Undercover police operations to infiltrate British protest groups in the ’70s and ’80s were ‘unjustified’ and the operations should have been rapidly closed down. That was one conclusion of the first report of the Undercover Policing inquiry, covering the years 1968 – 1982, published on 29 June.
The inquiry also found that, between 1968 – 1982, six undercover officers had sexual relationships with at least 14 women.
The women who were spied on are now demanding that the Metropolitan police hand over the files gathered on them. They also continue to urge the inquiry to ‘stop protecting police’ and reveal the full identities of all undercover officers.
In her closing statement to the inquiry in February, Charlotte Kilroy KC, representing the women, said that the police’s abuse of women is ‘deeply rooted in two pervasive features of police culture: contempt for women and disregard for the law, problems so endemic and so dangerous to public safety and the public interest that root and branch reform of the police will be needed to eradicate it.’
The report found that the spycops had gathered a ‘remarkable’ quantity of information on activists who posed no threat to public order. It also found that that the group of officers involved, known as the ‘Special Demonstration Squad’ (SDS), operated with the approval of the highest levels of government, and with funding from the home office.
The next set of inquiry hearings, covering 1983 – 1992, will start in spring 2024.
In a separate development, on 14 July, former undercover police officer Jim Boyling was found guilty of gross misconduct for the second time by a police disciplinary panel.
However, Boyling was not sanctioned for having a long-term intimate sexual relationship while undercover with a Reclaim the Streets activist ‘Monica’. (He was sacked in 2018 for having a relationship with another activist, ‘Laura’.)
The tribunal accepted Boyling’s argument, which ‘Monica’ agreed with, that sexual misconduct of this kind was approved of by his superiors as a useful tactic for blending into activist groups. Therefore, the panel felt, it did not make sense to sanction him as an individual for the culture of the SDS as a unit.