Police accused of concealing role of undercover officers from judges
have been accused of concealing the involvement of two undercover officers in a long-running legal case from judges in the UK’s highest court.
More than 100 anti-war campaigners fought a decade-long legal battle to uphold their right to protest, eventually winning a ruling in their favour and compensation.
Now the protesters are alleging they had been infiltrated by two undercover officers who could have provided crucial evidence to bolster their case and cut short “lengthy, stressful and expensive litigation”.
They say the concealment of the spies from the judges is part of a continuing cover-up of the covert infiltration of political groups and could have distorted the justice system.
Their allegations are due to be examined who were embedded in hundreds of political groups since 1968.
One of the issues due to be scrutinised centres on the alleged in a series of court cases that resulted .
The latest claims come ahead of a two-day hearing, starting on Tuesday, in which – set up following revelations of misconduct by the undercover officers – should be held behind closed doors.
The claims relate to about and prevented from attending a rally against the Iraq war in March 2003.
The campaigners were in three coaches on their way to protest outside a Gloucestershire RAF base, Fairford, which was being used by American planes to bomb Iraq.
They were intercepted, searched and questioned by police in a lay-by before being forced back on to the coaches and returned to London.
In 2006, law lords sitting in the House of Lords, then the highest court in the land, ruled the protesters had been unlawfully detained, without toilet breaks, and forced to return to London. The ruling was hailed by the protesters and their lawyers as a landmark victory for liberty and human rights.
In 2013, compensation by a county court judge who said the police had no powers to stop the coaches. The judge called the protesters “decent hardworking people who had never been in trouble with the police” and said they had been humiliated and intimidated by police.
Now it is alleged that a suspected undercover officer, known to protesters as Rod Richardson, was on one of the coaches stopped by police.
who had died at two days old and when he pretended to be a protester for three years.
The service (MPS) has apologised to the mother of the dead boy for using his identity, although it did not confirm that Richardson was an undercover officer. The Guardian has obtained a photograph of the man known to protesters as Richardson who has been independently identified by two different activists.
as an anti-capitalist protester between 2000-03 in radical groups in London and Nottingham.
In a legal submission to the public inquiry, the protesters have alleged that a second undercover officer was “heavily involved in the group laying on the coaches and other support”.
Lord Justice Pitchford, the judge leading the inquiry, has agreed to examine the alleged involvement of the undercover officers, saying the protesters have raised an “important issue” about the disclosure of evidence.
that they had been justified in turning back all the protesters on the coaches because they had received intelligence warnings that they were likely to cause disorder at the military base.
According to police, this intelligence was not precise enough to distinguish between protesters who were likely to be law-abiding and those who were not.
However, the protesters have disputed this claim, arguing that the undercover infiltration would have given the police detailed enough intelligence to show them if anyone was likely to cause disorder.
They allege the true identities of the undercover officers, and the intelligence they disclosed, was not disclosed to the protesters at any point. “Judgments were handed down on incomplete information,” they have said.
Pitchford’s inquiry is holding a series of preliminary hearings before taking evidence about a series of allegations involving the undercover infiltration of political movements.
The hearing will focus on the crucial question of how much of the inquiry will be held in public. The police to protect the undercover officers.
Zoe Young, one of the protesters, said: “The police secretly had people undercover on the buses and organising the buses, they kept that fact secret when the case came to the appeal all the way to the House of Lords and during the civil proceedings for compensation, and now they are trying for blanket secrecy even in the public inquiry into what went on.”
The Met said its policy of neither confirming nor denying if any individual works or has worked undercover “has been considered by the courts and found to be necessary to protect the identities of those who work or have worked in covert roles, often in difficult and dangerous situations. This work leaves a legacy of risk to operatives, and often to their families.
“We are providing our fullest possible support to the current public inquiry into undercover policing. The Metropolitan police service will deal with requests for information or to provide disclosure through the preliminary hearings and inquiry itself. That is the correct place for the MPS to respond.”
Richard Berry, the assistant chief constable of Gloucestershire police, who were sued by the protesters, said: “To the best of my knowledge we were not aware of this claim that undercover police officers were part of the group of protesters who attempted engage in a protest at RAF Fairford in 2003. We will consider any necessary action once the entirety of the information has been provided.”