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  • UK police squad ‘out of control’

    HUNDREDS of political activists could have their convictions quashed after the publication of a report into the conduct of a secret undercover police unit in the Stephen Lawrence case.

    The prosecutions of protesters from the far Left and Right, as well as animal rights campaigners, black justice groups and Irish republicans, will be checked against the records of the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) amid concerns that some were unsafe.

    The review will pave the way for a public inquiry into the SDS, which was set up by the Home Office in 1968, learnt its tactics from the intelligence services and evolved into an out-of-control wing of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch.

    A report by Mark Ellison, QC, into the actions of the SDS in the Lawrence case revealed yesterday (Thursday) that it had placed a “spy in the camp” of the murdered black teenager’s family. Information gathered by that spy was fed back to the upper echelons of Scotland Yard.

    Twenty-one years after Stephen’s death, and weeks before new inquests open into the Hillsborough disaster and with the Plebgate affair still rumbling, the latest disclosures are immensely damaging for confidence and trust in the Police Service and the international reputation of British policing.

    Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said that Mr Ellison’s findings were profoundly disturbing and a judge-led public inquiry was necessary to get to the full truth.

    Before that can happen, however, criminal cases involving the SDS — whose officers gave false evidence in the courts and believed that they were exempt from the normal rules of evidence disclosure — will be reviewed.

    “There is a chance that people could have been convicted for offences when they should not have been,” Mrs May told the Commons.

    Stephen, 18, who wanted to become an architect, was murdered by a gang of white youths in an unprovoked racist attack in Eltham, southeast London, in April 1993. A group of men were identified as suspects within hours, but it took 18 years for the Met to bring two of them to justice.

    The Macpherson report, published after a public inquiry in 1998, said that the Met’s approach to the investigation had been hampered because the force was institutionally racist.

    Mr Ellison’s review of the case found that key material had been withheld by the Met from the Macpherson inquiry team.

    His key findings included:

    — An SDS officer, known as N81, was embedded in an activist group allied to the Lawrence family campaign and had wrong-headed and inappropriate meetings with a member of the Scotland Yard team at the Macpherson inquiry;

    — Senior police showed clear evidence of a strong feeling of indignation and a degree of hostility towards the family’s criticisms of the murder investigation;

    — There were reasonable grounds to suspect that a detective sergeant on the murder team was corrupt and might have had links to a key suspect’s father;

    — The Met carried out a mass shredding of intelligence files on corrupt officers in 2003;

    — There was no conclusive evidence to prove or disprove a claim by the former SDS officer Peter Francis that he was asked to smear Stephen Lawrence’s family.

    A separate report on the police investigation into the SDS said that three former officers who had sexual relations with women who did not know their true identities could face criminal charges.

    In addition to the public inquiry, Mrs May announced other measures to reinforce her drive to improve police integrity and change policing culture.

    A specific offence of police corruption would replace the outdated crime of misconduct in a public office and greater safeguards for police whistleblowers would be brought in, she said.

    A national audit of police forces’ anti-corruption capabilities will be carried out and the Home Office will fund the entry into policing at senior ranks of talented people from other walks of life.

    THE TIMES MARCH 08, 2014 12:00AM

    Find this story at 7 March 2014

    Copyright theaustralian.com.au

    More shocking police revelations – but will another judicial inquiry really help?

    Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse for the police after the Hillsborough cover-up allegations and the Plebgate row, it just has. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has just told MPs about the shocking findings of an inquiry into how they dealt with the aftermath of the Stephen Lawrence murder 20 years ago.
    We know they handled the investigation incompetently because the Macpherson inquiry told us so and they failed for a long time to bring anyone to justice for the killing. Macpherson said their investigations were hampered by “institutional racism”. Not until 2012 were Gary Dobson and David Norris found guilty of murdering Stephen and jailed.
    Recently, however, it has further been alleged that the Met also tried to cover up their mistakes both by seeking to besmirch the Lawrence family and by getting rid of evidence. A review by Mark Ellison QC found that a police undercover officer attached to the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) was working within the Lawrence family camp during the course of the Macpherson inquiry but this had been kept secret.
    Undercover officers were deployed by the SDS into activist groups that then sought to attach themselves to the Lawrence’s family’s campaign to challenge the adequacy of the investigation into Stephen’s murder.
    Mr Ellison said: “The mere presence of an undercover Metropolitan Police officer in the wider Lawrence family camp in such circumstances is highly questionable in terms of the appearance it creates of the MPS having a spy in the family’s camp.”
    Mrs May said the review was “deeply troubling” and has now ordered another judge-led public inquiry into the activities of the SDS, a Special Branch unit wound up in 2008. Ellison’s review said there is evidence to suspect one of the detectives on the original Stephen Lawrence murder investigation acted corruptly.
    But do we need yet another judicial inquiry? Ellison himself concluded that a public inquiry would have “limited” potential to uncover further evidence regarding corruption in the original murder investigations. Since the SDS no longer exists examining its role will be of hisorical interest, though many will say there are lessons for current policing to be learnt.
    On the other hand if there is evidence that would stand up in court why not put any officer suspected of an offence on trial? Mrs May says she proposes to introduce a new offence of “police corruption” because it was untenable to rely on the outdated offence of misconduct in public office in such cases. But it is hard to believe there are not already laws against such behaviour that could be used.
    As with Hillsborough, many of the allegations made against the police and initially dismissed appear to have more than a semblance of veracity. At every turn the reputation of the police is taking a hammering, which must be frustrating for the majority of officers who do their duty every day.
    The Macpherson inquiry left a legacy that the Met has found hard to shake off, even though its culture has been transformed since. It is hard to see what another judicial inquiry will achieve.

    By Philip Johnston Politics Last updated: March 6th, 2014

    Find this story at 6 March 2014

    © Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2014

    Doreen Lawrence: ‘You can’t trust the Met Police’

    The mother of Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered in 1993, told ITV News she still does not trust the Metropolitan Police after a review into the police inquiry looking at her son’s death uncovered evidence of corruption.

    When asked whether black people could trust the force, Doreen Lawrence said: “This is going to put another nail in their coffin, definitely not, you just can’t trust them,”

    Last updated Fri 7 Mar 2014

    Find this story at 7 March 2014

    © Copyright ITV plc 2014

    McLibel leaflet was co-written by undercover police officer Bob Lambert

    Exclusive: McDonald’s sued green activists in long-running David v Goliath legal battle, but police role only now exposed

    Bob Lambert posed as a radical activist named Bob Robinson.

    An undercover police officer posing for years as an environmental activist co-wrote a libellous leaflet that was highly critical of McDonald’s, and which led to the longest civil trial in English history, costing the fast-food chain millions of pounds in fees.

