Undercover Policing Inquiry - James Scobie QC opening statement

Friday 6 November 2020

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

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The Undercover Policing Inquiry was set up in 2015 to get to the truth about undercover policing across England and Wales since 1968 and provide recommendations for the future.

The Inquiry will investigate undercover operations conducted by police forces in England and Wales since 1968. It will examine in particular the activities of two units: the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU).

The opening statement calls for a thorough investigation of the activities of both the SDS and NPOIU and the officials who authorised the use of spying.

The Inquiry must examine not only the role of senior civil servants, but also of successive Conservative and Labour Home Secretaries, who, must have been aware of and sanctioned the activities of undercover policing units. The submission also states that Prime Ministers of the day were aware of the activities of the political police.

Finally, the opening statement demands a full and detailed analysis of the role of Special Branch departments and the security services, including MI5. These agencies were also involved in the surveillance of MPs, social-justice campaigners and trade unionists.

Political policing has ruined lives, derailed campaigns, led to the blacklisting of workers and brought democracy into disrepute.

In preparing this opening statement thanks must be given to Piers Marquis of Doughty Street Chambers and Paul Heron of Public Interest Law Centre.  Huge thanks are also due to our clients: Lois Austin; Richard Chessum; ‘Mary’; Dave Nellist; Hannah Sell; and Youth against Racism in Europe (YRE).

Watch the opening statement below.

Click here to watch the opening statement on the UCPI website, which took place on Friday 6 November at 10am.

Please click here to download a copy of the statement.

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