On Monday 20th February 2023, the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI) began hearing from state and non-state legal teams. The UCPI will sit for three days and will hear closing statements in Tranche 1 which covers the period 1968 to 1982. Each legal team will summarise not only the evidence heard from non-state core-participants – comprising socialists, trade unionists, and social justice activists but also crucially evidence from undercover officers and their commanding officers.
The Public Interest Law Centre is representing a number of Core Participants (CP) in Tranche 1. This included former members of the Troops Out Movement, the International Marxist Group and former leading members of the Socialist Workers’ Party. We have played an active role throughout the Inquiry. We take this opportunity to thank our legal team comprising James Scobie KC (Garden Court Chambers) and Piers Marquis (Doughty Street Chambers), they were instructed by Paul Heron our senior solicitor.
At the start of the Inquiry, and in our opening statement in Tranche 1 Phase 1 we raised a number of crucial issues including how undercover political policing had very little to do with public order or criminality as the Met Police representatives had argued. Indeed as we showed the use of undercover officers was about curtailment of democratic activity, and the targeting was directed at socialist organisations, trade unions and social justice activists. We also raised two other important issues. First, that undercover officers took positions in the organisations they infiltrated, and second they contributed to blacklisting.
In our next opening statement, in Tranche 1 Phase 2, and having seen more disclosure we developed our themes. In addressing the Inquiry we showed that first the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) went far beyond its original remit. That the undercover officer Rick Clark manipulated the democratic processes of the Troops Out Movement to place himself in a high position of responsibility, and from there he was able to de-stabilise and attempt to decapitate the organisation. Secondly, to achieve that Clark used and exploited the trust of law-abiding citizens, including four women victims, of his manipulative sexual relationships. Thirdly, we evidenced that those in positions of power in the Metropolitan Police (MPS) were fully aware of his tactics and this strategy. Fourthly, we argued that his deployment served to direct those undercover officers that followed to take up organisational roles, which then became the norm. Finally, we argued and evidence that ultimately the authority for this strategy came from the highest level of Government. Ineed it was became clear that successive Prime Ministers were aware of the activity and remit of the SDS.
In our opening statement in Tranche 1 Phase 3 we developed the themes above and submitted additionally that, first – at there was no justification for the infiltrations of the Troops Out Movement and the Socialist Workers’ Party, on the grounds of preventing public disorder. Secondly, there was no policing justification at all. The true purpose of these infiltrations was political and economic. Those political and economic reasons were to curtail a wave of industrial action and thus the monitoring and blacklisting of socialists, trade unionists and social justice activists. Thirdly, we submitted that those purposes (as outlined) were legally justified and that the Government knew that to be the case but carried on regardless. Finally, that the SDS worked hand in hand with the security services (MI5 / MI6) to infiltrate legitimate and lawful political parties, trade unions and social justice organisations – and monitor campaigners, open tens of thousands of secret files, and actively backlisted them.
The Met Police, hand in had with senior police officers, senior civil servants, the security service and the Government spied on trade unionists, socialists, anti-apartheid activities, anti-nuclear campaigners and many more. Not only was it unlawful and undemocratic, it clearly shows that the British state were on the wrong side of history. We hope that the UCPI is up to the task of holding those responsible fully to account.
At 11.10am, Wednesday 22nd February 2023 we will deliver our closing statement to Tranche 1 of the Inquiry.