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EXCLUSIVE: Why Victims of Undercover Policing Stormed Out of Public Inquiry
The Undercover Policing Inquiry has spent three years and over US$10 million achieving little for the victims of police spying in the United Kingdom. Speaking exclusively to Kit Klarenberg, individuals affected by undercover officers' activities explain why the truth matters, and why the UCPI offers them no resolution.
Victim of police spying waits outside Royal Court of Justice, London © Sputnik 2018
On March 21 at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, campaigners staged an en masse walkout from the Undercover Policing Inquiry, demanding chair John Mitting stand down — or appoint a full panel.

Phillippa Kaufmann QC, who represents many individuals spied on by undercover operatives, said her clients could not participate meaningfully in proceedings, as Mitting has been minded to grant anonymity applications for most officers.

While the Inquiry chief claims the full truth of undercover policing operations can be uncovered without such disclosure, core participants beg to differ. The March 21 hearing saw anonymity granted to a fresh raft of applicants.
'Unjustifiable and Unreasonable'
Core participants were prepared for the eventuality, with around 60 immediately taking to the streets outside, holding an impromptu protest at the decision. Banners billowed, chants went up, and songs lambasting state surveillance were sung — explaining the exodus, Kaufmann read a statement to court on behalf of campaigners, criticizing Mitting and his rulings.

"If you don't get this right now, so much of what has gone wrong with undercover operations will remain secret. We're not prepared actively to participate in a process where the presence of our clients is pure window dressing, lacking all substance, lacking all meaning and which would achieve absolutely nothing other than lending this process legitimacy it doesn't have and doesn't deserve," she said.

Among those who deserted the Inquiry in disgust was Doreen Lawrence, mother of Stephen Lawrence, a teenager murdered in a racially motivated attack in the early 1990s. Undercover police subsequently infiltrated a grassroots justice campaign established to catch Stephen's killers, after a botched police investigation produced no convictions. It was Mitting's refusal to reveal the names of the officers involved — despite official risk assessments showing there was zero risk if the names were made public — that prompted her exit.

"The chair is turning what should be a transparent, accountable and public hearing into an inquiry cloaked in secrecy and anonymity. I want to know the names of the police officers who spied on me, my family and our campaign for justice. He's not allowing that, in my view, for reasons which are completely unjustifiable and unreasonable. [Mitting] should resign or continue with a Panel which understands my concerns about policing and what I went through. Anything less than this will lead me to consider carefully whether I should continue to participate in this Inquiry," she said in a statement supplied to Sputnik.
Flowers rest on the memorial plaque of Stephen Lawrence, Eltham southeast London © Associated Press 2000
Absolute Violation
Some undercover officers had relationships with women within the protest movements they infiltrated. In November 2015, the Metropolitan Police issued an apology, admitting these affairs constituted "a violation of women's human rights, an abuse of power and caused significant trauma" — although which rights undercover officers violated weren't acknowledged.

Some clarity was offered December 5 2017, when the force was made to acknowledge undercover officers deceiving women into romantic relationships breached their human rights, specifically the rights to; freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment; a private life; and the forming of relations without unjustified interference by the state.

That same year, the Metropolitan Police paid one woman who had a child with an officer around $485,000 compensation — a dozen other civil claims for damages are ongoing.
Victims of UK Police Spying Protest Outside Royal Court of Justice, London © Sputnik 2018
While the Metropolitan Police denied for years that undercover officers' sexual activities were not officially sanctioned, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) has admitted sexual relationships were carried out with the acquiescence of undercovers' cover officers and line managers. This may suggest around six backroom officials were aware of such activities at a time, and would've evaluated and discussed these relationships in an official capacity. This is a clear demonstration police managers were directly complicit in the grossest wrongdoings of undercover officers.

One such activist was "Jessica" (a pseudonym). She was deceived into a year-long relationship byAndy Coles, who operated under the name "Andy Davey" in animal rights circles in the early 1990s. She feels her violation by Coles was "absolute, both in mind and body."

"Everything these officers did was shocking and disgraceful. They showed total disregard for every aspect of our lives. They moved into our homes, spied on our families, friends and activism, in many cases over several years. There was no justification for what they did, spying on grieving families, stealing dead childrens' identities, perjuring themselves in court and thereby causing miscarriages of justice," Jessica told Sputnik.

While Coles' undercover history and identity was revealed by the UCPI, many questions abound for Jessica. She wants to know what part of her life was real and how much was orchestrated by individuals she never met, much less knew, and which police officials were aware of — and approved — Coles advances on her.

"These men decided it was acceptable for a 32-year-old married officer to deceive me into a sexual relationship at just 19. They knew none of the women would have consented if they knew the truth, so I want to hear what they have to say. We all need to know just how much we were manipulated and controlled, who was watching us, and who actually controlled what happened in our lives — it wasn't us," Jessica told Sputnik.

Legacy of Stone
Another undercover officer who pursued romantic relationships with activists — at least three in his case — was Mark Kennedy, who operated under the pseudonym "Mark Stone". Social justice campaigner Merrick Cork was merely deceived into a friendship by Kennedy — and he played a pivotal role in the officer's unmasking in 2010, which precipitated the scandal's public explosion. He describes his experience in brutal terms.

"It's like discovering your next door neighbor, who've you known for years and gone on holiday, with has been secretly abusing your kids all along, filming it, and sharing it with people. That's really what it feels like. None of my experiences over the years with Mark were true — in fact, the reality was totally the opposite of what I perceived. He pretended to be an environmentalist and anti-fascist, but was in fact undermining both movements at crucial points, very effectively indeed. I hate him, and he can burn in hell," Merrick told Sputnik.

COPS Campaign Stall Outside Royal Court of Justice, London © Sputnik 2018
Like other aggrieved core participants, he believes the UCPI will only be fit for purpose when those who were spied upon know they were spied upon, and by whom. Rather than relying on the private testimony of undercover officers — "professional liars," Merrick dubs them — Mitting must release all cover identities along with accompanying photos, and the 1,000 groups they spied on. Until that minimum prerequisite is met, the Inquiry shouldn't even begin. However, he's not optimistic.

"We need an Inquiry with teeth, that has the power to requisition evidence, documents and witnesses. Its purpose cannot be fulfilled with Mitting in charge — we need a panel overseeing the UCPI's work, comprised of normal people, rather than vesting power purely in the hands of an upper class establishment figure like him. He's investigating the sexual abuse of women in some cases, yet he's a member of the men-only Garrick Club. Can you imagine someone who's member of a whites-only members club investigating racism?" Merrick despairs.

Protest at Peterborough Town Hall against Andy Coles, banner made by Jessica © Sack Andy Coles 2017
"He says he can't even tell us why he can't tell us anything. It's ridiculous. He hears only one side of the story — police saying how they need to be protected from the groups they spied on and how they fear for their safety — and victims can't challenge this! We shouldn't forget these officers are exceptionally convincing trained liars and manipulators, it was their job. Has Mitting even thought that they might be asking for anonymity because they have something to hide?" Jessica told Sputnik.

Sputnik contacted the UCPI for comment, but is yet to receive a response as of March 24.

The views of the contributors featured in this article are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.
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