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Spycop bosses knew officers were sleeping with targets but ‘turned a blind eye,’ inquiry hears

AN UNDERCOVER officer has admitted that his bosses were aware of spycops having sex with their targets but “turned a blind eye,” a public inquiry heard today.

The former cop, who used the cover name Graham Coates while infiltrating protest groups in the 1970s, said that managers were present when officers joked and made “gross” comments about having sexual relationships with female campaigners.

Coates, whose real name is restricted by an anonymity order, was speaking at the public inquiry into undercover policing today. 

The probe, headed by retired judge Sir John Mitting, is investigating abuses by officers who served in two secret police units that infiltrated more than 1,000 protest groups over 40 years. 

One of its main aims is to look at whether relationships were used by officers as a deliberate tactic and authorised by managers.

Since 1968, at least 27 women are known to have been deceived into intimate relationships with officers, some lasting years. 

Coates told the inquiry that while sexual relationships were not advised, they were not explicitly ruled out. 

Before his deployment, the officer said he was told that if he had to engage in this behaviour he should be “very careful” and take “precautions,” which he interpreted as meaning the use of contraceptives, as well as ensuring their deployments were not compromised.

Coates said it was known that some officers were engaged in sexual relations with campaigners, including spycop Richard Clark, who slept with four women while undercover. 

This was discussed at the Special Demonstration Squad safehouse, where officers met multiple times a week.

Coates said that the attitude among colleagues to sexual relations could be summed up as: “Good on you,” “Well done” and “Go for it.” 

When asked how managers would have known about the activities of officers from their conversations, Coates said the comments were “of a gross nature” which would “have left nobody in any doubt as to the nature of the relationship.”

Giving an example of such a comment, he said: “Oh, he’ll have made her bite the blankets again last night.”

Managers “across the board” would have been aware, he said, but “turned a blind eye.”

It was also suggested that managers may not have stopped such behaviour because officers who engaged in sexual relationships obtained better intelligence from their target groups. 

Coates said he believed that there was a “tacit acceptance” of this among managers.

The ex-cop told the inquiry that he did not have a sexual relationship during the three-year deployment in which he infiltrated the Socialist Workers Party and small anarchist groups. 

His admission breaks with the testimonies of his former colleagues, who have repeatedly told the inquiry that they were not aware of officers having relationships and did not speak of them at the safe house. 

The inquiry continues on Monday. 

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