Undercover Policing: Interim Report - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Responsibility for undercover policing

16.  In order to ensure that the operational parameters and practical execution of undercover actions remain within acceptable limits there will need to be clear authority and oversight for undercover officers, as well as a renewed legal framework.

17.  Oversight for surveillance under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 is provided by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners, but HMIC found that this oversight was weak in the case of the NPOIU because there was no expectation that evidence would need to stand up in court.[20] HMIC found differences in the training, tactics, review and integration of different units, rather than a unified set of standards to govern all undercover operations.[21]

18.  NPOIU undercover operations were managed by the Metropolitan Police until 2006, when responsibility was transferred to the force where the majority of activity was taking place in each deployment. However, we note that an ACPO-rank officer is appointed by each force to oversee adherence to the ACPO National Code of Conduct for Undercover Officers. In the Metropolitan Police, the lead officer for undercover policing is Commander Richard Martin, who took over responsibility from DAC Gallan in December 2012.[22] In the new landscape of policing, standards for undercover operations for all police forces are meant to be set by the College of Policing. However, Alex Marshall, Chief Executive of the College of Policing, told us that in practice the ACPO business area could report to the College's Professional Committee, which would be responsible for the appropriate standards.[23]

19.  Standards in undercover operations are jeopardised by lack of clear lines of responsibility between ACPO, the NPOIU and the different forces and units involved. Discrepancies in training, tactics and review between different undercover units further muddy the waters and risk ambiguity in what is acceptable conduct for officers working undercover. In the new landscape of policing, standards in undercover policing will transfer to the College of Policing. While it is right that the College should draw on the expertise of chief officers, its overall responsibility must be unequivocal and it must create a coherent set of operational instructions that will apply equally to all units conducting undercover operations, against which officers and forces can be held to account. We do not think it is acceptable for ACPO, a private company, to play any continuing role in this.

20   HMIC Report, p 7 Back

21   Ibid., p 38 Back

22   Q 157 [DAC Gallan] Back

23   Uncorrected transcript of oral evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee on 12 February 2013, HC (2012-13) 617-iii, Q 187 Back

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Prepared 1 March 2013