EXCLUSIVE: How UK 'Spycops' Messed with the Wrong People, and Why Their Victims Keep Fighting
The official UK investigation into the long-raging "Spycops" scandal refuses to disclose the cover names of police officers who spied on activists for half a century. A number of individuals and groups are battling the official conspiracy of silence - one explained to Sputnik why they refuse to give up their crusade.

Kit Klarenberg
Victim of UK Spycops Outside Royal Court of Justice, London © Sputnik 2018
Hear No Evil, See No Evil
On Monday February 5 2018, the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI) held a preliminary hearing at the Royal Court of Justice, London.

The Inquiry was launched March 2014 to investigate how, over 50 years, undercover police officers embedded themselves within protest groups, posing as activists for years at a time under false identities. "Spycops" would monitor the activities of individuals and organizations, and be involved with protest actions, all the while feeding intelligence back to Scotland Yard.

Along the way, officers stole the identities of dead children, committed perjury, engaged in illegal activities, undermined activists' democratic rights, and deceived a great many women into long-term relationships. In at least one case, a spycop - Bob Lambert - fathered a child.

In all, over 1,000 activist groups were infiltrated by undercover officers, including environmental protest bodies (such as London Greenpeace), socialist parties, pacifist organizations, and over a dozen justice campaigns.

The February 5 hearing did not focus on these issues, but the anonymity of undercover officers instead - a septet of "spycops" had sought to hide both their real and covert identities from public view.

If successful, hundreds of spycops could follow their lead, meaning thousands of individuals they spied on may never know the true extent to which UK authorities invaded and monitored their lives.
Victims of Undercover Police Spying Protest at the Royal Court of Justice, London © Sputnik 2018
The results of the hearing offered little in the way of hope to spycop victims - head Sir John Mitting clearly indicating he will grant the officers' anonymity requests.

He also suggested if officers were married prior to their deployments, and remained wedded to this day, this would indicate "they didn't deceive women into relationships while undercover". While facts vary in each individual case, almost every spycop yet uncovered pursued relationships with activists, in some cases more than one, while married.

For instance, Andy Coles, former Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, who infiltrated animal rights groups in London 1991 – 1995, was notorious for his lecherous behavior, and numerous attempts to engage in sexual activity with female activists.

Despite having been married four years by the time of his deployment, he attempted to force himself on a number of women, often flying into a rage when his advances were refused.
Protest banners at the Royal Court of Justice, London © Sputnik 2018
Release the Names
For environmental and social justice activist Merrick Cork of Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS), the UCPI's refusal to release cover names is a "double injustice", exacerbating the wrongs already done to affected activists.

"Victims of spycops — whether people arrested due to police spying, or deceived into relationships — can only know they're victims if the names are released. You get news reports on terrorist attacks foiled because undercover officers infiltrated extremist groups, and their cover names are released to the media during live investigations — yet they can't give us the name of someone who infiltrated the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the 1970s? It's absolute b*******," Merrick told Sputnik.

The issue of spycop identities is one close to Merrick's heart. Three individuals he knew through activist circles — Lynn Watson,Rod Richardson and Mark Kennedy — turned out to be undercover officers, and he was instrumental in Kennedy's unmasking, the catalyst for the spycops scandal becoming public.

The officers seeking anonymity claim the exposure of their identities would put them at risk of harassment and physical harm from the public, and would also present a "real risk to employment and reputation". The seven former undercover officers invoked the post-exposure experiences of Bob Lambert, Andy Coles and Jim Boyling to support their requests.

However, as Merrick notes, the "harassment" and "harm" suffered by the trio has ranged from trifling to non-existent. In Boyling's case, on two occasions people he spied bumped into him and briefly remonstrated with him — and he himself acknowledges neither amounted to intimidation, much less violence.

While Lambert and Coles alike have been targeted by organized campaigns, the focus of these efforts has not been them as individuals, but their contemporary employment in roles campaigners feel are wholly inappropriate given their undercover history.
"When we exposed Mark Kennedy, we went to great lengths to protect his actual family. The activists who unmasked Carlo Neri were also careful to withhold his real name, for much the same reason. Publishing cover names protects officers and those close to them, while allowing those affected by spycop activities to understand what happened. It's a basic precondition for ensuring the truth is revealed, and justice is done."
Merrick Cork
COPS Campaign
COPS Campaign Banners at the Royal Court of Justice, London © Sputnik 2018
He also notes former undercover officer Neil Woods infiltrated murderous drugs gangs for decades, and has since written publicly under his real name about his experiences, appearing at well-publicized events and signings without fear of reprisal. Many dangerous people got very long stretches in prison as a result of Neil's efforts — "if he can go public, the cover names of officers who spied on peaceful activists can obviously be released."

On top of suppressing damaging information about the often questionable and sometimes illegal activities of spycops in the past, Merrick suggests UK police wish to prevent the exposure of tactics, methods and policies still in use today.

"Of course spycops still walk among us. It worked in the past, so why would they stop? Still, it's imperative activists don't get too paranoid about that prospect. If people become too scared to trust and work with each other, movements are destroyed, and the police's work is done for them. Most of the time, if a spycop is in the room with you, it doesn't matter. We did fantastic things with the f****** among us," he told Sputnik.

By way of example, Merrick notes his activist group repeatedly attempted to shut down coal-fired power stations across the UK, but were foiled due to Mark Kennedy passing on intelligence to authorities. In one instance, 143 activists were bulk-arrested in flagrante — but the resultant trial collapsed, because the state didn't wish to reveal Kennedy's undercover status.

"After that, they gave us all the stuff we were going to use to shut down the station. We then successfully carried out a sabotage plan in West Burton," he laughs.

Moreover, Merrick believes activists should be more flattered than fearful — to his mind, UK police spending millions embedding undercover officers into protest movements indicates activist groups are more powerful than they realize.
Core Participant Enters the Royal Court of Justice, London © Sputnik 2018
Moving Forward
Despite the disappointments of the February 5 hearing, and the fact the Inquiry won't actually hear evidence until 2019, COPS — and other groups of their ilk, such as Police Spies Out Of Lives — are determined to keep fighting. That it's still "early days" offers cause for optimism.

"Even if we don't get the whole truth, the results could still be useful — the Hillsborough families went through numerous processes to secure justice over the decades, and each individual one produced nuggets of evidence, which they combined to build a mountain. Already, we've had useful disclosures as a result of UCPI — the cover names and real identities of some key undercover officers, for instance," Merrick told Sputnik.

He recalls when the MacPherson Inquiry — an official investigation into police handling of the murder of Stephen Lawrence — was launched in 1997, the Lawrence family attempted to have chief Sir William MacPherson removed, due to his "horrible record of racist judgments," and campaigners boycotted it, feeling it would be "a waste of time, a whitewash." In the end, MacPherson did "brilliantly", producing a report that has been dubbed "one of the most important in the modern history of criminal justice in Britain", which precipitated significant reforms to UK policing.
"Very expensive lawyers paid for out of public funds are being employed to cover up police misconduct, but they've messed with the wrong people. People like Helen Steel aren't going to stop until they get justice. Many of the most successful movements and campaigns in history have appeared to be losing, until they won — civil rights in the US, for instance, looked doomed from the start. Anyway, you fight because there are things worth fighting for, not because you think you're going to win."
Merrick Cork
COPS Campaign
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