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by Bethany Rielly
AN UNDERCOVER officer was authorised by senior police to lie in court after being arrested and charged with public order offences at an anti-apartheid protest, the spycops inquiry heard today.
The officer, who used the cover-name Michael Scott, was told by managers to use his fake identity during the trial in order to bolster his credentials among campaigners.
He was convicted under his false name for public disorder.
The revelation is the first potential miscarriage of justice being scrutinised by the Undercover Policing Inquiry, headed by retired judge Sir John Mitting.
As part of the inquiry, which is examining the conduct of around 139 officers who infiltrated more than 1,000 protest groups over 40 years, Mr Mitting is tasked with finding out how many campaigners were wrongly convicted because their trials were corrupted by spycops.
Officers in Scotland Yard’s secret special demonstration squad (SDS) and the national public order intelligence unit routinely failed to disclose that undercover officers were involved in criminal trials, despite this breaking legal rules.
Anti-apartheid campaigner Ernest Rodker was one of the 14 people arrested with Mr Scott in May 1972 for attempting to block the British rugby team’s coach in the hope that they would miss their flight to apartheid-era South Africa.
Giving evidence on his behalf to the inquiry today, his son Oliver said intelligence reports appeared to show that Mr Scott and his superiors knew most of the arrested were not guilty.
Mr Rodker was prosecuted for obstruction of the highway but argued that he had been blocking a car park and not the road. He claimed that Mr Scott could have testified to this which may have resulted in an acquittal.
The inquiry heard how SDS managers instructed Mr Scott to lie in court, and encouraged him to attend and report on confidential meetings between campaigners and their lawyers.
“We should take advantage of the situation to keep abreast of their intention,” wrote one manager.
The inquiry’s lead counsel, David Barr QC, said it appeared that bosses “encouraged his participation in the criminal proceedings in the full knowledge that he would attend meetings to discuss trial tactics.”
Mr Rodker, who is now in his 80s, said that he was surprised that police had used resources to place an undercover officer in a peaceful demonstration, part of a wider campaign to contribute to the isolation and collapse of the apartheid South African regime.
The inquiry continues.
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