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|Volume 50 Number 40, November 7, 2020||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
The Mitting Inquiry into Undercover Policing, commonly known as the #spycops inquiry, began its proceedings on November 2.  The opening session will be a three week set of hearings, divided into two parts. The first half will be the presentation of Opening Statements from the core participants. The second will be the start of the actual hearing of evidence. The Inquiry will examine the actions of around 140 undercover officers who acted as activists in political groups since 1968. These first hearings cover the earliest period, from 1968-72.
Workers' Weekly will report on the Inquiry in future issues.
A full daily summary of the proceedings can be found on the website of the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS), at http://campaignopposingpolicesurveillance.com/
Under the heading "Statement from Victims" as of October 30, the COPS website carried this statement, supported by 85 non-state core participants in the Undercover Policing Inquiry:
Ahead of the Undercover Policing Inquiry hearings beginning next week, many people are dismayed by the Inquiry's prioritising of the protection of perpetrators' privacy above the right of victims and the public to know the truth. There seems to be little hope of the Inquiry providing the level of transparency and accountability that we all deserve.
A significant proportion of the 200 victims designated as core participants have signed this general statement on the issue of undercover political policing, calling attention back on to the key issues:
1. In 1968, following huge demonstrations in London's Grosvenor Square (and around the world) against the widely-condemned Vietnam War, British police set up a Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) to monitor and undermine such street protests.
Since that time, over 1,000 groups campaigning in the UK for a better society and better world have been systematically spied upon, infiltrated, or otherwise targeted by secret and unaccountable political police units.
2. This targeting has included over 140 highly paid police spies living long term as 'activists' engaging in the everyday activities of groups and campaigns for equality and justice, for environmental protection, for community and trade union empowerment, and for international solidarity; for rights for women, black and ethnic minorities, workers, LGBTQ people, and for animals; and also targeting those campaigning against war, racism, sexism, corporate power, legal repression, and police oppression and brutality.
Such groups and movements have comprised many millions of people throughout the UK who want to make the world better, fairer and more sustainable for everyone. Thanks to their efforts, many of the ideas spread by such groups have now become mainstream opinion and some campaigns and rights sought eventually resulted in legal and other formal recognition by society.
3. Yet it appears that almost any group that stood up to make a positive difference in questioning or challenging the establishment has been or could have potentially been considered a legitimate target by the UK's secret political policing units. Any claims that the UK police are a non-political institution are therefore clearly incorrect.
4. These secret policing activities went far beyond investigating what was said in meetings. Individuals within or associated with those campaign groups - most of which had an open membership and active involvement based on trust and co-operation - were subjected to intrusions into their personal lives. Thousands of fake 'friendships' were developed, exploited and abused by secret police who continuously lied for their own political ends. Many people, especially women, were deceived into intimate and abusive relationships.
Children have been fathered then abandoned, and the identities of deceased children stolen to provide 'cover' names. Police spies took part in and actively influenced groups and activities, and there have been very many arrests and victims of miscarriages of justice as a result. Family campaigns, people seeking justice for loved ones killed by police, were deliberately undermined by these units.
5. To bug a phone is recognised as a controversial breach of someone's human rights and so police have to apply for a warrant. We're generally opposed to that and note the public outrage over the phone-hacking scandal a few years ago. However, to hack people's LIVES is infinitely worse and should be totally unacceptable to everyone.
6. Much of the State response to public anger over these tactics has been to present the spying and the abuses that came with it as an aberration, a mistake, or the fault of rogue officers. We disagree. Based on the evidence, this spying was established and conducted with the full sanction of the State and supported by its apparatus and taxpayer funding. As stated by one of the women deceived into a relationship with a police spy, it was not just a single undercover policeman in her bed but also all those who put the officer in the field and supported them there.
7. No decision about all this was taken in isolation. The Government, senior managers and the handlers may have tried to turn a blind eye to the abuses, or deemed them politically 'necessary', but the reality is they were complicit in all of it. They readily accepted the 'intelligence' provided, they funded, tasked and oversaw the spycops units, and they set the agenda and ethos according to which these units operated.
8. This had nothing to do with responding to genuine public concern over any real and imminent serious violent threats to public safety and lives. The groups represented in this Inquiry were not terrorist organisations, but were groups pushing for positive social change in an overwhelmingly public and open way. By targeting these groups the police were demonstrating unacceptable and ongoing institutional discrimination, racism, sexism and anti-democratic action, including industrial-scale breaches of laws and charters that protect basic human rights and the right to protest.
