Top policeman to brief MPs on use of dead children's identities in undercover operations


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The Independent Online

One of Scotland Yard’s most senior officers has been called by MPs to answer claims that the identities of dead children were used by undercover teams.

Pat Gallan, head of the Metropolitan Police’s Directorate of Professional Standards, will speak to the Home Affairs Select Committee after claims that the Met’s Special Demonstration Squad used the details to give fake personas more credibility. Dozens of officers from the now-disbanded squad were allowed to use the identities without informing the children’s parents.

Today chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) Keith Vaz told Sky News: "What is absolutely vital is that the parents of those involved should be informed immediately. It can't be right that this information is being kept from them."

One officer, who adopted the fake persona of Pete Black while undercover in anti-racist groups, told the Guardian he felt he was "stomping on the grave" of the four-year-old boy whose identity he used.

"A part of me was thinking about how I would feel if someone was taking the names and details of my dead son for something like this," he said.

Another officer, who used the identity of a child car crash victim, said he was conscious the parents would "still be grief-stricken" but argued his actions could be justified because they were for the "greater good".

Both officers worked for the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), which was apparently disbanded in 2008.

A document seen by the newspaper indicated around 80 officers used such identities between 1968 and 1994, it was reported.

Former director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald called for a public inquiry into the operation of undercover investigations, warning that unacceptable practices might still be in use today.

He said it was "really worrying" that police chiefs appeared not to have entirely ruled out a repeat of recently-exposed cases of officers entering sexual relationships with targets.

Public confidence in a vital part of the fight against organised crime was at risk as the police appeared to have "completely lost their moral compass", he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"How are you supposed to maintain a level of fair and objective evidence-gathering if you are having sex with the person you are targeting, fathering a baby and then abandoning it, using a dead child's identity?" he asked.

"These are all examples of areas in which the police have completely lost their moral compass and have completely failed to understand the boundaries."

He added: "What we really need is a public inquiry into undercover policing which takes evidence, takes advice, sets out some guidelines, sets out some mechanisms so we can be confident these sorts of procedures are not being followed today."

Solicitors for women who have had relationships with undercover officers and journalist Paul Lewis who co-wrote the Guardian piece about the children's identities are due to give evidence to HASC tomorrow.

Chief executive of the College of Policing Alex Marshall said there was no need for a public inquiry in order to tackle concerns about undercover policing.

He said: "It sounds very poor, it sounds like the public interest was not properly considered.

"My view is public inquiries take many years to conclude and cost a huge amount of money.

"The College of Policing is operating from today. Over the next few weeks we'll get into the detailed design, and this is the sort of area, working particularly with the forces who run undercover operations, we can set the policy, we can make sure the standards are high, we can make improvements if they're required right now. We don't need a public inquiry to start that work."

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "A formal complaint has been received which is being investigated by the DPS (Directorate for Professional Standards) and we appreciate the concerns that have been raised.

"The DPS inquiry is taking place in conjunction with Operation Herne's investigation into the wider issue of past arrangements for undercover identities used by SDS officers.

"We can confirm that the practice referred to in the complaint is not something that would currently be authorised in the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service)."