Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Too Late For Turing But Not For Those Who Follow

After some years of campaigning, a posthumous Royal Pardon has been issued to Alan Turing. He was a genius mathematician whose work broke the Nazi Enigma codes and shortened the second world war. He laid the ground for all of modern computing. Without him, you wouldn't have the computer you're reading this on.

He was also gay and after conviction for consensual adult sex he was forced to have brutal hormone treatment. He also lost his security clearance to work on the government projects that were frankly the only things big enough to use his astonishing abilities. He died after eating an apple laced with cyanide, aged just 41.

It is peculiar to give him a pardon, which is usually issued when there is evidence that the person was wrongfully convicted. Turing most certainly did commit his crimes. It is also odd that the government is starting to play a zero-sum game, that if you do cool enough work for the state it'll let you off some sex offences in return.

But something really is different here, not about Turing but about the criminalisation of homosexuality. Turing is not the first to be absolved. One of the very few great things the Con-Dem government has done is allow men convicted of consensual adult gay sex to have their convictions wiped. Thousands of men have had their lives stymied by being branded sex offender for doing things that are now their protected legal right, and since October last year they can get the records erased.

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 requires the convicted man to apply, rather than proactively trawling the files for convictions to nullify, but even so it's astonishing. I cannot think of another law that, once repealed, gave retrospective pardon to its victims. The rule of law and the principle of obedience are usually regarded as paramount.

So giving Turing a pardon is anomalous, and the trade-off aspect is morally questionable. What happened to him was no more despicable or outrageous than what happened to tens of thousands of other men. Persecution is not tolerable if it only happens to us non-geniuses. But the pardon is actually in keeping with a wider legal framework that reflects a society's growing horror at what was done so recently.

Turing is dead; for those personally affected it is merely symbolic. But it cements the changes that have happened, builds an obstacle to backsliding, and adds conscious momentum to the continuing process of liberation, and for that it is to be welcomed.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Undercover Police: No Sex After All

A new police code of ethics will ban undercover officers from having sex with members of the public they are spying on. This completely contradicts a long series of pronouncements from a horde of the most senior police officers and politicians who said it was not only allowed but necessary.

On 13 June 2012 policing minister Nick Herbert told Parliament

What matters is that there is a general structure and system of proper oversight and control, rather than specific directions on behaviour that may or may not be permitted.

Moreover, to ban such actions would provide a ready-made test for the targeted criminal group to find out whether an undercover officer was deployed among them. Specifically forbidding the action would put the issue in the public domain and such groups would know that it could be tested.

On 27 September 2012 Jenny Jones, member of the Greater London Assembly, was at a Police and Crime Committee meeting questioning the Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Craig Mackay.

JJ: Would a serving police officer be given authorisation to start a sexual relationship with an activist while using a false identity?
DC: Not ordinarily, no.
JJ: What do you mean “not ordinarily”?
DC: Well you can’t write a rule for every particular scenario.

Radio 4's File On Four programme of 2 October 2012 featured the first interviews by several of the women affected. It also had the Met's Deputy Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan saying

I think it is one of those things that we cannot legislate for every single circumstance. If a circumstance happens where that happens with an officer, I would expect them to immediately report that to a supervisor. Each case needs to be looked at on its merits

The following month the big chief himself, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bernard Hogan-Howe, told the Home Affairs Select Committee

The fact that it may sometimes happen, I think, could almost be inevitable. Not that I would encourage it, obviously, but when you are deploying an officer to live a lifestyle and they are going to get close to a target or a group of targets, it is not impossible to imagine that human relationships develop in that way.

Last week ago Hogan-Howe clarified his stance when questioned by the tenacious Jenny Jones AM.

what we need is transparency when it happens. The individual involved lets us know and we deal with it as a problem, but do not condemn.

When drugs officers are caught stealing and selling what they confiscate, or officers are proven to be violent or sexually abuse citizens, is it also dealt with it as a problem but not with condemnation? If you want it stopped, make it a sacking offence. Otherwise, it continues.

Just two weeks ago women who had long-term relationships were in court, appealing against the decision to send their human rights case to a Bullshit Stalinist Tribunal. Lawyers for the police said

It might in some circumstances be necessary and proportionate to authorise an undercover operative to engage in sexual contact in order, for example, to maintain cover

But this week Alex Marshall from the College of Policing told MP David Winnick

'the authorising officer should make it clear that sexual activity is not allowed while working undercover'.
Winnick: ‘Totally banned?’
Marshall ‘Yes.’ 

After years of flip-flopping, it now seems that it is OK to have a ready-made test, you can write a rule for every particular scenario, you can legislate for every circumstance, you don't look at each case on its merits, it's not almost inevitable and it is not necessary or proportionate to authorise an undercover operative to engage in sexual contact.


It would be nice to think this was some sort of moral advance. In reality, it appears that senior police have decided to say that sexual activity is legal but not authorised. That is to say, if it were illegal the police as a body would be liable; if it is merely not authorised then it is the fault of the individual officer. Thus, the bigwigs who've permitted and encouraged it get away and the lowlings get all the blame.

More, it seems that they'll be arguing this was always the case, thus evading responsibility for what they oversaw. Liam Thomas was an undercover officer until 2004 and says

The official Met line was 'don't do it', but unofficially it was condoned. I remember one senior detective saying to me, 'Have you embedded yourself in the community yet?' It was tongue in cheek, but I left with the impression that had I shagged around for intelligence, it would have been OK.

Jim Boyling infiltrated environmental activists, marrying one woman he targeted and having children with her. She recalls that

Jim complained one day that his superiors said there was to be no more sexual relations with activists anymore – the implicit suggestion was that they were fully aware of this before and that it hadn't been restricted in the past. He was scoffing at it saying that it was impossible not to expect people to have sexual relations. He said people going in had 'needs' and I felt really insulted.

Two later officers - Rod Richardson and Lynn Watson - did not have long term relationships but instead told activists about their partners who lived elsewhere. On occasions these 'partners'- clearly other officers - would come to social events. This all means that the top brass knew full well about officers having relationships and had effective ways to avoid it.

And yet - most damningly after Watson and Richardson - they sent in Mark Kennedy without a pretend far-off partner. Like Bob Lambert thirty years before him, Kennedy targeted his first long-term girlfriend within weeks of starting his spying. At the very least his superiors chose to put him in a position where this was more likely, and it is plausible that they encouraged and even directed his relationships.

The fact that in the 30 years of known cases only one uncovered officer had no sexual contact with the public, and the overwhelming majority had long-term relationships, shows this was endemic and seemingly strategic.

Undercover officers openly had relationships; this meant they sometimes did so in front of other officers. The fact that John Dines' infiltration of London Greenpeace overlapped with Bob Lambert's in the late 1980s means Lambert's relationships will have been known about. Lynn Watson and Marco Jacobs were, at different times, deployed alongside Mark Kennedy. Watson in particular was at social events where Kennedy was very much in a couple.

Either these officers (and the others like them who haven't been unmasked) failed to report their colleagues' misconduct; or else their superiors failed to act on it; or else it simply wasn't regarded as wrong until the public found out.

Police Spies Out of Lives, which speaks for eight women who had long term relationships with officers and are suing the police, saidof this week's announcement

It’s a welcome step but we must be cautious. We’re still not getting the consistency and action that the public is owed. We are talking about deep abuse of people’s lives, the violation of their human rights, that we know has taken place over the last 25 years. The abuses indicate a profound level of institutional sexism, and also institutional prejudice against members of the public who engage campaigning for social and environmental justice.

There are still many questions which need answers: When does the new training start? What’s happening in the meantime? What about past transgressions? Are any officers facing disciplinary action – or are their superiors taking Hogan-Howe’s stance? Is there any protection for whistle-blowers? Will the police change their legal tactics – or are they going to continue to make their victims have to fight for justice?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Let Them Eat Jam

The BBC stays nigh-on silent about the privatisation of the NHS. But here's a BBC news story complete with audio about a LibDem MP (the hilariously named Tessa Munt) saying that a cut in jam sugar content from 60% to 50% could mean "the end of the British breakfast as we know it". All the news that's fit to, er, take up space with trivia.

