Practice of undercover officers using names of dead children 'was more widespread than first suspected'

 

The practice of undercover officers using the names of dead children to infiltrate protest groups was more widespread than first suspected, a senior Scotland Yard officer conceded yesterday.

As the Metropolitan Police force was publicly castigated by MPs for refusing to apologise to the families of the dead children or even give assurances that they will be informed, the Yard's head of the Directorate of Professional Standards revealed that not just one unit but a second one, only founded in 1999, was being investigated.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan was urgently summoned to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee after claims that undercover officers from the force's Special Demonstration Squad had used the “shocking” practice of stealing the identities of dead children without seeking consent from their parents.

Ms Gallan conceded that not only was the SDS – which existed for 40 years before being disbanded in 2008 – being investigated but also the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, which was only founded in 1999 and taken over by the Metropolitan police in 2011.

Furthermore she conceded that her investigation, Operation Herne, had known of one case for five months but had yet to contact the family or offer any form of apology. The MPs heard that there had been a complaint from another family whose little boy Rod Richardson, died as a baby in 1973 but believed his identity had been stolen twenty years later.

“My client is upset that her child's identity was used and wants an explanation from the police,” said solicitor Jules Carey, confirming he has submitted an official complaint.

MPs were told that not only were names stolen but officers infiltrating protest groups researched the families concerned to take on the whole identity, placing relatives at risk of being targetted by groups – some of whom were extremist.

During a tense session before the Home Affairs Committee, Dep Ass Com Gallan repeatedly refused to apologise to the families.

“Do you not think it is heartless and cruel not to inform them as a matter of urgency?” asked chairman Keith Vaz.

“We need to investigate the allegations and there are legal and ethical issues,” replied the senior officer, adding she would make any public statements “at the appropriate time”. “It would be wrong of me without knowing all the facts at this point to give a yes or no answer.”

She insisted that the practice was no longer sanctioned by any force in the country but could not offer a date when it had ceased or confirm that these were simply two “rogue” units.

Mr Vaz expressed disappointment that despite Operation Herne's lengthy investigation into undercover practices, costing £1.25 million to date, that it had yet to get to the bottom of the issue.

“I am disappointed you have not used the opportunity to send a message to the parents of these children that the Metropolitan Police is actually sorry it happened.

“I am concerned that you have known about one instance since September last year but despite spending £1.2 million and having 30 officers working on this case you still have not got to the bottom of why these children's identities were used.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific