Britain's most senior police officer said today an apology for the use of dead children's identities would be “pretty false” as investigators do not yet know who is affected.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe insisted that there is no reluctance to say sorry after claims that undercover officers used the details to shore up their fake personas.
“I regret if anybody's been hurt by what happened. The main issue we've got is not a reluctance to apologise to anybody badly affected by it, it is actually establishing the facts,” he said.
“These are historical events. We are desperately trying to understand what happened, how many times did it happen and who is affected by it.
“Frankly, it would be a pretty false apology if we were to make it today because we don't even know who is affected by it.
“There's no reluctance to apologise once we've established the facts.”
His comments echo those of deputy assistant commissioner Patricia Gallan, who told MPs earlier this month that investigators were focusing on getting to the truth and that “at the appropriate time statements will be made”.
She said that the force had received two complaints but the parents concerned had not been informed.
Today, Sir Bernard said police had to consider the consequences of revealing the identities of former undercover officers.
“If we identify the name of the person who was involved, presumably as an undercover officer, and if the person against whom that undercover officer was deployed is unaware of it, but discovers through publication of that name that person was an undercover officer or may be, we've got to consider the consequences of that.
“Even though that's a fair amount of time ago, those officers are still around or retired.
“We've got to unpick all of that before we start approaching families. We've really got to think it through. If we do go to the family, we've got to accept that makes that information open.”
Yesterday it was announced that Derbyshire Police chief constable Mick Creedon has been asked to oversee the investigation into the Met's Special Demonstration Squad, which began in October 2011.
Sir Bernard said he had recommended calling in someone independent around six months ago.
He said: “I proposed about six months ago we had someone independent to lead this. It's the sort of allegations where if the Met concluded in an investigation we didn't find anything, people might say 'well that would be the case, wouldn't it'. That's a danger. The more independence the better.”