Police forces told to investigate undercover operations for possible misconduct
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Sunday 07 July 2013
All police forces will on Monday be ordered to investigate whether undercover officers have abused their power following growing evidence of misconduct.
Damian Green, the Policing Minister, will tell the 43 chief constables in England and Wales that “unpalatable truths” must not remain hidden and that a new code of ethics will be introduced. He will describe as “particularly shocking” claims that the family of the murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence was bugged. It has also been revealed that undercover police assumed the identities of hundreds of dead children, for which an apology is likely to be issued.
Mr Green will say: “This has been a time of bad headlines for the police. They are largely historic, but still hugely damaging. The job of cleaning out the stables is key – but even that is not enough. We need to rebuild confidence by carrying on reform.”
Labour will urge the Government to go further. In a speech on the balance between security and liberty, Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, will demand independent pre-authorisation and scrutiny of long-term operations lasting more than a year, with spot inspections.
Describing some cases as “appalling,” she will say: “For officers to develop long term relationships and have children as part of authorised covert operations is an awful abuse. There must be proper checks and balances in place. That is why stronger, independent processes are needed, especially for authorising long-term covert operations. And proper independent scrutiny of those long term operations is needed too, not just paper-based checks.”
Ms Cooper will say: “Too often in the past we [Labour] have been trapped into making a simple choice between liberty and security, or between rights and responsibilities,” arguing that there is “no simple trade-off” between them.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Undercover police operations are vital in the fight against terrorism and serious organised crime. However, shocking allegations of serious wrongdoing in the past have been made and it is important that they are investigated thoroughly. We expect the highest standards of professionalism in all aspects of policing.”
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