A decision by the High Court to allow the Metropolitan Police to hear claims brought against them by individuals who were duped into intimate relationships with undercover officers in a secret court is a “disgraceful betrayal by the British justice system”, said Green MP Caroline Lucas today.
The women and one man bringing the case claim they were deceived by undercover officers operating in the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPIOU) and its predecessor the Special Demonstration Squad into forming long term, intimate relationships (1).
Instead of being heard in public, as their lawyers had requested, the case will now go to the secret Investigatory Powers Tribunal – set up under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 to deal with claims brought under the Human Rights Act against the police and security services.
Green MP Caroline Lucas held a Westminster Hall debate last year (2) to raise questions about the lack of transparency and accountability in undercover policing – and is leading calls for an urgent independent inquiry into the practice of the forming of undercover relationships.
Responding to today’s decision by Mr Justice Tugenhadt, the Brighton Pavilion MP said:
"The decision to allow the Met to hold this case behind closed doors, far removed from public scrutiny, is a disgraceful betrayal by the British justice system.
"Having been duped into long term and intimate relationships by undercover police for the purposes of spying – one of most appalling invasions of privacy imaginable – it is outrageous that these women and man are now being denied proper justice.
"The secret Investigatory Powers Tribunal is no place for a case like this – the police have a clear responsibility to answer the charges under the Human Rights Act and address public concerns over this state-sanctioned intrusion into people’s lives.
"As well as bringing this case out into the open, the government should also move to introduce statutory guidance preventing undercover officers from entering into sexual relationships (3) – and agree to an independent inquiry to prove its commitment to holding the police to account for their actions in the past, present and future."
1) The practice of undercover police officers forming with individuals on whom they are spying came under intense scrutiny after revelations emerged about former police spy Mark Kennedy in 2010 – one of a number of cases involving the infiltration of environmental and social justice groups between the 1980s and 2010.
2) Following Caroline’s Westminster Hall debate, Home Office Minister Nick Herbert claiming that there was no reasonable option other than to allow undercover officers to enter into such relationships with their targets in order to build credibility, despite a number of leading police spokespeople condemning the behaviour.
3) The current legislation governing undercover policing is unclear and support is building for statutory guidance preventing undercover officers from entering into sexual relationships.