Tuesday, November 27, 2012

the perpetrator is not the victim

Former police infiltrator Mark Kennedy is suing his police bosses for the trauma he suffered working undercover, and for them failing to prevent him having a long-term relationship with one of the activists he targeted.

He filed his papers last month but only sold his story to the Daily Mail this week, presumably as a distraction from unsavoury details about him in this week's run of news about his victims also suing the same police bosses.

I wonder if Max Clifford, Kennedy's publicity agent, actually stipulated in the contract that the Mail would only get the story on condition it included the line, "he is as much a victim as the women are".

If I get drunk and drive my car at 90mph along a pavement, the resulting carnage will traumatise me and I will be disfigured from smashing into a lamp post at the end. But to say that I am just as much a victim as the people I run over would be the sick insult of someone unable to understand that other people are as human as me.

How this metaphor extends if I spend seven years choosing to get paid to drive drunk along pavements between making reports about it and spending time with my family even as I rob other people of theirs, well, I leave that for you to work out.


Kennedy, always up for stabbing any back within reach if there's money in it for him, sold his story to the Mail with new pictures of himself, ones he previously took of activists as well as a picture of his wife.

When the collapse of the Ratcliffe power station trial made the Kennedy story break in the news last year, the defendants worked hard to ensure that Kennedy's personal victims were kept out of it. This wasn't just his girlfriends but also any mention of his wife and family. Whatever you think he may deserve, his family were innocent in this.

Yet in protecting them the activists financially helped Kennedy - it meant that his personal story had more juicy details to be included and could be sold to the tabloids for an even higher sum. Sure enough the first person to name his son in the press was Kennedy himself in a Mail interview. He said, 'my son has been crying and says he never wants to see me again,' yet cruelly compounded the damage by pulling the distressed adolescent's identity into the tabloid spotlight.

He says, 'if I hadn't had sex they would have rumbled me as an informant'. This is nonsense. We know other undercover officers managed to stay for years among activists without having sex - let alone a long-term, co-habiting, integrated-families relationship - and leave without ever being suspected. Beyond that there are, of course, many activists who don't have sexual relationships with other activists yet are not denounced as police spies. 

He now says they police knew all along about his relationships, which contradicts his earlier version where he said that the relationships were never discussed. Still, his story has changed with every retelling and, as he also claimed to have spied in 22 countries when it was actually half that, he is clearly not averse to aggrandisement. As would happen to any of us who spent years having our entire life be a tapestry of lies, it seems that the concept of truth has dissolved within him


At least there is some small mercy in the fact that - unlike at least three of his predecessors - Kennedy didn't leave a woman raising his child when he left. How common is that amongst undercover officers? Of the officers exposed so far a quarter fathered children with women they were sent to spy on. Is that a representative sample?

Whatever the final figures, it is clear that the Metropolitan Police's official line that Kennedy was an off-mission rogue agent is a lie. Not only is he not the victim, he is not the issue. There is nothing Mark Kennedy did as an undercover officer that wasn't also done by most of the swathe who came before him. It is clearly the modus operandi of the department. Their methods and choice of targets were - probably still are - utterly indefensible.

It is as black and white as an issue can be. Not one person anywhere, including the senior officers who ran these operations, will say that what happened to the victims was good and justified.

It's extraordinary that phone hacking can, rightly, have caused such a furore yet this monumentally greater invasion of privacy gets almost nothing in the way of high profile support. Then again the police are not the central characters in the hacking scandal. It seems that for private wrongdoing the outrage is there, but for the state then - as Bloody Sunday, Hillsborough and now hopefully the related case of Orgreave demonstrate -  public figures believe we should wait decades for a chance of justice.


Ten women and one man are suing the police for the intrusion into their lives after undercover officers formed long-term, committed life-partner relationships with people they were spying on. Whilst Kennedy's claim is to be heard in the High Court, the group of eleven suing the police are waiting for a judge to decide if they will go to open court or to an Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

The police are trying to cover up what they have done by having the case heard in one of these bizarre secret courts. They are a Kafkaesque institution that beggars belief in a nation where the right to a fair trial is supposed to be inalienable. The police can present any made up evidence they like; the complainants do not get to see the evidence, do not get to be present, and only get told the result without any reasons why it was reached. They then have no right to appeal. Over 99% of cases in these courts find in favour of the government.

