Jon Murphy of the Association of Chief Police Officers spoke about his undercover officers having sexual relations with the people they're sent to spy on.
It is absolutely not authorised. It is never acceptable for an undercover officer to behave in that way...
It is grossly unprofessional. It is a diversion from what they are there to do. It is morally wrong because people have been put there to do a particular task and people have got trust in them. It is never acceptable under any circumstances... for them to engage in sex with any subject they come into contact with.
Yet most of the unmasked undercover officers not only did so but formed emotionally committed relationships with their targets. Indeed, most of them aren't involved in this legal case - it concerns three of the established officers plus two new names.
These people were expensive assets, watched over by cover officers on a daily basis. The idea that their handlers didn't know who they were with for years on end is laughable. One of them, Bob Lambert, graduated from fieldwork to running the deployment. If Lambert thought his relationship had been a mistake, why were his subsequent agents encouraged to do the same thing?
Lambert was in charge of Jim Boyling's spy work; Boyling had relationships with two of the litigants. Lambert also oversaw Pete Black who says that sexual relationships were condoned by senior commanders.
Back in January ex-undercover officer Liam Thomas explained
At training school, it was drummed into your head that you are only limited by your imagination. The whole UC [undercover] model in the police is taken from the spooks, where an agent sleeping with the enemy is condoned.
The official Met line was 'don't do it', but unofficially it was condoned. I remember one senior detective saying to me, 'Have you embedded yourself in the community yet?'
Despite several exposed officers admitting the policy, Mark Kennedy has tried to downplay what happened.
He is also furious at what he calls a ‘smear campaign’ that he bedded a string of vulnerable women to extract information.
He said angrily: 'I had two relationships while I was undercover, one of which was serious'.
Yet three of the women taking action had long relationships with Kennedy during his seven years undercover.
The state trained these people in techniques to gain trust, to create a sense of intimacy and closeness. They then used this to deceive these women, and others, into having profound permanent sexual relationships.
Internet message boards and comment sections are awash with arguments about whether what was done is rape. The r-word is so emotive that it rapidly polarises discussion and often makes political allies turn against one another.
Some people say that these women were not giving informed consent, and so it is a form of rape. Indeed, when this point was put to Mark Kennedy he folded into sullen silence and did not deny it. Others point out that all relationships have secrets and many people lie about themselves in order to pull someone. If I tell someone in a club that I'm a commando it doesn't mean it's rape if they swoon for me.
The discussion is interesting and important, but off the point. This is not about a single instance of sexual activity. They did not lie to make themselves a bit more impressive in order to get laid. They went and integrated themselves into people's lives and families, became the closest possible companions, in long term emotionally committed relationships. The officers did so only as a paid agent in order to undermine everything that these women worked for and held most dear.
They did this under orders, and were withdrawn at very short notice leaving those who had loved them devastated.
It's not rape in the commonly defined sense. It's perhaps not fraud in the common sense. This is because the set definitions are for things that we have *had* to define. What happened to these women is so rare that we don't actually have a familiar definition or name for what crime it is. Just because that's the situation it doesn't alter the clear moral position of what was done.
Despite the press focus it is not about sexual assault. As they make clear in their statement, the womens' action is for many crimes committed against them, including deceit, misfeasance in public office and negligence as well as the Human Rights of protection from inhumane and degrading treatment, and respect for private and family life, including the right to form relationships without unjustified interference by the state.
The bravery and dignity of these women is admirable and impressive. Already intruded upon and destabilised, it would be completely understandable if they kept quiet and got on with their lives, yet they are putting the personal injustice they suffered into the public arena.
They have not hired publicity agents to splash them across the press for money, nor are they going for their specific cops individually. Instead, by going anonymously they emphasise the way police invaded their personal lives; by going collectively they demolish the lie that relationships were forbidden and Mark Kennedy was one rogue officer; and by suing the Met as an institution they go for the real villains and give the best chance of bringing the workings of this murky corruption out into the light.