The rules governing undercover police infiltrators and informers have come under intense scrutiny after a Parliamentary debate highlighted allegations that an undercover policeman infiltrating the animal rights movement planted and detonated an incendiary device in a department store.
Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate on 13 June, Brighton’s Green MP Caroline Lucas challenged the ‘shocking absence of transparency and accountability’ around undercover policing and demanded an independent public inquiry into the practice.
The MP highlighted the well-publicised unmasking of former policeman Mark Kennedy in 2010 and the legal case being brought by eight women who claim they were duped into relationships with undercover officers.
However, she also referred to new allegations of criminal activity involving an officer named Bob Lambert, aka Bob Robinson (1).
Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, said, “From the unmasking of Mark Kennedy and revelations about undercover officers’ affairs with unsuspecting women, to the shocking new allegations involving Bob Lambert, it’s now overwhelmingly clear that there is a scandalous absence of transparency and accountability in the murky underworld of undercover policing.
“In particular, the case of undercover police officer Bob Lambert and the alleged planting of an incendiary device raises deeply serious questions about the nature of undercover activity and the degree to which police officers act as agent provocateurs.
“Both Bob Lambert and Mark Kennedy are amongst those named in the legal action now being brought by eight women who say they were duped into forming long-term loving relationships with undercover policemen.
“If the forming of personal relationships in order to obtain information is indeed permitted and lawful under RIPA (the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000), then we need to ask ourselves if ruining the lives of women in this way – potentially breaching their human rights – is an acceptable method of gathering information.
“The rules governing undercover police infiltrator and informers are also remarkably deficient when it comes to giving false evidence in court to protect a secret identity (2).”
Caroline concluded, “I am not reassured by policing minister Nick Herbert’s shocking complacency in the debate today in asserting the HMIC inquiry into RIPA deals with many of the issues I raise.
“The Government must therefore now agree to an immediate, independent inquiry into undercover policing and prove that it is committed to holding the police to account for their actions – in the past, present and future.”
For more information please contact the Brighton and Hove Green Party office on 01273 766 670.
1) In the 1980s, Lambert posed as a committed animal rights activist and successfully infiltrated the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) – playing a lead role in the arrest and imprisonment of two men, Geoff Sheppard and Andrew Clarke. The men were found guilty of planting incendiary devices in two Debenhams stores selling fur products in Luton and Romford in July 1987, but the culprit who planted a further incendiary device in Debenhams in Harrow was never caught. Lambert was exposed as an undercover officer October 2011, and now allegations about the precise nature of his role in the incident have come to light.
2) Jim Boyling, for example, was exposed last year for infiltrating groups such as Reclaim the Streets using the pseudonym Jim Sutton. He concealed his true identity from a court when he was prosecuted alongside a group of protesters for occupying a government building during a demonstration. From the moment he was arrested, it is alleged that Boyling gave a false name and occupation, maintaining this fiction throughout the entire prosecution, even when he gave evidence under oath to barristers.