A brief look at the infiltration into political groups by the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), an undercover unit of the British police’s Special Branch. The SDS used relationships with women activists to help give credibility to their false identities which were often created with use of dead children’s names.
The first indications of how deeply undercover police had infiltrated various groups in the broad movement came with the identification of Mark Kennedy as an infiltrator. Police Constable Mark Kennedy, posing as Mark Stone, infiltrated environmental and leftist networks for approximately eight years (2001-2009) in the Nottingham area, sometimes working with another undercover spy, a women, who posed as an environmental activist. He hosted meetings with activists in up to 23 countries including the USA, and took part in blockades, site occupations and sabotage, sometimes playing key logistical roles such as transport. He worked as a provocateur, encouraging activists to engage in acts of violence. He was paid £50,000 a year, plus an additional £200,000 for bribes, drink, transport and travel abroad to meet other activists.” In this period he kept up a four-year relationship with a female activist. After Kennedy’s real identity was revealed she stated that “If somebody was being paid to have sex with me, that gives me a sense of having been violated.”
As well as that relationship, Kennedy had sex with a second female activist, and it seems that he also had sex with others as well. The second female activist revealed his true identity after she discovered his passport in July 2010. Meanwhile he maintained a parallel life with a wife and two children.
International activists have confirmed his attendance at least 68 different events, some over a number of years. After his exposure, and his leaving the police, he used his inside knowledge for personal gain, establishing a series of companies thought to be private consulting firms. The Guardian reported that he used the privileged access he gained in police infiltration campaigns to act as a “corporate spy” while still maintaining his Mark Stone alter ego. Not long after, Kennedy was working for a second spy firm in the US, Densus Group, targeting anti-capitalist demonstrators.
Kennedy claimed that his police superiors gave him the green light to have sex with activists. The president of the shady ACPO, Sir Hugh Orde denied this. Kennedy maintains that he was one of 15 police spies who had infiltrated environmental movements; at least four of these spies remain within British protest movements. While the UK’s police infiltration efforts targeting social movements date back to at least to anti-war campaigners in 1968, the strategy of undercover cops having sexual relationships with activists seems to have been a relatively new strategy.
In the wake of the exposure of Mark Kennedy, other police infiltrators into the various movements were uncovered. One of these was Detective Constable Jim Boyling, under the false names of Pete James Sutton or Jim Sutton who infiltrated Reclaim the Streets for five years between 1995 and 2000 in addition he undertook surveillance of environmental and hunt saboteur groups. Like Kennedy, Boyling had sexual relations with activists. He married one activist and had two children with her before a divorce. He apparently kept this secret from his superiors, only informing one in 2005. In addition in his time undercover he had another long-term relationship with an activist.
Boyling maintained his undercover identity whilst being prosecuted with other activists for the occupation of a government office. He thus perjured himself in court. In addition he was present during meetings between defendants and their lawyers. This was in line with instructions from the controllers of the undercover cops that they maintain their secret identities during prosecutions for “offences arising out of their deployment”.
Another undercover cop subsequently exposed was Mark Jacobs posing as Marco Jacobs, who “infiltrated anarchist, anti-globalization, animal rights, and other social justice networks for five years (2004-2009) in the Cardiff area” according to the Guardian. He volunteered for key roles within the Cardiff Anarchist Network (CAN) that allowed him to infiltrate the Dissent! planning committees that were mobilising against the G8. During 2008, Jacobs maintained a sexual relationship with a female activist, and encouraged drinking, personal recriminations and backstabbing within CAN. This led to the collapse of the group and Jacobs’ subsequent departure.
Other undercover cops who have come to light include Sergeant Jim Dines who infiltrated the environmental group London Greenpeace under the alias of John Barker between 1987 and 1992. In 1990 Dines began a relationship with the activist Helen Steel. Using the ruse of a mental breakdown he left her and disappeared in 1992. Helen steel discovered that he had taken on the identity of Philip John Barker who had died as a child years before. As the Guardian noted: “The Dines/Barker case is said to be one of at least 80 similar occurrences organised by Scotland Yard over a 30 year period wherein police adopted the names of dead children in order to produce false identities and documents with verifiable back stories”. In addition, steel discovered that he had been married since 1977.
