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A WOMAN who exposed “state-sponsored deceit” of female campaigners by undercover police officers said yesterday that she and other victims were still waiting for justice.
Helen Steel, who was tricked into a relationship by a police spy, described a recent apology and compensation from the Metropolitan Police as a “massive victory” but said it was “absolutely not enough” as other women had been abused.
Met assistant commissioner Martin Hewitt admitted last week that the way Special Demonstration Squad officers targeted seven female campaigners was “a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma.”
But the apology came under fire from sexual abuse campaigners after Mr Hewitt suggested undercover officers could still form sexual relationships as an operational tactic if it was a “matter of life or death.”
Ms Steel said the suggestion was “completely ludicrous” and couldn’t be used to justify further abuses.
“None of us can see any circumstance where it could ever be justified and nobody yet has put forward any set of circumstances where it would make a difference to [an officer’s] life,” she said.
Dignified Ms Steel received a two-minute standing ovation and held back tears as she recalled her struggle for justice at Women Fighting Back, a conference of socialist and human rights lawyers.
She became a hero of the environmental movement after defending herself in court during the 1997 “McLibel” case brought by fast-food giant McDonalds.
However she was targeted by “John Barker,” a man she met through environmental justice activism, who formed a romantic relationship with her.
He was in fact John Dines, an undercover officer using the identity of a dead child in order to spy on her campaigning activities.
He later disappeared after feigning a mental breakdown.
On discovering his true identity years later she was accused of being “paranoid” for fearing she was spied on, but co-ordinated a campaign with other victims to expose the relationships as an operational tactic.
“It was effectively body hacking,” said Ms Steel. “They invaded our bodies and our minds.”
Undercover policing tactics are currently the subject of a public inquiry.
- Helen Steel works with the support group for women’s legal action against undercover policing Police Spies Out of Lives.
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