Spycops scandals

IssueJune - July 2021
News by David Polden

Undercover police officers spied on activist Celia Stubbs for more than 20 years as she tried to discover the truth about the death of her partner, Blair Peach. So the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI) was told on 6 May.

Anti-fascist teacher Blair Peach died after being hit on the head in April 1979 while on his way home from an Anti-Nazi League demo.

The Metropolitan police sat on an internal report that found that it could ‘reasonably be concluded’ that Peach was killed by a member of its Special Patrol Group. The Met only published the report in 2010.

The UCPI, which began hearing evidence in November, is examining how, over 40 years, 139 undercover officers in secret Metropolitan police units spied on more than 1,000 political groups. Witnesses have been revealing striking examples of police misconduct.

On 7 May, a former spycop told the inquiry that managers ‘across the board’ had not been troubled by sexual relationships between undercover officers and members of protest groups. They had not expressed any outright criticism or disapproval of the officers involved.

He said: ‘It was made quite plain with jokes and banter that they knew, we knew and management knew.’

The superior officers responsible for deploying undercovers have always denied any knowledge of such sexual relationships.

On 10 May, a member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the first of many women who later found out that they had had sexual relationships with spycops under their false identities, said she now regarded the relationship as rape.

Earlier, on 28 April the inquiry was told that an undercover officer, ‘Michael Scott’, was authorised by senior police to lie in court.

He was one of 15 people arrested in May 1972 as they attempted to block the British rugby team’s coach – to make them miss their flight to apartheid-era South Africa.

He was convicted under his false name for public disorder.

On 5 May evidence was given that another undercover, using the name ‘ Rick Gibson’, was sent to spy on the Troops Out Movement (TOM). Later, he became the TOM national organiser and had sexual relationships with members of the group.