The sugar thing, incidentally, seems to be less of a health measure and more to do with standardising for the global market. Still, surely reducing sugar consumption is the kind of thing that's a good idea for the health of the public at large. Maybe so, but then Munt isn't interested in the public's welfare.

She only got into the house of Commons in 2010. Despite such short tenure she's voted:

- to replace Trident (£50bn on unused weaponry whilst benefits are slashed)
- to increase VAT (a tax that hits the poorest hardest)
- to keep detention without charge at 28 days rather than reduce it to 14 days (LibDems, the party of civil liberties)

- against giving communities greater control of shops development to keep payday loan and betting shops out
- against investigating zero-hours contracts with a view to eliminating their abuse

But still, as long as you focus your media strategy on giving blankets to dogs and talking about jam, hopefully nobody will notice that other stuff.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cameras Don't Lie But They Can Go Blind

As bailiffs beat up protesters in the tree protest camps at the Newbury Bypass, police officers would simply turn round and face the other way. Contradicting their sworn duty, in plain sight of colleagues and members of the public, they all did it.

When I asked why they weren't stopping assaults and arresting the perpetrators I was told, 'they can make a complaint later, if they like'.  The bailiffs were more powerful and so they were protected; had the assaults been the other way around the police would have piled straight in.

The other day I wrote about how Plebgate is getting the establishment in a kerfuffle over police corruption and accountability, and how a Tory MP's victimhood is different to that of Ian Tomlinson, Jean Charles de Menezes or Hillsborough.

Today another Tory MP, David Davis, has joined in, calling for police to wear cameras. Nice though it may sound, like the outrage over Plebgate, I can't believe it will be used to do much more than to serve the interests of the powerful.

Cameras have already been in place at many incidents of serious police wrongdoing. Let's look at cases I mentioned on Monday. When the police killed Jean Charles de Menezes, CCTV cameras on the station platform and the train 'weren't working'. The company operating the cameras and London Underground staff were reported to contradict this, but didn't have chance to check the tapes before police took them away, and certainly blank tapes were all that was returned to them.

But still, it was possible. When you consider the thousands of cameras installed across the country, it's a good bet that lots of them aren't working at any given time. This excuse surely couldn't apply for the G20 protests in 2009. More than 100 officers were deployed to monitor over 3,000 CCTV cameras. Unlike Stockwell tube, the area concerned was well known weeks in advance. There is simply no way that they didn't ensure the system was in full working order.

Yet we were told that there weren't any cameras in the area where police fatally attacked Ian Tomlinson. When it was pointed out that two permanent cameras controlled by City of London police were aimed directly at the spot, the statement was amended to say that the cameras weren't working.

At Hillsborough, crucial CCTV tapes were stolen. They have never been recovered. They were in a locked cupboard in a locked, alarmed room. There was no sign of forced entry and the alarm did not go off. When the theft was logged with a crime report, it was marked 'NO PUBLICITY RE THIS OFFENCE'. The words 'no publicity' were underlined twice.

With outbreaks of selective faultiness, police can remove technology from the case and bring it back to a contest of integrity. And who would believe the word of a civilian against that of a police officer?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Plebgate Proves You Are What You Own

The Plebgate affair, in which police stitched up MP Andrew Mitchell, has provoked a storm of criticism about police lying and corruption. You'll get that sort of support and outrage if you're a public school educated banker turned Tory MP. The rest of us, even when attacked en masse, find it's the perpetrators who get all the help the desire.

The construction industry blacklist is a major scandal any way you look at it. Thousands of people had their details held on an illegal database, used by most of the major construction firms to vet workers. People were denied a living because they wanted to unionise a workplace, or even because had tried to get workplaces to adhere to proper health and safety practices including those dealing with asbestos.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission says that gathering information for the construction industry blacklist seems to have been a normal, ongoing part of Special Branch work. Pete Francis, the whistleblowing ex-undercover Special Branch cop, said in August that as well as infiltrating protest groups, he believes his intelligence was used in the blacklist.

It reflects what was revealed in the McLibel trial, where a large corporation used illegal methods to stifle fair criticism from activists. More than this, both cases show that a two-way illegal exchange of information between police and corporate spies was a matter of routine.


Secret operations, by their nature, are not often exposed. Does anyone think McDonald's is the only corporation to use spies in such a way, or just the only one well documented thanks to legal disclosure? Is construction the only industry to use a blacklist, or just the only one that's been caught?

Why would other industries not use such proven effective tactics to defend their power and profits?

In the summer we learned that the police's Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) had a list of over 100 blue-chip companies that had employed spies who used illegal methods (and that number was described as 'the tip of the iceberg').

It followed in the wake of the tabloid phone hacking scandal, but none of the companies on the list are in the media. It's banks, oil, construction (of course), pharmaceuticals - mostly household names, all giants.

SOCA had known about all this criminality for years yet had kept it secret. Its chair, Sir Ian Andrews, explained that revealing these crimes would

substantially undermine the financial viability of major organisations by tainting them with public association with criminality.

There. Right there. That is a bald admission that protection of corporate profit is more important than bringing known corporate criminals to book, or letting the public know what crimes are being committed against them.

Andrews is right - people would be put off a company if they knew how devious and criminal it really was. The same applies to individual citizens who commit crimes, yet they are all publicly named despite the impact it will have on their lives and livelihoods.

But very few citizens can compete with the importance of corporate profit in the eyes of the powerful and their protectors in the police. The automatic, unthinking, active protection of power extends to the watchpoodle bodies that are supposed to keep the police in check and, in turn, the public figures who watch the watchpoodles. It takes a Tory MP being fitted up in Plebgate for the Opposition to say the Independent Police Complaints Commission needs to be replaced.

Last week, the Mark Duggan inquest and the partners of undercover police were in the Royal Courts of Justice, but they are just ordinary citizens to be treated like, well, plebs. So when the IPCC has colluded with the police in those cases, and to cover up crimes in the cases of Hillsborough, Jean Charles de Menezes, Ian Tomlinson, Leveson and untold instances of individual violence and racism, it is fine. The victims aren't rich enough. You are what you own.

Not only will corporations do whatever they can get away with to increase profits, but they will be assisted by the agencies of the state that claim to protect us.

People ask why Mark Kennedy and the secret police infiltrated groups that were no physical threat to anyone. It is because there is no distinction made between the threat to life, the threat to corporate profit or the threat to police credibility. All of them are perceived as dangerously subversive and they must be stopped, in the words of the motto of the secret police's Special Demonstration Squad, 'by any means necessary'.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Last Chance for Human Rights

Some of the women survivors of long-term relationships with undercover police are back in court next week. Although very similar things happened to them all over a long period of time - hence suing the bosses for the strategy of psychological and sexual abuse, rather than the individual officers - only incidents that occurred after the Human Rights Act have a human rights claim in UK courts. So this case just involves three women who had long term relationships with Mark Kennedy.

The rest of the claimants do have the same human rights regarding privacy and freedom from degrading and inhumane treatment, but would need to have the money to take a case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Remember that next time you hear Tory clamour - now a manifesto pledge for 2015 - to repeal the Human Rights Act. It wouldn't be withdrawing human rights, just ensuring that they're only enforcable for the rich. (Although as of last month they are talking about withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights entirely.)

When the Human Rights Act was introduced, the government spotted that state espionage will often breach human rights, and relevant cases under the Act might involve very sensitive, even life threatening information. To deal with this, they set up Investigatory Powers Tribunals. These are bullshit Stalinist secret courts that the claimant is not allowed into. The state presents its evidence, the claimants don't see what the state has said to see if its true (or see what is true but ahs been omitted). The claimants are not there to cross-examine anyone. The judge then makes up their mind and says who has won, without giving any reasons for their decision. There is no right of appeal.

In cases of genuine secrecy with lives on the line you can imagine how such measure might appear necessary. But in the case of environmental activists it's nonsense. More, the case of Mark Kennedy, who hired Max Clifford to repeatedly sell his stories to the Daily Mail, could scarcely be less secret. Yet in January a judge decided that the womens' human rights claim should go to a Bullshit Stalinist Tribunal.

It is not about the interests of national security. It is plainly an obstacle being used by the guilty to avoid accountability. Yet again we see state powers enacting a double injustice - committing a gross offence against citizens, then when it is caught it tries every trick available to deny them justice.

Next week the Court of Appeal will hear the appeal against the decision to go to the Bullshit Stalinist Tribunal. It is the last chance to ensure press and public scrutiny of Mark Kennedy’s police commanders over Human Rights Act abuses.

The support group for some of the women, Police Spies Out Of Lives, has called for a picket on the opening day:

- Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London, WC2 (Holborn or Temple tube)
- Tuesday 15 October, 9am-10am

There is more info and explanation about the hearing in their press release.

The 'Where We Stand' statement by the eight women in the Police Spies Out of Lives case is an absolute must-read.

The group finally set up social media this week, so you can keep up to date with the cases by following them on Twitter @out_of_lives or liking them on Facebook at facebook.com/policespiesoutoflives.

Monday, October 07, 2013

No Freedom, No Information

Freedom of Information requests can embarrass police officers.

In the Hillsborough scandal, one of the main architects of the police smear campaign was Norman Bettison. When last year's Hillsborough Independent Panel report came out he did not answer calls. In later written evidence, given under caution, Bettison said he was in a place with no signal. An FOI request showed his work phone was in use all day, making 14 calls and 15 texts.

The 'outside' overseer for the current Hillsborough investigation is another senior police officer, Jon Stoddart, the recently retired chief constable of Durham. 

A new body, the National Crime Agency (NCA), came into being today. Stoddart has been seconded to the NCA. The NCA is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. Hmmm.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Spied Upon Film UK Screenings

I've been following the undercover policing scandal closely since it began and, as longer term readers may suspect, I've got a personal interest in it. I was close to Mark Kennedy for many years in his Mark Stone guise, and I was one of the people who did the investigation that unmasked him.

I've not gone into it much before in public. That has, in part, been to do with the integrity of the writing; I want the commentary to stand on its own merits, to be based on facts and reasoning that anyone could arrive at, rather than based on any emotional drive or undisclosed information. But it's also partly it's personal; having had your life and the lives of those around you so horrendously intruded upon, there was a powerful initial need not to exacerbate that feeling. Additionally, I didn't want to look like a self-publicist or do anything to overshadow the court cases being brought by women who'd had long term relationships with these officers.

As time's gone on the personal shock has waned but the scale of what we know has grown. Everything we know about Kennedy is still true, yet his actions have become just a tiny part of the greatest scandal in British policing history. It's a story of huge abuse of power and resources, dozens of psychologically and sexually abused women, abandoned children, rigged court cases and the probability of hundreds, even thousands of wrongful convictions.

There is a growing band of us who suffered this stuff who are co-ordinating and agitiating for justice. Jason Kirkpatrick is an anti-capitalist activist based in Berlin. He was also friends with Kennedy for years. Since discovering who his friend really was he's been travelling around with a camera, tallking to other targeted activists, academics and politicians, trying to find the truth and get some answers.

He's coming to the UK next week for 'sneak preview' screenings of his forthcoming film, Spied Upon, and I'm speaking with him. He'll be showing about 40 minutes of the material he's got so far, talking about the film and having a discussion with the audience after.

This isn't a mainsteam media endeavour. It's an activist filmmaker, portraying the activist perspective. This also means it's got no funding, so if you'd like to see the film finished and have a few quid, he's just launched a crowdfunding appeal.

You can see clips from the film on the Spied Upon site

The screenings:

Wednesday 9 October, 7.15-9pm
Vibe Bar, 91 Brick Lane, London, E1 6QL
£3-8 (sliding scale) at the door. No one turned away for lack of funds.
London Facebook event

Friday 11 October, 7.15-9pm
Broadway Cinema Studio, 14-18 Broad St., Nottingham, NG1 3AL
£3-6 (sliding scale) at the Studio door, no presale tickets
NOTE: This is a “Private” event, and thus not under Broadway Cinema listings
Nottingham Facebook event

Sunday 13 October 2013, 2.15-4pm
Hyde Park Picture House, 73 Brudenell Road, Leeds, LS6 1JD
£6, £3 unwaged
Leeds Facebook event

Tuesday 15 October 2013, 7.30-9pm
Forest Cafe, 141 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh, EH3 9JN
Free event, no tickets required 
Edinburgh Facebook event

Wednesday 16 October 2013, 7.30pm
St Andrews School 6, St Salvators Quad, St Andrews, Fife
Free event, no tickets required
St Andrews Facebook event

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

undercover police: another inside view

In the week after the Mark Kennedy undercover police scandal hit the news in January 2011, amidst the flurry of newspaper articles there was one that bears re-examining. Perhaps overshadowed by Kennedy’s Max Clifford brokered Mail on Sunday splash that day, ex-undercover officer Liam Thomas gave an interview to the Independent on Sunday (two years later the Sunday Times lazily recycled it, giving him a false name to make it seem more edgy).

Thomas doesn't mention any involvement with protest groups, describing instead his time among drug gangs, paedophiles, and 18 months running a fake shop front to catch local petty criminals. But, because of he isn't covering his own arse and had long since left the force, his dispassionate insight into the culture of undercover police is all the more illuminating.

Notably, whilst senior officers were loudly delivering unequivocal proclamations that sexual contact with targets is grossly unprofessional and never allowed, Thomas was the first person to corroborate the fact that it was an established strategy.

At training school, it was drummed into your head that you are only limited by your imagination. The whole UC [undercover] model in the police is taken from the spooks, where an agent sleeping with the enemy is condoned.

The official Met line was 'don't do it', but unofficially it was condoned. I remember one senior detective saying to me, 'Have you embedded yourself in the community yet?' It was tongue in cheek, but I left with the impression that had I shagged around for intelligence, it would have been OK.


It's clear that undercover officers acted as agents provocateur. Even the judges who overturned 20 convictions Kennedy secured said so.

After the spate of revelations the police have been keen to say that lessons need to be learned, that long-term undercover work needs better oversight and must avoid over-involvement with those being spied on.

But hang on, what's this?

Scotland Yard claimed last night that the future of covert police work was under threat after a court ruling that some of its officers had committed a "state-created crime"... A prosecution based on the sting was thrown out at Southwark crown court yesterday after a judge described the police actions as "massively illegal".

Judge George Bathurst-Norman allowed 10 defendants to walk free after saying that the police had "overstepped the line between legitimate crime detection and unacceptable crime creation".

Sounds a lot like what Kennedy and co did with the entraspment of the Ratcliffe protesters and subsequent collapse of the trial.

But this is dated 29 July 2003. Mark Kennedy's first active infiltration, attending the 2003 Earth First! Summer Gathering, happened less than a fortnight earlier. Everything else in his mission came after this, including the agent provocateur work some six years later that got 20 people wrongfully convicted.

Thomas went on to highlight Kennedy's work in this wider context.

the Met had just been humiliated in court after another long-term infiltration was found to have spiralled out of control. In that case, Operation Cotton, the Met had allowed two UCs [undercovers] posing as money launderers on the Costa del Sol to operate for seven years. It cost tens of millions of pounds. I was one of the many UCs asked to go to Spain with cash to fund their high-rolling lifestyle...

