A former undercover police officer has applied [pdf] for anonymity in the Undercover Policing Inquiry. The officer concerned infiltrated a Maoist faction of the Women’s Liberation Front in the 1970s. Although written in 2017, the statement has only recently been publicised. And the reasons given for claiming anonymity are already a contender for the most ridiculous thing you’ll read in 2018.
The inquiry was set up in 2015 to investigate police infiltration of protest groups. Since 1968, the police have spied on at least 1,000 groups using at least 144 undercover officers. Undercover officers have formed sexual and intimate relationships with those they targeted, given evidence under false names, committed criminal acts, and stolen the identities of children who died when they were young.
The police have frustrated the targets of police spying every step of the way – refusing to confirm or deny whether a person is an undercover officer even when there is overwhelming proof. And the inquiry has been bogged down in anonymity applications since it began.
One such application [pdf] is from an officer known as HN348. The anonymity application is for her real name because she can’t “remember” what name she used when she was undercover. But her main reason for wanting anonymity appears to concern one particular woman in the group she infiltrated. HN348 states [pdf]:
I would be embarrassed about her finding out about me being an undercover officer.
She claims that [pdf]:
It makes my heart sink to think about my colleagues… knowing about my work… they would probably find it unbelievable that I was involved in this work as they don’t even know that I was a police officer.
She further cites a threat [pdf] from “anti-police groups” that even the police’s risk assessment didn’t conclude was a problem. And then cites an “intrusive media” as another reason for her concerns.
HN348 also doesn’t think she could explain [pdf] her former actions to her friends and colleagues:
Whilst I think my close friends would understand, I am worried that my reputation amongst my wider group of associates would be tainted.
The real victims
HN348 appears to forget that the real victims are the people who’ve had their lives and privacy intruded on by undercover police officers. She may never have thought that a year’s deployment in the 70s would be something she’d ever have to talk about. But ’embarrassment’ is not a good enough reason to claim anonymity.
Unless the names of undercover police officers are released, the victims of police spying do not have any chance of gaining justice. Those targeted by HN348 may not even know they were spied on by an undercover police officer. The same applies for the majority of those targeted by the 144 known undercover officers.
The police and their lawyers need to stop blocking access to justice. And former police officers need to stop clutching at straws to justify why they shouldn’t be named. It is a total insult to those of us who have been the targets of police spying.
The author is a core participant in the Undercover Policing Inquiry.
– The Undercover Policing Inquiry is currently refusing to fund reasonable expenses for those involved. This means many people are being denied access to justice. Please support our CrowdJustice appeal to cover these costs.
Featured image via Mae Benedict