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
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones