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 (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.
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.
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
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