The judgment was supposed to have forced a major internal review of the oversight of long-term undercover operations. But the management lessons don't seem to have been learned in the deployment and handling of Kennedy.


Thomas also tells a - by now familiar - story of ending up suffering a mental breakdown and leaving the police on medical grounds. There can be no denying that those in charge of operations are fully aware that the officers are likely to be scarred by the work, but there'll always be a fat cheque to buy the old ones off and new ones waiting to sign up. Not only are the people targeted and the bereaved families whose childrens identity is stolen seen as mere collateral damage, but the officers themselves are added to that pile of human mincemeat.

Those same senior officers refuse to co-operate with the women and families they jeopardised and damaged. They say it's not to do with trying to avoid accountability, but that their policy to 'neither confirm nor deny' that people were undercover cops is based on an overarching need to protect their staff even after they've left the force.

Those ex-officers, meanwhile, have to launch lengthy legal cases to win compensation to help them deal with the serious damage that was knowingly, predicably and therefore pretty much deliberately inflicted on them.

I'm certainly not saying that the undercover officers should be our main concern. They signed up for their job, and those they targeted for abuse, who had no choice, are unquestionably the real victims. But it is those who devised their missions and pushed them through the mind-mangle who bear the greatest responsibility, even more than those whose hands did the work.

For all their bluster about 'mistakes' and 'lessons to be learned', it's clear that all the practices of undercover police now being widely decried, and conceded as wrong by senior police, were part of a long established strategy that those in charge were fully aware of and content with.

Friday, September 20, 2013

five year old eco warrior

 This week I got a Facebook message from an old friend about their five year old.

Today J heard the term 'Eco Warrior'. Discussions ensued and you came up.
Here are our questions:

Are you an Eco Warrior?
Why were you living in the trees near Newbury?
Have you got any pictures of it?
Were you scared?
What happened in the end?
How can a 5 year old be an 'Eco Warrior'?

I replied off the top of my head, but people have said nice things about it so I thought I'd post it here too.

= = = = = = = = =

Hi J,

First up, be glad you've got such interesting parents. Most people's are a lot more boring.

Are you an Eco Warrior?

Yes, I think most people would say I was. But I don't like the phrase 'eco warrior' myself, it makes it sound as if people have some magic power or are special in some way, when really it's just ordinary people who care a lot about saving the trees and who have the time to do something about it.

It's sort of like if your dad was very famous for his music, people would call him a rock star but it would seem like he was showing off if he said it about himself. And, worse for him, it would make him seem a bit special and so remote from other people.

I do like the term 'warrior' for the way that it describes a war that is going on, but I don't feel I'm a warrior in that war; the war is between the endlessly greedy people and the one ecosystem that we all need to stay alive.

But in the end, I accept that "eco warrior" is a quick way for people to describe those of us who do that sort of stuff.

Why were you living in the trees near Newbury?

They were going to cut thousands of trees down to build a big new road. We realised that if we went and built treehouses and stayed up in them, they couldn't cut the trees down. At least, not until they'd climbed up and taken us out one by one, which we knew would take them a lot of time.

By making it more of an effort, it meant people planning to do the same thing elsewhere decided not to bother. It also made people ask us what we were doing and we got them to understand our view.

We got them to see that making more roads means cutting down trees and it encourages people to use their cars more, which is very pollluting. Cars are very useful, but we knew there were other, less damaging ways to move people and things around, such as buses and trains.

Have you got any pictures of it?

Yes I have. Have a look in my Facebook pictures at an album called 'Get A Job You Bunch Of Hippy Scum'.

Were you scared?

Sometimes, but not often. I'm a bit of a wuss at being high up, so learning to climb trees didn't come readily. But I knew it would be worth it and I had my friends to encourage me. I expect you've had something similar when climbing up high or going fast, or doing something new and difficult. But you know it'll be worth it afterwards, and that it will be easier next time. It was like that.

Some people might tell you they never get scared; they're lying. Pretending that you have no fear will get you in all sorts of bother, it's much better to realise you're scared and then decide if it's going to be worth doing something anyway. If you know you're not really in danger then you can make yourself get over it.

Having to charge through lines of police and guards to get to trees was scary sometimes, but I knew they wouldn't really hurt me, and much more than that we knew we were right and they were wrong, so that made us all do it anyway, and I'm glad it did.

What happened in the end?

The road got built and thousands of trees were lost, it was too late to stop that. But we convinced lots of people we were right, and most of the other big roads that were planned never got built. There are beautiful places, such as the water meadows near Salisbury, that you can see today only because our work at Newbury made them decide not to build there.

The few trees I was living in weren't in the exact line of the new road, they were next to it. The builders told us that if we saved them the trouble of coming up to get us then they'd let the trees live.

So those four trees, which are a lot older than me and will hopefully outlive us all, are still there because me and my friends lived in them for a few weeks a long time ago.

And on a personal level, doing good things means you meet good people. At Newbury and other camps like it I made some of the best friends I'll ever have.

How can a 5 year old be an 'Eco Warrior'?

There are many places where this stuff is still going on. At the moment a new industry called fracking, where they get polluting gases out of the ground and poison water, is trying to get started, and people are protesting and blocking it just like at Newbury. Some of the old road schemes have been brought back, and people have been in camps at them too.

It's not really possible for you to go and live in the trees but whenever there's a camp they love people coming and visiting for the day, so maybe your mum and dad would take you to one. Knowing that they have the support of so many people who would like to be there but can't - because of jobs or school or whatever - is what makes people in the camps feel like it's really worth it.

But there is a lot you can do that does a lot of the same job - not using too much stuff, respecting nature - in your day to day life. I think spending time in the garden, growing some of your own food (but making sure there's always a little wild corner for the plants and birds and insects to have to themselves) can give you the right spirit that makes you an eco-warrior at heart whether you're living in the trees or not.

It makes us see that there are things we can do to interact with the natural world in a good way, that make us feel like we're making it better but still let us know that we're not in charge, we are part of things much bigger than us that provide us with what we need.

Monday, September 09, 2013

controlling dissent with mass arrests

On Saturday thousands of people took to the London streets in a counter-demonstration to a march by 500 racist knuckle-draggers of the English Defence League (not to be confused with the real EDL). Sections of the mass rally went outside of the police's designated area. They were kettled (ie surrounded by police and not allowed to leave) for seven hours, then arrested. The police had already hired numerous buses to cart them away.

The police said there had been about 150 arrests. Filling five buses to capacity and driving them away is clearly more than that. Like their habitual underestimation of the size of demonstrations, it's a childish way to discredit the dissent, and yet the media happily parrot it.

On Sunday they finally revised the figure upwards to 286, a figure that tallied with estimates given all along by eyewitnesses. They had been bussed out to Surrey, held for hours, and then all of them released without charge but with police bail conditions


Mass arrest is a tactic that has been developed to stifle protest that is deemed politically undesirable.

In April 2009 Nottinghamshire police arrested all 114 climate activists at a meeting planning to shut down Ratcliffe on Soar coal fired power station. They weren't intending to prosecute a large proportion of them. Only 26 came to court.

Fortunately for the defendants, between their arrest and trial they discovered that one of their number was in fact undercover police officer Mark Kennedy. They asked to see what reports he'd made, as the defence have a right to see evidence that may be helpful to them. Rather than do this, the state dropped the trial of six people, and the earlier convictions of the other 20 were quashed.

In Saturday's context, I can't help wondering if we would even have fascists marching on our streets if the BNP and EDL's rise hadn't been so ably assisted by sending Mark Kennedy and other undercover police officers in to disrupt effective anti-fascist work over the last decade.

But whatever, the Ratcliffe arrests heralded the modern use of mass arrests of dissenting activists. Two years later the Metropolitan Police made a their record mass arrest of an even larger number. Then a year later they broke their record. And now a year after that, on Saturday, they've broken it again.


