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Campaigner ‘sickened’ by spycop's ‘sexist, racist and homophobic’ remarks in their reporting, inquiry hears

Veteran activist Diane Langford was spied on by several undercover officers for her political activism

A CAMPAIGNER subjected to years of police surveillance said that she was “sickened” by the “sexist, racist and homophobic” remarks made by spycops in their reporting. 

Veteran activist Diane Langford was spied on by several undercover officers during her long history in political activism and had her own file reference in police reports.

She came under surveillance after joining the anti-Vietnam war movement in 1968 and continued to be spied on while campaigning for womens’ rights, against racism and in solidarity with the Palestinians. 

Giving evidence to the Undercover Policing Inquiry today, Ms Langford said that she felt “debilitated” after reading through stacks of Special Branch files detailing her political activities and private life. 

Ms Langford was the first witness to give evidence to the second phase of the public inquiry, which is investigating the conduct of about 139 spycops who infiltrated more than 1,000 protest groups over 40 years. 

Undercover officer HN45, who used the cover name Dave Robertson, was among the officers who spied on Ms Langford.

His reports include details of her personal life, including the birth of her daughter and childcare arrangements. 

In another report, the officer appeared to dismiss an allegation that  a male activist had attempted to rape a female campaigner, which was brought up at a meeting. 

The attempted rape was described in his report as a mere “incident” and the accusation as a “very personal attack on the private morals” of the man. 

Recalling the meeting, held in the early 1970s, Ms Langford said that when the man was confronted, he responded: “She’s too ugly to rape.”

Ms Langford said that the remark was “burnt into her memory,” yet neither the comment nor the allegation was detailed in HN45’s reporting. 

In her witness statement, she questioned: “What does this description say about HN45’s own views about sexual violence against women?”

The officer was later withdrawn after being exposed as a police spy. Ms Langford said he had threatened the family of one of her friends when suspicions were raised. 

Ms Langford was also spied on by a female undercover officer, known as “Sandra,” who infiltrated the Women’s Liberation Front.

“The impact of going through all those reports and reading all those vile remarks I’ve found really debilitating and has taken a toll on my health and wellbeing,” she told the inquiry. 

Questioning by the inquiry’s junior council Kate Wilkinson QC initially focused on whether the groups that Ms Langford was involved in were violent or sought to overthrow the state. 

She replied that they had clear non-violent aims and that much of the revolutionary discussion in meetings was “theoretical.”

Later, she expressed “profound feelings of disappointment” with the inquiry for questioning her about violence when they were fighting racist and sexist violence that still exists today. 

Meanwhile, support group Police Spies Out of Lives drove an advertising van emblazoned with the words: “We did not consent” past locations implicated in the spycops scandal, including the Home Office. Campaigners also held a protest outside the Amba Hotel in central London, where a video livestream of the inquiry is being shown. 

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