9. Over 100 of the Inquiry's Core Participants summed up the problem here in a previous Collective Statement on 17th October 2017: 'For us, this Inquiry is about political policing to undermine groups and organisations campaigning for a better society and world.'
10. This police bias was clearly sanctioned at the highest level. We know of no effort to show 'balance' by police infiltration or secret targeting of powerful establishment bodies to investigate their crimes and threats to social peace and society.
Such organisations not targeted include greedy and unethical financial corporations, tax-avoiding hedge funds, military elites and their development of weapons of mass destruction, and power-mad establishment political parties. This is despite their continuous and widespread promotion of systematic institutional violence (such as wars, poverty, exploitation of workers, colonialism and environmental destruction) and discrimination on the grounds of race, sex and class, reinforced by Public Relations and manipulation of society for these institutions' own power and profit.
11. Following the exposure of this undercover policing scandal in 2010, it took five years of investigation, publicity and campaigning by victims and survivors of police infiltration, reinforced by police whistleblowers, for the Government to decide to act. Even then it took the shocking revelations that the family and surviving victim and close friend of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence had themselves been targeted by undercover policing.
12. In July 2015 following widespread public outrage, then-Home Secretary Theresa May tasked the current Undercover Policing Public Inquiry with getting to the truth about this scandal and who authorised it, and recommending action to prevent future police wrong-doing.
13. Since then we have had to suffer five more years of police delays and obstruction. These tactics have resulted in a refusal to release most of the names of the 1,000 organisations spied and reported on, refusal to release the names and photos of most of the police spies, and refusal to release most of the relevant documentation generated by political policing units.
Throughout these five years we and other core participants, despite an imbalance in resources and almost zero access to the documentation held by the police for decades, have worked hard to get the information and justice that we and the wider public are entitled to. We have worked hard and remain determined to bring the whole murky secret political policing operation and its unethical, unacceptable practices into the public spotlight where it belongs.
14. This is supposed to be a public inquiry, but it seems more like a police damage-limitation exercise or cover-up. The hearings are not yet publicly-accessible and nor will they be live-streamed, which is the only way to ensure that the millions of members and supporters of the targeted groups and movements have the opportunity to follow the proceedings as they happen.
15. We call for the Inquiry to recommend that police units targeting campaigners seeking a better society should never have been set up, and should be disbanded in their entirety. We call for full transparency, and release of all the names of the groups targeted, all the names of the police spies, and the full political files police have amassed on such campaign groups.
Only in a spirit of openness and transparency can the grievous police crimes of the past be acknowledged, those responsible at all levels be held accountable, and the many victims start to move forward with the answers they have consistently called for - and are entitled to.
16. When the SDS was formed they aimed to undermine the movements they were spying on. But despite the disgusting police tactics employed, movements for positive change to benefit the public good are still here and growing, and have had many successes on the way. Such movements are needed more than ever in order to address the cumulative and deepening crises into which humanity is being plunged by the current system and its policies. A better world is possible and it's up to all of us, whoever we are, to ensure support for - and not the undermining of - such movements for positive change.
We endorse the 13 Recommendations discussed and agreed at the People's Public Inquiry into Secret Political Policing, Conway Hall, London in July 2018:
1. Full disclosure of all names - both cover and real - of officers from the disgraced political police units, accompanied by contemporaneous photographs
2. Release of the names of all groups suspected to have been spied upon
3. Release of all the police's personal files on activists
4. Extension of the inquiry to all countries where the British spycops are known to have operated
5. The appointment of a diverse panel with experience relevant to victims to assist the chair in making decisions and judgements
6. Inclusion of children and young people who had contact with spycops as Core Participants in the Inquiry
7. Urgent and immediate review of convictions where spycops had involvement in the cases and who misled courts - 50 wrongful convictions have already been overturned and this is likely to be a fraction of the true total
8. The Inquiry must extend its scope to understand political policing and its impact on democracy. This must include a thorough investigation into racist, sexist, anti-working class, anti-democratic behaviour on behalf of the spycops and those that instructed them to operate in this manner. Such political policing and political policing units must be abolished
9. An urgent review into all undercover police activities to investigate whether the bad practice exposed by this Inquiry has been extended to other areas of undercover operations
10. Make available the necessary resources of the judge to be able to do their job in the available time
11. Equalising of resources, the police are spending millions on stonewalling the inquiry, victims have almost nothing
12. Increase the severity of penalties for [police] non-compliance with the Inquiry
13. Investigation into collusion between police and corporate spies
1. See also article on police powers and civil society: