A report published yesterday by the police oversight body highlights significant failings in the use of undercover officers to spy on activists. The report follows a major investigation by the Guardian last year.
The Guardian’s investigation initially focused on the case of Mark Kennedy, who spent seven years living among environmental protesters as Mark Stone. The newspaper revealed that officers had remained undercover overseas, lied under oath in court, and engaged in sexual relationships with unsuspecting activists. Last month the Guardian reported that at least two officers had fathered children with activists, who they had then abandoned.
The report, written by Sir Denis O’Connor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, says the use of undercover officers to monitor protesters had led to ‘serious intrusion into the lives of others’. It is damning of Kennedy, claiming he failed to follow orders and ignored the code of practice for officers. Kennedy told Channel 4 News he has been made a ‘scapegoat’ by the police.
O’Connor also calls for tighter controls of undercover activists, including pre-authorisation of long-term undercover activities by a separate body, potentially the Office of the Surveillance Commissioner (OSC). The report also calls for a clearer definition of what constitutes ‘domestic extremism’.
But Simon Israel of Channel4 News points out that the OSC already has oversight of undercover operatives, yet it reviewed Kennedy’s file only twice in the seven years he was undercover:
‘They ticked the technical box, the one about compliance with guidelines but they failed to probe the nature of the intrusion, the risks of becoming an agent provacateur, the value of the intelligence he was supplying, or the quaility [sic] of supervision.’
Sign up for email alerts from the Bureau here.