As the brilliant activist infiltration researcher Eveline Lubbers described from the court last week, it is absurd to argue that a case as well publicised and documented from all sides as Kennedy's has any claim to need secrecy. It is simply an obstructive ruse to avoid accountability.


Beyond the eleven people bringing the action against the police, there may well be others who cannot face a gruelling court case that binds you to prolonged forensic examination of the worst part of your life instead of letting you move on. We can be certain that all of them are far outnumbered by others whose lives have been shattered by inexplicably disappearing partners, still unaware that they were the victims of the British Stasi.

It is this - the other officers, and methods that the court case may expose - that holds the most value for society in letting us know what was done and letting other victims find the truth and perhaps thereby some peace.

It also holds the most fear for those who perpetrated the operations as, beyond the moral exposure, a court case would also lay them open to claims for damages from dozens of traumatised ex-partners and maintenance payments for single parents raising children who were only born to enhance a police officer's cover story. What is clear to everyone except the man himself is that Mark Kennedy is not the real victim in this.

Friday, November 02, 2012

everything costs the police 200k

The No Dash For Gas power station protest continues to occupy the tops of chimneys at the new West Burton power station and looks set to last a full week as intended.

Paul Broadbent, Nottinghamshire police's assistant chief constable, said

That is already proving a drain on police resources – and if the current staffing levels are maintained day and night for the next week, that will cost in the region of £200,000 – excluding petrol, overtime payments, and other factors.

This is for a week's operation leading to 17 arrests.

The same constabulary dealt with the 2009 Ratcliffe on Soar power station protest - a six month run-up to deploying over 200 officers to make 114 arrests - yet that cost £208,000.

In these straitened times the police need to make cuts and increase efficiency, so how odd that they spend over seven times as much per arrest these days. Unless they're blatantly lying to discredit the protesters and detract from the politics of the situation.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

no dash for gas

In the early hours of Monday morning around 30 activists invaded West Burton power station on the Nottinghamshire/Lincolnshire border. Although a massive coal fired power station has been there since the 1960s and was blazing away, the protest is aimed at a different target.

European laws restricting sulphur dioxide emissions to reduce acid rain come into effect in 2015. Rather than face the vast expense of retrofitting coal fired power stations that breach the new rules, many will simply close. A new swathe of electricity generation is going to be built in the coming years. Whatever we choose will be in service for decades to come. Essentially, we are choosing our childrens' power sources.

This is exactly the time to switch to renewables. As the redoubtable Danny Chivers explains, the arguments against doing so are pushable over with a feather. With technologies that are here today we could readily be producing most of our electricity renewably. Britain's geography gives us vast potential for offshore wind, wave and tidal generation and there are credible, detailed sources saying we could be Zero Carbon Britain by 2030. So the government is committed to building two dozen new gas fired power stations instead.

Gas is cheaper than renewables today, and the fossil burning corporations have friends, lobbyists and board members in high places that the renewables sector can't even dream of. But it's a short term vision that passes on the true cost to those yet to come. If I were building a house next door to you it might be cheaper to put my sewage outflow into your garage. It would not be fair.

Gas is lower carbon than coal, but that's shifting. Rather like unconventional oil such as tar sands is way more carbon intensive, so we're starting to buy what is, in its way, unconventional gas. Gas is extracted in Qatar, cooled to minus 162 degrees C, with all the carbon cost you'd imagine. It is then kept at that temperature as it is shipped round to us.

This isn't just about climate change, it's about national independence and social justice.We will be subject to price hikes dictated by our suppliers, notably Russia, as they get control and more customers compete. Energy prices will rocket, pushing more and more people into fuel poverty. instead, we could be producing electricity with minimal environmental cost and no greedy suppliers with their hands on the taps.

The 'dash for gas' is a new target for environmental and social justice campaigners. In an audacious opening salvo they got 17 of them up two chimneys at West Burton, where the second of the new stations is being built, right alongside one of the condemned coal ones. Thirty or so people organising in secrecy and pulling it off, a great bounceback from the Kennedy-hobbled climate action of previous years.

They've taken enough supplies to last a week and, at the time of writing, have been up there for nearly four days. They've got a solar panel with them to keep their phones charged and are tweeting some pretty spectacular pictures as well as eloquently explaining their position to the media. You can follow them @nodashforgas and check their website here. Here's hoping this is just the start.