The crisis in the Metropolitan Police reached a new level last week. On Monday came the revelation that the Met failed to properly pursue a line of inquiry for a sixth suspect in the Stephen Lawrence murder, in an already botched investigation. This caused yet more misery for Stephen’s parents Doreen and Neville. Back in 2013 they learned that on top of its failings the Met had also spied on them.
That scandal was pivotal in securing an inquiry into undercover policing a year later. The role of activist women was also crucial. Through their brave investigations they managed to identify spycops who had disappeared after having sexual relations with them. Their story is told in the book Deep Deception.
Last Thursday, an Interim Report of the Undercover Police inquiry was published. It covered the first tranche of evidence on the Special Demonstration Squad from 1968-1982. The squad was formed during the anti-Vietnam war protests and infiltrated left-wing organisations and campaigns. Lord Justice Mitting’s first report asked exactly what assistance had been provided by the Special Demonstration Squad in controlling public order. Mitting’s conclusion is devastating for the Met.
“The question is whether or not the end justifies the means,” he said. “I have come to the firm conclusion that, for a unit of a police force, it did not. Had the use of these means been publicly known at the time, the SDS would have been brought to a rapid end.” While Mitting’s initial report has not addressed the full scale of abuse against the women, it does identify more abusive officers. This includes “Vincent Harvey”, a cop using a dead child’s name, who had sexual relations in the 1970s with a member of the SWP.
“Madelein” bravely came forward to give evidence. Last week it was revealed that her abuser Harvey went on to become director of the National Criminal Intelligence Service. The inquiry has also revealed that the police filmed the funeral of Blair Peach. Blair was a teacher and SWP member who died in 1979 at the hands of the police on a protest against the National Front.
Not a single member of the shadow frontbench has commented on Mitting’s damning report. The reason for their reticence is no doubt linked to the pro-police stance of Keir Starmer’s Labour Party. In February, shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper confirmed her intention to introduce 13,000 more community police officers. In April she announced new Asbos called Respect Orders stating, “Labour is the party of law and order.
“The next Labour government will give tough new powers to police through respect orders to crack down on the repeat offenders causing misery in towns across the country.” The latest Lawrence revelations and undercover policing findings are just two of a litany of appalling scandals against the Met in recent years.
These include Wayne Couzens’ abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard, plus the violent policing of her vigil. There’s also the finding of institutional corruption in the Daniel Morgan Report and of institutional racism, sexism and homophobia in the Casey Review. Met firearm officer David Carrick’s 17-year spree of crimes led to a conviction for 85 serious offences, including no fewer than 48 rapes. And there’s the jailing of two cops for sharing photos of the crime scene where Nicole Smallman and Biba Henry were killed.
After last week’s report, Baroness Doreen Lawrence asked, “Who ordered the spying on me and my family. Who thought it necessary to intrude on a law-abiding family fighting for justice for their son?” The anti-blacklisting campaigner Dave Smith demanded it “be the final nail in the coffin of the Metropolitan police. They should be wound up for what has come out of this”. What else do the Met have to do before it is disbanded?
Matt Foot is a criminal defence lawyer and co-author of Charged—How the Police Try to Suppress Protest. Available to buy at bookmarksbookshop.co.uk or phone 020 7637 1848Original post