The undercover policing scandal erupted into mainstream discourse in 2013 after Rob Evans and Paul Lewis’ seminal book “Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police” revealed (with the help of former officer and whistleblower Peter Francis) the extent of the police’s surveillance operations. Since 1968 the Metropolitan Police had been carrying out perverse intelligence gathering operations by sending officers deep undercover with activist groups, deceiving women into long term sexual relationships in order to lend themselves credibility, before disappearing without a trace. The actions of these officers caused untold emotional trauma for their victims, the disruption of lawful campaigns, and a number of unsound criminal convictions and miscarriages of justice.
A group of women who were targeted took the police to court, arguing that their human rights had been violated. However it quickly became clear that the police would use every dirty trick in the book to evade proper scrutiny, including forcing the case to be heard in a secret court, and the farcical ‘neither confirm nor deny’ tactic.
The surveillance operations have affected a huge range and number of people, who are rightly angry and want answers. As a result of sustained pressure by groups like the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance, in March 2015 Home Secretary Theresa May announced a public inquiry into the use of undercover policing, headed by Lord Pitchford.
DTRTP is a core participant in the inquiry, meaning that we are legally represented and will be able to give evidence and ask questions of the police. There are so far over 170 non-state core participants, consisting of political activists, justice campaigners, trade unionists, families of victims killed in racist attacks or in police custody, and even some politicians and lawyers that were deemed radical enough to be worth spying on.
The Pitchford Inquiry opened in July 2015 and represents a unique opportunity to expose this scandal. The police attempted to use the same ‘neither confirm nor deny’ strategy however in May 2016 Lord Pitchford ruled that he would not accept this as the default position, meaning that, as it stands, there is a real prospect that the inquiry is capable of exposing details of the injustice that has taken place and providing answers to the hundreds of innocent victims caught up in the scandal.
DTRTP will continue to report on developments in the inquiry, as well as support the crucial campaign work that is taking place outside of the courts.