In March 2011 anti-cuts protesters occupied tax-dodgers Fortnum and Mason. As the video shows, Chief Inspector Clare Clarke was there and told them they were 'sensible and non-violent' and that they would be free to go. Her officers then released them into a pre-arranged kettle outside where an officer said, 'yes, you're free to leave – to the police station. You're going to be arrested.'

All 145 were then arrested and taken away. Many were held for 18 hours and had their phones, clothes and shoes confiscated.

They were the vast majority of those arrested on the entire day's protests, and the Home Secretary told parliament it was a 'message to those who carry out violence'. Between them, the Fortnum's 145 had been responsible for minor damage to an Easter egg.

The police are not distinguishing between protesters on grounds of their propensity for violence, but on their propensity for autonomy and disobedience. If you're active outside of the controlled system of grey politics, and especially if - as with the likes of UK Uncut or Climate Camp - you're really catching on, then you will be clamped down on and mass arrested. Meanwhile, of Saturday's easily corralled fascists, only 14 were arrested.

The 145 Fortnum protesters were given charges, but these were later dropped against the vast majority and only a handful were convicted.


On the evening of last year's Olympics opening ceremony 182 Critical Mass cyclists were pushed off their bikes and kettled by the Met. As this comprehensive eyewitness account with video shows, it was done in a needlessly aggressive manner.

Held for hours in handcuffs - some on buses, some in a windowless bare concrete police garage - until being put in police stations during the night, all but four were released without charge, yet they had their bikes confiscated and, of course, all had bail conditions. Only nine were charged and five convicted. Again, this is not about court cases, it's about stifling protest.

On Saturday 286 people were kettled for hours, arrested for longer, then given restrictive bail conditions, yet none of them have been charged with anything at all.


The Met are taking their 'total policing' slogan very seriously indeed. This is total political policing, pure and simple. It makes anyone who was there reluctant to come back for future protests if they're not up for a night in the cells and finding their way home from another county. It makes their mates hear the story and think it all sounds a bit much to get involved in.

Irrespective of whether you come back, it means the police have already collected names, addresses, fingerprints, DNA, and anything else they can wheedle out of you. Again, this sounds daunting to those you tell it to, and it also allows the police to build their databases and target their surveillance.

Saturday's counter-demo was addressed by Max Levitas, veteran of the Battle of Cable Street 77 years ago. Then as now, fascists were marching on the East end of London. Levitas and his comrades took to the streets to stop them. It was a defining moment in stopping the rise of the far right in the 1930s. They succeeded precisely because they did not not comply with the wishes of the government and police. It's to their proven vision and methods we should turn for inspiration and guidance.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

britain's secret police

Open Democracy have just published an article I've written about Britain's secret police, an overview of the various elements, the issues and questions it raises, all in one easy to swallow 2000 word chunk.

It's here.

And while you're there, check out this powerful piece about the Independent Police Complaints Commission, a watchpoodle body of ex-cops, who rubber-stamp police versions of even the most extreme police behaviour. Placed alongside this piece by Ian Tomlinson's family's lawyer Jules Carey that recunts the shocking details of the cover-up there, the case for self-investigations to be stopped is utterly overpowering.

Yet the only significant investigation into the 45 years of the secret police is being undertaken by the same Metropolitan Police who ran the operations.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

ratcliffe trial: prosecutors and police conspired

Imagine a police officer sees a street fight. Ten minutes after it's over a vanload of cops turn up. Yet at the subsequent trial, the prosecution don't even mention the one officer who had actually seen the event. There'd be the pervasive odour of rat.

So it was in late 2010 that 20 people were convicted of a protest without the court seeing the evidence supplied by activist Mark Stone, aka undercover cop Mark Kennedy. A further six protesters were later prosecuted and asked to see whatever reports Kennedy had made. Rather than release this, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) dropped the case.

At the time the CPS said they'd found

Previously unavailable information that significantly undermined the prosecution’s case

but they specifically said it was

not the existence of an undercover officer

Honest, guv. It was just coincidence that they only found this mysterious evidence, 21 months after the incident, within 48 hours of the defence's request for the Kennedy documents. When your job is to secure convictions, it must be tempting to withold evidence that exonerates.

The 20 previous convictions were quashed and it appears to be a formality that the Drax 29, who also had Kennedy take part, will get their convictions overturned too.

In just two protests the one officer secured 49 wrongful convictions. With 150 officers serving in the counter-democratic squads since their formation in 1968, taking Kennedy as an average there will have been over 7,000 miscarriages of justice. Even one per officer per year would give us 600.

So even being conservative, it's clear that poking its head above the water is one of the largest abuses of the judicial system ever revealed. How deep does it go?  Let's ask the only people who know, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. Except they won't tell us.

After Ratcliffe, Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said the CPS were actively reviewing files to find more. That was more than 18 months ago and they have so far found zero. It took them a year after the Ratcliffe ruling to say anything about the Drax convictions, even though Kennedy was involved in both.


In that intervening year we got the Rose report. Sir Christopher Rose was commissioned to investigate why police and prosecutors hadn't noticed that Kennedy and his evidence existed. Rose had been a Surveillance Commissioner since 2006. They have the ultimate sign-off on deployment of undercover police. Like all the inquiries that aren't actual police, it was a police satellite body with a conflict of interest and it amounted to yet another self-investigation.

The result was predictably intelligence-insulting blah - mistakes were made, nothing underhand, lessons learned now, nobody in charge did anything wrong, one scapegoated underling hung out to dry, move along, nothing to see.

Ratcliffe defence lawyer Mike Schwarz appeared Channel 4 News, talking of the report's drive to

hide behind the most benevolent interpretation of a completely myopic examination of one tiny issue. It's a failure of the authorities to address the wider picture, an almost pathological refusal to accept that there are systemic failures here.

Jon Snow then asked the Director of Public Prosecutions, Kier Starmer,

you see no requirement to mount a wider inquiry to check that there haven't been other miscarriages of justice?

To which Starmer replied

Whenever people raise concerns with me I will always look at those cases.... I think it would be a better use of our time and resources to look when an issue is raised rather than look back at everything when Sir Christopher Rose has said there's no systemic problem.

If I get burgled and find a fingerprint I don't expect the authorities to refuse to investigate until I give them a name to go with the fingerprint. It's they who have the files that match the two. In the same way, it's they who know who the undercover officers were, it's they who know which campaigns have been infiltrated. How can I ask for my conviction to be reviewed when I don't know that one of my friends was a cop who filed evidence that exonerates me?

On Newsnight, Jeremy Paxman started by asking Starmer

Are you absolutely certain there are no other cases in which people have been convicted on the basis of the evidence of undisclosed undercover police officers?

Paxman has to repeat the question three times in the folling minute and a half of shifty flanneling and he still doesn't get an answer. (It's interesting to note Starmer saying there are about half a dozen of these big cases involving undercovers annually.)

Starmer told Channel 4 the Ratcliffe debacle

has to be seen as a watershed in the way cases involving undercover officers are dealt with.

Well he certainly tried to make it seem that way, by making it hard for him or Rose's whitewash report to be challenged. Once a report is written, it takes a while to sort out the layout and printing. Yet the media were only told about the release of the Rose report the night before. They turned up at 9am and were given half an hour to read the 44 pages of unnecessarily tangled legalese and unexplained acronyms before Kier Starmer appeared for a few minutes to take questions and sod off.

Far be it from me to suggest that the CPS worked with the police to create another stitch-up to maintain their authority against the interests of justice, but if I wanted to discourage the press from being able to digest a report and ask probing questions, I would organise a report's release like that. If Starmer wasn't a willing part of such an ambush then he is, to put it most generously, too dim or powerless to do anything about the fact that it was set up like one.

The Rose report was a whitewash in both how it was compiled and in the conclusions it drew from its own limited evidence.

Starmer told Channel 4 that the police should have shared what the undercover officer was doing with the CPS and if that had been the case that

the individual failings both by us and by the police I don't think would have happened.