    The true identity of one of the authors of the “McLibel leaflet” is Bob Lambert, a police officer who used the alias Bob Robinson in his five years infiltrating the London Greenpeace group, is revealed in a new book about undercover policing of protest, published next week.

    McDonald’s famously sued green campaigners over the roughly typed leaflet, in a landmark three-year high court case, that was widely believed to have been a public relations disaster for the corporation. Ultimately the company won a libel battle in which it spent millions on lawyers.

    Lambert was deployed by the special demonstration squad (SDS) – a top-secret Metropolitan police unit that targeted political activists between 1968 until 2008, when it was disbanded. He co-wrote the defamatory six-page leaflet in 1986 – and his role in its production has been the subject of an internal Scotland Yard investigation for several months.

    At no stage during the civil legal proceedings brought by McDonald’s in the 1990s was it disclosed that a police infiltrator helped author the leaflet.
    The McLibel two: Helen Steel and David Morris, outside a branch of McDonald’s in London in 2005 after winning their case in the European court of human rights. Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian

    A spokesman for the Met said the force “recognises the seriousness of the allegations of inappropriate behaviour and practices involving past undercover deployments”. He added that a number of allegations surrounding the undercover officers were currently being investigated by a team overseen by the chief constable of Derbyshire police, Mick Creedon.

    And in remarks that come closest to acknowledging the scale of the scandal surrounding police spies, the spokesman said: “At some point it will fall upon this generation of police leaders to account for the activities of our predecessors, but for the moment we must focus on getting to the truth.”

    Lambert declined to comment about his role in the production of the McLibel leaflet. However, he previously offered a general apology for deceiving “law abiding members of London Greenpeace”, which he said was a peaceful campaign group.

    Lambert, who rose through the ranks to become a spymaster in the SDS, is also under investigation for sexual relationships he had with four women while undercover, one of whom he fathered a child with before vanishing from their lives. The woman and her son only discovered that Lambert was a police spy last year.

    The internal police inquiry is also investigating claims raised in parliament that Lambert ignited an incendiary device at a branch of Debenhams when infiltrating animal rights campaigners. The incident occurred in 1987 and the explosion inflicted £300,000 worth of damage to the branch in Harrow, north London. Lambert has previously strongly denied he planted the incendiary device in the Debenhams store.
    While McDonald’s won the initial legal battle, at great expense, it was seen as a PR disaster. Photograph: Image Broker/Rex Features

    Lambert’s role in helping compose the McLibel leaflet is revealed in ‘Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police’, which is published next week. An extract from the book will be published in the Guardian Weekend magazine. A joint Guardian/Channel 4 investigation into undercover policing will be broadcast on Dispatches on Monday evening.

    Lambert was one of two SDS officers who infiltrated London Greenpeace; the second, John Dines, had a two-year relationship with Helen Steel, who later became the co-defendant in the McLibel case. The book reveals how Steel became the focus of police surveillance operations. She had a sexual relationship with Dines, before he also disappeared without a trace.

    Dines gained access to the confidential legal advice given to Steel and her co-defendant that was written by Keir Starmer, then a barrister known for championing radical causes. The lawyer was advising the activists on how to defend themselves against McDonald’s. He is now the director of public prosecutions in England and Wales.

    Lambert was lauded by colleagues in the covert unit for his skilful infiltration of animal rights campaigners and environmentalists in the 1980s. He succeeded in transforming himself from a special branch detective into a long-haired radical activist who worked as a cash-in-hand gardener. He became a prominent member of London Greenpeace, around the time it began campaigning against McDonald’s in 1985. The leaflet he helped write made wide-ranging criticisms of the company, accusing it of destroying the environment, exploiting workers and selling junk food.

    Four sources who were either close to Lambert at the time, or involved in the production of the leaflet, have confirmed his role in composing the libellous text. Lambert confided in one of his girlfriends from the era, although he appeared keen to keep his participation hidden. “He did not want people to know he had co-written it,” Belinda Harvey said.

    Paul Gravett, a London Greenpeace campaigner, said the spy was one of a small group of around five activists who drew up the leaflet over several months. Another close friend from the time recalls Lambert was really proud of the leaflet. “It was like his baby, he carried it around with him,” the friend said.

    When Lambert’s undercover deployment ended in 1989, he vanished, claiming that he had to flee abroad because he was being pursued by special branch. None of his friends or girlfriends suspected that special branch was his employer.

    It was only later that the leaflet Lambert helped to produce became the centre of the huge trial. Even though the activists could only afford to distribute a few hundred copies of the leaflet, McDonald’s decided to throw all of its legal might at the case, suing two London Greenpeace activists for libel.

    Two campaigners – Steel, who was then a part-time bartender, and an unemployed postal worker, Dave Morris – unexpectedly stood their ground and refused to apologise.
    Steel and Morris outside the high court at the start of the first proceedings in the McLibel trial in 1990. Photograph: Photofusion/UIG/ Getty Images

    Over 313 days in the high court, the pair defended themselves, with pro bono assistance from Starmer, as they could not afford to hire any solicitors or barristers. In contrast, McDonald’s hired some of the best legal minds at an estimated cost of £10m. During the trial, legal argument largely ignored the question of who wrote the McLibel leaflet, focusing instead on its distribution to members of the public.

    In 1997, a high court judge ruled that much of the leaflet was libellous and ordered the two activists to pay McDonald’s £60,000 in damages. This sum was reduced on appeal to £40,000 – but McDonald’s never enforced payment.

    It was a hollow victory for the company; the long-running trial had exposed damaging stories about its business and the quality of the food it was selling to millions of customers around the world. The legal action, taking advantage of Britain’s much-criticised libel laws, was seen as a heavy handed and intimidating way of crushing criticism. However, the role of undercover police in the story remained, until now, largely unknown.

    On Friday, Morris said the campaign against the burger chain was successful “despite the odds overwhelmingly stacked against us in the legal system and up against McDonald’s massive and relentless advertising and propaganda machine.

    “We now know that other shadowy forces were also trying to undermine our efforts in the most disgusting, but ultimately futile ways. All over the world police and secret agents infiltrate opposition movements in order to protect the rich and powerful but as we have seen in so many countries recently people power and the pursuit of truth and justice is unstoppable, even faced with the most repressive and unacceptable Stasi-like tactics.”

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    The Guardian, Friday 21 June 2013 14.54 BST

    Find this story at 21 June 2013

    © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

    Second police spy says Home Office knew of theft of children’s identities

    Former undercover officer Peter Francis says department helped spies by providing false passports in dead children’s names

    Peter Francis, the former undercover police officer turned whistleblower. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

    A second police spy has said the Home Office was aware that undercover police officers stole the identities of dead children to infiltrate political groups.

