Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Where's The Justice?

Another 29 convictions quashed because undercover cop Mark Kennedy's evidence was withheld from the court by police and prosecutors. It happened in an earlier case too.

In April 2009, 114 people were pre-emptively arrested whilst planning to shut down Ratcliffe on soar coal fired power station. Between their planned protest at Ratcliffe on soar power station and the subsequent trial they found out that one of them, Mark Stone, was in fact police officer Mark Kennedy.

Twenty of the Ratcliffe protesters had already been convicted, but the defendants in the separate trial of six more said he must have made some sort of report. As the prosecution have a duty to disclose any evidence that may help the defence, they asked to see it. Rather than do this, the state withdrew the charges (specifically saying it was new evidence and nothing to do with the cop, honest guv) and the trial dramatically collapsed. Two resulting official reports, when sifted in tandem, show that the police and prosecutors had colluded to hide Kennedy's involvement from both trials.

The twenty earlier convictions were quashed. This led the Drax 29 - who'd been driven by Kennedy on their mission to stop a train of coal en route to Drax power station in 2008 - to appeal as well. Earlier today the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, overturned the convictions saying there was "a complete and total failure" to disclose evidence that would have been fundamental to the activists' defence. He said reasons for the failure remained unclear. Seems pretty clear from where I'm sitting. As with the Ratcliffe trail, they withheld evidence that would exonerate the defendants in order to secure convictions.

In October a conviction was ready to be overturned because, again, one of those arrested but not prosecuted was a police officer, this time Jim Boyling. But, bizarrely, the state has refused to say why it will let the appeal win. Next week several media outlets are going to court trying to force disclosure in the public interest.


We can be confident Kennedy and Boyling are not the only ones. But most undercover officers haven't been revealed. There will be dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of miscarriages of justice but the people wrongly convicted won't appeal because they don't know one of their comrades was a cop.

With the Ratcliffe 20, plus the additional Ratcliffe 6, that's 55 wrongful prosecutions and convictions from Kennedy alone. Taken as an average for these officers, that's around 8000 since the secret police started targeting activists this way in 1968. Even if it's just one per officer per year, there are around 600 miscarriages of justice being left to stand.

The Director of Public Prosecutions said they will investigate any cases brought to them, but they won't go searching. Thing is, we can't bring cases if we don't know who the cops were. It's a bit like me getting burgled, but the cops ask me to find a fingerprint and put a name to it before they investigate. It's *they* who hold the only records that can identify culprits and, given we all know these crimes happened, their refusal to investigate amounts to a cover-up.


If the smaller, less intrusive, less serious phone hacking scandal warrants a public inquiry, what possible excuse is there to deny one for the secret police scandal? This is one of the biggest nobblings of the judicial system ever. Where's the justice?

At the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking, the police were happy to let a few lowlings go down in flames but when it started to implicate a very senior officer the Met held on to their evidence until it was too late to use, and even then handed it in with a gagging order so it couldn't even be referred to in Leveson's conclusions.

If they'll do that to a public inquiry, what chance is there with Operation Herne, the investigation into the secret police scandal headed by a chief constable where most of the personnel are Met staff including serving police officers with an eye on their future career?

They are already obstructing justice in this as much as they can. When women ex-partners of undercover cops had a hearing a couple of months ago trying to get their human rights claim heard in open court, the police were refusing to even admit Mark Kennedy was a police officer. (The court decided that the human rights claim will be heard in a secret tribunal where only the police and judge are present and the women's lawyers don't get to see what evidence the police present or omit.)


This isn't just about fitting up hundreds of political activists and ruining lives with wrongful criminal records. It's also about spying on Stephen Lawrence's family and other black justice campaigns to undermine them. It's about the dozens of women who were psychologically and sexually abused by undercover officers, some left with children to raise alone. It's about the bereaved families whose dead childrens' identities were stolen by officers, putting the family at risk of retribution from criminals who thought they had twigged who the mole in their operation was. It's about the blacklisting of thousands of trade unionists on an illegal database with information supplied by police officers.

Beyond all that, it's about whatever was done by the other 90% of these officers who we don't yet know about.

Self-investigations will say 'mistakes were made, nothing systemic or malicious, lessons learned, move along, nothing to see'. There needs to be an open public inquiry conducted in a manner that is trusted by all sides. It needs to deliver justice commensurate with the wrongdoing that it investigates. The Hillsborough Independent Panel showed that such a thing is possible. Anything less is either a failure to understand the enormity of what was done, or else a deliberate obstruction to conceal the truth and stifle justice, yet again.

