The Metropolitan police have finally apologised unreservedly to several women who were deceived into long-term relationships by undercover police officers. The apology and settlement is the result of a four-year legal battle by the women to bring to public attention these deceptive relationships and to prevent further abuses.
The women have released several personal statements. One of the women known as Lisa Jones, who had a six-year relationship with undercover officer Mark Kennedy, exposed him with her friends in 2010. This began the unravelling of facts about undercover relationships. Speaking to the media for the first time she has given an in-depth interview to the Guardian, in which she says that uncovering the truth about Kennedy felt like:
long, slow painful torture – real psychological torture.
In an apology issued by assistant commissioner Martin Hewitt, the Met has finally conceded that:
officers, acting undercover whilst seeking to infiltrate protest groups, entered into long-term intimate sexual relationships with women which were abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong
these relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma
AC Hewitt issued this public apology on behalf of the Met as part of the settlement of seven out of eight claims by the women. The claims arose from state-sponsored intimate relationships the women were deceived into by undercover police officers: Bob Lambert, John Dines, Mark Jenner, Jim Boyling (all Special Demonstration Squad officers) and Mark Kennedy (of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit), all of whom infiltrated environmental and social justice campaigns.
At a press conference on 20 November the women called for the police to release all of the cover names of officers who had formed relationships whilst undercover.
The women said:
We have worked together on this painful and deeply personal legal case in order to expose the serious and systemic abuse of power by undercover police officers and their managers. Although no amount of ‘sorry’, or financial compensation, can make up for what we and others have endured, we are pleased the police have been forced to acknowledge the abusive nature of these relationships and that they should never happen.
The women’s relationships spanned a period of nearly 25 years in total. Some lasted as long as nine years and some bore children. But these relationships remained hidden from the public for decades, until the women exposed them. By linking their cases together they were able to evidence a clear pattern of abusive, discriminatory behaviour towards women which amounts to institutional sexism by the Met. Other cases arising from intimate relationships are still ongoing and there are more relationships yet to be publicly exposed.
The women said that one of the key reasons they brought the case was to ensure that such relationships would not happen again. As part of the settlement, the Met acknowledged that:
Sexual relationships between undercover police officers and members of the public should not happen.
These relationships, the subsequent trauma, and the secrecy around them, left these women at risk of further abuse and deception by these officers after the deployment had ended.
These cases demonstrate that there have been failures of supervision and management.
This should never happen again and the necessary steps must be taken to ensure that it does not.
The apology from the Met is a clear admission of responsibility for what happened to the women. But the women had to fight long and hard to wring this admission from the police. The case saw the Met attempt to force the use of the secret Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) court for the hearings in 2013. This was followed by an attempt to ‘strike-out‘ the case altogether in 2014. The final line of attack from the police was the repeated attempt to hide behind a strategy of ‘neither confirm nor deny‘ (NCND) regarding identities of the officers or managerial direction of the relationships.
The fight isn’t over
The publicity around these cases has snowballed, along with revelations about undercover police: complicity in blacklisting of workers, the use of dead children’s names, smearing of the Stephen Lawrence campaign and at least 17 other grieving families campaigning for justice from the police. This has pressured the home secretary, Theresa May, to launch a public inquiry led by Lord Pitchford to examine the undercover infiltration of political groups.
The women have launched a petition demanding the public inquiry into undercover policing is transparent, robust and comprehensive. It states:
Everyone has the right to participate in the struggle for social and environmental justice, without fear of persecution, objectification, or interference in their lives.
The government’s recent announcements to recruit 2,000 new spies and fast-track the Investigatory Powers Bill suggests a new era of surveillance – one in which these powers can be used against any groups seeking meaningful social change. Secret political policing undermines social progress for justice and equality and should have no place in our society.
Featured Image via Tom Fowler
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?