Home AffairsLetter from Harriet Wistrich, Solicitor, Birnberg Peirce & Partners, to the Chair of the Committee, 4 July 2013

Undercover Policing and Operation Herne

Further to your investigation into Undercover Policing and the evidence submitted on behalf of my clients to the Home Affairs Select Committee meeting on 5 February 2013, you invited us to submit further evidence or submissions if we so wished. I am now enclosing further statements from two of my clients about their experience of a grotesque abuse of police power by undercover operatives. Some of my other clients also wish to supply statements and I shall forward these when available in the near future.

You will be aware of some of the recent revelations in the Guardian and the Dispatches documentary on June 24th, of further disturbing evidence about the activities of the SDS unit, within the Metropolitan police, which is now subject to the internal investigation by Operation Herne. These revelations include allegations made by a former undercover officer of attempts to undermine campaigns by methods which even included seeking to smear the name of the Lawrence family. I know you are already expressed concerned about the cost of this internal investigation, Operation Herne, and the length of time it is taking.

Your “Undercover Policing: Interim Report” of 1 March 2013 stated “We do not believe that officers should enter into intimate, physical sexual relationships while using their false identities undercover without clear, prior authorisation, which should only be given in the most exceptional circumstances. In particular, it is unacceptable that a child should be brought into the world as a result of such a relationship and this must never be allowed to happen again. We recommend that future guidance on undercover operations should make this clear beyond doubt. (Paragraph 14).” However we note that the Government response of 18 June declines to make any changes relating to this grossly intrusive aspect of undercover operations.

It is our view that intimate sexual relationships while undercover should not be permitted in any circumstances, that the extent of intrusion means there is no legal basis on which they can be permitted in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights and that the failure by the Government to make this clear sends conflicting messages to undercover units, which may result in officers entering future relationships which may cause, and have caused to the women I represent, serious psychological harm. In our view this failure to take action about this callous use and abuse of women by the police, amounts to a form of institutional sexism.

I also note it has been reported that, whilst recognising the practice as “abhorrent”, Chief Constable Creedon, in overall charge of Operation Herne, has refused to apologise to the women who had been duped into relationships with former police spies (including all those who gave evidence to your committee).

I have previously copied to you my correspondence with the IPCC and the CPS regarding our concerns about Operation Herne and in particular, their policy of “Neither Confirm Nor Deny”. (I enclose a further complete set of this correspondence). The application of the NCND policy by the police has led to the offensive scenario that those investigating the police have requested that our clients, who are potentially critical to the investigation, provide detailed statements and evidence documenting their relationships, whilst being denied even confirmation that the officers about whom they complain were undercover police operatives. My clients have, furthermore, received no assurance that even on conclusion of this internal investigation, they will be provided with any information about the findings.

We have this week received a letter from Chief Constable Creedon who has been brought in to take command of the investigation He has enclosed a copy of the terms of reference of the investigation which indicates that any reports that are published will be “subject to the usual legal safeguards.” We are not sure what this means in the context of an ongoing policy of NCND being operated in respect of the work of undercover officers.

In the meantime, as I also highlighted to you when giving evidence, the police legal team in the civil proceedings we are bringing have taken a similar approach, by either seeking to place the case in the highly secretive Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) or by refusing to disclose any information in their Defence. The police have now indicated in relation to those cases pre-dating RIPA which cannot therefore be subject to the IPT, that they may make an application for a closed material procedure hearing under the Justice and Security Act 2013. It appears that there is a desire to prevent any public scrutiny of their intrusive tactics.

My clients’ primary aim in bringing civil proceedings and giving evidence to your committee, is to stop this sort of abuse from ever happening again, to understand the level and extent of the intrusion and make the police accountable, and to find out how and why this abuse was allowed to happen. They have now no confidence that Operation Herne will be a meaningful or useful investigation. Even if it is a fully resourced and thorough investigation, my clients and the public at large may never know critical parts of its findings or have access to the detail of the investigation.

It is now clear, from the information that has seeped out into the public domain that many of the activities of the SDS unit were outrageous and a gross affront to the democratic values of a civilised society. In those circumstances we believe the policy of NCND cannot be justified and a secret inquiry conducted by the police is utterly inappropriate. We consider that any investigation or inquiry must be independent and transparent, unfettered by any policy of NCND and free of the taint of the police investigating the police.

