When the scandal of Britain's secret police broke, those in charge still thought they could pin it all on 'rogue agent' Mark Kennedy. Just one officer, far off his given mission.
Kennedy worked for the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, run by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). Back then, in January 2011, ACPO's spokesperson Jon Murphy wanted us to know Kennedy was a solitary wrong 'un and all the other officers and their remits were just dandy.
We are left to regulate it ourselves, and we think we do a good job of it
Asked about the sexual relations with people they spy on, Murphy was expansive and unequivocal.
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.
Since then, details of a further thirteen undercover officers have come to light. Twelve of them had sexual relations with people they spied on, most having long-term, committed life-partner relationships. Either the 'good job' of regulation was a complete shambles or else sexual relationships are an authorised tactic and Murphy is lying. Either way, he could scarcely be more wrong.
SAVE THE GRANNIES
The Kennedy case had just come to public attention after it caused the collapse of the trial of climate activits who'd intended to shut down Ratcliffe on Soar coal fired power station. Murphy said undercover policing was needed to stop people who were intent on
disabling parts of the national critical infrastructure. That has the potential to deny utilities to hospitals, schools, businesses and your granny.
He really did say 'your granny'.
As had been made clear two months earlier at the trial of another group from the same protest, if the activists had succeeded in shutting down the power station not one light bulb would have gone out. The National Grid is, well, a grid. Power stations come off and online again all the time to meet changes in demand or through faults. It's also worth noting that vulnerable places like large hospitals have their own back-up generators.
The protesters knew Ratcliffe's output would be replaced by a gas power station (these are quicker to switch on and off, so make up the slack in the system), which would result in lower carbon emissions than Ratcliffe's coal. This was the whole basis of their defence. They risked nobody's safety, except perhaps their own.
In sentencing them, Judge Jonathan Teare said
It is right to emphasise that this the planned action would have had no practical effect on the electricity supply ... It was your intention that this invasion would have been peaceable and safe. Violence was to be avoided, and the safety of the workers at the power station was paramount. You were fully equipped to carry out your roles safely.
Murphy, responsible for national security, either did not have the most basic grasp on how the National Grid works and had failed to pay any attention to the protesters he was talking about, or he was lying to exaggerate the threat and thereby deflect scrutiny and blame from himself and the others in charge of the spying. Either way, he could scarcely be less credible.
Murphy's predecessor luminaries as Chief Constable of Merseyside, Bernard Hogan-Howe and Norman Bettison, had a career path that saw them take that job, get a knighthood, then become mired in scandal. Last week Jon Murphy was was knighted for services to policing.