Another 29 convictions quashed because undercover cop Mark Kennedy's evidence was withheld from the court by police and prosecutors. It happened in an earlier case too.
In April 2009, 114 people were pre-emptively arrested whilst planning to shut down Ratcliffe on soar coal fired power station. Between their planned protest at Ratcliffe on soar power station and the subsequent trial they found out that one of them, Mark Stone, was in fact police officer Mark Kennedy.
Twenty of the Ratcliffe protesters had already been convicted, but the defendants in the separate trial of six more said he must have made some sort of report. As the prosecution have a duty to disclose any evidence that may help the defence, they asked to see it. Rather than do this, the state withdrew the charges (specifically saying it was new evidence and nothing to do with the cop, honest guv) and the trial dramatically collapsed. Two resulting official reports, when sifted in tandem, show that the police and prosecutors had colluded to hide Kennedy's involvement from both trials.
The twenty earlier convictions were quashed. This led the Drax 29 - who'd been driven by Kennedy on their mission to stop a train of coal en route to Drax power station in 2008 - to appeal as well.
Earlier today the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, overturned the convictions saying there was "a complete and total failure" to disclose evidence that would have been fundamental to the activists' defence. He said reasons for the failure remained unclear. Seems pretty clear from where I'm sitting. As with the Ratcliffe trail, they withheld evidence that would exonerate the defendants in order to secure convictions.
In October a conviction was ready to be overturned because, again, one of those arrested but not prosecuted was a police officer, this time Jim Boyling. But, bizarrely, the state has refused to say why it will let the appeal win. Next week several media outlets are going to court trying to force disclosure in the public interest.
...AND JUSTICE FOR THOUSANDS
We can be confident Kennedy and Boyling are not the only ones. But most undercover officers haven't been revealed. There will be dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of miscarriages of justice but the people wrongly convicted won't appeal because they don't know one of their comrades was a cop.
With the Ratcliffe 20, plus the additional Ratcliffe 6, that's 55 wrongful prosecutions and convictions from Kennedy alone. Taken as an average for these officers, that's around 8000 since the secret police started targeting activists this way in 1968. Even if it's just one per officer per year, there are around 600 miscarriages of justice being left to stand.
The Director of Public Prosecutions said they will investigate any cases brought to them, but they won't go searching. Thing is, we can't bring cases if we don't know who the cops were. It's a bit like me getting burgled, but the cops ask me to find a fingerprint and put a name to it before they investigate. It's *they* who hold the only records that can identify culprits and, given we all know these crimes happened, their refusal to investigate amounts to a cover-up.
NO TRUST, NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE
If the smaller, less intrusive, less serious phone hacking scandal warrants a public inquiry, what possible excuse is there to deny one for the secret police scandal? This is one of the biggest nobblings of the judicial system ever. Where's the justice?
At the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking, the police were happy to let a few lowlings go down in flames but when it started to implicate a very senior officer the Met held on to their evidence until it was too late to use, and even then handed it in with a gagging order so it couldn't even be referred to in Leveson's conclusions.
If they'll do that to a public inquiry, what chance is there with Operation Herne, the investigation into the secret police scandal headed by a chief constable where most of the personnel are Met staff including serving police officers with an eye on their future career?
They are already obstructing justice in this as much as they can. When women ex-partners of undercover cops had a hearing a couple of months ago trying to get their human rights claim heard in open court, the police were refusing to even admit Mark Kennedy was a police officer. (The court decided that the human rights claim will be heard in a secret tribunal where only the police and judge are present and the women's lawyers don't get to see what evidence the police present or omit.)
DONE, AND SEEN TO BE DONE
This isn't just about fitting up hundreds of political activists and ruining lives with wrongful criminal records. It's also about spying on Stephen Lawrence's family and other black justice campaigns to undermine them. It's about the dozens of women who were psychologically and sexually abused by undercover officers, some left with children to raise alone. It's about the bereaved families whose dead childrens' identities were stolen by officers, putting the family at risk of retribution from criminals who thought they had twigged who the mole in their operation was. It's about the blacklisting of thousands of trade unionists on an illegal database with information supplied by police officers.
Beyond all that, it's about whatever was done by the other 90% of these officers who we don't yet know about.
Self-investigations will say 'mistakes were made, nothing systemic or malicious, lessons learned, move along, nothing to see'. There needs to be an open public inquiry conducted in a manner that is trusted by all sides. It needs to deliver justice commensurate with the wrongdoing that it investigates. The Hillsborough Independent Panel showed that such a thing is possible. Anything less is either a failure to understand the enormity of what was done, or else a deliberate obstruction to conceal the truth and stifle justice, yet again.
I'm doing a two-week run at the Edinburgh Fringe
5 months ago