One problem there, Kier. The police did share it with the CPS. In fact, the CPS knew about the activists' plan before many of the participants themselves.


The Rose report essentially says nobody in the CPS realised that the police files included Kennedy's stuff or how important it was. It scapegoats one low ranking official, Ian Cunningham. One bad apple, you know, like they told us Mark Kennedy himself was.

The thing is that Cunningham's superior, Nick Paul, was more in the know than anyone. There are emails between the two men talking of the 'sensitive disclosure issues' around the 'participating informant'. Paul overrides the wishes of police to protect Kennedy. Nick Paul was at the time - and until January 2010 - the Domestic Extremism Co-ordinator in the CPS Special Crime Unit.

So the nebulous idea of 'domestic extremism' isn't just used by the secret police - the CPS concur with it enough to use it in a job title. Even though nobody is sure what it means. How long has the CPS had such a role? What else have they dealt with?

If Keir Starmer was interested in justice and wanted a place to start reviewing cases that may well be dodgy, it would be those dealt with by the the Domestic Extremism Co-ordinator. If Sir Christopher Rose wanted to get to the truth of what happened at Ratcliffe, he should have made Nick Paul swear an affa davit. As it is, he didn't even talk to him at all. Odd behaviour for an inquirer, unless he was trying to create a whitewash. Kier Starmer told Newsnight that Mike Schwarz was wrong, that Rose had looked at 'the entirety of the materials, police and prosecutors,' which is simply not true.

Let's look at what the Rose report into police and CPS collusion at Ratcliffe actually tells us when cross-referenced with the Independent Police Complaints Commission's report into the same issue. Bear with me, it'll be a bit long and a tad forensic, but it shows that this was not one lowling's fault. This was a high-level police and CPS cover-up.


6 April 2009: Ian Cunningham says he "was contacted by DCI Severn and told that there was a police operation to counter a threat to close down a power station in the region. He understood that the police were acting on intelligence and was informed that Nick Paul already had an overview of the case. He contacted Mr Paul and they confirmed that Mr Cunningham would be the allocated lawyer for Nottinghamshire Police to contact". (IPCC, para 77, my italics).

Note that Nick Paul already knew. When was he first told?

12 April 2009: 114 climate activists (including deep undercover police officer Mark Kennedy) arrested in the largest pre-emptive political arrest of its kind in English history.

16 April 2009: Police Gold Group meet, and their notes open with their mistrust of Cunningham: 'Ian Cunningham, danger environmentally friendly - local CPS reticent' (Rose, para 19). Rose found no evidence to support this. But here we have, right at the outset, a suspicion from the more judgemental officials. You can see a suggestion as to why, when a scapegoat was needed, Cunningham was sacrificed.

27 April 2009: Cunningham said he attended a Gold Group meeting with several senior police and was shown a single piece of paper about Kennedy's involvement and his authorisation. There was no detailed file. (IPCC, para 79). Nick Paul was present (Rose, para 21). Cunningham emails the Senior Investigating Officer the same day saying "we will always be vulnerable on disclosure, especially matters covert" (Rose, para 21). So the SIO knew about disclosure problems already - this isn't Cunningham keeping it to himself, then.

15 May 2009: Another Gold Group meeting takes place. Cunningham says they discussed the use of Kennedy and agree "to have a further meeting with Mr Paul and others who were sighted on the case to discuss what the implications were regarding the use of" Kennedy (IPCC, para 82, my italics). Following the meeting, the Senior Investigating Officer records in his Sensitive File “I believe that the major impact of the UC [undercover] de-brief is that the main organisers of the event are not amongst the scope of the investigation and a high level CPS/police strategy needs to be agreed to shape the future of the investigation” (Rose, para 21: my italics).

This Sensitive File note is more credible than much of the testimony to Rose as it is one of the few contemporaneous notes used, before everyone knew they had to cover their arses by blaming each other. Cunningham would not fit anyone's definition of 'high level CPS,' so this clearly means it was erroneous to mostly blame him. But who from the CPS or elsewhere - 'others sighted on the case' - did actually form the strategy? Nick Paul? Higher still?

28 May 2009: The CPS' Case Management Review Panel meets. Cunningham and at least two lawyers senior to him are present. Cunningham says if a prosecution goes ahead there are likely to be many disclosure issues. (Rose, para 39). Who were the more senior lawyers? They are responsible for any cover-up as well as Cunningham. Indeed, being senior makes them look more culpable.

16 June 2009: That planned police/CPS strategy meeting 'to shape the future of the investigation' takes place. (IPCC, para 82). Numerous senior police and Nick Paul are present (Rose, para 35).

17 June 2009: Nick Paul emails Cunningham saying, 'the participating informant may become important if the defence switch tack and choose to run a non political defence'. Cunningham replies that there are 'sensitive disclosure issues' and that he has a meeting the next week (23 June) to carry out the initial evidence sift. (IPCC, para 52).

Early July 2009: A Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) at the undercover police unit NPOIU wants Kennedy not to be charged. Nick Paul overrules it. (Rose, para 24). That's quite a stand to make; clearly Paul feels he has power to shape and control this.

23 July 2009: The DCI in Kennedy's unit emails Nick Paul to say once again that he doesn't want Kennedy charged, even though the CPS are pressing ahead with it. He also says that the secret police 'have not given the local CPS any details of the asset [Kennedy] but they are aware there is an asset involved'. (Rose, para 24). This not only shows Nick Paul knew what was going on and is pretty much calling the shots but that lower CPS, possibly including Cunningham, had information kept from them.

17 September 2009: The DCI running Kennedy's unit says that, following a meeting at Nottingham CPS between police, Cunningham and Paul on 15th (IPCC, para 54), Det Supt Pearson made an entry in his Sensitive Policy File. ‘Objective review of the evidence by CPS. In essence Stone UCO [undercover officer] was acting lawfully, within the scope of his authorised activity'. (IPCC, para 55)

30 November 2009: The CPS' Case Management Review Panel meets for the second time. Again, Cunningham and at least two lawyers senior to him are present. Cunningham asks what risks there were on the use of Kennedy's intelligence, pointing out that media had reported the police clearly acted on advance information. They discussed "risks regarding the 'right' questions being asked by the defence regarding covert practices". (Rose, para 39).

Again, who were the two senior lawyers? This looks very much like a conspiracy to keep the evidence from the defence and, again, the more senior CPS lawyers surely bear responsibility with Cunningham.

24 June 2010: The CPS' Case Management Review Panel meets for the third time. Again, Cunningham is there discussing the case with at least two more senior lawyers. Still the non-disclosure plan continues. (Rose, para 49).

13 October 2010: Prosecuting barrister in both Ratcliffe trials Felicity Gerry says she met with Cunningham and police at the CPS Complex Crime Unit offices in Nottingham where she was first informed of the existence of the undercover officer by Det Supt Pearson. (IPCC, para 65). So the person leading the prosecution knew, far ahead of formulating her arguments, and for every second she was in court, that evidence was being withheld from the defence.

21 October 2010: Mark Kennedy is exposed as an undercover police officer by activists. Cunningham informs Felicity Gerry the next day (IPCC, para 68).

22 November 2010: The first 20 of the Ratcliffe activists go on trial. Prosecutor Felicity Gerry - who self-defines as 'an entertaining public speaker and a prolific and popular tweeter' - baffled the jury and wider world by asking 'Was it more fun to plan this action or to vote for Zac Goldsmith? Did the defendants do all this because they didn’t have a Glastonbury ticket?' and suggesting it would have been more effective to get Cheryl Cole to speak out about climate change instead.

It seemed bizarre and clueless at the time, and was deservedly mocked. The Zac Goldsmith thing has a particularly hollow ring now we're three years into the betrayal of the 'greenest government ever'. But the serious part is that, knowing that she was aware of Kennedy, and by implication the withheld evidence and the miscarriage of justice she was enacting, from this distance her arguments take on a cynical and sinister tone.

