Monday, January 27, 2014

Spying and perjury in the UK

Two years ago, we learned that the British police had engaged in extensive infiltration and undercover spying on peaceful protest groups. The fallout from this is still going on. Last week, the convictions of 29 environmental protesters were overturned after a court ruled that the prosecution had withheld evidence. And there's another case in court today which promises to do the same:

Prosecutors are due on Monday to defend their decision to keep secret the cause of a miscarriage of justice involving an undercover police officer who allegedly used his fictitious identity in a criminal trial to conceal his covert work.

The conviction of an environmental campaigner, John Jordan, for assaulting a police officer is to be overturned after it was revealed that one of his co-defendants was an undercover policeman who allegedly gave false evidence on oath during his prosecution.

The undercover spy, whose real name is Jim Boyling, was pretending to be an ardent environmental campaigner when he was prosecuted, alongside Jordan, following disorder at a protest.

Legal documents suggest that Boyling maintained his fake persona of an east London cleaner throughout the prosecution from the moment he was arrested, even when he gave evidence on oath in court.


He and other protesters were represented by the same civil liberties law firm, Bindmans, as they held confidential legal discussions on how to defend themselves, leading to accusations that the police have broken the defendants' fundamental right to hold legally protected consultations with their lawyers.

So basically a police spy perjured himself to secure a conviction, while continuing to spy on legally privileged conversations. No wonder the conviction is being overturned. But beyond that: isn't perjury against the law? Shouldn't those who do so (particularly from a position of trust) be prosecuted for it? Or does the law only apply to protesters, not police?