government for some time for a full public inquiry into the blacklisting of trade union activists in Scotland – particularly as there are a disproportionate number of Scottish workers listed on the Consulting Association blacklist used by some construction companies and the potential that Scottish police forces may have been involved in this.”

“The latest revelation that the Pitchford Inquiry will not cover Scotland makes it crucially important that the Scottish Government now organises a Pitchford style inquiry in Scotland to deliver full justice for workers and political and environmental activists who may have suffered through immoral and undemocratic covert surveillance.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson was critical of the decision to restrict the inquiry to England and Wales but stopped short of confirming a separate Scottish inquiry would be held.

They said: “The Scottish Government is extremely disappointed that the UK Government has indicated it will not extend the remit of the Pitchford Inquiry to consider the activities of undercover Metropolitan Police units in Scotland.”

“We continue to believe that a single inquiry across the UK is the most effective approach to provide a comprehensive and coherent investigation into these matters. This narrower approach risks doing a disservice to people in Scotland affected by the activities of a force which falls under the oversight of the Home Office. We will now consider how best to take this matter forward.”

A version of this story was published by the Sunday Mail newspaper on 31st July 2016.

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