Monday, June 24, 2013

self investigation: the next level of injustice and abuse

Clear a bit of space on your desk. You're going to need it shortly to bang your head on.

As the revelations reverberate about undercover police undermining Stephen Lawrence's family's campaign for justice, politicians call for action.

David Cameron tweeted

I'm deeply concerned by reports that police wanted to smear the family of Stephen Lawrence. The Met must investigate immediately

[headdesk time]

You know how we didn't respond to the phone hacking by saying the News of The World should investigate it themselves? That. Exactly that. As anyone who's ever found themselves at the fridge at midnight can tell you, self-regulation amongst the guilty doesn't work.

Jack Straw - Home Secretary at the time of the MacPherson Inquiry into the Lawrence investigation that was kept in the dark about the spies - said on Radio 4 this morning that the Independent Police Complants Commission should investigate.

[headdesk time]

You know what the result of sending Kelvin MacKenzie in to lead Times journalists to investigate the News of The World would have been? That.

People who spend their professional and personal lives with police officers are, even with the best of intentions, going to be biased. Even if they weren't largely ex-police themselves.

The IPCC exonerated the police over the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes (you know, the rapist in the bulky jacket on a hot day who vaulted the barrier and ignored police shouts to stop, except none of that happened).

The IPCC took the police's word for it that Ian Tomlinson hadn't had contact with them, they believed the dodgy rush-job autopsy, they believed that there weren't any CCTV cameras in the area of Tomlinson's assault, that OK there were cameras but just like with De Menezes they weren't working. Their first response to the incriminating footage appearing on the Guardian's site was to go into the newspaper's offices with police (whose asked who, I wonder) and demand it be removed.

They are not independent and not fit to adjudicate in serious cases.


Thanks to the tenacity of journalists and suspicious activists we now have documented proof of over thirty years of undercover political policing. The police, were they really interested in justice and believed their institution was innocent, would want to get to the bottom of it. Instead they ignored it until it blew up in the media. Then they said Mark Kennedy was one rogue officer way off mission.

Here we come to the double injustice visited upon those who fight police corruption. First there is what is done to you. Then there are the smears and obstructions to justice. The infiltration of the Lawrences and other black justice campaigns is evidence of that. Ask yourself what your impression of Mark Duggan is.

In far more terrible circumstances and to a far greater degree, the Hillsborough families suffered like this. They too had the double injustice, with police self-investigations being nothing of the sort, instead smearing and sexually harassing survivors as the concocted a fraudulent case to protect the force.

Eight women who had long-term relationships with undercover police officers are suing. You can see their site and donate to their campaign at The Met reponded by trying to get the case thrown out and then, partially successfully, by trying to have it heard in an Investigatory Powers Tribunal. Still got that dented desk clear? You'll be wanting that.

Did you think you have a right to a fair trial? If your case involves surveillance then it can be heard in an Investigatory Powers Tribunal. The police can make up whatever evidence they like (and omit whatever incriminates them). The complainants do not get to see the evidence police present, do not get to be in the court, do not get given the reasons for the verdict, and have no right of appeal.

In cases of life-threatening espionage there might be an argument for that. But with these activists, when the details have been splashed all over the press with the officers' pictures, when Mark Kennedy has hired fucking Max Clifford to handle his media appearances, all claim to the need for secrecy has long since vaporised. It's a deliberate obstruction, a further attack on these women by the police.

The Met's department of Professional Standards is trying to talk to activists who were spied upon about what happened. Yet, desperate to avoid being sued, they won't officially confirm that any of the officers were actually officers. Let me say that again - an internal body of the police talks to you about your ex-partner who has been exposed in the press as a police officer, but they won't admit he was anything to do with the police. Otherwise you might want compensation or maybe maintenance payments for the child he fathered twenty years ago and left you to bring up alone.

Worse, it would expose what has really gone on and, as the infiltration of the Lawrences shows, they hate nothing more than being made accountable for their indefensible acts. There are miscarriages of justice, listed convictions, being left to stand because the officer involved, although named and pictured in the press, cannot be conclusively proven to have been a police officer.


This is not about rogue officers or units. The obfuscating response alone makes that clear, as they close ranks to envelop and protect the abusers.

The current chief of the Met is Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe. In 2011, when chief of Merseyside, he wrote the first major report into the Mark Kennedy affair (actually it was the second - they had to pulp the first one before it was published because fresh revelations had shown it to be a cover-up even before it came out). It was a whitewash. Not one bad apple after all? OK, mistakes were made, few individuals, mostly oversights, all over now, nothing to see, move along.

There are a staggering twelve inquiries, all with their limited remits, all police self-investigations or near as dammit. If there's one thing the last three years has taught, it's that we don't need any more on that list. It's time for something real, complete, honest and trustworthy that acknowledges the institutional abuse and ensures that it ends. Actually, it's long past time for that.

It is indisputably established that this is a system that has continued through several generations of officers, many of whom have subsequently risen through the ranks. The long-awaited, much promised amending of the rules for undercover officers turned out to be nothing of the sort. Instead it makes clear that the police want all these horrific abuses to carry on indefinitely.

They, and anyone on their side, cannot be the ones to investigate what went wrong. Self-investigation is a repulsive insult to the people who have been abused and an affront to anyone who desires justice.


Phone hacking was an outrage that got a full judge-led inquiry. Undercover policing involves more lives, for a longer time, invaded to far greater degree, with far more serious consequences, by people in a far greater position of trust. It needs a far more serious response.

But this scandal must not have a judge-led inquiry. Hillsborough had two of those - the Taylor Inquiry and Lord Justice Stuart-Smith's scrutiny - and they failed. Hillsborough proved that the state cannot investigate its own cover-ups. But the Hillsborough Independent Panel is a model of getting to the truth so that it can be established, agreed and believed. I'm willing to bet that it's cheaper too.

The swathe of horrors uncovered in this scandal - the women abused, the children abandoned, the campaigns stifled, the bereaved families' dead childrens identites stolen - is barely the start. We know of a dozen officers. There were well over a hundred. None of the officers exposed infiltrated campaigns that threatened life and limb. Almost all had long-term relationships. A quarter of them fathered children. Is that statistically accurate? Why aren't we being told?

There is an even bigger question - who devises this political policing? Do the police make it up for themselves? Is it ordered by government? The long, resounding silence from politicians, apart from Cameron's absurdly trusting tweet this morning, has been very telling.

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