Monday, February 22, 2016

Gearing up for a whitewash

For decades, UK police engaged in undercover spying on peaceful political protesters. They used false names and led double lives, established long-term relationships under false pretences, fathered children and then disappeared from their lives. But they didn't just ruin people's lives with their personal behaviour and deceit - they also spied on their critics, encouraged crimes and perverted the course of justice - fortunately, resulting in acquittals.

The UK is (of course) holding an "independent" inquiry into this. But the police are demanding that all significant evidence be heard in secret and hidden from the public:

Police are to apply for sweeping legal orders to have large parts of a judge-led public inquiry into the controversial conduct of undercover officers held in private.

The Metropolitan police are arguing that significant portions of the inquiry must sit in secret in order to protect the undercover officers who have infiltrated hundreds of political groups since 1968.


But in a detailed legal submission last week, the Met said it wanted to be clear “at the outset” that it would be “applying for much of the detail of past or current deployments” to be considered in the absence of the general public and those who were spied upon. Five barristers hired by the Met said it is likely that “in the overwhelming majority of instances” the Met will argue that “the fact of, or details of an undercover police deployment” must not be disclosed in the open sessions of the inquiry. Nothing that identifies an undercover officer should be made public, they added.

This will also have the side-effect of preventing any new revelations of police wrongdoing - very convenient for the establishment, but it would absolutely defeat the purpose of the inquiry. And as with the establishment whitewash into torture, victims should respond by denying the inquiry legitimacy, and refusing to cooperate unless all evidence is heard in public. Anything less is simply inviting yet another whitewash.