Wednesday, October 03, 2012

expanding the injustice

The case of undercover police officers who had long term relationships with their targets is as morally clear as can be. Even the most fervent supporters of police powers are unable to give any real excuse for what happened.

These officers were trained to weave themselves into peoples' trust and used it to become ongoing life partners. They shared every kind of intimacy, often for years. They fully integrated into families. Several of them fathered children with their targeted women, knowing that when the orders came they would leave. 

Eight women are suing their ex-partners' bosses for the damage done and to uncover the truth (their new support website is here). In last night's Radio 4 documentary, one of them spoke of how she has photographs and memories from years with her partner and yet doesn't even know his real name. Another spoke of her partner becoming part of her family when, in reality, he was married with children.

The women want answers. How much of the apparent affection and intimacy was in fact designed and ordered by superior officers? How much of their partners' communication was monitored by other people? How was any of this ever allowed to happen?

The police have responded with a move to have the case heard not in open court but in a bizarre secret hearing called an Investigatory Powers Tribunal. These sinister events ignore many of the fundamental pillars of fair trial. No information or documents which have been provided to the tribunal, or even the fact that they have been provided, would be disclosed to the women. The police could say, or withhold, anything.

The women would have no right to an oral hearing, nor the chance to cross-examine witnesses and see the evidence, nor read the reasons for losing the case. They would not be allowed to appeal against the verdict and could only challenge it through the exorbitantly expensive European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The tribunals were designed for the rare cases involving surveillance that might expose present investigations and place people in positions of great danger. That is blatantly not the case with these women. It is simply being used by the police as a further piece of desperate arse-covering and desire to hide the truth of what they have done.

As has been so starkly shown by the revelations about the Hillsborough disaster and the Leveson Inquiry, when faced with proof of wrongdoing it is customary for the police to mount a cover-up. Indeed, the same anti-protest department who abused these women placed an officer inside campaigns for justice like that of Stephen Lawrence's family. There was no threat to life and limb or public order there. The only danger was that the police would be seen to have acted as they did.

Rather than admit the wrongdoing that everyone knows they committed, they compounded their damage to those families by actively obstructing justice. Just like at Hillsborough. Just like they're trying to do to these women they abused.

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