Friday, January 03, 2014

We Are More Possible Than You Can Powerfully Imagine

The problem with working for social change is that you never know if you're wasting your time. Only hindsight, and almost always a considerable quantity of it, can give you clues.

Every successful campaign - indeed, most historical events - gets tainted by our perspective that includes the time between then and now. It makes it look as if what happened was fated and inevitable. Conversely, things that failed appear as if they were always doomed and those involved were daft to have even tried.

When you read what the contemporaneous mainstream voices invested in the status quo said about, say, the Suffragettes or the civil rights movement, you get a very different view. Likewise,when we get to peer into the minds and deeds of the winners we find that they didn't see themselves with certainty either.

Cabinet papers from the 1984 Miners' Strike released today show the government was readying itself to declare a State of Emergency and, against stated government policy, use troops to move coal. Even with that on the table they weren't entirely confident.

Minutes of the secret cabinet committee, Misc 101, reveal Thatcher and her closest ministers were unsure of what to do: "It was not clear how far a declaration of a state of emergency would be interpreted as a sign of determination by the government or a sign of weakness, nor to what extent to which it would increase docker support for the miners' strike."

In 1952 the government built itself a bolthole in case of nuclear attack. These days it's a weird tourist attraction, which has given rise to hilarious roadsigns.

A guide book to bizarre days out, Bollocks To Alton Towers, explains.

The Secret Nuclear Bunker at Kelvedon Hatch easily qualifies as The World's Most Terrifying Bungalow. It's a place made all the more extraordinary for its very ordinary setting, on a country lane between Chipping Ongar, once the furthest outpost of the Central Line, and Brentwood, infamously crowned The Most Boring Town In Britain.

At first sight an unremarkable 1950s farm cottage, this bungalow is in fact the tip of a government iceberg - a huge three-storey bunker with 10ft thick concrete walls reaching 100ft underground. The local villagers knew nothing of its purpose, being the sort of people who could, back in 1952, remain unfazed by 40,000 tons of cement trundling up the road to Parrish Farm. Even the contractors weren't told what they were building.

When it was sold in 1992 the new owners

found the floors polished to within an inch of their lives and grass clipped to nail-scissor perfection. The four bored guards who had been stationed there had made the place nice and tidy and nicer and tidier...

In four decades of active service, at a cost of £3m a year, Kelvedon Bunker was never at red alert status. It was, only once, cranked up to amber. Not, as you might think, during the Cuban Missile Crisis (which apparently happened too quickly), or the occupation of the Palestinian territories, or the invasion of Afghanistan. Kelvedon was readied for action during the 1984-85 miners' strike, when the government was concerned that the country might be on the brink of civil war.

They really though they might have misjudged it, that the unionised workforce might band together to stem the tide of neoliberal regression that now laps around our necks in 2013. It was in no way a done deal.

So this is why we keep fighting for the change we know is needed. Not because we think we are fated to win, but because there are things worth fighting for. Because even if we fail, we may have laid the foundations of inspiration and experience that others will build upon and succeed. But, most of all, because we cannot foretell the future nor know all that is going on today. As a banner at the Newbury bypass campaign said, we are more possible than you can powerfully imagine.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

The Shocking Shock Doctrine

The difference between Labour and Tory governments is that you can keep up with the pace of neoliberal evil Labour inflict. The Tories blast such a blizzard that you miss a lot of it. The kind of stuff that cropped up every few weeks and made you eclaim that you can't believe Labour would try it now just zips past you in a sort of white noise of regression, a cacophony of coins clinking on their way into the overstuffed pockets of the already obscenely wealthy.

This morning alone I've found out:

- Having made a pre-election promise of no cuts to Sure Start centres then axed 500, government websites are having the list of closed ones removed.

- Having promised that the bedroom tax wouldn't affect families with carers, it's been shown to hit 60,000 of them. As predicted.

- Senior Tory Liam Fox says the ringfencing of the NHS budget should be stopped. He uses the phrase "can't be fixed by throwing money at it"; try that on any spending, it sounds convincing even when it's untrue. "You can't sort out a debt problem by throwing money at it". Dr Fox trained as a doctor at public expense before giving up medicine to be a Tory MP.

- They plan to let landowners remove public rights of way centuries old. Bonus points to the Telegraph for characterising walkers as "trampling through gardens" and rights of way that go "straight through houses". Not vast estates of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of acres of open land, then.

And I keep finding I'm the only person in the room who's spotted their 2015 manifesto pledge to repeal the Human Rights Act, with Cameron giving serious consideration being given to complete withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights, something that was reiterated by the Justice Secretary only last week.

We've just entered the last full year of this government. At this rate, that's more than enough time to push us back to the 1830s.