Wednesday, December 07, 2011

the next bucket of whitewash

You know the cliche about how a frog thrown into hot water jumps out, but a frog put in warming water stays put and gets boiled alive?

One all-encompassing cover-up report into the actions of undercover police officer Mark Kennedy and his colleagues would be such a hurricane of bullshit that it would cause outrage. Instead there are - count them - twelve separate narrow little inquiries reporting one at a time.

The frog dropped into a pond of whitewash jumps out; but slowly add whitewash to the pond and it doesn't notice until it's swallowed a load and gone blind.

Yesterday Sir Christopher Rose published his report.


The Crown Prosecution Service failed to mention they had transcripts of recordings made by Mark Kennedy at the meeting where activists planned to close Ratcliffe power station - evidence that exonerated many of those involved. Twenty people were convicted and a further six were on the brink of it when they demanded Kennedy's report; the prosecution refused and the trial collapsed.

Had activists not uncovered Kennedy, those convictions would stand. How many other people have been wrongly convicted due to the prosecution witholding evidence of undercover cops who, unlike Kennedy, were never found out?


Sir Christopher Rose was a poor choice to write the report (or a good one, if you want a cover-up). He was Surveillance Commissioner, a post that has the ultimate sign-off on deployment of undercover cops. He was one of the people who sent Kennedy and co in. This isn't the same state investigating itself, nor even the same institution; to some extent it's the same individual.

Did he find any systemic problems then? Have a guess.

As I said when the last Kennedy report was due to come out, when it gets caught doing the unacceptable, state power denies it's done anything wrong. When that fails, they hang a small number of lowlies out to dry. No officers went to jail for the American policy of torture exposed at Abu Ghraib. A solitary Second Lieutenant was convicted of the My Lai massacre. If they can do that for such atrocities, the spy cops thing is a walk in a finely kept park.

Just as the undercover cops were 'one rogue officer' (even though Kennedy did nothing that wasn't done by a slew of others subsequently uncovered), so Rose has found that the CPS' witholding of evidence was down to one rogue prosecutor, John Cunningham.

Which takes some brass balls to say, given that emails proving conspiracy between Cunningham and his superior were leaked months ago.

Cunningham exchanged a series of emails with Nick Paul, a more senior CPS prosecutor based in London, according to the documents. At that early stage Paul was also aware of a "participating informant" and "sensitive disclosure issues" relating to Kennedy's evidence.

And of course, there were many CPS staff who will have seen the transcripts of Kennedy's recordings. Rose admits

all involved were well aware

that they should disclose the evidence, yet he says

at no stage of the prosecution was there any deliberate, still less dishonest, withholding of information.

I know I should tell you something, I don't, yet I'm not deliberately witholding it? You fucking what?

The weaselling is done by essentially claiming that the Crown Prosecution Service didn't notice the hundreds of pages pertaining to Kennedy, or if they did they didn't think it would have any bearing on the case to have a transcript of what was said and by whom. (And let's just ignore all the police officers involved who were fully aware but stood by and watched a miscarriage of justice, they're in the clear too). This is a one-off, then, right?


But we already knew that one of Kennedy's predecessors, undercover cop Jim Boyling, had been arrested as an activist and been prosecuted under his false identity. (Truth, whole truth, nothing but the truth?).

This week we learned that Boyling had earlier been on a hunt saboteur action that ended in arrests, and he had supplied a witness statement for the defence. (In a poetic twist, the sabbers' lawyer was Kier Starmer, who these days is the Director of Public Prosecutions who ordered the Rose report).

What's interesting is that in that case the prosecution declared that they were witholding certain evidence. We still don't know what it was but the only obvious answer is that the 'sensitive' documents showed that the activist Jim Sutton was actually the police officer Jim Boyling.

If that's right then the CPS definitely knew about Boyling, and about undercover officers among activists, at that time. Which means that when Boyling was prosecuted later on, the CPS knew who he was yet it got waved through.

One of Boyling's contemporaries, Pete Black, says that prosecutions under false identities were commonplace in order to build the credibility of undercover officers.

This means that there are many other cases like the Ratcliffe one where the prosecution has pertinent evidence that mitigated or even exonerated the defendants, yet they witheld it.


The Director of Public Prosecutions, Kier Starmer, went on Newsnight last night to defend the Rose report's weapons-grade whitewash. He said that there was no need to go back through all the prosecutions involving undercover officers. Instead, he would look at any cases that concerned people bring to him.

He knows full well nobody can do that, it's yet another shutdown whitewash tactic. How can anyone know what cases to suggest if we don't know who the secret police officers are?

Either the CPS has to get a list of the spy cops and examine all cases, or they have to publish a list of the cops' names so we can say which cases we saw them in.


These enquiries and reports - despite all the evidence incontrovertibly proving otherwise - are saying there is no systemic corruption. They are a denial that there has been decades of this political policing. They are decoys to keep us from asking a larger question about what the mission has been and how far it has gone.

Beyond that there is a larger question still - who invented this role? Did the police invent it for themselves and the prosecutors and politicians keep nodding it through? Did they sit down and do it together? Or was it invented by politicians?

For such a large and long-running scandal, during this extraordinary past twelve months the politicians have been deafeningly quiet.

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