Home AffairsLetter to Rosemary Fernandes, Crown Advocate, Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, Crown Prosecution Service, 21 January 2013

Re Operation Herne

I represent eight women who are bringing a civil claim for damages against the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis arising from their experiences of being deceived by undercover officers who commenced long term intimate sexual relationships with them and subsequently disappeared from their lives causing them serious psychological harm in all cases. Three of those women had relationships with Mark Kennedy, who was under the control of the NPIOU, and the other five had relationships with a number of different officers who were all, we believe, part of what was known as the Special Demonstration Squad at the Metropolitan Police. Following receipt of our letters before claim, we were contacted by police officers to ask if the women would like to make statements to assist a DPS investigation into misconduct by officers in the SDS, which is now called Operation Herne. In a recent meeting with Detective Superintendent Chris Robson, who is now in charge of Operation Herne, we were informed that the IPCC are supervising the investigation and that you are Commissioner responsible for the supervision.

My clients had decided that it might be beneficial to co-operate with this investigation and some of them have met with DSU Robson and DS Kirstie Masters from the DPS. However, at a recent meeting my clients were informed that the police, having taking legal advice, are required to exercise a policy of NCND (neither confirm nor deny) in respect of the officers about whom my clients were making allegations. He also informed us that he would need to take legal advice as to whether he could share the terms of reference of the enquiry. He has since contacted me to say that he is not permitted to share the terms of reference.

The approach of the Metropolitan Police in relation to the NCND policy is deeply distressing for my clients. Imagine if you had been in a relationships with a man for five years, who lived with you and who you saw potentially as a life partner, who then suddenly disappeared without trace? Imagine, when trying to search for him you discover evidence that he was an undercover police officer and yet the police ask you to provide a detailed statement concerning the relationship, but will not offer you the simple courtesy of confirming whether that man was, and perhaps is still, in fact a police officer. For women whose trust in relationships generally and in the police in particular has already been deeply undermined, to be asked to co-operate with an investigation on these terms is a step too far. Further, to be denied information concerning the terms of reference of the investigation, is a further insult to extremely important witnesses whose cooperation the police are seeking. My clients are keen that these very serious abuses by the police should be exposed and subject to full public accountability. They understand that whilst an investigation is ongoing certain aspects may need to be confidential, they don’t accept that they should be required to provide accounts about the most intimate aspects of their private lives without even knowing from the police whether the man they allege is a police officer is in fact one.

My clients can provide statements in respect of their relationships with the undercover officers, but some of them may also have information in relation to other aspects of the police enquiry, including allegations that Bob Lambert planted incendiary devices in Debenhams, and that there was collusion between the police and McDonalds in relation to the libel action which resulted in the Mclibel case.

It would be helpful, before our clients decide whether to co-operate, if they could have an idea of the sort of criminal charges that might arise particularly in respect of the deception they were subjected to, as this will assist them in any decision as to whether to cooperate.

I enclose a letter to Deborah Glass at the IPCC, set out in similar terms. You will see we have requested a meeting with her and believe it may be helpful to have a joint meeting with the CPS.

Harriet Wistrich, Solicitor, Birnberg Peirce & Partners

July 2013

Prepared 25th October 2013