    Peter Francis, a former undercover officer turned whistleblower, said the Home Office helped the spies by providing false passports in the names of the dead children.

    His claim comes as Britain’s most senior police officer, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, is due to publish a report on Tuesday about the secret use of dead children’s identities.

    It will be released on the same day that MPs on the home affairs select committee are due to question Mick Creedon, the chief constable who is leading the police investigation into the deployment of undercover officers in protest groups over a 40-year period.

    Creedon has already conceded that the theft of the children’s identities was “common practice” within a covert special branch unit which operated between 1968 and 2008.

    Earlier this month, Bob Lambert, one of the leading spies of the unit, claimed that the technique was “well known at the highest levels of the Home Office”.

    In a practice criticised by MPs as “ghoulish” and “heartless”, undercover spies in the unit, the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), searched through birth and death certificates to find children who had died at an early age. They then assumed the identity of the child and developed a persona based on that identity when they went undercover for five years or longer.

    The spies were issued with fake documents such as passports, driving licences and national insurance numbers in the child’s name to further bolster their credibility.

    Francis, who infiltrated anti-racist groups from 1993 to 1997, discussed the technique with the head of the SDS because he had reservations about stealing the identity of a four-year-old boy who had died. He did not disclose the name of the SDS head.

    “We bounced it around – what were his thoughts, what were my thoughts. It was evident that it was standard practice,” Francis said.

    The head of the SDS told him the Home Office knew the undercover spies “were using the children”, he said, as it gave fake passports to the spies knowing that they were in the names of the dead children.

    The SDS was directly funded by the government, which received an annual report on its work for much of its existence.

    A Home Office spokesperson said: “We expect the highest standards of professionalism in all aspects of policing. That is why Chief Constable Mick Creedon is leading an IPCC-supervised investigation which will ensure any criminality or misconduct is properly dealt with.”

    Francis was an important source for the Guardian when the newspaper detailed the technique, dubbed the “jackal run” after Frederick Forsyth’s novel The Day of the Jackal, in February.

    Speaking then as Pete Black, one of his undercover identities, Francis said he felt he was “stomping on the grave” of the boy whose identity he stole. “A part of me was thinking about how I would feel if someone was taking the names and details of my dead son for something like this,” he said at the time.

    Last month, he said his superiors had asked him to find “dirt” that could be used to smear the family of Stephen Lawrence, the black teenager who was stabbed to death in a racist attack in 1993.

    Lambert went undercover for four years in the 1980s to infiltrate environmental and animal rights groups. He adopted the persona of Bob Robinson, a seven-year-old boy who had died of a congenital heart defect.

    Interviewed by Channel Four News this month, Lambert said that at the time he did not “really give pause for thought on the ethical considerations. It was, that’s what was done. Let’s be under no illusions about the extent to which that was an accepted practice that was well known at the highest levels of the Home Office.” Lambert fathered a child with a campaigner while he was undercover.

    On Tuesday, Creedon is expected to be questioned by the select committee about whether the police will apologise to the parents whose children’s identities were taken. Creedon has said he has taken legal advice on whether the spies who stole the children’s identities could be put on trial.

    Rob Evans
    The Guardian, Monday 15 July 2013 18.35 BST

    Find this story at 15 July 2013

    © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

    Operation Herne Report 1 Use of covert identities

    Executive Summary

    The Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) was an undercover unit formed by the
    Metropolitan Police’s Special Branch. It operated between 1968 and 2008, during
    which time it infiltrated and reported on groups concerned in violent protest.

    Operation Herne
    Operation Herne (formerly Soisson) was formed in October 2011 in response to
    allegations made by the Guardian newspaper about alleged misconduct and criminality
    engaged in by members of the SDS. Similar matters had been previously aired as early
    as 2002 in a BBC documentary.

    Operation Riverwood
    On 4th February 2013 the Metropolitan Police received a public complaint from the
    family of Rod Richardson, a young boy who had died in the 1970s. It is alleged that an
    undercover officer working for the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) had
    used this child’s details as his covert identity. This matter was referred to the IPCC. The
    matter was returned to the force and is currently subject of a ‘local investigation’.

    National Public Order Intelligence Unit
    The NPOIU was formed within the MPS in 1999 to gather and coordinate intelligence.
    In 2006 the governance responsibility for NPOIU was moved to the Association of
    Chief Police Officers, after a decision was taken that the forces where the majority of
    activity was taking place should be responsible for authorising future deployments. In
    January 2011 the NPOIU was subsumed within other units under the National Domestic
    Extremism Units within the MPS.
    In January 1995 large numbers of police from London, Kent and Hampshire were
    drafted to the West Sussex harbour of Shoreham in response to protests surrounding
    the export of live animals to Europe. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and another
    animal extremist group named ‘Justice Department’ had a strong base in the
    community there. This led to a number of protests and in October 1995 there was a
    further demonstration in Brightlingsea, Essex. This resulted in a record number of police
    being deployed to prevent widespread public disorder. Ad-hoc protest groups emerged
    and the need for first hand high quality intelligence was evident. This led to undercover
    operatives being required to infiltrate these animal extremist organisations.

    The purpose of the NPOIU was:
    1 To provide the police service with the ability to develop a national threat assessment
    and profile for domestic extremism.
    2 Support the police service to reduce crime and disorder from domestic extremism.
    3 Support a proportionate police response to protest activity.
    4 Help the police service manage concerns of communities and businesses to
    minimise conflict and disorder.

    Control of the NPOIU moved to ACPO in 2006 under the direction of the ACPO National
    Co-ordinator for Domestic Extremism, Assistant Chief Constable Anton Setchell. He
    was replaced by Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway in 2010. The NPOIU
    worked with the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU) and the
    National Domestic Extremism Team (NDET).
    The NPOIU now exists as part of the National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU) under
    the Metropolitan Police Service Specialist Operations and is run by Detective Chief
    Superintendent Chris Greaney.

    Deceased identities
    On 5th February 2013 the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) questioned Deputy
    Assistant Commissioner Gallan about the alleged practice that SDS officers had used
    the details of dead children, as part of a cover identity for undercover police officers. At
    the time DAC Gallan was based in the MPS Directorate of Professional Standards and
    was in overall command of Operation Herne. Her appearance before the HASC led to
    considerable media coverage and some negative commentary. As a result of the media
    coverage, Operation Herne has now received enquiries from fourteen (14) families
    regarding seventeen (17) children.