14 December 2010: The 20 are found guilty.

10 January 2011: The trial of a further 6 collapses as the CPS refuse to disclose Kennedy's evidence that exonerated them. The CPS immediately begin their cover-up, issuing a statement saying it is not to do with Kennedy.

19 July 2011: The convictions of the 20 are quashed.

3 July 2012: A year later but with the scandal still expanding, the CPS invites another group of activists infiltrated by Kennedy, the Drax 29, to appeal their convictions. They are universally expected to be quashed.


Paragraphs 7-12 of the Rose report list all the materials drawn on. Nick Paul isn't mentioned. The man in the middle of it all, the first person in the CPS to know about Kennedy, who had the power to overrule some very insistent senior police officers, who conspired with Cunningham over 'sensitive disclosure issues', who held the post of Domestic Extremism Co-ordinator, wasn't even interviewed. Why not?

Who were the two senior lawyers on the Case Management Review Panel? Rose concludes they failed 'to sensibly oversee the way in which Mr Cunningham was doing his job as prosecutor' (Rose, para 46). How much did they advise? A mere oversight by two experienced lawyers in the entirety of three meetings over a year? Or were they active in withholding the evidence? Rose does not seem interested in asking. They are one of the main reasons disclosure didn't happen (Rose, para 54) yet they are never named and are seemingly not sanctioned.

In the Rose report's conclusions, despite the damning evidence even from its own limited pool, Rose declared, 'the failures were individual, not systemic'. (Rose, para 53). Yet the report shows the police are desperate to keep the existence of their undercover officers from everyone.

The IPCC concluded that

the dissemination of the sensitive material from the NPOIU [National Public Order Intelligence Unit; the secret police of which Kennedy was a part] through to the police is best described as ad hoc...The transcript should have been fully explained to Nottinghamshire Police with regard to its evidential value... There is no evidence that this conversation took place. (IPCC, para 110)

The secret police are, by definition, mixed up in loads of illegal activity and yet they don't disclose properly to the rest of the police (hence the uniformed grunts nicking Kennedy in the first place) never mind the CPS. If that doesn't fit your definition of 'systemic problem' you need a new dictionary. Even from the scant information in these reports, when you put them together the clear image is one of collusion and cover-up.


The IPCC report was narrow but at least it interviewed the relevant cops. The CPS and Rose couldn't be bothered, or else didn't want to hear what might be said. Either way, nobody can pretend that the Rose report is authoritative. It didn't stop Keir Starmer trying, mind.

He rapidly took cover behind Rose's tanker of whitewash, using the pronouncement that there was 'no systemic failing' as a reason not to investigate and rectify the hundreds, quite possibly thousands, of miscarriages of justice that are waiting to be uncovered.

You'd have thought Starmer might have a personal lust for justice against this counter-democratic policing given that he's been fucked over by it more than once before. As a defence lawyer he worked for a group of hunt saboteurs who got a witness statement from one of their comrades called Jim Sutton, aka undercover officer Jim Boyling.

Later, Starmer advised the McLibel defendants after they were prosecuted for distributing a leaflet co-written by undercover officer Bob Lambert. Starmer's sagely wisdom will have been undermined due to being pre-empted - it was seen by John Dines, the live-in boyfriend of defendant Helen Steel, who was also an undercover police officer. But in his supine position before the counter-democratic, judiciary-nobbling secret police, Starmer appears to show that there are few as zealous as those who've converted.

Maybe that's too harsh. Maybe he's too dim to realise how he's been duped and puppeted. Or maybe he's too powerless to speak out, or even speak out about the fact that he can't speak out. Whichever, the Ratcliffe fiasco and his participation in the cover-up have seen his credibility as a figure of justice comprehensively shredded and flushed away.

He's leaving the post of Director of Public Prosecutions at the end of October. Still time to find some of those elusive files before he goes, if he has enough conscience, inclination and ability.

Nick Paul, meanwhile, has left the CPS and is now back working at the place he founded, Doughty Street Chambers. This is, somewhat incongruously, the same chambers that did the Ratcliffe defence, and where Keir Starmer worked before he was Director of Public Prosecutions.

His profile mentions his time at the CPS.

Whilst there he specialised in cases involving police misconduct.

Indeed he did.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

ian tomlinson's family gagged with money

The Metropolitan police have reached a settlement with the family of Ian Tomlinson, who died after being attacked by a police officer whilst walking home through the G20 demonstration in April 2009.

Much rarer than a cash payout, the family have also received an apology. The Met apologise not only for the 'excessive and unlawful force' used by PC Simon Harwood, but also

for ill-considered comments made in the media in the immediate aftermath of Mr Tomlinson’s death which served to distract attention away from the investigation into the death.

They additionally apologise for trying to mislead pathologists as to the cause of death.

Even once the police knew what had gone on, they were not interested in justice. Their first response to the footage going online was to demand it be taken down, not with a call or email but actually going round to the Guardian office with someone from the watchpoodle Independent Police Complaints Commission.

They quickly put another IPCC glove-puppet on Channel 4 News to say there was no CCTV in the area of the assault. It was pointed out that at least two police CCTV cameras were directly pointing at it. The IPCC later corrected their position, saying that the cameras weren't working.

You can say this about all the cameras in Stockwell station the day they killed Jean Charles de Menezes (even though the company running the cameras and tube staff contradict it) and get a few people to believe you. But to claim it for cameras at the centre of the largest public order situation in the UK that year, that police had months to prepare for and over a hundred officers monitoring the screens on the day, is ludicrous.

Yet it is not the most far-fetched thing. In an act as desperate as it is insulting, after the footage was published an officer went round to the Tomlinsons' house to suggest that the assailant might have been a protester in a stolen police uniform. The police statement makes no apology for that.

Somewhat disturbingly, the police statement says the Tomlinsons can't talk about the settlement.

it has been agreed that it is in the best interests of the family that no further statement will be made, either by them or the Commissioner, regarding the terms of the settlement.

This apology and payout did not come easily. Were it not for one person's phone footage, Ian Tomlinson would have died of a heart attack as brave bobbies tried to save him under a hail of bricks and bottles. Were it not for the grit of the Tomlinson family aided by the tenacity of their lawyer Jules Carey and Guardian journalist Paul Lewis, it would not have happened.

And yet is is paltry. Four years is a short time for the police to make this payout compared to other cases, but it will have been an aeon for the family to wade through the police obstacles. No matter how much money it is it will not have been easy to earn, let alone anything like compensation for the loss of their loved one.


Once the police make a big cash offer, you have to take it. If you refuse and fight on - with all the trauma of continually focussing on the worst thing that has ever happened to you, because you want to get to court, because you're not interested in the money, because you want to see the people who've wronged you put under oath and questioned, because you want evidence to be shown - then even if you win you can lose. If the court awards you less money than the police offered you, you are liable to pay their costs. This can run into millions. Who could take that chance?

It is a triple injustice. First, there is what the police did. Secondly, there are the smears, lies and legal obstacles they use to try to prevent justice. Then, if you're still standing, they can use their superior power once again to stuff your mouth with money and prevent anyone getting the truth (then sit back and watch as social media comes alive with people calling you gold diggers). This same predicament is likely to face the people suing police for sending undercover officers into their personal lives.

In a statement on behalf of her family, Julia Tomlinson says the settlement - money with a gagging order - 'is as close as we are going to get to justice'. It is still far over the horizon from actual justice.


PC Simon Harwood will never spend a day in jail for what he did. Once again the police have killed with impunity. Imagine how different the response would be if PC Harwood had been fatally assaulted by a newspaper vendor instead.

More to the point, Harwood's colleagues and commanders will continue to behave the same way in future. Harwood's violence was excessive and unlawful. It was also typical. As I said at the time

Look at the video of Ian Tomlinson. Look at the casualness of the officer who attacks him. Look how the colleagues are completely unsurprised...

