By Yvonne Ridley
The plot could have come straight from the pages of a Bond novel … womanising spies dispatched undercover to infiltrate and seduce a group of unsuspecting female eco warriors.
Far-fetched? Well it seems when it comes to the behaviour of the infamous Metropolitan Police fact can be much stranger than fiction.
And the proof has now surfaced in the sinister case of the undercover cops who embedded themselves – literally – with environmental activists.
In America and Israel the police involved would now be facing rape charges, but this happened in the UK and today the Establishment is closing ranks and moving quickly to do what the Britain does best … a cover up, wrapped in a veil of secrecy.
The Hillsborough scandal has already exposed just how toxic cover ups can be and if ever there was a time for transparency it is now. While there will be a criminal inquiry into the cover-up over the Hillsborough stadium disaster by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, it comes at a time when the IPCC faces criticism from groups including families of victims of police brutality, politicians and lawyers for being ineffective.
Cageprisoners has been running a campaign called No More Secrets for several months now in a bid to force the UK Government to scrap its plans to introduce more secrecy into the judicial system through secret courts.
And this week British Justice lurched one step closer to overturning more than 800 years of legal convention after a High Court decision was made to hear the case If the undercover cops in secret.
Women who say they were tricked into sexual relationships by at least half a dozen police will have their cases heard in secret, a judge has ruled.
The women environmental activists say they were targeted by undercover cops who infiltrated their group.
The High Court ruling means evidence relating to the supervision of detective Mark Kennedy, exposed in 2011, will probably be revealed behind closed doors.
Lawyers acting for the women say their clients are entitled to damages for emotional, psychiatric and financial losses. A total of 11 women and one man have announced their intention to sue over the activities of five former undercover officers.
The most well-known is former officer, Mark Kennedy, who infiltrated environmental groups. His involvement with one group led to the collapse of a trial of protesters who had been accused of plotting to shut down a coal-fired power station. The officer switched sides, offering to appear for the defence.
As well as Mr Kennedy, the officers include Mark Jacobs, who infiltrated a group of Welsh anarchists.
But the Metropolitan Police insists the claims should not be heard in an open court and should be moved, instead to a secret court session known as the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) which deals with complaints relating to secret surveillance powers.
Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled at the High Court that the women were making serious allegations – but the IPT had jurisdiction over their human rights claims. He said that the claimants could bring elements of the claims to the High Court at a later date but only after the IPT had ruled.
Harriet Wistrich, a solicitor for six of the claimants, said: “This decision prevents both the claimants and the public from seeing the extent of the violation of human rights and abuses of public office perpetrated by these undercover units”.
She said her clients had already suffered a gross violation of their privacy and abuse of trust by the police and switching a hearing to the IPT would, in their view, mean a denial of access to justice, adding: “(They) may never discover why they were thus violated by the state.”
Jules Carey, a solicitor representing the other claimants, said: “Today the court has acknowledged that they have suffered the ‘gravest’ interference with their fundamental rights. It has nonetheless taken the view that the police are capable of authorising such grave interferences under RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act). Our clients will have to carefully study the judgment and consider an appeal on this issue.”
In written submissions to the court, lawyers said Mark Kennedy had groomed the women by encouraging them “to become emotionally dependent on him and to publicise their intimate relationship with him widely amongst other activists and their own families.”
This case will raise serious questions about police misconduct and the extent to which police officers can invade the personal, psychological, and private lives of members of the public.
And questions must also be asked about just how far police are prepared to go in undercover operations in the Muslim community.
All this highlights the corrosiveness of cover ups, secret evidence and secret courts. Now, more than ever, the resistance to the controversial justice and security bill must be stepped up.
Cageprisoners is running a series of events as part of the No More Secrets Tour in which a 30 minute documentary film – Lies, Spies & Libya – highlighting undercover activities of MI6 under the Blair Government is shown.
The film reveals how the UK Government became complicit and embroiled in the US kidnap, rendition and torture programme – more than £2m of taxpayers money has already been awarded to one Libyan man and his family in an out-of-court settlement.
Sami al Saadi, a prominent Libyan dissident says he, his wife and four children were kidnapped with the help of MI6 were and secretly flown to Tripoli where he was tortured by the security police of the former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
The government paid the huge amount of compensation to al Saadi without admitting any liability and al Saadi admitted later he was persuaded to take the money after hearing of moves to have his case heard in secret.
Lies, Spies & Libya reveals the plight of others who experienced similar personal traumas and with a growing number of claimants, compensation could run in to tens of millions. Cageprisoners says these cases should be heard in open court and those who made ministerial decisions be held accountable for authorising kidnap, rendition and torture.
The No More Secrets roadshow also includes a series of speakers including Yvonne Ridley, Omar Deghayes, Moazzam Begg, Saghir Hussein and others. If you want NMS to come to your district please contact Cageprisoners on 07989 163 360 – it’s a must for law students, legal firms and anyone interested in an open and transparent judicial system.
Image courtesy of Flickr/Can Pac Swire
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)