    Operation Herne review
    One hundred and forty-seven (147) named individuals are believed to have served as
    police officers within the SDS at all ranks from Chief Superintendent down. This covers
    the forty (40) years that the unit was in existence and not all the police officers were
    deployed in undercover roles.
    At this stage one hundred and six (106) covert identities have been identified as having
    been used by the SDS between 1968 and 2008.
    Forty-two (42) of these identities are either confirmed or highly likely to have used the
    details of a deceased child.
    Forty-five (45) of these identities have been established as fictitious. Work continues to
    identify the provenance of the remaining identities.

    Neither Confirm Nor Deny (NCND)
    The policy of ‘neither confirming nor denying’ the use of or identity of an undercover
    police officer is a long established one used by UK policing. It is essential so as to
    provide for the necessary operational security and to ensure undercover officers are
    clear that their identity will never be disclosed by the organisation that asked them to
    carry out the covert activity. The duty of care owed to such officers is an absolute one
    and applies during their deployments, throughout their service and continues when they
    are retired.
    Please note that this is an interim report specifically about the use of the identities of
    deceased children and infants. It does not seek to cover either all of the activities of
    the SDS nor has it been able to completely provide all the answers regarding the use
    of covert identities. The report clearly explains the use of the tactic and is submitted
    early given the need to deal with the public concerns and is provided in agreement with
    the Home Office who sought to have this matter concluded before the parliamentary
    summer recess.

    Find this report at July 2013

    Dead children’s IDs used by undercover police to be kept from families

    The identities of 42 dead children whose names were assumed by undercover police officers will not be revealed to their relatives, according to a report.

    The Metropolitan Police offered a general apology for the “shock and offence” the practice had caused.

    But Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said revealing the identities used would endanger the officers concerned.

    The senior officer who wrote the report on the 1980s practice told MPs it would not be used as a tactic today.

    The report’s author, Derbyshire Chief Constable Mick Creedon, was asked to investigate in 2011 after the Guardian newspaper published allegations about the conduct of undercover officers.

    He told the Home Affairs Select Committee ministers did not authorise the practice but refused to condemn the officers’ actions.

    “It’s irrelevant what I think,” he said. “It is not a tactic we would use these days.

    “It would feel very strange for me to criticise the actions of people 20, 30, 40-years-ago without knowing what they faced at the time.”

    Earlier this year, the Guardian reported that officers had stolen the identities of about 80 children who died at an early age.
    Anonymity ‘vital’

    Mr Creedon’s report concluded that at least 42 children’s identities had, either definitely or very probably, been used by the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) and its National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU).

    The earliest known use of the tactic occurred between 1976 and 1981 and it was phased out from 1994 in the SDS, the report added.

    But it also found that the practice might have been used by the NPOIU as recently as 2003, and that it was “highly possible” that its use was more widespread than currently understood.

    The report said: “A range of officers at different ranks and roles have been interviewed by the investigation team. The information provided corroborates totally the belief that, for the majority of the existence of the SDS, the use of deceased children’s identities was accepted as standard practice.”

    Sir Bernard said 14 families had contacted the Met to ask whether the identities of their relatives had been used by undercover officers.

    The Met had apologised to them, and to another family that had heard separately that it might be affected by the revelations, he said.

    “Undercover officers are brave men and women” and maintaining their anonymity is “vital”, Sir Bernard said.

    He explained: “There are criminals behind bars and at large today who would have no qualms in doing serious harm if they discovered a former close confidant had been working for the police.

    “That’s why undercover officers spent so much time building up their ‘legend’ or false identity, and why that identity must be protected forever.”

    Sir Bernard added: “I believe the public do understand the necessity for police and others to do things like this to protect against a much greater harm. It was never intended or foreseen that any of the identities used would become public, or that any family would suffer hurt as a result.

    “At the time this method of creating identities was in use, officers felt this was the safest option.”

    But Jules Carey, a solicitor acting for Barbara Shaw, who is concerned that her son Rod Richardson’s identity was used, said: “What we heard this morning was not an apology but a PR exercise.

    “The families of the dead children whose identities have been stolen by the undercover officers deserve better than this.

    “They deserve an explanation, a personal apology and, if appropriate, a warning of the potential risk they face, in the exceptional circumstances, that their dead child’s identity was used to infiltrate serious criminal organisations.

    “The harvesting of dead children’s identities was only one manifestation of the rot at the heart of these undercover units which had officers lie on oath, conduct smear campaigns and use sexual relationships as an evidence-gathering tool.”

    He added: “Ms Shaw has told me that she feels her complaint has been ‘swept under the carpet” and she has instructed me to appeal this outcome.”

    16 July 2013 Last updated at 16:29 GMT

    Find this story at 16 July 2013

    BBC © 2013 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

    Met chief sorry for police spies using dead children’s identities

    Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe releases report on surveillance used since 1970s but refuses to inform any affected families

    Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said families of dead children whose identities were used would not be approached, as that could put undercover officers in danger. Photograph: John Stillwell/PA

    Britain’s most senior police officer has offered a general apology for the “morally repugnant” theft of dead children’s identities by undercover spies who infiltrated political groups.

    But Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan police commissioner, has refused to tell any families if the identities of their children were stolen by the undercover officers. He said he wanted to protect the spies from being exposed.

    In a report published on Tuesday, he admitted that at least 42 police spies stole the identity of children who had died before they were 14 years old.

    But the total number of such spies could be far higher as he conceded that the technique could have been more widespread than initially believed.

    Hogan-Howe said he “should apologise for the shock and offence the use of this tactic has caused” among the public, after the Guardian revealed details of the policing method in February.

    The commissioner argued that the families could not be informed as it could lead to the exposure of the undercover officers sent to infiltrate the political groups.

    “It was never intended or foreseen that any of the identities used would become public, or that any family would suffer hurt as a result. At the time this method of creating identities was in use, officers felt this was the safest option” he added.

    His decision drew immediate criticism. Jenny Jones, a Green party member of the London Assembly, said: “This falls short of coming clean to all the families whose children’s identities were harvested. In giving a blanket apology they have avoided the difficult task of apologising to real people.”

    The Met has sent letters of apology to 15 families whose children died young, but has neither confirmed nor denied whether identities were stolen.

    One case concerned a suspected spy, deployed between 1999 and 2003, who allegedly stole the identity of Rod Richardson, who died two days after being born in 1973.

    The family’s lawyer, Jules Carey, said that Barbara Shaw, the mother of the dead boy, was taking legal action as she felt her complaint had been “swept under the carpet”.

    Carey said Hogan-Howe’s apology was a PR exercise. He added: “The families of the dead children whose identities have been stolen by the undercover officers deserve better than this. They deserve an explanation, a personal apology. The harvesting of dead children’s identities was only one manifestation of the rot at the heart of these undercover units.”

    Peter Francis, one of the spies who originally blew the whistle on the tactic, said the police should offer a personal apology to the families in the cases of spies whose identity had already been exposed. He agreed that the spies whose work remained secret should be protected.

