'Tighten control' for undercover police operations

 


Undercover officers have helped prevent bomb attacks and seize weapons from extremists but future operations should be approved in advance by high-level authorities outside the police, a report said today.

Tighter controls are needed after Mark Kennedy, who spent seven years posing as long-haired drop-out climber Mark "Flash" Stone, ignored orders, carried on working after being arrested and seems to have believed he was best placed to make decisions about his deployment, inspectors said.

His actions led to the collapse of the case against six protesters accused of planning to invade the second largest power station in the UK.

Sir Denis O'Connor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, called for police chiefs to establish a system where prior approval from the Office of Surveillance Commissioners (OSC) would be needed for pre-planned, long-term operations.

Currently, the Home Secretary's approval is needed before a bug can be set up, which may take 15 seconds, but an assistant chief constable can sign off putting an undercover officer in place, sometimes for years, he said.

While there were "only a handful of this kind of undercover deployments active at any one time", operations were not controlled as well as those in other units which used undercover officers to tackle serious criminality.

This may have been because undercover officers in what was the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) were seeking intelligence to stop criminal activity, rather than evidence to be used in courts, inspectors said.

Sir Denis said that while the ability to use undercover officers was "an absolutely essential tactic to protect people", a series of controls should be brought in to test whether a potential deployment is necessary and proportionate.

He called for a clearer distinction between public order policing and tackling domestic extremism, which are now both part of the National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU), with extremism being managed under the counter-terrorism network in the future.

Sir Denis also revealed he had referred a matter involving an issue of control within the Metropolitan Police's Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), which was closed down in 2008, to thepolice watchdog after inspectors uncovered documents containing information "we thought could be problematic".

"They may turn out not to be significant," he said.

The review by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) was ordered after questions were raised about the proportionality of covert tactics and of such a lengthy and costly operation targeting green campaigners planning to invade Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station near Nottingham.

The case against them collapsed in January last year after they claimed an undercover officer offered to give evidence on their behalf.

Mr Kennedy, who has admitted he had sexual relationships with at least two women during the operation, has since said he fears for his life, describing the world of undercover policing as "grey and murky", adding: "There is some bad stuff going on. Really bad stuff."

But the HMIC report found he worked outside the code of conduct for undercover officers, became "resistant to management intervention", and review and oversight was insufficient.

"He seems to have believed he was best placed to make decisions about how his deployment and the operation should progress," the report said.

Mr Kennedy worked undercover in 11 countries on 40 occasions, mostly on "European-wide protest issues", but there was no single officer in control and the authorising officer was not even always told Mr Kennedy was going overseas, nor given relevant information about what happened while he was there.

His supervisor built up a close relationship with him over seven years and "the degree of challenge and intrusiveness" into his activity "proved insufficient".

Mr Kennedy also defied instructions and went abroad with a protester in 2009 and carried on working against instructions despite being arrested in 2006.

"The full extent of his activity remains unknown," the report said.

Despite uncovering "serious criminality", and helping tackle a group capable of using homemade bombs, there were "insufficient checks and balances" into his actions and "little consideration" was given to an exit plan, the inspectors found.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said it hoped the report's recommendations "can ensure that the public have confidence in the use of these tactics to keep communities safe".

Chief Constable Jon Murphy, the Acpo lead on organised crime, said the review recognised the critical role undercover officers play.

"When used correctly it is lawful, ethical, necessary and proportionate," he said.

"The police service would welcome increased oversight in this critical area of policing."

Ben Stewart, one of the defendants in the Ratcliffe-on-Soar case whose conviction was overturned, said: "Kennedy's controllers have advanced the 'one rogue cop' defence and the authors of this report have happily accepted it."

He went on: "In reality, it's inconceivable that Kennedy's superiors weren't fully aware of the abuses he and other undercover officers were committing in the peaceful protest movement.

"They were only caught out because we exposed them, but there's little in this report that would prevent the same thing happening again.

"We now know some undercover officers were even having kids with activists then walking away, but a report commissioned by the police and conducted by the police has cleared thepolice of serious wrong-doing."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said the additional issue referred to the watchdog by the HMIC related to "concerns about potential issues of authorisation between 2000-2005 under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act".

Moir Stewart, the IPCC's director of investigations, said: "I have been in contact with the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) and asked them to consider whether the matters raised by HMIC are referable.

"The MPS are carrying out a wider review into the activities of undercover officers and they have agreed that, should any recordable conduct or possible criminality involving other officers come to light as a result of this review, it will be referred to the IPCC."

Responding to the report, Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, said: "It is clear from this report that serious reform is needed to the oversight of undercover policing to put proper checks and balances are in place.

"Undercover tactics are required to investigate and prevent some very serious crimes. But there must be strong safeguards too, to make sure they are used proportionately with a much higher level of authorisation and oversight, and are not abused.

"Undercover deployments must meet the highest standards to protect the integrity of our police and provide the level of accountability the public expects.

"It is clear from this report that whilst vital intelligence and policing work protecting the public has been delivered through successful undercover work, some operations have gone badly wrong, damaging trust. The HMIC are right to argue that reforms are now needed to prevent this happening again."

PA

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup