The publication of the long awaited HMIC investigation report into the function of the domestic extremism units, and the work of undercover police officer, Mark Kennedy, has once again been delayed after new evidence printed in the Guardian exposed undercover operative Jim Boyling had been authorised to give false evidence in court to protect his identity.
The report, originally due to be published in the summer, is expected to criticise a failure of supervision of Mark Kennedy, but stop short of recommending changes to the oversight and authorisation of undercover work.
Netpol believes the review is unlikely to go far enough in criticising the National Public Order Intelligence Unit and other domestic extremism units. The very narrow remit adopted by the HMIC has meant that key issues relating to the way undercover policing has been used against political groups have not even been considered.
The NPOIU, through covert and other means, monitored and interfered with the lawful activities of political groups, and with the private lives of individuals. Yet Bernard Hogan-Howe, when he met with protest groups in May last year, refused to consider the impact of this form of policing either on political freedoms, or on the human rights of individuals who had been affected. These, he said, were outside the remit of the review.
This review therefore seems unlikely to criticise the justification and proportionality of using covert methods of surveillance against political activists and campaigners. Apart from the ethical and human rights issues, there are clear cost implications.
Val Swain, from the Network for Police Monitoring said, “The infiltration of political groups by undercover police is not acceptable and has to end. Mark Kennedy and the other undercover officers ‘outed’ last year have been happy to manipulate and exploit people to their own ends, whatever the personal cost to their ‘targets’. These ‘targets’ are not high level criminals or terrorists, but simply people with the passion to get involved in political activism. They have not deserved this treatment.”
Delaying the publication of this review only leaves more questions over how much the police are trying to hide, and adds weight to Netpol’s criticisms of the remit of the investigation.