    The report, on Tuesday, was produced by Mick Creedon, the Derbyshire chief constable who is conducting an investigation into the activities of the undercover spies over 40 years.

    Creedon revealed that the technique was used extensively as far back as 1976 and was authorised by senior police. He reported that the tactic became “an established practice that new officers were taught” within a covert special branch unit known as the special demonstration squad (SDS), which spied on political groups.

    “This was not done by the officers in any underhand or salacious manner – it was what they were told to do,” Creedon added.

    One senior spy is quoted as saying the undercover officers “spent hours and hours … leafing through death registers in search of a name [they] could call his own”.

    “The genuine identities of the deceased children were blended with the officer’s own biographical details,” Creedon said.

    The spies were issued with fake documents, such as passports and driving licences, to make their alter egos appear genuine in case suspicious activists started to investigate them.

    The last time the tactic was used, according to Creedon, was 2003, by a spy working for a second covert unit – the national public order intelligence unit (NPOIU) – which infiltrated political campaigns.

    Creedon said it was highly possible that the tactic was used by undercover officers in other units which infiltrated serious criminal gangs. “It would be a mistake to assume that the use of identities of dead children was solely within the SDS and the NPOIU.”

    He said that the use of the technique “however morally repugnant, should not detract from the [spies’] bravery”.

    Rob Evans and Paul Lewis
    guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 16 July 2013 12.22 BST

    Find this story at 16 July 2013

    © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

    Home Office ‘knew police stole children’s identities’

    Bob Lambert admits to adopting the identity of a seven-year-old boy and has conceded to having four affairs while undercover

    Bob Lambert was deployed as an animal rights activist named Bob Robinson in the 1980s.

    A former police spymaster has claimed the practice of resurrecting the identities of dead children so they could be used by undercover officers was “well known at the highest levels of the Home Office”.

    Bob Lambert, who is facing a potential criminal investigation over his work for a secret unit of undercover officers, admitted that when he was deployed as a spy himself, he adopted the identity of a seven-year-old boy who died of a congenital heart defect.

    He also admitted to using his false identity in court and co-writing the “McLibel” leaflet that defamed the burger chain McDonald’s, resulting in the longest civil trial in English legal history.

    Conceding publicly for the first time that he had four relationships with women while undercover, one of which resulted in him secretly fathering a child, he said: “With hindsight I can only say that I genuinely regret my actions, and I apologise to the women affected in my case.”

    Lambert was deployed as an animal rights activist named “Bob Robinson” in the 1980s for a covert Metropolitan Police unit called the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) which deployed undercover officers in political campaign groups. In the 1990s, he was promoted to manage other undercover operatives.

    Over the last two years the Guardian has detailed the covert work of Lambert, one of the most controversial spies to have worked for the SDS and its sister squad, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.

    Until now, Lambert has either declined to comment in detail or said the Guardian’s reports amounted to “a misleading combination of truth, distortions, exaggerations and outright lies”.

    However, in a Channel 4 News interview broadcast on Friday, Lambert admitted that many of the allegations made against him were true. “My reputation is never going to be redeemed for many people, and I don’t think it should be,” he told the programme. “I think I made serious mistakes that I should regret, and I always will do.”

    Lambert said he was arrested “four or five” times while undercover and in 1986 he appeared in a magistrates court charged with a “minor public order offence”. He said he had to appear in court using his alter ego – rather than his real name – in order to “maintain cover”.

    He also admitted to co-writing the McLibel leaflet. “I was certainly a contributing author to the McLibel leaflet,” he told the programme. “Well, I think, the one that I remember, the one that I remember making a contribution to, was called What’s Wrong With McDonald’s?”

    Asked if that was ever disclosed to the court during the long-running civil trial, he replied: “I don’t know the answer to that question.”

    Although he admitted having relationships with women, Lambert denied it was a deliberate tactic in the SDS to use relationships to gain access, saying “probably I became too immersed” in his alter ego. “I’d always been a faithful husband,” he said. “I only ever became an unfaithful husband when I became an undercover police officer.”

    Harriet Wistrich, a lawyer representing eight women involved in relationships with Lambert and other undercover police said that there was a systematic pattern in which operatives repeatedly used long-term relationships to build their cover.

    Almost all of the undercover officers identified so far – including those known to have worked under Lambert – had sexual relationships while operating covertly.

    An SDS spy who has become a whistleblower, Peter Francis, has said that when he was deployed as an anti-racist campaigner, his superiors asked him to find “dirt” that could be used to smear the family of Stephen Lawrence, the black teenager who was stabbed to death in a racist attack in 1993.

    His revelation has since triggered further investigations into alleged covert tactics used against the Lawrence family, their supporters and Duwayne Brooks, a friend of Stephen and the main witness to the murder.

    On Friday, police chiefs admitted bugging a meeting with Brooks and his lawyer, Jane Deighton. Deighton said that Brooks, who is now a Lib Dem councillor, conveyed his concern in a meeting with the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg.

    In a previous Channel 4 News broadcast, Lambert denied the unit was involved in seeking to smear the Lawrence family during his tenure as deputy head of the unit.

    He had a supervisory role when other spies, such as Jim Boyling and Mark Jenner, formed long-term relationships with people they were spying on. All are now under investigation.

    The deployments of Francis, Lambert, Boyling and Jenner are detailed in a new book: Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police.

    Lambert has also been accused in parliament of igniting an incendiary device in a branch of Debenhams as part of a fire-bombing campaign by the Animal Liberation Front. Repeating earlier denials, he told Channel 4 News that the claim was “false”.

    The home secretary, Theresa May, is coming under mounting pressure to announce an independent public inquiry into the affair. So far she has indicated that two pre-existing inquiries – one run by a barrister, the other an internal Met police review – are capable of investigating the allegations surrounding the Lawrences and Brooks.

    Paul Lewis and Rob Evans
    The Guardian, Saturday 6 July 2013

    Find this story 6 July 2013

    © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

    Undercover policeman who impregnated one of his targets and impersonated a dead child apologises for ‘serious mistakes’

    Bob Lambert had a five-year covert career using the alias Bob Robinson
    The married office slept with four women and fathered a child with one
    Lambert claims that being undercover led to his bad behaviour

    Back in the day: During a covert career in which he infiltrated various groups, Bob Lambert has spoke of his disgust at some of his actions

    A former Scotland Yard police officer who fathered a child with one of several targets he had relationships with while working undercover has apologised to the women.

    Bob Lambert said he would always regret the ‘serious mistakes’ he made during a covert career which saw him use the identities of dead children, give evidence in court under his false name and co-author a libellous leaflet.

