Undercover police broke rules to spy on the Lawrence and De Menezes family campaigners

 

Undercover police officers gathered sensitive intelligence on 18 grieving families fighting Scotland Yard for justice after their relatives had died in controversial circumstances.

The personal information on families including the parents of Stephen Lawrence and relatives of Jean Charles de Menezes was unlawfully stored in Metropolitan Police vaults for 20 years, it emerged yesterday. In a withering report, police chiefs admitted the rogue unit of undercover officers even reported on an unnamed individual linked to a justice campaign as they planned to attend a funeral.

The Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) was supposed to target groups planning terror attacks, serious crime and other activities that threatened national security. The report, by the Chief Constable of Derbyshire Mick Creedon, concluded: “There was no intelligence to indicate that the funeral would have been anything other than dignified.”

Mr Creedon’s review of SDS activities, codenamed Operation Herne, also found that successive Met commissioners had been “complacent and possibly negligent” in their failure to control the activities of the secretive operation.

Three former commissioners have been interviewed about the SDS, which mounted covert surveillance against political groups between 1968 and 2008.

Jean Charles de Menezes was shot by police in 2005; the SDS gathered information on his family Jean Charles de Menezes was shot by police in 2005; the SDS gathered information on his family (PA)
Mr Creedon denied any former Scotland Yard police chief had been “criminally negligent” but admitted they could have faced disciplinary proceedings if they had still been serving.

Lord Blair was head of the Met when information was gathered on the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian electrician shot dead by police in 2005 after being mistaken for a bombing suspect in the aftermath of the 7 July attack on London.

Lord Condon and Lord Stevens were at the top of the Yard when undercover police officers were reporting back on the state of the Lawrence marriage following the racist murder of their son, Stephen.

Operation Herne found the SDS and Special Branch breached rules on gathering and storing information on members of the public.

The report found sensitive information was “hoovered” up and officers failed to weed out “community gossip”. Mr Creedon said the scale of the retention of the documents kept by the unit was “staggering”. He had no answer when asked if he could explain why the Met had retained intelligence on the Lawrence family yet infamously destroyed its old files on police corruption.

Other groups on which secret files were kept included campaigns on miscarriages of justice and deaths in police custody. References to the police shooting of Cherry Groce, which sparked the Brixton riots, and Ricky Reel, who died in mysterious circumstances in 1997, were also found. Mr Creedon said: “Unless the information could have prevented crime or disorder it should not have been retained.” He added that undercover officers could face criminal charges for their activities. Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt said Scotland Yard acknowledged that families campaigning for justice will be greatly upset. He said: “I regret enormously the distress that has been caused.”

Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee, said: “I am shocked by the potential extent of this spying. The police should never snoop on vulnerable people to gain information least of all on grieving families.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power