Protesting against police racism in the Stephen Lawrence case
Campaigners and their legal team have walked out of the inquiry into undercover policing demanding that its chairman Sir John Mitting stand down.
In 2015 then home secretary Theresa May announced that Judge Pitchford would head an inquiry into undercover policing of campaigners, activists and trade unionists.
He died before he had a chance to cover anything up and was replaced by Mitting. Mitting has brought a new vigour to the task, repeatedly ruling that the names of various cops mustn’t be revealed in order to protect their privacy.
Phillippa Kaufmann QC made a submission to the inquiry on Wednesday representing over 200 of the participants including Doreen and Neville Lawrence, women activists who were deceived into relationships with undercover officers, anti-racist campaigners and trade unions. Kaufmann said, “It is now abundantly clear that we simply cannot participate in this hearing in a meaningful way.”
The campaigners have repeatedly raised concerns about former undercover officers being granted anonymity.
Kaufmann said that the chairman’s reasoning for not releasing the names of certain police officers was “scant and largely uninformative”.
She said her clients “therefore ask that you recuse yourself of this enquiry or that you bring about a new panel”.
“I’m instructed with the entire legal team to withdraw while these issues are considered by you,” she said.
She was cheered, then the public gallery walked out.
Cathy from campaign group Police Spies Out of Lives said, “We’ve all been disappointed at the slow rate of progress and the complete lack of disclosure.”
She added that Mitting “seems to give more weight to the privacy of the officers” than those who were affected by the undercover activity.
“There are two key questions,” she said. “What were the cover names, and which groups were spied on? Without those two bits of information it’s nigh-on impossible for people to come forward to say this is what happened to me and my group.”
For the Blacklist Support Group Dave Smith said, “Blacklisted workers were always sceptical about whether the British state investigating itself would truly provide justice. But under John Mitting, the public inquiry has descended into a good old fashioned establishment cover-up.
“Mitting was put in charge to carry out a job of work on us—and he’s doing it. Time and again he gives the police the benefit of the doubt, to the detriment of those whose lives have been torn apart by this human rights scandal.
“We have no confidence in Mitting. He must go and needs to be replaced with a panel of experts.”
Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, said, “I am saddened that I and other victims of undercover policing had to walk out today.
“This was a step I never expected to take when the inquiry was set up but it is one that I have been forced to take.
“The reason why I did this is simple and it is down to the actions and decisions of the chair. Influenced by his own publicly stated ‘old fashioned’ and ‘naive’ views, he is turning what should be a transparent, accountable and public hearing into an inquiry cloaked in secrecy and anonymity.
“I want to know the names of the police officers who spied on me, my family and our campaign for justice. The chair is not allowing that, in my view, for reasons which are completely unjustifiable and unreasonable.
“Theresa May, then home secretary and now prime minister promised me a truly thorough, transparent and accountable inquiry. This has turned into anything but that and before any more public money is spent on an inquiry which does not achieve this, the chair should resign or continue with a panel which is not naive or old fashioned and which understands my concerns about policing and what I went through.
“Anything less than this will lead me to consider carefully whether I should continue to participate in this inquiry.”