    Mr Lambert used the alias Bob Robinson during his five years infiltrating environmentalist groups, when he was with the special demonstration squad (SDS), the Metropolitan Police unit that targeted political activists.

    The revelation that the married officer slept with four women – fathering a child with one – sparked outrage.

    In an interview with Channel 4 News, he said he accepts his behaviour was morally reprehensible and a gross invasion of privacy.

    ‘With hindsight, I can only say that I genuinely regret my actions, and I apologise to the women affected,’ he said.

    ‘I’d always been a faithful husband. I only ever became an unfaithful husband when I became an undercover police officer.’

    The ex-officer declined to reveal whether his superiors were aware of the child – insisting he would only discuss that with an investigation into the activities of undercover police activities being led by the chief constable of Derbyshire.

    Mr Lambert said he ‘didn’t really give pause for thought on the ethical considerations’ of adopting the identity of a dead child in 1984 as it was standard practice at the time.

    ‘That’s what was done. Let’s be under no illusions about the extent to which that was an accepted practice that was well known at the highest levels of the Home Office,’ he told the programme.

    Baby snatched from its pram and thrown to the floor outside a hospital by teenager who was on a legal high called Salvia

    He confirmed that he had appeared in court as Bob Robinson but could not say whether the judiciary was made aware by the police that he was doing so.

    ‘On occasions I was arrested as Bob Robinson and to maintain cover I went through the process of arrest, detention, and on occasions, appearing in court,’ he said.
    Lambert insists he was unaware of any campaign to smear family and friends of Stephen Lawrence

    He denied it amounted to perjury as ‘the position was that I was maintaining cover as Bob Robinson’.
    But asked if the court was ‘made aware’, he added: ‘Well, that’s what needs to be established.’

    Mr Lambert also confirmed that he helped write a libellous leaflet that attacked fast food giant McDonald’s and triggered the longest civil trial in English history.

    McDonald’s famously sued two green campaigners over the leaflet in a landmark three-year high court case.

    It was not disclosed during the costly civil legal proceedings brought by McDonalds in the 1990s that an undercover police officer helped write the leaflet.

    ‘I was certainly a contributing author to the McLibel leaflet. Well, I think, the one that I remember, the one that I remember making a contribution to, was called What’s Wrong With McDonalds?’, he told Channel 4.

    Over the line: Bob Lambert in a more recent picture, fathered a child with one of his targets

    Asked if that fact was disclosed during the proceedings, he said: ‘I don’t know.’

    He repeated his rejection though of claims that he planted an incendiary device in a Debenhams store in Harrow in 1987, calling that a ‘false allegation’.

    Mr Lambert, who was an SDS manager for five years, earlier this week insisted he had not been aware of any campaign against the family of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

    Those claims were made by another veteran of the unit, Peter Francis, who alleges he was told to find information to use to smear the Lawrence family – who are calling for a public inquiry to examine the issue.

    Home Secretary Theresa May has said they would be looked at by the Derbyshire probe and a separate inquiry led by barrister Mark Ellison QC into alleged corruption in the original Lawrence murder investigation, but has left open the possibility of other action.

    ‘My reputation is never going to be redeemed for many people, and I don’t think it should be,’ Mr Lambert said.

    ‘I think I made serious mistakes that I should regret, and I always will do. I think the only real comfort I can take from my police career is that the Muslim Contact Unit was about learning from mistakes.’

    Belinda Harvey, one of eight women who are suing the Metropolitan Police over relationships with men who turned out to be undercover officers, rejected his apology.

    ‘Almost everything he said to me was a lie; why would I possibly believe what he says to me know.’ she told Channel 4.

    ‘If it hadn’t been for the case we’re bringing against the police, he would never have apologised and I would have lived the rest of my days not finding out the truth.’

    Former director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald of River Glaven said the latest evidence strengthened the case for a judge-led public inquiry.

    ‘It is as bad as I think we thought it was,’ he said.

    ‘He seems to have admitted a great deal of the conduct that people feared had been taking place.

    ‘It now sounds as though not only senior police officers but senior civil servants may have known what was going on.

    ‘It’s no good having this multitude of inquiries that are going on at the moment, one of them conducted by the police themselves which is pretty hopeless in my view.

    ‘We need a single public inquiry under a senior judicial figure to examine what happened, what went wrong, who authorised it and most of all to reassure us that its not going on still.’

    By Daily Mail Reporter

    PUBLISHED: 00:37 GMT, 6 July 2013 | UPDATED: 01:06 GMT, 6 July 2013

    Find this story at 6 July 2013

    © Associated Newspapers Ltd

    Police to apologise for using dead children’s identities

    Investigation into covert policing has found widespread use of the practice.

    Senior police leaders are set to make an unprecedented national apology after hundreds of names of dead children were used to create false identities for undercover officers.

    An investigation into covert policing has found widespread use of the practice.

    Undercover officers told The Times that they were trained to use names of the dead and it had become “standard practice”.

    Special branch units used the names while infiltrating criminal gangs, animal rights activists and football hooligan firms, it is claimed.

    Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, will be questioned about the method after it was revealed that officers were told to gather “dirt” on the family of Stephen Lawrence.

    Sources say that the practice may have been used in MI5 and MI6 and that several thousand identities of dead infants, children and teenagers may have been assumed by undercover officers.

    An apology will be made senior police in the coming days.

    Tom Foot
    Friday, 5 July 2013

    Find this story at 5 July 2013

    © independent.co.uk

    Scotland Yard to apologise for stealing dead children’s identities and giving them to undercover officers

    Police chiefs are expected to formally apologise for using the names of dead children to create fake identities for undercover officers.

    It had been thought that only officers in secret police units such as the Met Police’s Special Demonstration Squad, which was closed in 2008, had adopted dead children’s names as a new identity.

    But Operation Herne, an ongoing investigation into the conduct of undercover police, has revealed that the practice was more widespread than originally thought and used by forces across the country.

    Standard practice: It had been thought that the practice of using dead children’s names as identities for undercover officers was restricted to Scotland Yard’s Special Demonstrations Squad, but the practice is now said to have been more widespread

    According to sources, undercover police officers infiltrating criminal networks and violent gangs were given dead people’s identities as ‘standard practice’, reported The Times.

    The technique, which was regularly used in the 1960s and 1990s, is thought to have been last used in 2002.

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    But it is thought that the technique was not restricted to police forces with other agencies such as HM Revenue & Customs said to have adopted the practice.

    The apology could come as early as this month but police are not expected to contact families of the dead people whose names were used through fear that it could put officers who have taken part in undercover operations in the past in danger.

    A way in: Dead children’s identities were used by undercover offices to infiltrate violent gangs and demonstration groups

    A source told The Times: ‘This wasn’t an anomaly, it wasn’t something that was used in isolation by just one unit.

