The ruling against ‘spycop’ Mark Kennedy is good news, but we need more answers

Mark Kennedy
Support us and go ad-free

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) has ruled that political activist Kate Wilson’s human rights were violated by undercover police officers, in particular Mark Kennedy.

Time will tell if this landmark ruling will see further investigations into Kennedy’s relationships with other political activists, as well as other undercover officers who formed similar relationships. Not forgetting, too, their supervisors who may have given their express or implicit approval to such violations.

Wilson’s story

In July 2015, Wilson and ‘Lisa Jones’ wrote that Kennedy “appeared on the environmental activist social scene in Nottingham in 2003”. They go on to describe how they were separately deceived into forming an intimate relationship with a man they knew as ‘Mark Stone’. They explained:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Attending protests and meetings in Ireland, Spain, France, Iceland and Italy, [Kennedy] and other undercover officers travelled with us. These officers were still at that time being employed by the Met, using the characters created within the undercover units, working with activists from the UK in these countries, and they also continued their deceitful relationships with us wherever they went.

In September 2018, Wilson explained how it wasn’t until October 2010 that she learned ‘Stone’ was an undercover police officer.

In 2019 Wilson and seven other women – Helen, Rosa, Lisa, Belinda, Naomi, Ruth, and Alison – commenced legal action against the Met police and the Association of Chief Police Officers. This was specifically in regard to the deployment of the following UCOs:

  • Mark Kennedy (‘Mark Stone’).
  • Jim Boyling (‘Jim Sutton’).
  • John Dines (‘John Barker’).
  • Bob Lambert (‘Bob Robinson’).
  • And Mark Jenner (‘Mark Cassidy’).

At least two UCOs are known to have fathered children with women activists. Other UCOs known to have used sex to gather intelligence include ‘Carlo Neri’, Andy Coles (‘Andy Davey’) and ‘Vince Miller‘. Miller deceived and had sex with four women, including ‘Madeleine’.

In November 2015, the Met issued a full apology to the women who had been abused.

But for Wilson, there was a wider issue, as she wrote for the Guardian in 2018:

These [undercover] police units illegally blacklisted trade union activists, and they spied on elected politicians, the families of victims of police violence and many campaign or protest groups. They used the identities of dead children with no thought for their families, they violated lawyer-client privilege and caused countless miscarriages of justice, and they sexually abused women.

Here is Wilson’s story in her own words. Wilson also explained what happened in this video:

Who knew what

As reported by The Canary, the tribunal noted that National Public Order Policing Unit (NPOPU) practised a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it came to undercover officers forming intimate relationships with mainly women activists.

Campaign group Police Spies Out Of Lives pointed out that:

The ruling stressed that the sexual relationship Ms Wilson was deceived into by Mark Kennedy was conducted with the knowledge of his principal cover officer, and that his deployment manager, and other senior officers of Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) level and above knew (or chose not to know) about the sexual relationship, concluding that the National Public Order Policing Unit’s approach to its officers having sex while undercover was one of “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

In her September 2018 Guardian article, Wilson observed that the Met police “also admit that Kennedy’s handlers and line manager knew about and “acquiesced to” his relationship with me”. She added:

Now I really want answers. I want to know how high up the police hierarchy knowledge of the abuses went.

In another September 2018 article, Rob Evans of the Guardian wrote how:

In papers lodged with the IPT, the police admitted that Kennedy’s cover officers and line manager “were aware that he was conducting a close personal relationship” with Wilson. They added that Kennedy’s “sexual relationship with [Wilson] was carried out with the acquiescence of his cover officers and line manager”.

Significantly, the tribunal found that:

Senior officers of the rank of Detective Chief Inspector or above who had operational and managerial responsibility for Kennedy’s deployment either knew of his sexual relationship with the claimant, chose not to know of its existence, or were incompetent and negligent in not following up on the clear and obvious signs, and adopted something akin to a “don’t ask don’t tell” approach to sexual relationships [1]. In doing so, senior officers demonstrated either “a complete failure of imagination, or more probably a lack of interest in protecting women from breaches of Arts 3 and 8

Naming names

In September 2018, The Canary revealed names of Kennedy’s supervisors, derived from confidential police files. These included:

  • DI David Hutcheson.
  • ACC Pavey.
  • Supt Phil Trendle.
  • Anton Setchell (National Coordinator for Domestic Extremism).
  • DCI Nightingale.
  • DCI Robbins.
  • DI Hedley.
  • ACC Ackerley.
  • ACC John Sampson.
  • DI Bateman.
  • And acting ACC Parkinson.

Other supervisors/senior officers have also been implicated. And then there’s the matter of UCOs:

Known UCOs are listed by the Undercover Research site and Powerbase.

According to Undercover Research, over the years UCOs spied on many scores of political groups.

Kennedy is known to have spied on several protest groups, most of which were environmental groups. His undercover work was prolific and took place in England as well as Scotland, Northern Ireland, Germany, Denmark, France, the USA, and Iceland.

Institutional sexism

The IPT ruled against Kennedy on several counts. Following the ruling, the Met Police stated:

We accept and recognise the gravity of all of the breaches of Ms Wilson’s human rights as found by the tribunal, and the Met and NPCC unreservedly apologise to Ms Wilson for the damage caused.

However, we should not forget the 27 women participating in the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI). Wilson referred to these women in her submissions to the tribunal. Because they too were “deceived into having sexual relationships with undercover officers”.

Back in 2018, Wilson made clear.

The wide questions for society here are massive, this is about institutional sexism, senior police officers sanctioning sexual abuse, and the systematic violation of political beliefs

We’re watching you now

The below video sums up the controversy and includes testimony from some of the victims. It also names a number of spycops along with their aliases:

Meanwhile, in May 2019 the Crown Prosecution Service reportedly decided that no UCO would be prosecuted for “having non-consensual sexual relations with any member of the public”. That’s not acceptable. Clearly, there are many questions regarding UCOs and their supervisors that still need answering.

Featured image – screengrab via Rutube

Support us and go ad-free

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?

The Canary Support us