"The end did not justify the means" - Undercover Policing Inquiry Interim Report Released by Inquiry Chair Sir John Mitting

Thursday 29 June 2023

Garden Court Chambers counsel, of the Inquests & Inquiries Team, are instructed in the Undercover Policing Inquiry.

The report has been covered extensively in the press, including BBC NewsThe Independent, Evening StandardSky News and The Guardian.

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The Undercover Policing Inquiry’s Tranche 1 Interim Report has been published today by the Inquiry's Chair Sir John Mitting. It marks an important milestone in the Inquiry's mission to get to the truth of undercover policing and the activities of the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) from 1968-1982. It makes critical findings over the continued existence of the SDS throughout this period.

Sir John Mitting states in the report that the SDS should have been disbanded in the 1970s and that only three, of the more than 1,000 groups infiltrated, by the SDS posed any credible threat. 

The report finds that there were a number of areas of concern including:

  • Long-term deployments of into political groups inevitably required the undercover officer to enter into the personal and political lives of those in target groups and “this intrusion into the lives of many hundreds of people in this era required cogent justification before it should have been contemplated as a police tactic.”
  • Deployments would require the undercover officer to gain entry to the homes of members of infiltrated groups by deceit.
  • Many undercover officers accepted positions of responsibility within an infiltrated group, were actively encouraged to do so, and became engaged in helping to organise political activity.
  • The use of deceased children’s identities would have been bound to have given rise to legitimate public concern.

The report finds that all these issues “should have been addressed at the highest level within the MPS and within the Home Office”  but that they were simply not considered. The Report states:

"The principal, stated purpose of the SDS was to assist uniformed police to control public order in London. Long-term deployments into left-wing and anarchist groups did make a real contribution to achieving this end, even though this was or could have been achieved to a significant extent by other, less intrusive, means. The question is whether or not the end justified the means set out above. I have come to the firm conclusion that, for a unit of a police force, it did not; and that had the use of these means been publicly known at the time, the SDS would have been brought to a rapid end."

The report is available to read in full here. 

The Garden Court Chambers Inquests & Inquiries Team has a number of counsel who are instructed in the Undercover Policing Inquiry. 

Rajiv Menon KC, leading Una Morris, represent clients Audrey Adams, Nathan Adams, Richard Adams, Duwayne Brooks Obe & Ken Livingstone, who were spied on by the police. They are instructed by Jane Deighton of Deighton Pierce Glynn.

Rajiv Menon KC, leading Russell Fraser, represents Tariq Ali, Norman Blair, Piers Corbyn, Ernie Tate, Myk Zeitlin, Advisory Service for Squatters, Friends of Freedom Press Ltd. They are instructed by Richard Parry at Saunders Law.

James Scobie KC leads Piers Marquis of Doughty Street Chambers, instructed by Paul Heron of The Public Interest Law Centre, representing Lois Austin, Richard Chessum, 'Mary', Dave Nellist, Hannah Sell & Youth against Racism in Europe.

Kirsten Heaven is instructed to represent the non-state core participant co-operating group at the Undercover Policing Inquiry. She is instructed by Lydia Dagostino of Kellys Solicitors.

Owen Greenhall is instructed by Mike Schwarz of Hodge Jones & Allen who represents over 100 core participants across the inquiry. Owen is led by Matthew Ryder KC of Matrix Chambers. In Tranche 1 he was led by Matthew Ryder KC of Matrix Chambers to represent Lord Peter Hain, Ernest Rodker, Prof Jonathan Rosenhead and Christabel Gurney who were targeted by undercover officers due to their activities as anti-apartheid campaigners and Liz Leicester and Roy Battersby who were active in the Workers Revolutionary Party.

Sarah Hemingway is Second Junior Counsel to the Inquiry and Rachel Schon is Junior Junior Counsel to the Inquiry.

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