The Metropolitan Police secretly held information on 17 grieving families running justice campaigns for murdered family members, a report has revealed.
In his latest report from Operation Herne, investigating the conduct of undercover officers from Scotland Yard’s Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), Derbyshire Chief Constable Mick Creedon said on Thursday that “emerging evidence” showed the Stephen Lawrence Campaign and a number of other families were mentioned in secret records.
The campaigns ranged between 1970 and 2005, and were the result of people who died in police custody, died following police contact, or were murdered, he said.
Officers were in the process of telling the families concerned, and would share the knowledge and information held “where possible”. More families may emerge in time, the document adds.
The relatives of Jean Charles de Menezes are among those implicated. The Brazilian electrician was shot dead by police in 2005 after he was mistaken for a terrorist suspect, and his family are currently considering legal action against Scotland Yard following the report’s findings.
The Stephen Lawrence Campaign, and references to the death of Cherry Groce, which sparked the Brixton riots, and Ricky Reel, who died in mysterious circumstances in 1997, were also found.
An account of an unnamed individual planning to attend a funeral was among the information stored, despite the document acknowledging: “there was no intelligence to indicate that the funeral would have been anything other than a dignified event”.
Mr Creedon said the information should not have been retained unless it prevented crime or disorder, and admitted bereaved families are like to find the findings “distressing” and “inexplicable.”
While the report found no evidence that covert operations targeted grieving families or justice campaigns, it heavily criticised the fact that information that had no relevance in preventing crime.
Sukhdev Reel, who fought for answers about the death of her son Ricky Reel in 1997, told Channel 4 News on Wednesday, prior to the publication of the report: "Rather than them helping us pick up the pieces trying to find out what happened to us they were spying on us.
"I don't understand it, I just feel I've been stripped of my dignity... I feel really angry," she added.
A spokeswoman for the Jean Charles De Menezes Family Campaign said it was “shameful” that the Metropolitan police had spied on the legitimate campaign activities of a grieving family “who were simply trying to get the answers they deserved after their loved one was killed by police officers.”
Mr Creedon was called in to lead an inquiry into the SDS after a series of allegations were made about the unit, including that officers used the identities of dead children without permission and tricked women into serious sexual relationships.
It was also accused of having infiltrated campaign groups close to the family of murder victim Stephen Lawrence and gathering information to "smear" his relatives.
Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, from Scotland Yard, stopped short of apologising to the families, but said: "I regret enormously the distress that has been caused."
He added he had been moved by interviews with Sukhdev Reel, Ricky Reel’s mother.
"There have been a number of families out there for whom this has caused much distress. I was moved by the interviews with Mrs Reel last night, and that's why it's so important that we are clear about the facts of what actually happened.
"There are very clear criticisms about what subsequently happened to the information gathered by individual officers, and I am not surprised by that.
"The decision to retain information or not is a challenge and getting the balance right is difficult."
The next stage of the report that will continue for another year will be an assessment on culture of the SDS and allegations of inappropriate behaviour.