Review finds Met’s undercover unit failed to reveal its involvement to courts
Hundreds of political activists could now have their convictions quashed
Those wrongly jailed could also mount civil claims against the Met
SDS came under scrutiny over alleged attempts to smear Lawrence family
New Scotland Yard: The Met Police’s Special Demonstration Squad routinely lied to courts about the actions of its undercover agents, a review has found
Dozens of historic police investigations involving undercover officers are to be re-opened over potential miscarriages of justice.
A review has found that the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstrations Squad routinely lied to the courts and failed to reveal the involvement of its undercover officers to defence lawyers.
The revelations raise the prospect of decades- old cases being revisited.
Hundreds of political activists could have their convictions quashed, with animal rights campaigners and protesters from the far Left and Right among those whose charges will now be re-examined.
Anyone wrongly jailed could mount a civil compensation claim against the Met.
The SDS came under scrutiny over its alleged involvement in smearing the family of Stephen Lawrence – but a review by Mark Ellison QC revealed even more worrying allegations in other cases.
He said the nature of undercover work placed serving officers inside groups of activists who came into conflict with the police and faced arrest and prosecution.
He added that a system where this activity was ‘shrouded in almost total secrecy’ and the roles of undercover officers and the intelligence they gathered ‘was not considered in relation to the prosecution’s duty of disclosure in criminal proceedings’ produced ‘the potential for there to have been unfairness in some of those proceedings’.
The Ellison review also found ‘inevitable potential for SDS officers to have been viewed by those they infiltrated as encouraging, and participating in, criminal behaviour.’
As a result ‘there is a real potential for miscarriages of justice to have occurred’, Home Secretary Theresa May said.
Mr Ellison will now review cases involving the unit, which could then be referred to the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve.
Doreen Lawrence fights back tears in House of Lords as she says family has endured ‘21 years of struggle’ after shock revelations of police corruption
Mrs May told the Commons that the SDS, which was set up by the Home Office in 1968, had operated ‘as if exempt from the proper rules of disclosure in criminal cases’, and used an ‘extraordinary level of secrecy’ to protect undercover officers’ identities.
This included failing to reveal their true identities in court.
In Stephen’s murder investigation, an undercover officer, referred to as N81, was found to have held a meeting with acting detective inspector Richard Walton, who had been seconded to the team making submissions to the Macpherson Inquiry.
Mr Ellison branded this meeting ‘a completely improper use’ of intelligence, adding: ‘We find the opening of such a channel of communication at that time to have been wrong-headed and inappropriate.’
He continued: ‘The mere presence of an undercover Metropolitan Police officer in the wider Lawrence family camp in such circumstances is highly questionable in terms of the appearance it creates of the [Met] having a spy in the family’s camp.’
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Doreen Lawrence, mother of Stephen Lawrence, leaves the Home Office with her son Stuart Lawrence, after meeting with Theresa May last June. They were spied on by an undercover officer as they fought for justice +4
Doreen Lawrence, mother of Stephen Lawrence, leaves the Home Office with her son Stuart Lawrence, after meeting with Theresa May last June. They were spied on by an undercover officer as they fought for justice
Mrs May has now announced that corrupt police officers will face longer jail terms as part of a new misconduct offence. She outlined measures designed to restore trust in the police, which she admitted was ‘damaged’ by the latest revelations. Mrs May told the Commons that the findings of the Ellison review were ‘deeply concerning’ and stressed it was ‘imperative that public trust and confidence in the police is maintained’.
She said: ‘I do not believe corruption and misconduct to be endemic in the police, and it is clear that the majority of policemen and women conduct themselves honestly and with integrity.’
However, she admitted: ‘In policing as in other areas, the problems of the past have a danger of infecting the present, and can lay traps for the future. Policing stands damaged today.
‘Trust and confidence in the Metropolitan Police, and policing more generally, is vital. A public inquiry, and the other work I have set out, are part of the process of repairing the damage.’
In memory: Mark Ellison QC called a meeting between the officer spying on the Lawrence family and an officer on to the team making submissions to the Macpherson Inquiry ‘a completely improper use’ of intelligence +4
In memory: Mark Ellison QC called a meeting between the officer spying on the Lawrence family and an officer on to the team making submissions to the Macpherson Inquiry ‘a completely improper use’ of intelligence
Theresa May orders new Stephen Lawrence public inquiry
A new offence of police misconduct will replace the existing common law offence of misconduct in public office. This comes with a maximum sentence of life, but is rarely used. The new law will reflect the importance of maintaining trust in the police – and the serious consequences of police corruption.
Mrs May said the current rules are ‘outdated’ and the new offence will be ‘focused clearly on those who hold police powers’. It could become law within months.
The Home Secretary has also ordered a review of police forces’ standards departments, to ensure they are capable of investigating lower-level complaints.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission will be given an extra £15million and the power to probe all serious complaints, instead of leaving forces to investigate their own. Mrs May said the watchdog was being ‘expanded and emboldened so it will have responsibility for dealing with all serious and sensitive cases’.
By JACK DOYLE
PUBLISHED: 23:24 GMT, 6 March 2014 | UPDATED: 23:29 GMT, 6 March 2014
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