    ‘If you are infiltrating a sophisticated crime group they are going to check who you are, so you need a backstop, a cover story that has real depth and won’t fall over at the first hurdle.

    Disapproving: Policing minister Damien Green has expressed his disappointment at the use of dead children’s names by police units

    ‘The way to do that was to build an identity that was based on a real person.’

    It was reported earlier this year that around 80 names were used by officers over a 30 year period.

    Set up in 2011, Operation Herne, which is expected to cost around £1.66million a year, will examine the conduct of all ranks of officers and even look at the actions of former Home Secretaries.

    Both The Home Affairs Committee and Police minister Damian Green have spoken of their ‘disappointment’ that dead children’s names were used in investigations.

    Back in may, Derbyshire Chief Constable Mick Creedon admitted that the practice had been widespread

    A raft of allegations have been made since former PC Mark Kennedy was unmasked in 2011 as an undercover officer who spied on environmental protesters as Mark ‘Flash’ Stone – and had at least one sexual relationship with a female activist.

    The revelation comes before Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan Howe appears before MPs to answer questions over a number of controversies including claims last month that the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence were targeted by undercover officers who were assigned to ‘get dirt’ on them.

    Quiz: Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe will face questions from MPs over a number of controversies

    It also emerged that police admitted bugging meetings involving Duwayne Brooks, the friend who was with Stephen the night he was attacked.

    The claims affecting Mr Brooks came after former undercover officer Peter Francis alleged that he had been told to find information to use to smear the Lawrence family.

    Mr Francis, who worked with Scotland Yard’s former Special Demonstration Squad, spoke out about tactics that he said were used by the secretive unit in the 1980s and 1990s.

    Investigation: A raft of allegations have been made since former PC Mark Kennedy was unmasked in 2011 as an undercover officer who spied on environmental protesters as Mark ¿Flash¿ Stone ¿ and had at least one sexual relationship with a female activist

    By Steve Nolan

    PUBLISHED: 11:07 GMT, 6 July 2013 | UPDATED: 11:13 GMT, 6 July 2013

    Find this story at 6 July 2013

    © Associated Newspapers Ltd

    Anatomy of a betrayal: the undercover officer accused of deceiving two women, fathering a child, then vanishing

    The story of Bob Lambert reveals just how far police may have gone to infiltrate political groups

    The grave of Mark Robinson and his parents in Branksome cemetery in Poole, Dorset. Bob Lambert adopted the boy’s identity, abbreviating his second name to Bob. Photograph: Roger Tooth for the Guardian

    The words inscribed on the grave say Mark Robinson “fell asleep” on 19 October, 1959. He was a seven-year-old boy who died of a congenital heart defect, the only child to Joan and William Robinson. They died in 2009 and are buried in the same grave, listed on the headstone as “Mummy” and “Daddy”.

    It is perhaps some solace that Mark’s parents never lived long enough to discover how the identity of their son may have been quietly resurrected by undercover police without their knowledge. The controversial tactic – in which covert officers spying on protesters adopted the identities of dead children – stopped less than a decade ago. More than 100 children’s identities may have been used.

    Last week the home secretary, Theresa May, announced that a chief constable from Derbyshire would take over an inquiry into undercover policing of protest, after revelations by the Guardian into the use of stolen identities.

    Despite an internal investigation that has cost £1.25m, senior officers seem genuinely baffled at the activities of two apparently rogue units that have been monitoring political campaigners since 1968.

    The story of the officer who appears to have used the identity of Mark Robinson, adopting it as his own, reveals much of what has gone wrong with police infiltration of political groups. Bob Lambert, who posed as an animal rights campaigner in the 1980s, not only adopted the identity of a dead child. He was also accused in parliament of carrying out an arson attack on a Debenhams department store and deceiving two women into having long-term sexual relationships with him.

    One of them has now revealed how Lambert fathered a child with her before vanishing from their lives when his deployment came to an end in 1989. She only discovered he was an undercover police officer eight months ago – more than 20 years after he disappeared from the lives of mother and child, claiming to be on the run.

    Using the pseudonym Charlotte, she said in a statement to the home affairs select committee: “There can be no excuses for what he did: for the betrayal, the manipulation and the lies … I loved him so much, but now have to accept that he never existed.”


    The story of how Bob Lambert became Bob Robinson begins on the outskirts of Poole, Dorset, in 1983. For almost 25 years, a sculpture of the boy stood guard above the grave in Branksome cemetery. “Safe in the arms of Jesus,” the engraving said.

    Lambert would have come across the boy’s paperwork in St Catherine’s House, the national register of births, deaths and marriages. It was a rite of passage for all spies working in the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), a unit dedicated to spying on protesters. For ease of use, SDS officers looked to adopt the identities of dead children who shared their name and approximate date of birth. They called it “the Jackal Run”, after its fictional depiction in Frederick Forsyth’s novel The Day of the Jackal.

    Mark Robinson was the ideal match. He was born in Plumstead, south-east London, on 28 February, 1952 – just 16 days before Lambert’s date of birth. His second name was Robert, which the spy could abbreviate to Bob. He died of acute congestive cardiac failure after being born with a malformed heart. Other SDS officers are known to have chosen children who died of leukaemia or were killed in road accidents.

    Undercover police did not merely adopt the names of dead children, but revived entire identities, researching their family backgrounds and secretly visiting the homes they were brought up in.

    When the spy made his debut in London as a long-haired anti-capitalist, he introduced himself as Bob Robinson and said he was born in Plumstead. He had fake identity documents, including a driving licence in the name of Mark Robinson. Recently, he is understood to have said his full undercover alias was Mark Robert Robinson. The date of birth he gave is still in a diary entry of one close friend: it was the same date as that of the dead child.
    Bob Lambert, aka Bob Robinson Photograph: guardian.co.uk

    Double life

    It was the start of a surreal double life. For most of the week he lived as Robinson, a gardener and active member of the environmental group London Greenpeace. For one or two days a week, he returned to the more conventional life with his wife and children in Hertfordshire. SDS insiders say Lambert was revered as one of the best operatives in the field. He helped jail two activists from the Animal Liberation Front who were convicted of planting incendiary devices in branches of Debenhams in protest at the sale of fur in July1987.

    Lambert’s relationship with Charlotte, then 22, helped bolster his undercover credibility. When they met in 1984, Lambert was her first serious relationship, and 12 years her senior.

    “He got involved in animal rights and made himself a useful member of the group by ferrying us around in his van,” she said. “He was always around, wherever I turned he was there trying to make himself useful, trying to get my attention. I believed at the time that he shared my beliefs and principles. In fact, he would tease me for not being committed enough.”

