Monday, March 24, 2014

Covering Up the Cover-Up of a Cover-Up

Interesting revelations in today's Times about Metropolitan Police Chief Bernard Hogan-Howe's part in the cover up of the undercover police scandal. Unfortunately it's hidden behind Rupert Murdoch's paywall here.


Bernard Hogan-Howe's police career saw him rise to be an inspector by the time of the Hillsborough disaster. He was the senior officer at a venue where Adam Spearitt's family were told by a senior officer - always carefully unnamed in the press - that their dead son had in fact survived. Later the family complained and the police refused to investigate or apologise.

Hogan-Howe said he gave a statement to the 1989 Taylor Inquiry into Hillsborough and refused to change it despite being asked by another officer to do so. In real life, he made no statement to Taylor. Last December he was referred to the 'Independent' Police Complaints Commission over his Hillsborough role.

In January Hogan-Howe insisted he did nothing wrong regarding Hillsborough. On the same day the Met gave a statement refusing to discuss whether undercover officers had spied on the Hillsborough families.

we will neither confirm nor deny details of the deployment of undercover officers. This is a long-established practice

Police Spies Out Of Lives, a group representing eight women who had long term life-partner relationships with undercover police officers noted

The women launched their legal action in December 2011, but it was not until June 2012 that the police first mentioned NCND in relation to the claim. You might think if there had been such a long standing policy this would have been highlighted in the first police response.

They also point out that in 2011 Hogan-Howe himself confirmed that one of the officers who is the subject of the womens' case, Jim Boyling, was a police officer.


In a two year break from his police career from 2009 to 2011, just before he became Met boss, Hogan-Howe worked at Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and was hired to do a major report into the undercover scandal.

When the document (PDF) finally came out in February 2012 - after two rewrites by his boss Denis O'Connor, which we'll come to later - it made clear that 'Neither Confirm Nor Deny' is not essential.

It is normal practice for the police to neither confirm nor deny the true identity of undercover officers. This is to protect both the officers themselves, and the effectiveness of the tactic. However, the case of Mark Kennedy is one of exceptional circumstances, including his own public revelations, the media interest in him, and the fact that the Court of Appeal named him on 19 July 2011.

The self-disclosure and media interest also applies to other officers like Bob Lambert and Peter Francis, yet the recent internal police report Operation Trinity (PDF) said

Despite the recent public claims of Peter Francis, this report will not breach the principle of (NCND) and therefore will not confirm or deny if Peter Francis was ever an undercover police officer.

Eighty pages on his whistleblowing revelations and yet he might never have been a cop. Riiiiiight. If that's not absurd enough, police are now refusing to confirm if Jim Boyling - the guy confirmed by Hogan-Howe himself years ago - was an undercover a police officer. They apparently admitted to court he was a police oficer though. Perhaps he was undercover for years as some sort of elaborate hobby.

But anyway, Hogan-Howe's initial HMIC report into Kennedy is what Times journalist Sean O'Neill has dug into.

The report was subjected to fundamental revision by Sir Bernard's boss, Sir Denis O'Connor, who sources say felt it focused too narrowly on Kennedy's individual case....

One source said, 'Hogan-Howe was much less keen to rock the boat than Denis O'Connor was on the issue - he didn't want to shake things up'.

The level of glossing we're talking about becomes clear when you realise that O'Connor's later, supposedly more honest version was itself a whitewash. It was dramatically pulped hours before publication after the Guardian published a report that - Captain Secret strikes again - Jim Boyling had been arrested and prosecuted under his false identity in the 1990s.

This raised questions of perjury and perverting the course of justice. More than that, Boyling's superiors will have known about it, blowing the bollocks about how Kennedy was a rogue agent and all the others are impeccably law abiding to smithereens. The required rewrite was on such a scale that it took O'Connor's team three months.

This second completed version was the only one to get published. It, too, was cobblers. It hung out Kennedy and his unit, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, to dry but nobody above or outside of them.

They were, of course, a completely different bunch to the Special Demonstration Squad who we've been promised a public inquiry about. It's not clear if the inquiry will even cover Kennedy and co.


The Times spoke to Denis O'Connor yesterday who explained:

Some new information came to light which generated questions and I felt we couldn't answer that without doing further work.

A Met spokesperson is quoted as saying Hogan-Howe had supported the decision to widen the report's remit and it was

completely wrong to suggest that the revisions were in any way caused, or as a result of, initial work on the review.

Is that so? If neither Hogan-Howe's first draft nor O'Connor's finished but pulped version were withdrawn because of anything embarrassing being covered up, then there's an obvious question. Can we see them?

The journalist responsible for today's Times report, Sean O'Neill, has put in a Freedom of Information request but is not hopeful. (Incidentally, he has been really good of late on the secret police and seems to have both a real grip on what's going on alongside a commitment to breaking good stories. If the secret police scandal interests you then I recommend following him on Twitter.)

Whilst the ink was still drying on his draft of the HMIC report in 2011, Hogan-Howe was made Metropolitan Police Commissioner and Boris Johnson announced

Bernard Hogan-Howe has made it clear that this will be a new more transparent era for the Met, making the police more accountable to the public

It's clearly a view Hogan-Howe likes to appear to maintain as only a fortnight ago he said

The Metropolitan Police will not regain lost trust without honesty, openness and transparency.

As police are so fond of telling us, the innocent have nothing to fear.

What reason is there to continue to withold documents produced by a body responsible to parliament that were written for open publication? What else could it be other than a cover-up of Denis O'Connor's cover-up of Bernard Hogan-Howe's cover-up?

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