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  • Operation Herne Report 1 Use of covert identities

    Executive Summary

    The Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) was an undercover unit formed by the
    Metropolitan Police’s Special Branch. It operated between 1968 and 2008, during
    which time it infiltrated and reported on groups concerned in violent protest.

    Operation Herne
    Operation Herne (formerly Soisson) was formed in October 2011 in response to
    allegations made by the Guardian newspaper about alleged misconduct and criminality
    engaged in by members of the SDS. Similar matters had been previously aired as early
    as 2002 in a BBC documentary.

    Operation Riverwood
    On 4th February 2013 the Metropolitan Police received a public complaint from the
    family of Rod Richardson, a young boy who had died in the 1970s. It is alleged that an
    undercover officer working for the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) had
    used this child’s details as his covert identity. This matter was referred to the IPCC. The
    matter was returned to the force and is currently subject of a ‘local investigation’.

    National Public Order Intelligence Unit
    The NPOIU was formed within the MPS in 1999 to gather and coordinate intelligence.
    In 2006 the governance responsibility for NPOIU was moved to the Association of
    Chief Police Officers, after a decision was taken that the forces where the majority of
    activity was taking place should be responsible for authorising future deployments. In
    January 2011 the NPOIU was subsumed within other units under the National Domestic
    Extremism Units within the MPS.
    In January 1995 large numbers of police from London, Kent and Hampshire were
    drafted to the West Sussex harbour of Shoreham in response to protests surrounding
    the export of live animals to Europe. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and another
    animal extremist group named ‘Justice Department’ had a strong base in the
    community there. This led to a number of protests and in October 1995 there was a
    further demonstration in Brightlingsea, Essex. This resulted in a record number of police
    being deployed to prevent widespread public disorder. Ad-hoc protest groups emerged
    and the need for first hand high quality intelligence was evident. This led to undercover
    operatives being required to infiltrate these animal extremist organisations.

    The purpose of the NPOIU was:
    1 To provide the police service with the ability to develop a national threat assessment
    and profile for domestic extremism.
    2 Support the police service to reduce crime and disorder from domestic extremism.
    3 Support a proportionate police response to protest activity.
    4 Help the police service manage concerns of communities and businesses to
    minimise conflict and disorder.

    Control of the NPOIU moved to ACPO in 2006 under the direction of the ACPO National
    Co-ordinator for Domestic Extremism, Assistant Chief Constable Anton Setchell. He
    was replaced by Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway in 2010. The NPOIU
    worked with the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU) and the
    National Domestic Extremism Team (NDET).
    The NPOIU now exists as part of the National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU) under
    the Metropolitan Police Service Specialist Operations and is run by Detective Chief
    Superintendent Chris Greaney.

    Deceased identities
    On 5th February 2013 the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) questioned Deputy
    Assistant Commissioner Gallan about the alleged practice that SDS officers had used
    the details of dead children, as part of a cover identity for undercover police officers. At
    the time DAC Gallan was based in the MPS Directorate of Professional Standards and
    was in overall command of Operation Herne. Her appearance before the HASC led to
    considerable media coverage and some negative commentary. As a result of the media
    coverage, Operation Herne has now received enquiries from fourteen (14) families
    regarding seventeen (17) children.

    Operation Herne review
    One hundred and forty-seven (147) named individuals are believed to have served as
    police officers within the SDS at all ranks from Chief Superintendent down. This covers
    the forty (40) years that the unit was in existence and not all the police officers were
    deployed in undercover roles.
    At this stage one hundred and six (106) covert identities have been identified as having
    been used by the SDS between 1968 and 2008.
    Forty-two (42) of these identities are either confirmed or highly likely to have used the
    details of a deceased child.
    Forty-five (45) of these identities have been established as fictitious. Work continues to
    identify the provenance of the remaining identities.

    Neither Confirm Nor Deny (NCND)
    The policy of ‘neither confirming nor denying’ the use of or identity of an undercover
    police officer is a long established one used by UK policing. It is essential so as to
    provide for the necessary operational security and to ensure undercover officers are
    clear that their identity will never be disclosed by the organisation that asked them to
    carry out the covert activity. The duty of care owed to such officers is an absolute one
    and applies during their deployments, throughout their service and continues when they
    are retired.
    Please note that this is an interim report specifically about the use of the identities of
    deceased children and infants. It does not seek to cover either all of the activities of
    the SDS nor has it been able to completely provide all the answers regarding the use
    of covert identities. The report clearly explains the use of the tactic and is submitted
    early given the need to deal with the public concerns and is provided in agreement with
    the Home Office who sought to have this matter concluded before the parliamentary
    summer recess.

    Find this report at July 2013