    Around Christmas that year, Charlotte became pregnant. “Bob seemed excited by the news and he was caring and supportive throughout the pregnancy,” she said. “Bob was there by my side through the 14 hours of labour in the autumn of 1985 when our son was born. He seemed to be besotted with the baby. I didn’t realise then that he was already married with two other children.”

    Two years later, Lambert’s deployment came to an end. He told friends police were on his tail and he needed to flee to Spain. “He promised he would never abandon his son and said that as soon as it was safe I could bring our baby to Spain to see him,” Charlotte said. Instead, the man she knew as Bob Robinson disappeared forever.

    She was left to bring up their son as a single parent. It was an impoverished life, made worse because there was no way she could receive child maintenance payments. “At that time I blamed myself a lot for the break-up and for the fact that my son had lost his father,” she said.

    When Charlotte’s son became older, the pair tried to track down Bob Robinson, who they presumed was still living in Spain. They could not have known he was working just a few miles away.

    In the mid-1990s, Lambert was promoted to head of operations at the SDS, giving him overarching responsibility for a fleet of other spies. Just like their boss, they adopted the identities of dead children before going undercover to cultivate long-term and intimate relationships with women. That was the unit’s tradecraft and Lambert, with his experience in the field, was its respected spymaster. “I chatted to Bob about everything.” said Pete Black, an SDS officer who infiltrated anti-racist groups under Lambert. “You used to go in with any sort of problems, and if he could not work out how to get you out of the shit, then you were fucked.”

    After his senior role in the SDS, Lambert rose through the ranks of special branch and, in the aftermath of 9/11, founded the Muslim Contact Unit, which sought to foster partnerships between police and the Islamic community.

    Intimate relationships

    He was awarded an MBE for services to policing and retired to start a fresh career in academia, with posts at St Andrews and Exeter universities.

    ‘It was my Bob’

    In 2011, Lambert’s past returned to haunt him. That year Mark Kennedy, another police spy, was revealed to have spent seven years infiltrating eco activists. He had several intimate relationships with women, including one that lasted six years. Kennedy worked for the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, another squad dedicated to monitoring protesters and the second, according to the Metropolitan police, believed to have used the identities of dead children.

    Amid the outcry over Kennedy’s deployment, there was a renewed push among activists to unmask police infiltrators. It was some of Lambert’s old friends in London Greenpeace who eventually made the connection, comparing YouTube videos of Lambert speeches with grainy photographs of Bob Robinson in the 1980s.

    Lambert was giving a talk in a London auditorium when members of the audience – veterans from London Greenpeace – confronted him about his undercover past. He left the stage and walked out of a side door. Outside, he was stony-faced as he was chased down the street by a handful of ageing campaigners. He jumped into a taxi and melted into the afternoon traffic.

    It was only the start of a cascade of claims to tarnish the senior officer’s reputation. In June last year, the Green MP Caroline Lucas used a parliamentary speech to allege that Lambert planted one of three incendiary devices in branches of Debenhams. No one was hurt in the attack on the Harrow store, in north-west London, which caused £340,000 worth of damage. Pointing to evidence that suggested Lambert planted the device, the MP asked: “Has another undercover police officer crossed the line into acting as an agent provocateur?”

    Rob Evans and Paul Lewis
    The Guardian, Thursday 21 February 2013 18.00 GMT

    Find this story at 21 February 2013
    © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

    Second police spy unit stole dead children’s IDs

    Met police’s deputy assistant commissioner admits to Commons committee that both units broke internal guidelines

    Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons home affairs committee, criticised the Met police for not apologising for the ‘gruesome’ practice. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

    Police chiefs have admitted that a second undercover unit stole the identities of dead children in the late 1990s or even more recently in a series of operations to infiltrate political activists.

    Growing evidence of the scale of the unauthorised technique – nicknamed the “jackal run” after its fictional depiction in Frederick Forsyth’s novel The Day of the Jackal – now means the number of families affected could total more than 100.

    The Metropolitan police’s deputy assistant commissioner Patricia Gallan told a parliamentary inquiry that both secret police units broke internal guidelines when they employed the technique, which MPs criticised as “gruesome” and “very distressing”.

    She had been called to give evidence to the Commons home affairs committee following the Guardian’s disclosures that the Metropolitan police had secretly used the tactic without consulting or informing the children’s parents in order to bolster their fake persona when operating undercover.

    But, despite mounting concern over the practice, she declined to apologise to the families of the children until Scotland Yard had completed an internal investigation.

    She said: “I do absolutely appreciate the concern and I understand the upset and why people are very distressed about this.”

    Keith Vaz, chairman of the committee, told her: “I’m disappointed that you’ve not used the opportunity to be able to send out a message to those parents who have children who may have had their identity being used that the Met is actually sorry that this has happened.”

    In another development, a family who believe that their son’s identity was stolen as recently as 2003 has lodged a complaint against Scotland Yard. Barbara Shaw, the mother of a baby who died after two days, is pressing the police to reveal the truth and to issue an apology. She said she was deeply upset to discover that her child’s identity was used in this way. “He is still my baby. I’ll never forget him,” Shaw said.

    The Guardian has disclosed that, over three decades, undercover police officers in a covert unit known as the special demonstration squad had been hunting through birth and death records to find children who had died in infancy. Once they found a suitable candidate, they then created an alter ego to infiltrate political groups for up to 10 years. They were issued with official records such as national insurance numbers and driving licences to make their personas more credible, in case the campaigners in the groups they were spying on became suspicious and began to investigate them.

    The SDS adopted the technique after it was founded in 1968. The evidence suggested that the unit stopped using it in the mid-1990s when officials records became more computerised.

    However it now appears that the tactic has been used more recently by a second unit which started operating in 1999.

    The National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), which is still running, was also tasked with gathering intelligence on protesters.

    Gallan told the committee that the practice “has been from the evidence I have seen confined to two units, the SDS and the NPOIU”.

    Pressed by MPs on whether the squads had gone “rogue” and had gone out of control, Gallan said they were operating at the time outside of police’s guidelines for undercover operations. “From what I have seen, the practices at that time would not be following the national guidelines.” She said the units had departed from the accepted practices, but she had yet to find out why.

    MPs also heard allegations that a suspected undercover police officer stole the identity of the dead child, Rod Richardson, when he posed as an anticapitalist protester for three years.

    Jules Carey, the lawyer for the family, told the committee : “I am instructed by one family who have a son who was born and died in 1973 and we believe that a police officer used the name Rod Richardson which is the name of the child and was deployed as an undercover police officer in about 2000 to 2003 using that name and infiltrated various political groups.

    Rob Evans and Paul Lewis
    The Guardian, Tuesday 5 February 2013 21.15 GMT

    Find this story at 5 February 2013 
    © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

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