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Thursday 12th
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

Three years have passed since the inquiry was announced by then home secretary Theresa May and yet no witnesses have given evidence — with public evidence now not due until 2019.

We should not forget what prompted the investigation — the independent review into the way the police had handled the murder of Stephen Lawrence, which proved the latest in a series of devastating revelations of institutional malpractice.

That undercover officers were working to smear the parents of the murdered teenager in order to discredit their calls for a proper investigation was shocking enough.

But it is just one example of the abuse of power by unaccountable, untouchable spycops.

We have learned since that over 1,000 groups were infiltrated by spooks — many of them entirely legal political, environmental or solidarity campaigns — that officers stole the identities of dead children to use as covers and that women were duped into long-term sexual relationships with men who weren’t who they said they were and who disappeared from their lives when their assignments were over.

There are even offspring resulting from these monstrous breaches of trust.

Following the campaign to uncover the truth about the Hillsborough disaster — a decades-long fight for justice by the families of the 96 that was nothing to do with May despite her absurd claims to have “ensured justice” for the victims — and the ongoing struggle for a public inquiry into the police riot against unarmed striking miners at Orgreave, the discovery of the sordid abuse of women by members of the Special Demonstration Squad give the lie to liberal fantasies about an apolitical police force which only exists to uphold the law of the land.

On the contrary, there is evidence that the police colluded with the illegal blacklisting of workers who raised concerns over safety at work or whose trade union activity proved a thorn in the side of management.

The Met itself has admitted that “these relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma.”

Women who have been so abused deserve justice, and this can only come through the publication of the various aliases used by undercover police and of a list of organisations which were infiltrated.

But the issue runs deeper than that. Because the power of the secret state in Britain has not waned in recent years: it has grown.

When a court ruled last year that British intelligence services had been illegally gathering information on citizens for 17 years, the government’s response was not to halt the abuse but to make it legal.

Last year’s Investigatory Powers Act, more commonly known as the Snoopers’ Charter, provides for the bulk harvesting of personal data on all of us, giving the government access to information on who we phone, text or email and every website we visit.

In the name of combatting terrorism, the government has given its agents carte blanche to spy on everyone all the time, while barring disclosure of such activities in court.

Socialist comedian Mark Steel once pointed out that among the first things a young activist learns are that “the police aren’t neutral; the press isn’t fair.”

A secret state ranged on the side of power and wealth poses a serious threat to any movement wishing to change this country, and challenging it must be on the agenda of everyone involved in Britain’s socialist revival.

That means ensuring the Undercover Policing Inquiry isn’t a whitewash but a thorough, public investigation into police malpractice which ends in action to prevent such abuses happening again.