Harriet Wistrich




1. I lived with the man I knew as Mark Cassidy for five years; I believed he was a joiner from Birkenhead. He fitted a new kitchen in our home before he disappeared in Spring 2000; it took him a long time and he struggled with the router. That, I realised some time later, was because he wasn’t a joiner but a police officer working undercover for the Metropolitan Police Special Demonstration Squad.

2. Without evidence to the contrary, I had chosen to believe that Mark cared about me and that when he told me he loved me that he meant it. To choose otherwise, I felt was unnecessarily self destructive. Since discovering more recently that in his true identity Mark apparently had a wife and children, I have had to review my earlier perception of our relationship, and the pattern that has emerged from talking to the other claimants whose partners disappeared in similar ways has made me question again the extent to which any of our relationship was real. Our “Dear John” letters for example are unnervingly similar.

3. Falling in love with the enemy is a cliche spy story that has been told many times. When it becomes your own personal history, it’s a narrative that sits awkwardly and is very difficult to explain. Hearing Judge Tugendhat cite James Bond in his recent judgment, referenced again by Michael Ellis MP at the Committee meeting, makes me wonder the extent to which our experiences have been fully understood. I have yet to see a Bond film where 007 moves in with his target for five years, tends the garden and attends relationship counselling! If parliamentarians really did have Fleming’s Bond in mind when drafting RIPA, as suggested by Judge Tugendaht, the playboy lifestyle portrayed in the films was a very far cry from the domestic life of Mark Cassidy.

4. Being hurt and betrayed by a dishonest lover is painful enough. To discover that your lover was lying about his very identity and was in your life because his employer—the police—positioned him there to gather information on you and your friends places the experience in a different dimension.

5. The children I wanted with Mark never happened, thankfully I now realise. I was a few months off 35 when he disappeared and I have been extremely fortunate to have built another relationship since then and I have two children. I am very conscious, however, that I am an older mother than I would have liked to be; Mark and his employers stole those years from me. He stands next to me in my mother’s wedding photo that sits on her mantelpiece, he teases me in the family videos of my nephew’s and niece’s birthdays and he lies about his family to my now deceased grandmother in the last video footage I took of her before she died. He is not only engrained in the memories in my head but features in so much of our family memorabilia from those years.

6. I was deeply in love with Mark and he knew this. I do not believe it is a coincidence that all of us involved in this case describe a deep, loving, intimate bond with our ex-partners. In normal relationships, problems can occur when people’s egos clash; in our relationships the men were presenting us only with their state sponsored, easy-going alter egos. That I loved a police officer is a reality that still confuses me all these years later. I had been active in the Colin Roach Centre, an independent group that had exposed police corruption in the early 1990s and promoted trade union, anti-fascist politics. To love someone who, with hindsight, embodied the very institution much of my political energy was channeled into challenging has gone to the core of my own identity and has shaken the foundations of my judgements about many things. Of one thing, however, I remain sure: the state intrusion into my most personal life over a period of five years was unethical, immoral and, I hope we can prove, unlawful.

7. Over the years, as I have told people about this strange episode of my life, they often ask didn’t I meet any of Mark’s family or friends? Professionally trained, he delivered a sad, childhood story of bereavement and family dysfunction: a drunken driver killed his father when he was eight. His mother re-married a man he didn’t get on with. His half brother lived in Rome. His grandmother was dead and his grandfather lived in Birkenhead and on the one occasion we went up there together the old man was on a church outing! Mark made friends very easily and was well liked. I’ve recently watched old video footage of him and can see how at times, he subtly closes down conversations and deflects the focus of attention onto others. In the early days of our relationship, when I asked him about old friends from school or about his past life, he responded similarly. What I then read as charming humility or childhood pain, I now see was a well-trained, professional liar at work.

8. By never being allowed to meet Mark’s family or friends, I had no opportunity after his disappearance to ask those close to him what went wrong and therefore to begin the normal grieving process. Those in command would have known I was searching for him yet remained silent and invisible, allowing me—perhaps watching me—waste years of looking for someone who did not exist. I am not a psychologist but I believe such a dynamic is abusive. The fact that paid officials in the Metropolitan Police Service—a publicly funded body—actively authorised, quietly choose to ignore or simply failed to recognise this emotional abuse is, for me, what requires recompense.

9. Although not directly relevant in terms of the damage caused personally to me, the police’s attitude towards married officers committing adultery is further evidence, I believe, of the institutionalised sexism highlighted by our cases. I think it this sexist, male dominated culture within the police that has allowed these exploitative relationships to form, develop and end with no consideration for the emotional and psychological impact this might have on the innocent citizens deceived. Quite the opposite, I suspect. The stereotyped representation of the British left in the 1990s and environmental protesters a decade or so later—perpetuated by much of the media- as a “knocking shop” filled with easy women into free love is one I believe these men bought into to ease their consciences.

10. All the memories of my five-year relationship are stained. Which other police did he talk to me about? What did they say about me? What do they have on file? I have asked myself these questions many times over the years but now they are being reframed with real names and faces: Jim Boyling, John Dines, Bob Lambert.

11. From the moment I believed Mark was an undercover police officer, my view of the world fundamentally changed and has never been the same since. I am harder, less compassionate, angrier and more cynical; the idealism was knocked out of me. Since meeting the other women taking this action against the police and working together with them to challenge this injustice, I have regained some of my political spirit. I’ve remembered what I used to stand up for and instead of betrayal, I’ve experienced solidarity and comradeship. I hope that our collective action will go some way to ensuring that it is no longer acceptable in this country for the state to intrude into its citizens’ lives in the ways we have experienced.

12. I appreciate the Committee offering to raise further questions on our behalf. I would like answers to the following:

What information is held about me, including about my relationship with Mark Cassidy/Jenner?

Who was in control of Mark Jenner? How will this person be held accountable?

What systems were in place to manage Mark Jenner’s operation?

Will the police apologise for what has happened?


1. I, Lily (real name withheld) write this statement for Home Affairs Select Committee, further to the session which sat on 5th February 2013. I would like to thank the committee for this opportunity to submit a statement in writing, and express my gratitude to my co-claimants for exposing themselves to the ordeal of giving evidence in person, in such an intimidating context, and in the face of some surprisingly insensitive lines of questioning. Emotionally I don’t think I could have done that. However, I will do my best to provide what useful information I can here.

2. Much of the information here has already been submitted to the police as part of our case, and, as they were infiltrating all aspects of my life, there is probably nothing here that is not to be found in some file or archive. Nevertheless, I would like to stress that I trust this committee will preserve my anonymity. This is important to me as the image of nameless, faceless police officers picking over my life like vultures is one that haunts me, and I don’t want to inadvertently offer them anything of myself that they have not already obtained either by deception or by force.

3. To give you a very brief outline of my case, I was in a relationship with Mark Stone from early November 2003 to February 2005. During that time we lived together in a shared house, and were extremely intimate both physically and (so I thought) emotionally. After we separated we remained close friends and saw each other regularly both in the UK and abroad, until October 2010, when I learned his true identity. We knew each other for seven years and he was involved in my life at all levels, regularly visiting my parents, attending my grandmother’s 90th birthday party, building a relationship with my brother. None of them had any involvement in the political groups he was infiltrating and all have been scarred by his betrayal.

4. While the sexual element of our relationship is one of its most degrading aspects, and one of the hardest to come to terms with, I wish to stress the question emotional intimacy and deep involvement in family life because I believe that it is possible for these officers to far far overstep the bounds of what is reasonable, moral or “justifiable” in human (or even operational) terms, without necessarily having sex.

5. I would also like to take this opportunity to respond to the lines of questioning adopted by several of the committee members with my co-claimants when they gave evidence, relating to the idea that possible involvement in criminal activity might somehow justify the undercover police operations in question.

6. It is difficult for me now, as it was visibly difficult for my co-claimants as they attempted to respond to this, to countenance the idea that there are circumstances surrounding my case (whether real, or imagined by some psyched up police team that had seen too many Bond movies) that could justify what they did. Furthermore, I do not want to be manoeuvred into answering a question that could somehow imply that, while I may not have deserved what was done to me, if I were someone else, if I had done something else, I would have.

7. I believe one of the solicitors already made the point that there are rights that are unqualifiable in a democratic state. The right to life, the right not to be tortured. The right to live free from humiliating and degrading treatment... I am sure it must be hard for all of you to imagine what we may have gone through, however please don’t doubt that it was, and still is, extremely humiliating and degrading.

