Victims of ‘spycops’ to mass boycott review of undercover policing in Scotland

Victims of the so-called ‘spycops’ will mass boycott a forthcoming review of undercover policing to be conducted by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Policing in Scotland (HMICS).

A letter addressed to HMICS has been signed by 18 people saying the review “cannot be trusted” while questioning its impartiality and the suitability of the person chosen to lead it.

The review by HMICS was commissioned by the Scottish government after the Home Office refused to extend the remit of the Pitchford Inquiry to Scotland.

The Pitchford Inquiry was established in 2015 after revelations that undercover police officers with Metropolitan Police units abused their power.

There were subsequent calls for the Pitchford Inquiry to be extended to Scotland after it emerged that undercover officers – dubbed ‘spycops’ – operated north of the border.

Theresa May, Home Secretary at the time, ruled out extending Pitchford to Scotland but after sustained pressure from campaigners the Scottish Government asked HIMCS to carry out a review.

The move was condemned at the outset by victims of spycops who said they had no faith in HMICS to be impartial because it comprised of former policemen.

Now, 18 people have written to HMICS, decrying both its remit and the choice of the body itself.

Most of them are among the 200 people designated as core participants at the London-based Pitchford Inquiry.

They include several women who were duped into relationships by undercover officers and who received an apology from the Metropolitan Police.

Others were only targeted in Scotland by undercover police officers and so cannot be part of the Pitchford Inquiry.

They include former MSP Frances Curran and climate activist Tilly Gifford who is trying to force a judicial review of Scotland’s exclusion.

The letter to HMICS says: “We were spied upon by undercover political secret police officers in Scotland. Some of us were spied on to such a significant extent that we are core participants at the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI), yet the same officers committing the same acts against us in Scotland will not be considered by the UCPI.

“Some of us were only spied upon in Scotland and so are ignored by the UCPI. We all deserve the truth, as do the Scottish public whose democratic rights have been interfered with.”

The letter points out that the fact that two disgraced units were once overseen by Phil Gormley, the current Chief Constable in Scotland, compromises the review.

Victims also argue that Stephen Whitelock is unsuitable to lead the review because of his past links to undercover policing, as revealed by The Ferret in tandem with Undercover Research Group.

“The decision to choose him and HMICS gives the appearance of corruption. We cannot think of anyone less appropriate to be doing this,” the letter says.

The scope of the review is also condemned, the letter’s signatories saying that HMICS’s remit is limited to events since 2000, which they say is a “fraction of the lifetime of the units”.

The letter adds: “Among the many outrages committed was the targeting of women through intimate relationships, the use of stolen identities of dead children and the illegal blacklisting of construction workers, environmental and community campaigners.

“All of these took place in Scotland before 2000 but the investigation will treat them as if they did not happen.”

The victims want the HMICS review to be scrapped and replaced by “something that is credible to all sides and to the public at large”.

Donal O’Driscoll, one of the signatories to the letter, told The Ferret: “The HMICS are simply the police investigating the police, and we have repeatedly seen that only ends in further cover-up, never answers.

“We have simply no trust in this process, which is compounded by HMICS investigators being ex-police closely connected to units they are supposed to be investigating. In any other situation it would be labelled corruption. The only way this scandal can be resolved is by public inquiry, whether through Pitchford or an independent Scottish one.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have directed HMICS to carry out an independent review of undercover policing in Scotland. The review will be essential in gathering facts about existing and historical undercover policing activities, over the period the Scottish Parliament has had responsibility in this area, and will inform any future decisions we make.

“People can have full confidence that the HMICS review of undercover policing will be thorough and independent.”

HMICS said it has received a letter dated 27 April 2017 and is currently in the process of responding.

A HMICS spokesman added: “The review of Undercover Policing in Scotland was directed by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice. It will be personally led by Derek Penman, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, who will be solely responsible for the final report and any findings or recommendations.

“Mr Penman who is independent of both Government and Policing has put measures in place to protect the overall integrity of the review.

“He will draw on the experience and expertise of a number of people during this review, including others from outwith HMICS who will be independent of policing in Scotland. He will ensure that all members of his review team are deployed appropriately into specific areas where there can be no potential conflict of interest.

“As highlighted in the published terms of reference, our strategic review of undercover policing in Scotland is not a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, although it may inform future discussions as to the need for such an inquiry. The Terms of Reference for this review can be found on our website at

The HMICS response continued: “The statutory powers of HMICS do not extend to the investigation of individual cases or complaints made against police officers or members of police staff involved in undercover policing operations in Scotland.

“Should anyone approach HMICS during our review with such a complaint, we will offer advice on where the complaint should be directed. However, HMICS will be interested in any issues or themes arising from these complaints and use this information to inform our scrutiny. Individuals may contact us through our website.

“HMICS will ensure that appropriate stakeholder consultation and engagement is undertaken as part of the review process to understand key issues and concerns.”

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