Victims of police spying, and the public, could be refused access to evidence sessions
THE METROPOLITAN police force has said it will apply to keep large parts of a public inquiry into undercover policing secret to protect the identities of undercover officers.
Information about identities and activities of undercover police officers could be kept secret from the public during the upcoming Pitchford Inquiry, as the Metropolitan police intends to apply for private evidence sessions, The Guardian has reported.
13 undercover officers have so far been exposed, but the number of officers who spied on activists is thought to be at least 100.
The force has argued in a legal submission that any evidence sessions which include details of undercover officers should not be open to the public. The force’s barristers wrote that they would apply for private evidence sessions “in the overwhelming majority of instances” in which “past or current deployments” would be discussed.
The Met’s barristers said: “The question arises, if there are significant closed parts of a public inquiry, is it a public inquiry at all? The Metropolitan police submits the answer to that question is yes.”
The inquiry, led by Lord Justice Pitchford, was ordered by home secretary Theresa May after a series of revelations came out showing that undercover officers with the ‘Special Demonstration Squad’ (SDS) slept with, and even in one case fathered a child with, their targets, who were political activists.
Some of the women with whom officers had relationships have since received substantial compensation payouts from the Met. 13 undercover officers have so far been exposed, but the number of officers who spied on activists is thought to be at least 100. Victims and campaigners have continued to call for the fake names of undercover officers to be published.
Baroness Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered schoolboy Stephen Lawrence, has also stated that the names of undercover officers should be disclosed. It was revealed in 2014 that the Lawrence family were spied on by SDS officers, for which the Met subsequently apologised.
But if the Met’s barristers are successful in their applications to hold the evidence sessions in private, this information will not be revealed.
The Pitchford inquiry’s remit only covers England and Wales. One identified SDS officer, Mark Kennedy, was active in Scotland, and campaigners, along with MSPs, have been asking for an extension of the inquiry to cover Scotland, or for a separate investigation.
The inquiry is due to start taking evidence later this year.
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Picture courtesy of fotdmike