Mark Jenner posing as Mark Cassidy infiltrated UK protest groups from 1994 to 2000 as an officer in the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad under the direction of Bob Lambert. Like Dines, Jenner was already married but maintained a five-year relationship with a female activist between 1995 and 2000, actually living with her in a flat. After his sudden disappearance from her life, she also began to investigate.
Other undercover cops included Rod Richardson and Simon Wellings, although it is unclear if they had sexual relations with activists. Wellings infiltrated the group Globalise Resistance between 2001 and 2005. Another undercover cop we are aware of was the policeman who operated under the name of Andy Bryant within first the Anarchist Communist Federation (precursor of the Anarchist Federation) and subsequently Class War in the late 1980s-early 1990s. Like other undercover cops he disappeared suddenly, citing his family who had moved to Spain. Like Jacobs, “Bryant” encouraged recrimination and backstabbing within the ACF, and on at least two separate occasions encouraged militants to engage in provocative situations. In addition he served as Treasurer of both organisations, thus obtaining personal information. He did not engage in sexual relations with activists.
But perhaps the most pernicious of all these undercover cops was Bob Lambert, under the disguise of Bob Robinson, who infiltrated left and animal rights movements. He operated inside London Greenpeace before being replaced by Dines and he targeted the Animal Liberation Front. Between May 1987-November 1988, he engaged in a sexual relationship with a 24-year-old female, not a political activist, whom he met at a party He maintained this relationship for 18 months in order to create the appearance of a personal life, and he even arranged for a raid on the flat the couple shared to indicate that he was an activist. He was operating within the Special Branch and within its specialized unit the Special Demonstration Squad for 28 years. At times he supervised the work of both Jenner and Boyling.
Lambert had a sexual relationship a year or so before with a female activist with whom he had a child and Lambert now admits to having had sexual relations with four women whilst undercover. Throughout all of his undercover work, he was already married.
Lambert also acted as a provocateur. According to Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Lambert was responsible for an incendiary device in the Harrow branch of Debenhams department in protest at its selling of fur in 1987. As a result two people were convicted. Lambert still denies that he was the third participant in this attack though he is said to have admitted his involvement to a female activist. He also helped pen the anti-McDonalds leaflet which led to the longest civil trial in British history, the McLibel case.
The revelations about the undercover cops eventually forced the authorities to initiate the Pitchford Enquiry, after the Metropolitan police had dragged their heels and been doggedly obstructive for many months, in particular with their “Neither Confirm Nor deny” statements. At the preliminary hearing in March 2016 Helen Steel stated that: “The McLibel Support Campaign supports the core participants’ call for all the cover names to be released so that the truth can be heard. We have not called for all the real names of officers to be released, although I think that there may be individual circumstances where that is appropriate, especially where those officers went on to become supervisors or line managers or are now in positions of responsibility, but I’m assuming that that would be done on a more individualised basis. However, I do believe that all of the cover names should be disclosed so that the truth can be achieved.
I also believe that to ensure the Inquiry is as comprehensive as possible, the police need to release a full list of all the organisations that were targeted. There is no reason for secrecy on this. Various groups were named in True Spies, so why is it that they can’t be named now?
The reason for wanting maximum transparency and disclosure is a political one. Without the names of undercover officers who targeted each group, it is impossible to start to assess the whole impact of their surveillance or the extent of the abuses committed. Without full disclosure, we won’t get to the full truth and we can’t ensure that preventative measures are put in place to stop these abuses happening again.
These were very, very serious human rights abuses committed by this unit, including article 3 abuses [“no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”]. We want to stop them happening again. That is our purpose in taking part in this Inquiry and that is the real public interest that requires that there must be openness and transparency.”
She and the other women who have been sorely mistreated by these undercover cops want an apology but more than that they want answers. They want to know who authorised these strategies of sexual infiltration and they want to know the aliases of all those undercover cops involved so that anyone involved in a relationship with an undercover cop can finally know the truth.