Sunday, February 10, 2013

undercover relationships were approved: the evidence

A year ago Mark Kennedy said
I lived undercover for eight years and if I hadn’t had sex, I would have blown my cover... It was essential for me to have relationships in order to do my job.

Last November the head of the Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe, said  it was 'almost inevitable' that such relationships happened, though they 'shouldn't be part of the strategy'.

This tallies with the earlier claim by police who, glove-puppeting the policing minister Nick Herbert, said that such relationships were completely legal under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and therefore the case of women involved should be heard in a Bullshit Stalinist Tribunal rather than an actual court.

Herbert went further, adding

Moreover, to ban such actions would provide a ready-made test for the targeted criminal group to find out whether an undercover officer was deployed among them. Specifically forbidding the action would put the issue in the public domain and such groups would know that it could be tested.

So, almost all undercovers had sex with their targets because there's no way to infiltrate activists without having relationships with them. This week's revelations about the officer known as Rod Richardson tells us that is not true.


Rod* lived among activists in Nottingham, sharing a house with them, for nearly three years from 2000-2003. He left a couple of months before Mark Kennedy arrived in the same community, indicating that he was Kennedy's predecessor. The difference in the men's behaviour is illuminating.

Rod did not have any sexual relationships with activists, and he was not suspected of being a spy. He said he had a long-term partner, 'Jo', who lived elsewhere in the country. Most crucially, Jo turned up with him at several social occasions (and his friends wondered why he was seeing someone who had such a different nature and was, well, rather like a cop).

An officer calling herself Lynn Watson infiltrated the same activists, living among them in Leeds from 2004-2008. She too had no sexual relationships - bar a single one-night stand - and she also said she had a long-term partner living elsewhere. As with Rod, Lynn had 'Paul' accompany her on a social occasion. And, again, Lynn's comrades wondered why she couldn't do better for herself and said amongst themselves that this guy seemed almost like a cop.

It seems clear that superior officers had set-up the undercover officers with a pretend partner to strengthen their claim to having a long-term relationship elsewhere. They not only knew of the risk of relationships, they had an effective strategy of ensuring it didn't happen.


Several officers - both undercovers and seniors - say that though sexual relationships may happen it's never overtly talked about, implying it is done with a nod and a wink.

But this is contradicted by the evidence of Jim Boyling. He infiltrated Reclaim The Streets and anti-capitalist groups in the late 1990s and 2000s. He not only had a relationship with one of the activists he targeted, he married her, had children, confided in her and introduced her to other undercover officers. He also

told her a ruling from seniors that undercover operatives should not have sex with targets was unrealistic, and developing relationships with activists was "a necessary tool in maintaining cover".

Given when Boyling was deployed, starting before Rod but overlapping with him, it seems likely that Rod's abstinence was because of that directive.

And yet Kennedy came after Rod. So they had a proven effective tactic for avoiding relationships without garnering suspicion yet they chose not to use it for Kennedy. The most likely explanation, then, is that they preferred Kennedy to have his relationships.


At last week's Home Affairs Select Committee hearing, Patricia Gallan, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police repeatedly said that undercover officers' sexual relationships are not authorised and are morally wrong.

This flies in the face of the statements of them being inevitable, providing a ready-made test, and the very basis of the police's case to go to the Bullshit Stalinist Tribunal. Unless, that is, she's trying to do some very fancy footwork and say that though they're not authorised and are reprehensible, nonetheless they are legally intended and provided for.

It seems those in charge know there is no position they can take that will get them out of this and so they're flailing between stances to see if anything is better than the untenable place they're currently in.

But let's be as generous as we can and say that, despite paying other officers to be pretend partners, seniors really didn't know that undercovers had relationships. Let's say that, all along, the top brass did not authorise them, thought them morally wrong and said so.

Lynn Watson not only moved among the same groups, she was often at the same events as Kennedy. If his quasi-marital relationship with an activist was so far beyond the pale then surely she would have reported on it. Yet it was allowed to continue for a further four years to the end of his deployment and beyond.


Between Lynn Watson's witnessing, the two uses of the pretend partners, and the fact that the tactic pre-dates Kennedy's deployment, it is clear that Kennedy's relationships were known about and approved of by his superior officers.

The startling similarity of the relationships, and the fact that those who'd engaged in them were later in charge of deploying officers who did the same, is are strong enough indicators that this has always been the way. But the evidence we now have means that, for Kennedy's case at least, there is no longer any shred of plausible denial.


*It may seem overly familiar to refer to him as just Rod, but out of respect for the real Richardson family whose dead baby's identity was used by the officer, I'm not comfortable calling him 'Richardson'.


Anonymous said...

Not really true, Rod was suspected of being a cop, and pretty sure he did have one a brief sexual thing with a activist as well.

merrick said...

If Rod did have any sexual relationships then he and his partner certainly kept it very quiet; it wasn't something he did with a lot of people, nor was having reltionships part of his MO.

As for being suspected, there may well have been vague suspicions at the time, but no more than a great many people get (and definitely no worse than the other cops had).

In hindsight people will make any odd feelings about infiltrators loom larger in their minds. It's amazing how many commenters on Indymedia knew all along that Kennedy was a cop, yet for some reason they chose not to tell anyone. As far as I know nobody had serious enough suspicions to exclude Rod from anything or investigate him.

So the premise stands that he came into the movement and infiltrated it as well as any other cop without the need for relationships or flings. It's proof that they could do this before Kennedy was sent in, and that therefore the claims that Kennedy (and others') relationships were essential to the job are bollocks.