Spycops scandal

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The Spycops scandal emerged in 2010 and involved a number of undercover police officers who had, as part of their false persona, entered into intimate relationships with members of targeted groups and in some cases proposed marriage or fathered children with activists.[1]

Various legal actions followed, including eight women who took action against the Metropolitan Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), stating they were deceived into long-term intimate relationships by five officers, including Mark Kennedy, who was publicly identified on 21 October 2010 as infiltrating social and environmental justice campaigns.

Spycops Inquiry

In March 2015, Theresa May, then Home Secretary, announced her intention to set up an Inquiry into undercover policing. This announcement followed revelations that police officers, as early as 1968, had spied on political campaigners and had used the names of dead children to create their identities. The officers, part of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) and Metropolitan Police Service’s Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), had deceived women into forming long-term intimate relationships and had fathered children, they had befriended grieving families, including the parents of Stephen Lawrence, and had acted as agents provocateurs.

The Undercover Policing Inquiry under a senior judge was duly established but was limited to operations conducted in England and Wales.[2] However, much evidence had come to light demonstrating that the Metropolitan Police’s SDS had in fact operated in Scotland, and possibly without the permission of the Scottish authorities.[3]

Police apology

In November 2015 the Metropolitan Police published an unreserved apology in which it exonerated and apologised to those women who had been deceived and stated the methodology had constituted abuse and a "gross violation" with severely harmful effects, as part of a settlement of their cases:

Thanks in large part to the courage and tenacity of these women in bringing these matters to light it has become apparent that some officers, acting undercover whilst seeking to infiltrate protest groups, entered into long-term intimate sexual relationships with women which were abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong.

Firstly, none of the women with whom the undercover officers had a relationship brought it on themselves. They were deceived pure and simple. I want to make it clear that the Metropolitan Police does not suggest that any of these women could be in any way criticised for the way in which these relationships developed.

Second, at the mediation process the women spoke of the way in which their privacy had been violated by these relationships. I entirely agree that it was a gross violation and also accept that it may well have reflected attitudes towards women that should have no part in the culture of the Metropolitan Police.

Third, it is apparent that some officers may have preyed on the women’s good nature and had manipulated their emotions to a gratuitous extent. This was distressing to hear about and must have been very hard to bear.

Fourth, I recognise that these relationships, the subsequent trauma and the secrecy around them left these women at risk of further abuse and deception by these officers after the deployment had ended.

Fifth, I recognise that these legal proceedings have been painful distressing and intrusive and added to the damage and distress. Let me make clear that whether or not genuine feelings were involved on the part of any officers is entirely irrelevant and does not make the conduct acceptable.

In light of this settlement, it is hoped that the Claimants will now feel able to move on with their lives. The Metropolitan Police believes that they can now do so with their heads held high. The women have conducted themselves throughout this process with integrity and absolute dignity.

— Statement by Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, 20 November 2015.[4]

Kate Wilson

Kate Wilson told The Guardian:

"It is 10 years since I first sat down with a group of eight women to discuss bringing an assault case against the Metropolitan Police. We were reeling from the discoveries that men we had loved never existed. I was tricked into a relationship with a man I knew as Mark Stone, who turned out to be a police spy, Mark Kennedy. The Met had sent serving officers into our lives to deceive us into sexual relationships and to spy on our political campaigns. It quickly emerged that those relationships, which had at first felt like personal betrayals, were in fact part of a systematic practice, spanning decades, of police officers deceiving women into sex and targeting leftwing political organisations in order to undermine dissent."[5]

IPT Judgment

On 30 September 2021, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) ruled the entire operation to be unlawful and concluded:

“This is not just a case about a renegade police officer who took advantage of his undercover deployment to indulge his sexual proclivities … Our findings that the authorisations under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) were fatally flawed and the undercover operation could not be justified as ‘necessary in a democratic society’ … reveal disturbing and lamentable failings at the most fundamental levels.”[6]

Keir Starmer

In 2011, Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer was in court to witness the collapse of a trial of environmental activists after the involvement of undercover police officer Mark Kennedy was revealed. The case began the “Spycops scandal", which has since exposed the extensive, long-term infiltration of left-wing and environmentalist groups by police agents including the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC), who grossly abused the rights of campaigners and perverted the course of justice in countless court cases. The CPS is suspected of having been closely involved.[7]

As DPP, Starmer refused to pursue the matter. Referring to an in-house CPS investigation, he accepted the manifestly untrue:

“If Sir Christopher Rose had found systemic problems, then I would quite accept perhaps a retrospective look at all the cases. But he didn’t, he found individual failings.”[8]


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