The public inquiry into undercover policing opened on Monday. In his opening statement, counsel to the inquiry David Barr said the inquiry aims to, “get to the truth” and make known the full facts about tactics used by police spies over decades.
He argued, “It has emerged that for decades undercover police officers infiltrated a significant number of political and other activist groups, in deployments which typically lasted for years.
“The information reported by these undercover police officers was extensive. It covered the activities of the groups in question, and their members. It also extended to the groups and individuals with whom they came into contact, including elected representatives.”
The Inquiry has told 19 families that their dead children’s identities were stolen by spycops. Additionally, one family whose living child’s identity was stolen has been informed.
And number of new documents were published by the inquiry.
While many are blank from redactions there is a drip feed of information.
They show the scale of the operations against the left, campaigners for justice, trade unionists and anti-racist and women’s right groups.
Barr showed a number of documents in his submission.
A 1971 report was noted, submitting a Women’s Liberation Front leaflet that advocated an end to exploitation and repression of all kinds, equal pay and access to contraception and abortion. The report has been stamped as copied to MI5.
There was a report from 1974 on a Socialist Worker rally for the Shrewsbury 24 and their families. That had 2,000 people there. A meeting in Croydon attended by eight people was also deemed worthy of a report.
Documents from the time suggested that the unit had only a budget of a few thousand pounds per year, excluding salaries, between 1968 and 1973. In fact it had funding of £500,000.
The first evidence hearings will start next week. They will cover the formation of the Special Demonstration Squad in 1968, in response to protests against the war in Vietnam.
Three Metropolitan Police Commissioners and two Home Secretaries have died since the Inquiry was announced and so won’t be giving evidence.
Almost 50 new organisations that were infiltrated in the late 1960s were also revealed.
'Don't judge us by today's standards,' say police
A legal submission to the inquiry on behalf of 74 officers who worked for the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstrations Service (SDS) shows the argument the cops will use at the inquiry.
The officers play down the fact that some had sex with women under cover—who had no idea they were police using fake names.
“Four had casual sex, two had long-term sexual relationships, 68 did not,” it says, adding, “One-night stands happen in all walks of life.”
The submission claims that 16 of the 117 officers who served in the SDS – around one in seven – had “intimate relationships that went beyond casual sex while deployed”.
Campaigners believe the number is significantly higher.
Cops reject suggestions that SDS was a “rogue unit” and argue that security service chiefs and successive governments approved their work and encouraged it.
The cops are keen to emphasise that it was “culturally different” when the SDS was created. “Don’t judge 20th century actions by 21st century standards” they plead.
“If there was a right to disrupt for political objectives without police being able to defend public order there would be pandemonium”