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Spycops inquiry challenged over hiding officers’ identities

VICTIMS of undercover police spying are seeking permission to challenge the decision by the inquiry into the scandal to conceal spycops’ identities.

Three claimants, including a cousin of Jean Charles de Menezes, attempted to bring the challenge at the High Court today.

Police spied on the de Menezes family as they campaigned for justice after the Brazilian electrician was shot dead by police at Stockwell Tube station in 2005 in a case of mistaken identity.

The challenge comes as the Undercover Policing Inquiry is facing a crisis of legitimacy. Victims have walked out in protest at what they see as bias by chair Sir John Mitting.

Victims’ barrister Phillippa Kaufmann QC told the court: “In order to meaningfully participate [in the inquiry], a person spied upon must know who was doing the spying.”

She accused Mr Mitting of “frustrating the purpose of the inquiry,” which was set up by then home secretary Theresa May in 2015 with the aim of “establishing justice for the families and the victims.”

Ms Kaufmann said a third of undercover officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) have been granted anonymity.

The rate of secrecy is higher among the SDS’s successor the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, where two-thirds of its field officers remain anonymous.

The court also heard that former SDS officer turned whistleblower Peter Francis is said to have “felt blindfolded by the process of non-disclosure.”

He wishes to give evidence to the inquiry about his SDS managers, but they have been granted anonymity.

Oliver Sanders QC, representing a dozen undercover officers, denied suggestions that the secrecy was based on his clients having “something to hide.”

He said the Met had carried out assessments to determine whether the “release of these officers’ real names or cover names would put them at risk.”

Out of 77 cover names, 49 were initially regarded as sensitive. So far, 32 officers have been granted anonymity by the inquiry.

Mr Sanders claimed that one of his clients was at “risk of suicide if their cover name is released” and that another has an “adult child who would be impacted by knowing their father was an undercover officer.”

However, Ms Kaufmann warned that their evidence should be subjected to “proper searching scrutiny” because “these are officers that we know were trained to lie.”

The inquiry’s counsel, David Barr QC, said Mr Mitting had granted anonymity on the basis of evidence and could review any decisions right up to the point where an officer was giving evidence.

One SDS officer has already had their anonymity revoked in the light of new evidence and another case is currently under review, he added.

Eighteen barristers represent a range of parties at the hearing. A decision on whether the challenge can proceed will be announced at a later date.

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