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Soapbox: Undercover Policing Inquiry, Truth or Cover-up?


Written by campaigning support group Police Spies Out of Lives.

When Theresa May announced the establishment of the Undercover Policing Inquiry in 2014, she promised that one of its roles would be in “establishing justice for the families and victims” whilst also noting “I don’t say this lightly, but I think that the greatest possible scrutiny is now needed into what has taken place.”

The Metropolitan police apologised in 2015 for the abusive and deceitful relationships with women activists and have acknowledged breaching articles 3 and 8 of the European Human Rights Convention.[i] Yet despite this apology and settling the cases of 7 women [ii], the Met still press for secrecy at the Inquiry. [iii]

The Chair of the Inquiry, Sir John Mitting is granting anonymity orders at an alarming rate. [iv]

The victims of political spying in the UK have reached breaking point. In March 2018 they took the radical step of walking out of the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice. [v]

Counsel for over 200 victims, Phillippa Kaufmann QC, fully understands the increasing frustrations of her clients and the stalemate that the Chair is steering the Inquiry toward.[vi]


The facts:

At least 250 undercover officers

In February 2017 the National Police Chiefs Council told the Inquiry "The current position is that there are believed to have been 118 undercover officers engaged in the SDS, and a further up to 83 management and ‘backroom’ staff."[vii]

The Inquiry confirmed in April 2017: "The Inquiry has written to 54 former members of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit who are believed to have been either undercover police officers or cover officers (26 undercover officers and 28 cover officers)."[viii]

This makes a combined total of at least 144 undercover officers and 111 backroom and management officers between the two units.

It should be noted that the Inquiry may not have written to all NPOIU officers and so the actual number may be greater.


Over 1000 campaign groups spied on

In July 2017 the inquiry finally confirmed in correspondence to lawyers that over 1000 groups and individuals had been spied on.[ix]

1000 different groups and individuals averages approximately seven targets per officer.  However, the Inquiry has released group names at an average of two per officer.

Why won’t they tell us the truth?


Infiltrating the lives, homes, and beds of citizens for 50 years

Political spying is not new. Special Branch was founded by the Metropolitan Police in 1883. But in 1968, the Met did something distinctly different. The government, shocked by the strength of a London demonstration against the Vietnam War, decided it had to know more about political activism. The Met were given direct government funding to form a political policing unit, the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS).

Operation Herne confirmed the 1968 inception of the SDS in its report published in July 2013. [x]


Increasingly secret, over £10 million spent and going nowhere after three years

The UCPI published its updated expenditure in April 2018. As at March 31st 2018 the total costs to date were £10,420,900.[xi]

The Chair of the Inquiry, Sir John Mitting is granting anonymity orders at an alarming rate. [xii]

We are deeply concerned that we don’t know precisely how many closed hearings Mitting has held with the police. We certainly do not know how Mitting comes to his decisions.

This is a public inquiry completely lacking in transparency.



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[i] http://news.met.police.uk/videos/mps-apology-long-term-sexual-relationships-21074


[ii] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/nov/20/met-police-apologise-women-had-relationships-with-undercover-officers


[iii] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/may/10/undercover-policing-inquiry-will-not-deliver-final-report-before-2023


[iv] https://www.ucpi.org.uk/rulings/


[v] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/21/campaigners-stage-walkout-of-secretive-police-spying-inquiry


[vi] http://campaignopposingpolicesurveillance.com/?s=walk+out&searchsubmit=search+%C2%BB


[vii] https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Q-17-02-23-Skeleton-for-April-2017-hearing-Final-002.pdf


[viii] https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/20170404-Counsels-Supplementary-Note-for-hearing-on-5-April-2017.pdf


[ix] https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/20180424_Inquiry_-expenditure-Mar18.pdf


[x] https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2674934-Operation-Herne-Report-1-Covert-Identities.html


[xi] https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/20180424_Inquiry_-expenditure-Mar18.pdf


[xii] https://www.ucpi.org.uk/rulings/


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