Monday, February 04, 2013

dead children in uniforms

Undercover police officers infiltrating protest groups stole the identities of dead children to create their fake identity. They would comb registries looking for someone with the same first name. They would visit the dead child's house and locality to get the details for the backstory. On the dead child's birthday, as the family would have been in sombre reflection on their tragedy, they would take activist comrades out to celebrate.

It's thought around 80 bereaved families are affected. The police say they're looking into it - another self-investigation, another bucket of whitewash - but they are distancing themselves by saying it was mainly in the 70s and 80s.

Firstly, that does not alter the morality one iota. Secondly, it is untrue. Whilst the children themselves were born in those years, the identity theft came later. One officer, known as Pete Black, did it in the 90s. He infiltrated anti-racist groups before moving on to campaigns for justice for black people who died in custody or whose death had been under-investigated. Another case was an officer from the 2000s.

WHY DO IT AT ALL?

We're told

The idea was that if activists ever researched a police spy's background to check out whether they were who they claimed to be, they would come across the birth record of a real child.

But the obvious problem is that there is also a death certificate waiting to be found. Did they really think people suspicious enough to look for birth certificates would not go further? The case of John Dines proves that, as you'd expect, they would and they did.

Later spies who simply made up a name - Mark Kennedy appears to be one, using his real date of birth to be 'Mark Stone' - had no such flaw. They didn't have a birth certificate, but there are numerous plausible reasons for that, such as being adopted or born abroad. These would also fit with undercover officers' prediliction for stories of a disturbed childhood.

Peter Blexley, a former undercover officer for a different unit investigating serious crime, told the [Radio 4 Today] programme: "I cannot for the life of me comprehend why anyone would want to adopt an identity, rather than create one."

The only plausible reason I can think of is the same one that anybody wants a birth certificate for - to prove an identity to authorities. In an era when the state was dealing with the Cold War and Northern Ireland, perhaps the government thought infiltration of lefty parties, peace activists and trade unionists was unworthy of equipping with the full gamut of false identity documents. Could it be that the undercover officers weren't issued with stuff like fake passports and bank accounts, and resorted to fraudulently applying for them?

Another officer who used a dead child's identity says it was done for 'the greater good' but neglects to tell us what that good is and why it couldn't be achieved by other means.

THE BIG QUESTION

The identity theft of dead children is ghoulish and is further evidence of the institutionalised callousness and arrogance with which the police treat the public they supposedly serve, as if that wasn't already amply illustrated by the way they intrude upon the living.

Presumably they thought that, like the women with whom they had long-term relationships and fathered children, the people they were abusing would never find the full details and catch up with them.

As Pete Black says himself, to search your house they have to get a warrant. To bug your house or tap your phone they have to have approval from the Home Secretary. But to live in your house, hear all your calls, integrate into your family, be your quasi-marital partner, have a child that they know they'll leave you to bring up alone from pre-school age onwards, that just requires the police to decide they want to do it. But that is not the issue.

The big question in the political policing scandal is: who ordered it? Do the police make up these missions for themselves or are they given ideas, directions and commands from political sources? If so, is that the government of the day? An international mix of governments and security services?

The phone hacking scandal caused a storm with politicians clamouring for a public inquiry. There is no way in which the spycops scandal is not a greater invasion of lives and yet politicians (outside the Green Party) are staying deafeningly silent. If you want to know who was complicit and culpable, you should usually look for who is turning away, whistling, hoping not to be noticed.

THE JUSTICE TO COME

The people whose lives have been affected - the women abused for years at a time, the political campaigns undermined and now the grieving families of dead children - have suffered a double injustice.

Firstly there was what was done to them and then there's the wilful obstruction of justice by the police. Amongst the self-investigations is one by the Department of Professional Standards. They are contacting people who were spied on and asking for their assistance whilst simultaneously saying they 'neither confirm nor deny' that the spy was a police officer.

Why would an internal police body be asking about someone who wasn't a police officer? It is an insult to the intelligence of their victims and a crude legal trick to avoid accountability. We all know what went on but if you can't prove that they were a cop, how can you sue police chiefs for doing it? We still don't even have real names for half of the exposed officers.

The increasing likelihood of a public enquiry is good, though that would not be the end. There were two of those for Hillsborough and they failed.

PERSIST AND PREVAIL

This is a justice campaign. People who suffered far worse double injustices - such as the Hillsborough families or the Lawrence family - also got tired at times, and people outside stopped being interested.

But they held on to their outrage, and each new avenue, each attempted assault on the castle would bring a new smidgen of information. And whilst nothing can undo what was done, there can be justice. Truth can be told, those responsible can be brought to account, and future deeds of the same ilk can be prevented.

The peculiar thing about justice campaigns is that if they persist they tend to win. Maybe the authorities give up when there's no careers on the line any more because all those responsible are retired or dead. Or maybe the irritation builds up into a serious discrediting and the continuation of that is worse than letting the truth be told.

Either way, the lesson seems clear. This will not be over soon, and just because the facts become familiar does not make them less of an outrage.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Part 1:

Why do these accusations, based more on your own deductive reasoning than evidence at this stage (ironic given that you highlight the burden of proof the Police need not meet in order to carry out 'abuses') flit between police officers, teams, sections, stations, command areas, forces, 'the police', the political shroud and the state seamlessly as if the wrongs of one, carry across to each and every one of the other in equal measure?
For example, at this stage, we are aware of what, some 80 or so families that may have been targeted by this. Whatever wrongs were carried out here, where is the logic in once again, completely undermining the entire function and conduct of ‘the police’ (which is happening almost weekly now) before we even have a complete understanding of the facts?
You jump that from these 80 or so instances are merely further examples of your contention that ‘the police’ are little more than an instrument of illegality, hidden behind legality, for politicians out for themselves…
Keith Vaz is on the news as often as he can telling the public that the police can't be trusted, they are racist, sexist, ‘out of touch’, thieving rapist-in-waiting full of brutish thugs who jump at the slightest opportunity to tazer innocent members of the public out of their own bloodlust…
For a decade, we’ve had community leaders, state funded envoys for troubled neighbourhoods especially, spreading the exact same message that Keith does, the police can’t be trusted, they are rotten from the inside and need reform… Maybe they do, but if you tell thousands, for years on end that message, that the police are worthy of nothing but contempt, mis-trust, when you grab onto every negative story, account and judgement made against the police, and throw in on the big ‘reasons why the police are shitty scum’ pile, then go around screaming at people, ‘Hey look at this big pile of reasons why they are scum and not to be trusted’… Again, what does this do for society and the role the police must perform?

Anonymous said...

Part 2:

Striving for reform is one thing, highlighting wrongs, pursuing accountability and holding people to account, is one thing. But that is no longer what is happening… This blog is just another example of why the police are so god-dammed useless, because those who would make the police better, attempt to do it by breaking them down first... Maybe you can do that with a deck of cards, but we’re talking about the thin blue line here, there is a lot more at stake… By proclaiming they in their entirety are a bad thing, a gang of crooks with warrant cards out for their own ends… That’s not the smart way to go about it, and never mind the impact this method has on the police officers who have done no wrong, this isn’t smart because at the end of the day, it’s us poor sods who’ll suffer for it more than any other, you, me, our families and friends… Why?
Suppose everybody viewed the police as you apparently do… You think that would be a good thing? Maybe you’re a restrained individual. Many others aren’t...
You think you’d be able to get to your car, or walk to the shops quite as safely as you can now if everybody viewed the police as you do? And Christ knows, for most of us that’s Russian roulette in a gauntlet at the best of times already (and I say that as a victim of mindless GBH).
I’m nothing to do with the police... I’m just a man worried that if we want to change things to do with the police, if we keep on this method we are on, arguing ‘the police’ are nothing more than criminals themselves, we will talk society out of having a police ‘service’ at all. And then we’ll be truly fucked.
We already live in a time when the armed forces are not needed… They are, of course… But just like the police, if there is insufficient appetite to maintain them, they are diminished and diminished until you suddenly realise, they are needed but it’s too late… And the army has not had a sustained campaign for the last decade to portray it in the worst possible light... With the growing distain (which has now replaced desire to reform for many, and is spreading) for the police, with ever decreasing numbers, where do you think they’ll be in 10 years? Where will we be?
The rise in street violence over the years and the riots especially should have been our wake up call. But we as a nation didn’t see it. Instead, too many jump on the ‘fuck the police’ bandwagon and ride it to the nearest plod-outpost to protest, spreading messages that don’t reform them, merely erode them, who and what they are (perhaps in some poorly implemented altruistic desire for reforms for good)… As I say, that ain’t the smart way to make things better…

