By Simon Basketter
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2806

Inquiry into cops who ruined lives sees delay

The spycops inquiry has seen police with fading memories and won’t hold further public hearings until 2024
Issue 2806
Opening of the spy cops enquiry

Spy cops protesters outside the court (pic: Guy Smallman)

Women who were deceived into relationships with ­undercover cops will have to wait a further two years for the public inquiry to hold any ­further public hearings. They described the delaying of this process as “beyond belief.” The much delayed and now ­slow‑moving inquiry is not due to question any further witnesses in public until spring 2024.

Police Spies out of Lives, the organisation that represents the women, said, “The idea that we have to wait until 2024 for the next tranche of hearings is beyond belief. Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Set up originally in 2015, the inquiry is not expected to end before 2026. Sir John Mitting, the inquiry’s chair, is looking at the conduct of 139 undercover officers who spied on more than 1,000 mainly left wing political groups.

The latest round questioned the senior managers who were responsible for supervising the undercover officers. Many gave abrupt or vague answers or claimed that they could not recall events. All claimed they did not know that the undercover officers they were supervising had formed sexual relationships with women during their covert deployments.

They claimed not to remember each other or some of the officers ­working for them. And, they also insisted there wasn’t a training manual. But did agree there was a folder which, according to former DI Angus Mcintosh was, “full of good advice for the new officers”, though he added that he never looked at the contents himself. 

Between 1976 and 1979, McIntosh was the deputy head of the Metropolitan police undercover unit, the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS). There was a police policy ­decision not to place undercover officers in ­fascist groups—but who made the policy and why was less clear. McIntosh told the inquiry, “My recollection is that this was a high‑level policy decision, and I certainly was too junior to be a part of this.”

Geoffrey Craft, who led the SDS in 1976 and 1977, told the inquiry that police had “other sources in the far right”. Whether he was referring to informants or how many cops were already fascists is unclear. Barry Moss, the head of the SDS during 1980, “There was probably a policy decision at that time not to deploy anyone into the far right because they were too violent, and we were concerned what the officer may have to do to prove his credentials.”

The police justification for ­infiltrating the left has been that they were violent but consistency is not their strong point. Moss blamed the left for ­causing disorder when they sought to prevent fascist marches. He added, “If the National Front had just been allowed to demonstrate and the left wing hadn’t turned up, there probably wouldn’t have been any disorder.

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