New scandal over Met’s undercover policing: Conviction of three corrupt former Scotland Yard detectives may be at risk
A former officer who allegedly infiltrated the gang now lives in constant fear for his safety after the force refused to relocate him and his family when his cover was blown
Scotland Yard is facing a new undercover policing scandal that threatens to overturn the conviction of three corrupt former detectives convicted of drug dealing, The Independent can reveal.
Derek Haslam, who worked undercover for nine years in south London’s criminal fraternity, is alleged to have infiltrated a gang of suspected corrupt policemen and reported privileged defence material back to the Metropolitan Police.
The Court of Appeal heard that Mr Haslam targeted Tom Kingston, Tom Reynolds and Terry O’Connell, who were convicted of a conspiracy to supply £7,500-worth of amphetamine sulphate in 2000. Lawyers for the men claim the Met used Mr Haslam as a “spy in the defence camp” that amounted to a “fundamental abuse of the process of the court”.
The disclosure will reignite controversy over Scotland Yard’s use of undercover officers and comes two months after a review commissioned by Home Secretary Theresa May castigated the Met for commissioning a mole to target the family of Stephen Lawrence, the murdered black teenager.
At the Court of Appeal today, Alun Jones QC – who represented the three former officers alleged to be part of a drug-dealing ring known as the “Groovy Gang” – said Mr Haslam visited Kingston in Ford open prison, West Sussex, and “took defence papers from him to photocopy”.
Mr Jones said: “We have material that raises reasonable grounds to believe that the Met police – CIB3 officers – appointed a spy called Derek Haslam to befriend Mr Kingston when he was preparing his defence, in order to report back to police.
DC Thomas Kingston in 2000 (Andy Paradise)
“There are grounds to believe that CIB3 (anti-corruption command) used Mr Haslam as a spy in the defence camp to see privileged material that would be a fundamental abuse of the process of the court.”
In his application to overturn the convictions, Mr Jones QC also raised the issue of Neil Putnam – a spectre that has haunted Scotland Yard for the last 16 years. Another corrupt ex-police officer-turned-“supergrass”, whose disputed evidence was central to the convictions of a number of colleagues including Kingston, Reynolds and O’Connell, Putnam later claimed he told his police handlers in 1998 that a suspected rogue officer on the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation was linked to the gangster father of one of the prime suspects.
Putnam claims he told the Met that John Davidson, a detective sergeant on the original botched investigation, was connected to the father of David Norris, one of the racist gang who stabbed Mr Lawrence to death in 1993, right in the middle of a judicial inquiry into the appalling case.
A recent review of the Lawrence murder by Mark Ellison QC found that the Met withheld full details of Putnam’s evidence from Sir William Macpherson during his landmark inquiry. Putnam said this was because the disclosure would “blow the Met apart”. Due to Putnam’s allegations around the Lawrence inquiry, Mr Jones QC today told the court the convictions of the three alleged drug-dealing police officers were “unsafe” as the Met and the Crown Prosecution Service no longer regarded Putnam as a “witness of truth”.
DC Tom Reynolds leaves the Old Bailey in 2000 (Andy Paradise)
Mr Jones told a panel of three Appeal Court judges, led by Lady Justice Rafferty: “The court is confronted by the stark possibility that there is either here a major conspiracy by senior Metropolitan police officers to suppress the evidence in 1998, or Mr Putnam is a spiteful, convincing, determined liar.”
The QC went on to lament that Putnam was not formally debriefed and that much of his 1998 testimony on corruption is alleged to be missing.
Mr Jones said it was “absurd” and “utterly ridiculous” for John Yates, the Met police chief then in charge of Putnam’s debrief, to have claimed that his team could not afford to tape-record everything the supergrass said, as it would have “over-exceeded his budget”.
“There is a clear demonstration that the whole regime was flawed,” Mr Jones said.
Crispin Aylett QC, for the Crown, said it was possible that Putnam “genuinely deluded himself into thinking that he did say those things in 1998”, meaning he could still be trusted as a witness in the case of the three convicted officers, even though the Met maintains he is lying about blowing the whistle on corruption in the Lawrence case in 1998.
The Court of Appeal judges reserved their decision on whether the convictions were unsafe to a later date.
When contacted by The Independent, Mr Haslam said of the allegations of his behaviour: “That is absolute garbage. Complete and utter twaddle.”
The former police officer now lives in constant fear for his safety after the Met refused to relocate him and his family when his cover was blown.
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