merrick said...

You're right, I do lump together "police officers, teams, sections, stations, command areas, forces, 'the police', the political shroud and the state seamlessly".

That is because of the way they work together to maintain their power, and especially the way the respond when caught doing things that are unjustifiable.

If they were truly interested in justice then they would wrong illegal and immoral acts rooting out of their ranks, they would want the victims to have redress and reparations. Instead they actively obstruct justice.

In the case of dead children's ID theft, the police tried to spin it that it was mainly in the 70s and 80s (as if that makes it OK). Yet yesterday a senior officer said it was done by 2 units, the SDS and the NPOIU. The latter was only formed in 1999. Also, she refused to say how many cases there were or apologise, saying it would be wrong to make statements 'in haste'. Yet in a separate answer she said she'd known about this since for five months. And still not told anyone, not even the families concerned.

In the case of the undercover police, as I say in the post, they refuse to even confirm that the officers involved were officers. The try to have the women's case against them struck down, and failing that shifted to a bullshit stalinist tribunal instead of open court.

So it's not just about the undercover officers back in the day; it's about the senior officers now.

How many examples do we need? Jean Charles de Menezes was wearing a bulky jacket on a hot day, vaulted the barrier and ran on to the train ignoring shoults to stop. Ian Tomlinson died of a heart attack as brave police tried to save him under a hail of bottles from protesters.

I find the Hillsborough case especially instructive. Even as people were dying the man who ordered the gates open told the press that fans forced them open. Then they tried to find a junior officer to say they'd opened it in panic. Then as the truth came out the investigators into the police's action bullied, abused and sexually harrassed victims. The inquest was nobbled into its absurd assertion that everyone was dead by 3.15 of the same cause.

So yes I lump other bodies in because of how the police routinely glove-puppet autopsies, inquests, inquiries and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (whose employees are in large part ex police) in innumerable cases.

If, as you say, you think pursuing acocuntability and holding people to account is laudable, you have to deplore not just the actions but the culture that protects and perpetuates them. The maintenance of their power is paramount to them, justice is secondary.

I agree that much of the work performed by police is socially necessary and useful. But it is possible to criticise the culture and structure of the police without saying that all tasks they currently perform would be done away with.

merrick said...

A Freedom of Information request was lodged asking for Special Branch records on people with alleged affiliations to London Greenpeace.

The police information manager responded in October 2006, readily admitting that records existed and it 'would contribute to the quality and accuracy of public debate' to release them. However they refused to do it as it was not in the public interest.

They explained – and get ready to have to read this twice to believe it - ' The Public Interest is not what interests the public, but what will be of greater good if released to the community as a whole.' Disclosure is therefore not in the public interest because it could 'undermine their goodwill and confidence in the Metropolitan Police and could result in a lack of engagement with the MPS' and may ‘endanger the health and safety of our officers'.

In other words, if you knew what we did you'd lynch us.

bristle said...

Can you post up a scan of that FoI, Merrick?

bristle said...

'FoI request & response', I meant. Sorry, freezing cold!

I take it this is the SpinWatch one?

merrick said...

Bristle - got the info from Eveline Lubbers' excellent book, which took it from Spinwatch

bristle said...

Ah cheers - just got that, will have a delve :)

Liked your last post too. Keep on keepin' on!