Outside a meeting in 2017, photo COPs campaign
Outside a meeting in 2017, photo COPs campaign

Lois Austin, COPS and Socialist Party

An alliance of people spied on by Britain’s political secret police – Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (Cops), Blacklist Support Group, Police Spies Out of Lives and the Monitoring Group – gathered on 7 May to hear the latest from the Undercover Policing Inquiry.

The session, hosted by the Monitoring Group, reported on the infiltration of campaigns, such as the Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign and the Stephen Lawrence family.

Ricky Reel’s mother, Sukhdev, said the police were more interested in monitoring her family and supporters than they were in finding out how her son had died at the hand of racists in west London in 1997.

Helen Steel and Alison, from the Police Spies Out of Lives campaign, had their lives infiltrated by spycops who deceived them into long-term intimate relationships. They uncovered those spies, exposed them and are continuing the struggle for justice.

The Haldane Society socialist lawyers hosted a session – with the Undercover Research Group and others – on how public inquiries had been whitewashes that have failed to get to the truth. The Grenfell inquiry refused to include class and race in the terms of reference; and rather than giving the necessary attention to the failures leading up to the fire, instead tried to scapegoat firefighters.

Chris Peace, Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, said the British state refused to even give them an inquiry.

Labour MP John McDonnell committed to pursuing the fight for justice in parliament. Lydia Dagostino, a lawyer coordinating the response of non-state core participates at the inquiry, talked about the inquiry’s continuing problems – long delays, we are seven years in and still only at Tranche 1, lack of disclosure and secret courts.

Despite all of the inquiry’s problems, we will continue to fight for, in the words of Suresh Grover from the Southall Monitoring Group, “exposure and disclosure”.

 I closed the conference by demanding that the trade unions get their legal costs paid so they can participate fully in the inquiry. At the moment the inquiry is refusing to pay the trade unions’ legal costs, yet all other state and non state core participants are having their costs paid. The legal costs run into thousands of pounds, so many unions, particularly small ones like the NUJ, can’t afford to participate. This means unequal justice. We demand their costs are paid like everyone else so that unions like the PCS and NUJ can also be core participants –  this would be another step towards making the inquiry less of a whitewash and more democratic. 

We need to rebalance the inequality of justice. The Cops conference was a call to arms.

We have scores to settle for the terrible abuse of activists and family justice campaigns at the hands of spycops and their pay masters. Our campaigns will continue for justice and to expose what the British state got up to, and what it is doing now.