Tribunal Hears Met Police ‘Encouraged or Tolerated’ Undercover Officers Having Sexual Relationships with Activists They Spied On
TEHRAN (FNA)- Senior police officers “encouraged or tolerated” undercover officers having sexual relationships with activists they were sent to spy on for decades, a tribunal heard.
Environmental activist Kate Wilson, 41, is taking action against the Metropolitan Police for “egregious and serious violations” of her human rights after she was coerced into a nearly two-year relationship with Mark Stone, an undercover officer for the Met’s National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPIOU), The Independent reported.
The two had a “whirlwind romance” from 2003 to 2005, when Wilson moved to Spain. In 2010, Wilson found he was a married undercover police officer and his real name was Mark Kennedy.
Kennedy had been deployed to spy on activists for the NPIOU. He was sent to the Sumac Centre, a Nottingham-based community centre, which the NPIOU said was “used by persons involved in extremism relating to animal rights, environmentalism, anarchy, anti-weapons and war issues and anti-globalisation”.
Kennedy was told to “develop personal relationships” with activists in order to uncover intelligence.
Charlotte Kilroy QC, who opened Wilson’s case, said, in reality, the Sumac Centre “was a community space with a vegan cafe used by a wide range of people and groups”.
During his time undercover, had sexual relationships with some 10 other women, including with one woman only known as “Lisa”, which lasted six years before she found his passport with a different name.
Kilroy told the tribunal that Kennedy had “police-issued phones, laptops, passport and bank cards”, all in his false identity, and “had a police-issued van and a flat paid for by the police”.
She said Kennedy reported everything he did with Wilson to his cover officer, known only as EN31.
Kilroy said Kennedy “used her contacts, her organisational role and her standing to bolster his own credentials as an activist”, which allowed him to “infiltrate new protest groups, gather intelligence and maintain trust”.
The Met and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) have accepted Kennedy’s actions breached her right to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, her right to privacy and right to freedom of expression, however they deny that any officers other than Kennedy and his cover officer knew about their sexual relationship.
But Wilson came into contact with half a dozen undercover officers from the NPIOU and the Special Demonstration Squad SDS between 1998 and 2010.
She said there was “widespread indifference, or express or tacit encouragement” for undercover officers to begin intimate relationships while they were deployed. She said her relationship with Kennedy “was known or suspected by several other police officers, including more senior ones” and was “part of a practice of permitting undercover officers ... to enter into sexual relationships”.
In a statement before the hearing, Wilson said, “The police want us to believe that a top intelligence unit was so incapable of interpreting basic human interactions that they had no idea that we were boyfriend and girlfriend. I just don’t believe that."
“My relationship with Mark Kennedy was documented in great detail in their secret reports for over 18 months," Wilson added.
“I am one of many dozens of women deceived into this kind of relationship by deployed undercover police officers. They used sex with women to gather ‘intelligence’," she said.
“The evidence suggests a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach by senior officers embedded in a culture of misogyny and mission creep. I have no doubt that the police are institutionally sexist,” she added.
Speaking at the tribunal, Kilroy said “what Mark (Kennedy) did could not have occurred without the express or tacit agreement or tolerance of other police officers”, and that his sexual relationships while undercover “resulted from a practice or culture” within the NPIOU and SD.
She added, “Mark’s conduct and the 11 relationships he had was a continuation of this practice, which only came to light and was only disavowed by the police when Lisa discovered Mark’s true identity.”
Kilroy also argued that the practise was discriminatory against women, who were “unquestionably disproportionately affected” by it, but said the NPCC “will not take any systemic or organisational responsibility for the occurrence of the sexual relationships”.
She added, “It is the respondents’ failure to accept any wider responsibility for what has happened which is the reason why this claim continues."
“The police have been given extraordinary powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act," she said, adding, “In the claimant’s case, and that of many other women, these powers were seriously abused over decades, until an accidental discovery by Lisa exposed the abuse.”
The hearing before Lord Boyd, Justice Lieven and Professor Graham Zellick QC is expected to finish next Wednesday and it is likely the tribunal will give its ruling at a later date.