Activists win right to appeal over undercover police operation

Fears over convictions after CPS inquiry finds lawyer may have withheld information

Kevin Rawlinson@kevinJrawlinson
Wednesday 04 July 2012 00:02

Details of covert policing operations will be disclosed to defence lawyers in future, after Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer signed a deal with police and invited 29 people convicted over the 2008 Drax Power Station protest to appeal their convictions.

The move comes after a Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) review found that one of its senior lawyers withheld information about former undercover officer Mark Kennedy’s involvement.

Mr Starmer, who said today that he had “real concerns about any prosecutions involving” the officer, ordered police to look into a host of cases involving him in April this year.

He said: “As a result of concerns raised with me about the convictions of 29 individuals for offences committed during a protest near Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire in 2008, I ordered a review of the case by a senior CPS lawyer with no prior involvement in the case and asked Brian Altman QC, First Senior Treasury Counsel, to advise on the safety of the convictions.

“Having considered the conclusion of that review carefully, I have decided that the safety of the convictions should be considered by the Court of Appeal. That is because it appears to me that a senior CPS lawyer, who has since left the organisation, may not have complied fully with disclosure obligations in this case.”

He added that he has taken the "unusual" step of writing to legal representatives of those convicted, inviting them to appeal. “The safety of the convictions is a matter that can only be dealt with by the Court of Appeal,” he said.

Met Police officers are currently looking through the files in a bid to confirm that non-disclosure of information related to Mr Kennedy's work did not break the law. Mr Starmer said today: “This is a task that can only be carried out by the police because they hold the relevant records, but should any issues arise in cases prosecuted by the CPS, I will ensure those cases are reviewed by a senior CPS lawyer.

“More generally, I have asked Sue Hemming, the head of the CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, to work with our Complex Casework Unit Heads to identify, from our available records, whether there are any further cases involving undercover officers that might need to be examined.

“What happened in cases involving Mark Kennedy cannot be allowed to happen again. I have therefore negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding between ACPO, SOCA and HMRC and the CPS setting out in clear terms the approach to be followed in criminal cases involving undercover officers where it is essential that there is early, frank and regular liaison between investigating officers and prosecutors.

“In addition, I have put in place mandatory training for all senior CPS staff who supervise prosecutions involving undercover officers. That training commenced in January this year and is ongoing.”

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: "The MPS has been carrying out an examination of records relating to the deployment of Mark Kennedy as an undercover officer. This work is at an advanced stage and we are satisfied that in all cases examined to date - including this case - police disclosure obligations to CPS prosecutors were met and they were made fully aware of Kennedy's role and actions as known at the time.

"The Metropolitan Police Service officer within the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), who was managing the deployment of PC Mark Kennedy, fully briefed the CPS lead for the prosecution about Kennedy's involvement in the Drax power station case. Police obligations under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 relating to disclosure were, therefore, met."