Inquiry into undercover policing of protest and social justice campaigns, announced in Parliament today

Press Release: 16 July 2015 For the attention of Editors and Forward Planning

 

Subject: Terms of Reference for the Inquiry into undercover policing of protest and social justice campaigns, announced in Parliament today.

http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2015-07-16/HCWS115/

 

Please contact: Suresh Grover (sgrover@tmg-uk.org) T: 020 74302869 or M: 07816301706

 

The Monitoring Group (http://www.tmg-uk.org) welcomes the spirit and substance of the Terms of Reference established for a Judge led inquiry into police spying of campaigning and protest groups. The remit allows Lord Justice Pitchford, the chair of the Inquiry, to conduct a thorough, robust, wide-ranging and as far-reaching an investigation as possible so that the full facts are brought to light, and culpable and discreditable conduct is exposed publicly, and that clear lessons are learnt so that unlawful and dangerous practices are finally put to an end.

Over the last three years, the British public have been profoundly shocked at the persistent and damning allegations of police corruption, sabotage, unlawful surveillance and personal intrusion of individuals leading Black & Asian justice campaigns, such as the Stephen Lawrence campaign, trade unionists, environmental and animal rights activists. The undercover police officers included spying on bereaved families and targeting of women activists for sexual relationships and fathering of children to gain information on legitimate protests.

This new Inquiry provides a unique opportunity to right the wrongs and to develop new thinking on police accountability. For this to become a reality, Lord Justice Pitchford should not hesitate to take the following initial but critically important steps. He must ensure that:

  • All individuals or groups directly affected and damaged by police spying are given access to public funds so that they can be legally represented at the Inquiry
  • The specific issues and concerns arising as a result of undercover police deployment of different groups/individuals are considered sympathetically. A schedule of Issues is drawn up listing the specific areas to be investigated at the Inquiry.
  • He has the power to compel witnesses to attend and give evidence
  • The Inquiry, in its entire proceedings, is open and transparent. There is strong and visible public interest in this Inquiry, and he will need to think carefully that his decisions do not suppress or stifle this interest or damage public confidence in the process. Such an approach would require the Chair to make a commitment that his final report and recommendations will be published in full without hindrance or undue pressure and that the venue for the inquiry will allow the public and affected parties to attend and participate fully in the process
  • Protection is provided for Peter Francis (ex under cover officer turned whistleblower) and other potential whistleblowers, so that they are not arrested, charged or prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act. The Chair should also name the undercover officers who spied on the Stephen Lawrence campaign and other protest groups. In this regard we fully support Baroness Lawrence’s demand that current police policy of ‘neither confirm nor deny’ in these circumstances is neither justifiable nor sustainable. See the link below

(http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jul/15/doreen-lawrence-name-undercover-police-spied-family)

  • He fully understands the impact of undercover operations on Black & Asian communities and justice campaigns who are already subjected to disproportionate and discriminated practices. One of the key reasons for the new Inquiry is that material evidence was withheld by police from the Public Judicial Inquiry into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, chaired by Sir William MacPherson in 1998. In this respect, Lord Justice Pitchford must address an important concern for Black & Asian communities: whether institutional racism played a significant role in police’s decision to deploy undercover officers on these communities?

 

Suresh Grover, said, “the very core of our democratic society is under threat from police spying of legitimate activities including the right to protest, to hold authorities to account, to privacy & family life, and the right to belong to an association. The Inquiry presents a profound and historic opportunity to right the wrongs. As an immediate priority, Lord Justice Pitchford must do everything in his power to gain the confidence of those affected by police corruption and misconduct”.

 

Note to Editor:

  1. Since its inception in 1980, The Monitoring Group (formally known as the Southall Monitoring Group) has initiated and supported over 100 family and community justice campaigns.  Some of the families, Ricky Reel and Michael Menson for instance, are mentioned in Operation Herne (trinity) report.  The Group also actively supported the Stephen Lawrence Family campaign during the Private Prosecution (1994) and the Public Inquiry (1998) periods. Both the Group and its Director, Suresh Grover, have made representations to the Inquiry to be viewed as core participants and are being represented by Imran Khan & Partners (http://www.ikandp.co.uk).
  2. The full text of our proposed Terms of Reference submitted to the Inquiry team was as follows:

PROPOSED TERMS OF REFERENCE FOR THE PUBLIC INQUIRY ON BEHALF OF THE MONITORING GROUP/SURESH GROVER

 

“To inquire into and make recommendations as to the role and conduct of the police service and Her Majesty’s Government in the establishment and deployment of undercover and covert policing operations, including the oversight and governance of such operations, with particular regard to the policies, practices, ethics and impact of the Special Demonstration Squad, National Public Order Intelligence Unit, the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit and any other similar units together with any public or private bodies or institutions which had any such remit or involvement and, in particular, to consider: 

  1. The extent and nature of surveillanceand deployment of undercover police officers on Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals, especially those associated with the Stephen Lawrence case during the lifetime of the family campaign, including the period of the Public Inquiry (from its establishment to the announcement of its recommendations);
  2. The extent and nature of surveillance and deployment of undercover police officers on BAME individuals, community organisations, justice campaigns & trade unionists and whether this action contributed towards any unlawful activity, including the arrest and/or conviction of individuals and/or sabotage of the intended targets work or its demise;
  3. The extent and nature of intelligence sharing between the SDS (and similar units), Special Branch and CO24 (Race & Violence Task Force), including intelligence on BAME individuals and activists on justice campaigns and/or those working with the police as advisors, critical friends and/or in consultative groups or similar capacity;
  4. The sharing of surveillance and intelligence information between police and other third parties, both within and outside the UK;
  5. The extent to which institutional racism influenced police deployment of undercover officers and surveillance of BAME Civil Society.

ENDS