8. I have been involved in environmental and social justice campaigning for as long as I can remember. I attended anti-nuclear demonstrations at Aldemarston in my pushchair; I participated in the 24 hour vigil outside South Africa House when I was 11 years old; and I have remained deeply committed to social change and environmental and social justice ever since. Like Alison, I was not naive about the lengths even a nominally democratic state will go to to control dissent, and I never ruled out the possibility that my phone calls or emails might be intercepted, or that meetings might be infiltrated or bugged. I must stress that does not mean that I believe such behaviour to be justified, just that I was aware that, like deaths in police custody, or renditions, it was something that happened. However, not even the worst stories I had been told by friends who grew up in East Berlin prepared me for the reality of what happened to me. It is therefore difficult and frustrating to be faced with our democratic representatives making the suggestion, direct, or implied, that there may be circumstances in which this would be justified.

9. Nevertheless, since it seems to be important for people who have not been victims of this kind of intrusion to raise the question of why we might have deserved it, I hope that attempting to reply to the question might help you to understand.

10. Let me make it clear that I know nothing about how the police make their depraved operational decisions. I don’t know on what basis they consider what they did to me, and continue to do to others, to have been justified, proportional or necessary (or indeed if they ever considered such questions at all). One of the reasons we are bringing our case is to get answers to these, and many other questions. However, the HMIC report (one of very few sources available to me with any kind of information that might explain what was done to me) does provide some small insight, and raises serious questions about the use of undercover police to infiltrate any political movement.

11. Having been involved in a number of political campaigns since 1998, a chilling number of my fellow campaigners have turned out to have been undercover police. In addition to the horrible experience I had with Mark, I also knew Jim Boyling, Rod Richardson (who it now appears may also have been a police officer), Lynn Watson, and Marco Jacobs. It appears my life has been infiltrated almost without pause from 1998 (or possibly even earlier) until 2010, and I have no reason to assume that this process is not continuing, because I have not changed my political beliefs.

12. I do not want to be drawn into a debate about “violent protest”. The kinds of violence and violation I have witnessed and experienced at the hands of the state make a mockery of most uses of the term violence when used to describe political protest. Furthermore, in a country where you can be sent to prison for writing “up the riots” on Facebook, I hope you understand that asking for someone’s opinion on violent protest is not an entirely innocuous question.

13. I will say that I am not a violent person. However, the HMIC report makes it clear that that is not really relevant. The police will, in fact, infiltrate “peaceful” and “violent” protesters alike, because “the key to being able to differentiate between the two is reliable intelligence”. People are singled out for infiltration because they are part of a political group or movement, not because they are considered to be violent.

14. The report also specifies that “the starting point for gathering such intelligence is prior reasonable suspicion that serious criminal acts may be in preparation” (notably, it does not specify that the persons being infiltrated have to be involved in preparing them!) However, if the argument is that I have been in the process of preparing “serious criminal acts” since 1998, I have to wonder why I have no convictions, and why they have they not, at any point in the past 15 years, brought charges against me for any serious crime!

15. In that context, it is worth considering the Rt Hon. Mr Ellis’ assertion that this is not about political policing but about tackling crime. It is already proving difficult for the police to argue that their intrusions were proportionate or necessary. If the political context is removed, and we look at these operations from an exclusively criminal justice perspective, they become completely untenable, almost ridiculous. As far as I am aware, we are talking about very few arrests, almost entirely for minor offences such as aggravated trespass, criminal damage, or breach of the peace, which rarely resulted in prosecution. Apparently this is because “NPOIU officers were deployed to develop general intelligence ... rather than gathering material for specific prosecutions”. In other words, political policing.

16. I am sure you can imagine, I feel very strongly about this, and I cannot prevent some of my hurt, frustration and anger come across in this text. I was lied to and violated. As Alison says, we have them bang to rights, yet instead of trying to make good the damage they did, and instead of answering the many rightful questions we have, that might help us to find closure, they continue to lie to us. They hide the truth behind vague and unsubstantiated intimations that this was about “serious crime”, behind the closed doors of private sessions, behind the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, and behind their policies of neither confirm nor deny, and their “official secrets”. Surely it is time for and end to their impunity, and for them to be made fully accountable to us and to the public for what they did.

Prepared 25th October 2013