The Metropolitan Police covertly stole the identities of about 80 dead children for use in operations by undercover police officers, according to a new investigation.
The practice, condemned as "gruesome" by Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, carried on for three decades as a means for police to infiltrate anti-racist, anti-capitalist and far-right protest groups. Officers obtained passports, driving licences and national insurance numbers under their new identities.
Two former members of the Met's undercover Special Demonstration Squad told The Guardian they had adopted the identity of a dead child after scanning birth and death records to find a suitable match.
"You are looking for someone of a similar age to you who died, starting at age three or four and up to age 14 or 15," said "Pete Black", the adopted identity of a former undercover policeman who infiltrated environmental activist groups from 1993 to 1997. Victims of the identity theft included an eight-year-old boy who had died from leukaemia in 1968, and another who was killed in a car crash, said the report. Parents of the dead children were never made aware of the practice.
The Met said in a statement that, in response to a formal complaint, the Directorate of Professional Standards had launched an investigation into "past arrangements for undercover identities used by SDS officers". It said the practice was not "currently" authorised.