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by Bethany Rielly
A SPYCOP said yesterday that it was “acceptable” for undercover officers to deceive women into sexual relationships, comparing the tactic to a covert drug squad “sampling the product.”
The former police officer’s response was met with gasps at the undercover policing inquiry viewing room in central London.
The public inquiry into the infiltration of political groups heard from a police witness who infiltrated Black Power and groups associated with Bangladesh in the early 1970s.
Using the cover name Peter Fredericks, the officer first infiltrated Operation Omega, a London-based group which was involved in taking humanitarian aid from India to Bangladesh, then known as East Pakistan.
The officer, who is of mixed heritage, was hand-picked by MI5 to join the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), a secret Scotland Yard unit which infiltrated over 1,000 political groups over 40 years.
He was commended for his ability to infiltrate Bangladesh-related groups while previously undercover in a different role for Special Branch.
The officer told the inquiry that the Operation Omega meetings, attended by around 10 to 12 people, largely involved stuffing envelopes and distributing leaflets.
Despite admitting that the group was peaceful and posed no public order concerns, he continued to spy on the group for many months.
“It would be fair to say that most of the people I encountered were interested in the well-being of those who were suffering,” he told the inquiry.
The officer, known by the cypher HN345, said that he sometimes met a female campaigner from the group in restaurants and pubs outside of meetings.
While he denied attempting to strike up a romantic relationship with the campaigner, when asked if she may have perceived the relationship in that way, he smiled and said: “No. Well, I’d rather not comment, but no is the answer.”
After leaving the Metropolitan Police, the officer also attempted to visit a woman he had spied on during his deployment but found that she had committed suicide.
At least 30 campaigners were deceived into intimate relationships with spycops, some of whom fathered children while undercover.
When asked if he was surprised by this, the officer said: “If you ask me to infiltrate some drug dealers, you can’t point the finger at me if I sample the product.
“If these people are in a certain environment where it is necessary to engage that little more deeply, then shall we say I find this acceptable.
“But I do worry about the consequences for the female and any children that may result from the relationship, so yes, it shouldn’t be done.”
When pressed to clarify his position on the issue by Ruth Brander QC, representing a number of spied on campaigners, the officer said: “Perhaps my view is that they had no choice.”
His evidence was made on the final day of phase one of the inquiry, examining the period of the SDS from 1968, the year of its creation, to 1972.
Hearings will resume in March or April next year.
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