New spycop inquiry chair set to cover up names, warns watchdog

Researchers for the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS) warned today that, following the first major release of papers by controversial new spycop inquiry chief Sir John Mitting, it looks like the Met may be successful in hiding the names of officers linked to their disgraced undercover operations team.

COPS has finished analysing a large release of papers by the Undercover Policing Inquiry following the recent release of three cover names (John Graham, Rick Gibson and John Edwards) of deceased officers who infiltrated groups in the 1970s, including:

  • The Revolutionary Socialist Students Federation
  • Vietnam Solidarity Campaign
  • Big Flame
  • The Troops Out Movement
  • Anarchist groups
  • Dambusters Mobilising Committee
  • Tricontinental

and says that among the hefty tranche of new papers are “grave indications of that he is seeking to prevent the full truth coming to light.” COPS said this was broadly in line with the Met’s hoped-for strategy of redacting any information which might place non-retired officers in a position of having to put up with public opprobrium:

Having dragged out the process of beginning the inquiry for years, earlier this year the Metropolitan Police were given a firm timetable for applying for ‘restriction orders’ for the anonymity of undercover officers.

As expected, the Met are pushing for maximum secrecy, arguing that it would make officers worried and sad to be publicly known for what they’ve done. The Met also argue that the officers would be at risk of violent reprisal, despite nothing of the kind happening to the swathe of officers who have been very publicly exposed since 2010. With deadlines passing, the Met have had their hand forced and, finally, we are getting a small measure of new information from the Inquiry.

As had been suggested by some victims, the new names are all from the early days of the Special Demonstration Squad in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With those involved being of advanced age, there’s some merit in tackling these cases first. Indeed, one of the three newly named officers is already dead.

We’ve been given only the officers’ cover names, but not their real identity. These three releases have major redactions, including whether the officer had intimate relationships or was arrested. Given the long history of SDS officers having such abusive relationships and instigating miscarriages of justice, these are very serious omissions.

The new disclosures bring the total of exposed undercover officers to 23 out of a total of at least 144. A further 25 have had their anonymity considered  and the Inquiry has published a brief profile of each. Of those 25, only eight have had full decisions and of those, three have had cover names witheld:

  • 2 names are due for release soon
  • 3 are dead with no known cover name, their real names will be published later
  • 2 have only real names, which won’t be released
  • 3 will have both their real and cover names witheld
  • 1 existing confirmed cover name will not be linked to their real one
  • 3 are undecided
  • 3 will involve having secret hearings with the Inquiry before a decision is made
  • 1 has been given more application time
  • 7 backroom staff will have their real names published later

COPS noted:

This is not a good ratio. Without the publication of the overwhelming majority of cover names we cannot know who was spied on, so we cannot hear from victims and establish the truth. Mitting is giving a lot of weight to the possible psychological impacts on spycops if they are named, but since when are abusers given protection because exposure would be detrimental to them?

One officer waiting for a secret hearing is “N81,” who is known to have spied on Stephen Lawrence’s family as they campaigned for justice for their murdered son. Inquiry core participant Carolyn Wilson told Pitchford Watcher:

The police tend to tell us “If you’ve nothing to hide, then you’ve got nothing to fear”. People are trying to come to terms with the very real trauma of finding out they’d been deceived into intimate relationships with cops from these secret units. They are desperate for information so they can deal with what’s happened, and heal their lives.

How dare those same cops now have the nerve to claim that they face being “traumatised” by details of their past activities being brought out in public? If they haven’t done anything wrong, why would they be embarrassed about their neighbours and families finding out about it all?

Earlier this month core participant Helen Steel, who was deceived into a relationship by John Dines, highlighted the “incredible” spectacle of a Met inquiry submission suggesting that it was right to hide officers’ names because the uncovering of former spycop Bob Lambert had led to a campaign for him to be sacked from his positions at St Andrews and London Met Universities.

In the submission, the police seemingly argue that publicly expressing concern for the safety of students working under a man known to have fathered a child in the course of manipulating young activists into his bed amounted to harassment — Lambert later resigned.