The undercover policing inquiry is investigating dead children’s stolen identities, but there’s a massive problem

Emily Apple

One of the many scandals to emerge from the revelations of undercover policing of protesters is the practice of stealing dead children’s identities to create ‘covers’. And Sir Christopher Pitchford, who is leading the inquiry into undercover policing, wants to address this very issue. But there is one big problem. He has not actually released the cover names used by the officers involved.

Pitchford is therefore asking people to make contact with the inquiry if they are:

(1) The parent or close relative of a child who was born between 1938 and 1975 and who died in childhood, and

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(2) You wish to know whether the child’s identity was used by the police to create an undercover identity.

But Pitchford admits that:

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the statistical chance that the name of a person born between 1938 and 1975, who died in childhood, was used to create an undercover identity is very small indeed.

The fact is that thousands of children tragically die each year. By way of example, records show that 2,686 died in England and Wales in 2013. And in 1983, the number of deaths on record was 6,381 [pdf]. So Pitchford is potentially asking tens of thousands of relatives to put themselves through the ordeal of applying to the inquiry. Simply on the off-chance that undercover police stole their child’s identity.

Adding insult to injury

If that wasn’t enough, there is also no guarantee that respondents will hear back, even if police did take their child’s identity. Pitchford states:

If you are considering making contact with the Undercover Policing Inquiry because you wish to know whether your deceased child’s name was used to create a police undercover identity, it is important that you should know that the Inquiry may be unable to give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to your question, even after the Inquiry has concluded its work and knows the answer.

In any case, police have admitted that the number of stolen children’s identities is at least 42. And the real figure could be much higher.

Publish the cover names

For this reason (among many others), activists and campaigners with ‘core participant‘ status – those who have a significant known link to the issue – are now calling for the inquiry to publish the cover names.

A letter signed by many of those targeted states:

Without this basic information, it is effectively impossible for the Inquiry to have a full picture of undercover policing. The only Core Participants in any position to give even a partial summary of facts they might eventually rely upon are the limited number who have already themselves researched and revealed, largely by chance, the existence of undercover officers, or those who have been informed by the media they had been subject to covert surveillance. Even then, it is difficult for non-state core participants and witnesses to contribute in any meaningful way while virtually all the documentary evidence remains in the hands of the police.

If victims of undercover policing are to receive any semblance of justice, the public inquiry must publish the cover names. Without full disclosure, those who were spied on will not know who targeted them or why. This is particularly necessary when it comes to the stealing of dead children’s identities, and the horror and trauma this will cause for their relatives.

Please note: the author is a core participant in the undercover policing inquiry.

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Featured image via Tom Fowler

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