The Socialist 17 January 2018 |
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Undercover policing legal challenge
Undercover police officer agent provocateur student movement 2010, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
Public Law Interest Unit press release
The Public Interest Law Unit (a small project of a south London law centre) has launched judicial review proceedings against both the Home Office and the Scottish government in respect of the failure to inquire into undercover policing operations in Scotland.
On 14 September, Lord Brailsford of Edinburgh's Court of Session agreed to grant permission for a full judicial review hearing to take place.
The full hearing is to determine whether the UK government acted unlawfully in refusing to extend the terms of reference of the inquiry to Scotland, and separately but simultaneously, the decision of the Scottish government to refuse to set up an inquiry of its own.
In March 2015, Theresa May, then home secretary, announced her intention to set up an inquiry into undercover policing.
This announcement followed revelations that police officers, as early as 1968, had spied on political campaigners and had used the names of dead children to create their identities.
The officers deceived women into forming long-term intimate relationships and had fathered children, befriended grieving families and acted as agents provocateurs.
The undercover police operations under scrutiny by the inquiry are limited to those conducted in England and Wales.
However, much evidence has come to light demonstrating that the Metropolitan Police had in fact operated in Scotland, and possibly without the permission of the Scottish authorities.
Tilly Gifford, environmental justice campaigner and member of Plane Stupid, had also been targeted in Scotland, and in 2009, officers attempted to recruit her as an informant.
Tilly was asked to betray her friends, beliefs and the communities in Scotland that she had been campaigning to protect.
In the course of three meetings, police officers indicated that they would give Tilly cash payments in exchange for information, and threatened her with prison should she fail to cooperate.
But the Scottish Legal Aid Board refused to fund Tilly's case. The lawyers involved are currently working on a pro bono basis and have raised thousands through Crowdjustice to protect her from any adverse costs.
The right of access to justice is both fundamental and constitutional, and state bodies must be held to account when abusing their powers.
Tilly and other activists who have also been spied on are prevented from participating in an inquiry into covert operations which have dramatically affected their lives and the lives of their families.