I have written about the ‘spycops’ scandal before, almost a year ago. If you are not up to speed about this, and you would be forgiven if you aren’t as there has been very little about the issue in the mainstream media of late, spycops are police officers who have infiltrated activist communities causing a catalogue of violations of basic human rights in the process. It made the news when one of them, Mark Kennedy, who was also known as Mark Stone, among others, was discovered to have been in a relationship with a woman for 6 years who had no idea of his identity. Several more officers were then also unmasked, some of who had married and had children with their targets.
So why am I revisiting now? Well because sadly not a great deal has changed in the last year with regards to the inquiry. This is by no means the fault of the participants and their supporters who are fighting fiercely for justice. But since the inquiry has been in the hands of Sir John Mitting who is chairing it, he has done nothing but stall the process and show unbelievable bias toward the police by refusing to allow basic information to be released which would allow the process to move forward under the fallacy that it would put the officers at risk with no care for the women who have already been harmed by their activities. His deliberate sabotage of the process by not allowing live streaming of proceedings as there is with the Grenfell inquiry, forbidding the cover names of officers to be revealed or even the full list of which groups were infiltrated means the inquiry will now not be fully underway until at least 2020.
Then there was the Lush campaign who tried to bring the public’s awareness to the inquiry and what it was about. Instead of being sympathetic to those who’s lives have been turned upside down, who’s hearts have been broken by their actions, it turned into a public backlash against Lush, fuelled by the police who stated it was an anti police campaign. Reactionaries everywhere took it upon themselves to leave negative reviews for Lush and harass their staff. When I went into my local store I was told by one of their employees that when she had went in that morning, she had an officer waiting at the door who told her that she had to take the display down. Which of course they had no powers to make her, but their intimidating behaviour meant they were not left with much choice. Imagine if the public had used that misplaced outrage to support the victims instead. Maybe we wouldn’t be where we are at now.
Andy Coles, another former spycop, who lied about his age and coerced a young and vulnerable animal rights activist is still allowed to serve as a Conservative councillor and the governor of a school as if we would find this acceptable if it were any other kind of sex offender. Now many people look decidedly uncomfortable when I say this and claim I can’t label undercover police having sexual relationships with the people they are spying on without revealing their identity as sex offenders. Here is why I absolutely can say that- It is written in law, in the Sexual Offences Act 1956;
You cannot give informed consent if you have been deceived as to the real identity of your sexual partner and it is ludicrous to suggest that you could.
Tonight at 20:30pm on BBC Wales investigates there will be a documentary, Undercover Cops- abuse of duty about this very thing and I would defy anyone to not feel utter revolt at the stories you will hear. One of the women, Rosa was in a relationship with an officer called Jim Boyling who she had two children with and eventually fled to a women’s refuge because of his abuse. It will be available on iPlayer afterwards, so make it your business to catch it.
There are few important points to bear in mind when talking about this issue with others, particular with respect to some of the things that were said during the Lush campaign. Firstly, this in not a case of a few bad apples who took advantage of their position as is often made out. They didn’t abuse their power, it was entirely tactical and given approval from higher up. Andy Coles even wrote a manual on how to manipulate activists into relationships. Secondly, talking about undercover police abuse is not anti police. For starters there are former spycops who are assisting with the inquiry who are prepared to give evidence. It is about the tactics used by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit and the Special Demonstration Squad, not policing as a whole. I often hear people say we need undercover work to catch organised criminals and child abuse networks. No one is denying there needs to be an element of this to catch such people, however these two units were not involved in that. They were specifically there to target activists, mainly from environmental, animal rights and anarchist groups. Many of who had never committed any crime- which brings me on to my next point. It doesn’t even matter if they did. Some activists may have been breaking some state laws- Social change has never ever happened without it, but it was surely low level. This doesn’t justify what has happened to them in the slightest. Be aware of your Just World fallacy. If you don’t know what that is, look it up. It’s something we are all susceptible to on different levels. It’s a psychological phenomenon whereby when we see suffering or injustice we believe that the victim is on some level responsible or did something that caused it to happen. It’s not always outright victim blaming that we fall into, but studies show we consistently believe that we do this as a way of self protection. Because if it can happen to someone else for no reason, it could happen to us. I saw this a lot last year, with people saying that activists “shouldn’t break the law” (even when they didn’t) or suggesting that the activists must have known about their partners true identity.
It’s important that the people affected by state abuse feel heard and held. Imagine how it would feel to find out your partner, or your best friend was being paid to spy on you, for simply caring about environmental and social problems. Imagine that person fathered your children. We can’t really. We can’t fully understand how isolating and devastating that must be, so we need to be as invested in this as they are. If it is not scrutinised now, it could be someone you love, or even you next. It should never have happened to anyone in the first place. The message we will give is that we accept this abuse of citizens. Share everything you see on the subject and comment to keep it current in a world with a 15 minute attention span. Keeping it in the public eye is important.
Also visit http://www.policespiesoutourlives.org.uk for more information about how you can get involved, be that campaigning or donating to legal costs. We owe it to them and to ourselves to defend civil liberties, fight for the truth to be uncovered and accountability to be applied.