This was not an officer losing his head in the fury of a riot. It’s calm, slow and premeditated.

This was not one bad officer taking the law into his own hands. This sort of assault was endemic that day. I saw it hundreds of times with my own eyes, and I was at the more peaceful climate camp protest, and left before it got kettled then attacked with dogs and batons in the evening.

This sort of assault is what the police do when they’re deployed on this provocative political mission. The difference here is that it was caught on camera and the victim died.

Friday, July 19, 2013

smearing the messenger

Oh here we go. The police have put a piece in the Daily Mail smearing undercover police whistleblower Peter Francis. Full of quotes from three or four loyal cops, it alleges he's doing it for the money he gets from the Guardian book. Which is a book he gets no money from. It's a bit rich from the paper that paid a fortune to Mark Kennedy and credulously printed his extravagantly embellished story in 2011.

Francis is unique in that he spoke out before the Kennedy affair. In March 2010 he did an interview for the Observer.

As former Special Branch officer Chris Hobbs remarks: ‘I find it puzzling that the issue of smearing the Lawrence family was not mentioned (in the Observer) in company with the other revelations.’

At the time, Francis was cagey about a lot of things. It took him months to start being named as Pete Black, even though that too is only an alter-ego. As the scandal has unfolded and the threat to him as sole source has receded, just like the activists who were infiltrated, he has come forward with increased details of what went on.

Similarly the women who had relationships with undercover officers did not speak to the press initially. Then they were pseudonymous. Now several are out speaking publicly under their real names. It's not a because they've spent two years cooking up ever more elaborate lies, it's because it's taken a while to get the confidence. They and Francis knew before they began that they'd be shot down by behemoth institutions who are very protective of their reputation, irrespective of justice.


At the time, he wanted to write a book about his undercover life. But the response from publishers was ‘lukewarm’. Apparently, the Observer article was an attempt — ultimately unsuccessful — to attract a book deal... Move forward to 2013, and the new ‘smear’ allegation is the main selling point of both the Dispatches programme and the book by the Guardian journalists. In the much-edited documentary, Francis was steered carefully through his sensational new claim.

So Francis was hoping to get a book deal but failed and has invented with the Lawrence thing to spice up the Guardian journalists' book. Or else the Guardian journalists 'much edited' his interview to make him say something he didn't mean.

Francis has spoken out since the Dispatches programme, standing by its claims, and offered to repeat them under oath.

Which leaves us with the book-hawking thing. The book by the Guardian journalists is just that. By them. It's not by Francis. As they make clear, neither he, nor any other sources, were paid for their contributions. He didn't get paid to be in the Dispatches film either. So as exaggeration for money goes, it's a pretty bad business plan.

Such scepticism should apply to claims by Mark Kennedy who, via his publicity agent Max Clifford, was paid handsomely for his Mail on Sunday exclusive and his Channel 4 documentary, but that's not how it works with Francis.

So why would he do it? Ex-colleague Hobbs says

Time can play tricks with memory

Oh, so even if he isn't in it for the money he's just unhinged. He didn't actually infiltrate the Lawrences, he just thinks he did. He's utterly fabricated the myriad details of a deployment that didn't actually happen. I'm sure that sort of thing happens to us all.


How credible are Francis' claims? He says he was tasked to find dirt on the Lawrences and succeeded in doing so for Stephen's friend and prime witness Duwayne Brooks. This is pretty convincing given the Brooks was then prosecuted with preposterous charges and later on the MacPherson Inquiry found he had been the victim of a racist vendetta by police. At the same time other officers were infiltrating similar campaigns. This week police admitted that the undercover police did have files on the Lawrences.

So they do undermine campaigns like this, they did focus on the biggest of them, gathering information and smearing a key person, but yet somehow they opted to leave the people at the centre alone? Hmmmm.

Former Special Branch commander Roger Pearce says

I would be astounded if it is proved that someone said: "Go out and get information to rubbish and smear the Lawrence campaign".

Read that again, stressing the word 'proved'.

An unnamed former colleague - and note the later part of this next quote - says,

I would be absolutely amazed if someone told Peter to get dirt on the Lawrences; even more amazed if there is a written record of it. 

How much paperwork was kept by a top secret unit whose training was mostly given in practice not theory? And how much has been shredded since Francis went public in spring 2010 and Kennedy splashed his arse across the media a year later?

John Carnt, a retired Scotland Yard superintendent, trawled through hundreds of documents relating to Scotland Yard’s investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence ahead of his family’s ill-fated private prosecution in 1996.

He told us: 'I saw the contents of information gathered on the first murder inquiry, and at no time did I see anything which suggested there was a surveillance operation on the Lawrences to discredit them in any way.'

So a Scotland Yard detective found Scotland Yard did nothing wrong. Imagine that.


But beyond that, the whole point of the SDS was to be secret. Most people in the Met didn't know it even existed. The incident that brought them crashing into the limelight was the Ratcliffe power station prosecution when the police had failed in their duty to give the defence all the evidence.

Mark Kennedy's previously hidden evidence exonerated the defendants, leading to the collapse of the trial, 20 previous convictions quashed and at least another 29 to follow. The police knew they were orchestrating miscarriages of justice.

In these three cases alone there would be 55 wrongful convictions if activists hadn't caught Kennedy. So what chance do you think there was of them fessing up their crooked deeds to officers giving evidence to the Lawrence Inquiry?

Mick Creedon, Chief Constable of Derbyshire, is leading Operation Herne which is investigating the undercover police scandal. He took over to stop it appearing like the Met are self-investigating. In reality, three quarters of its staff are Met employees, including serving officers who have their future careers to think of before revealing anything unhelpful about their superiors. It is police investigating themselves, with no outside scrutiny and not even a promise to publish their findings.


A year into Herne, they say they found evidence of an officer using a dead child's identity. In the five months that followed the 30-odd staff didn't find any more cases, even though it was standard practice, sanctioned from the top and there were dozens of cases. It's that sort of inquiry.

This week Creedon said

There is nothing in Operation Herne which suggests any attempt whatsoever to do two things. Firstly, to be tasked against the Stephen Lawrence family; and secondly, to besmirch the Lawrence family. 

This is damage limitation. They do it well. Remember when police were criticised after the 2009 G20 protests where they killed Ian Tomlinson? During the protests a Lib Dem MP was called over to a group that had two suspicious people encouraging violence against the police. As they were confronted, the group - including the MP - watched the men walk to police lines, flash their warrant cards and be taken through. The officer in charge, Commander Bob Broadhurst, told parliament

We had no plain-clothes officers deployed within the crowd. It would have been dangerous for them to put plain clothes officers in a crowd like that.

This was flattened by footage of a line of City of London police with batons - check out the one in jeans and baseball cap. Yet it was still more than a year after the footage went public that the police finally admitted they had undercovers on the streets that day. All this without mentioning Mark Kennedy's presence that day, too.

At the G20 the officer in charge of the streets and the one doing media were of the same rank. That's how seriously they take this stuff.

On to the early days of the undercover scandal, when they thought they could portray Kennedy as a rogue officer, Chief Constable Jon Murphy said sex with activists was

absolutely not authorised. It is never acceptable for an undercover officer to behave in that way... It is grossly unprofessional. It is a diversion from what they are there to do. It is morally wrong because people have been put there to do a particular task and people have got trust in them. It is never acceptable under any circumstances... for them to engage in sex with any subject they come into contact with.

Yet all the ones exposed so far have done it to varying degrees, with one officer after another saying it was standard practice. The senior police seem to have given up on denying that now.

With each new revelation we can expect that pattern of denial and of smearing the person at the centre. But if the likes of Francis persist then - as the women who had relationships or those who saw the agents provocateur at the G20 proved - perseverance coupled with the weight of evidence will establish the truth whether police admit it or not.