Undercover Policing: Interim Report - Home Affairs Committee Contents


1.  At the beginning of 2011, the Crown Prosecution Service halted criminal proceedings against six people who had been due to stand trial at Nottingham Crown Court on charges related to a conspiracy to sabotage a coal-fired power station at Ratcliffe-on-Soar. The CPS was concerned that Nottinghamshire Police had failed to comply with their pre-trial disclosure obligations. The convictions of another 20 activists who had been involved in the same protest were quashed by the Court of Appeal in July of that year.[1] The material which had not been disclosed related principally to the work of an undercover police officer, Mark Kennedy, of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.[2] It was PC Kennedy, who had spent seven years living undercover among various environmental and other activist groups, who had alerted police to the proposed action against the power station.[3] The Court of Appeal found that PC Kennedy "was involved in activities which went much further than the authorisation he was given", which "appeared to show him as ... arguably, an agent provocateur".[4]

2.  In the days following the collapse of the Nottingham case, it became clear that activists had themselves identified PC Kennedy as an undercover officer in October 2010.[5] It subsequently emerged that PC Kennedy had had at least one long-term, intimate sexual relationship with a woman involved with one of the groups he had infiltrated. Throughout this relationship, his partner knew him by his adopted persona of "Mark Stone"; this was not just a false name, but a completely fabricated persona (or "legend") invented by Mr Kennedy, with a false back-story, identity and cover occupation.

3.  In the following months, further allegations of undercover police officers either acting beyond their authorisation, or taking action which was authorised but should not have been, appeared in the media. It was alleged that several officers had long-term, intimate relationships with members of the groups they had infiltrated. One officer was said to have fathered a child in such a relationship before disappearing. It was reported that an undercover officer had planted a bomb on behalf of an animal rights group and that another had been prosecuted under his assumed persona, had given evidence on oath, and had participated in confidential lawyer-client discussions with his co-defendants.

4.  These claims related to the work of three police units, dating back to at least the 1980s:

a)  The National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), formed by the Metropolitan Police Service in 1999 to address campaigns and public protest which generate violence and disruption.

b)  The National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit, which was established by the Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire in 2004.

c)  The Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), formed by the Metropolitan Police in 1968 to focus on anti-nuclear and anti-Vietnam-war protest, as well as Irish terrorism. The Squad was disbanded in 2008.

In 2006, these units were placed under the control of Association of Chief Police Officers' newly-appointed National Coordinator for Domestic Extremism (under the umbrella title of "National Domestic Extremism Unit"), before being transferred to the Metropolitan Police in 2010, in response to concerns from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and ACPO itself about weak governance and oversight.

5.  In October 2011 and January 2012, five women who had had intimate, sexual relationships with undercover police officers, and one man whose partner had had such a relationship, brought claims in the High Court against the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Metropolitan Police and South Wales Police. The claims were made under the Human Rights Act and under common law. In January 2013, Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that the claims under the Human Rights Act fell within the jurisdiction of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), but that the claims for damages at common law did not. Proceedings in the High Court were stayed pending the determination of proceedings in the IPT.[6]

6.  We make no comment on the lawfulness or otherwise of the actions of the officers in these cases, but the terrible impact on the lives of those women who had relationships with undercover officers is beyond doubt. The committee invited the women involved to give evidence and they requested that they give evidence in private. Exceptionally, the committee agreed to do so. One witness told us that

I have, for the last 13 years, questioned my own judgment and it has impacted seriously on my ability to trust, and that has impacted on my current relationship and other subsequent relationships. It has also distorted my perceptions of love and my perceptions of sex, and it has had a massive impact on my political activity.[7]

Another witness described her feelings on discovering that her former partner was a police officer:

It felt like the ground had shifted beneath me and my sense of what was reality and what wasn't was completely turned on its head.[8]

7.  The officers themselves were not unaffected by these relationships. As one witness told us:

It is my feeling that there was psychological damage caused on both sides and that there was very little regard shown for anybody's psychological welfare in this situation, apart from the person making the operational decisions who was distant enough from it.[9]

8.  These cases raise troubling questions about public policy and the legal framework within which undercover police operations are authorised, which we believe require urgent action by the Government. We are therefore producing this short, interim report to highlight our concerns, although we propose to return to the subject in due course.

1   R v. Barkshire & ors [2011] EWCA Crim 1885 Back

2   Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station (Operation Aeroscope) Disclosure, Final Report of an Independent Investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, IPCC Reference: 2011/000464 (April 2012). Back

3   Qq 230 & 257. Back

4   A review of national police units which provide intelligence on criminality associated with protest, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (2012) [Hereafter, "the HMIC Report"] Back

5   AKJ and others vs. Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and others [2013] EWHC 32 (QB), paragraph 24. [Hereafter, "the High Court judgement"] Back

6   High Court judgement, paragraphs 183, 196 and 225-227 Back

7   Q 1 Back

8   Q 15 Back

9   Q 29 Back

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Prepared 1 March 2013