Undercover Policing: Interim Report - Home Affairs Committee Contents

The use of dead infants' identities

20.  A further, serious aspect of undercover police behaviour which has recently come to light is the appropriation of the identities of dead infants to create legends for undercover officers. This does not just involve borrowing the individual's name, but their date and place of birth and parents' identities, and creating a plausible back-story in which the legend grows up and goes to school in the area where the child would have lived.[24] We have been assured that this practice has now ceased, but it is not clear when this happened. Mr Kennedy told us that the practice was not used in the NPOIU when he joined the Unit in 2001 but Paul Lewis of The Guardian suggested that it may have been used by the SDS as recently as 2003.[25]

21.  Quite aside from any questions of decency and taste, this is a practice which could potentially have put bereaved families at risk. One of our witnesses told us that, after her partner went missing—she did not realise at this stage that he was a police officer—she found the birth record of the child whose identity he had been using and went to the parents' address in an attempt to find out more about him.[26] The parents were not there, and in any event her intentions were not malevolent. But it is easy to see how officers infiltrating serious, organised criminal and terrorist gangs using the identities of real people could pose a significant risk to the living relatives of those people.

22.  The practice of "resurrecting" dead children as cover identities for undercover police officers was not only ghoulish and disrespectful, it could potentially have placed bereaved families in real danger of retaliation. The families who have been affected by this deserve an explanation and a full and unambiguous apology from the forces concerned. We would also welcome a clear statement from the Home Secretary that this practice will never be followed in future.

24   Q 86 [Paul Lewis]. Back

25   Qq 88 [Paul Lewis] and 278-279 [Mark Kennedy] Back

26   Qq 9-14 Back

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Prepared 1 March 2013