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UNDERCOVER officers in the 1970s joked in front of their superiors about having sex with female activists they were spying on, the Undercover Policing Inquiry heard today.
Lead counsel David Barr QC told the inquiry that it was “not uncommon” for officers serving in the secret Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) to have sexual relationships with campaigners.
Mr Barr said that between 1972 and 1983, there were at least five officers who had sexual relationships, which involved 12 women.
While there was evidence that officers had been warned off having intimate relationships, Mr Barr said that there was “comment and joking amongst SDS undercover officers about sexual relationships that, it is stated, would have been made in the presence of managers.”
A main aim of the inquiry, which resumed today after a five-month pause, is to investigate sexual relationships by undercover officers in the SDS and another body, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.
At least 30 women are known to have been deceived into intimate relationships by undercover officers serving in one or other of the units, which infiltrated more than 1,000 protest groups over 40 years.
Today’s admissions are significant, as police have always maintained that sexual relationships were not a deliberate tactic and senior officers had no knowledge of them.
The inquiry also heard further evidence that high-ranking Metropolitan Police officers were aware of the SDS’s existence and activities. Mr Barr said that documents showed “high praise and support” for the unit among the London force’s senior figures.
Documents even indicated that in the early 1980s, Met commissioner Sir Kenneth Newman met SDS officers for a two-hour buffet lunch. A programme of the event, disclosed to the inquiry, included a profile of each SDS member and mentioned their targets.
“These documents add to the evidence that the most senior officers within the SDS were aware not only of the unit’s existence but, to some extent, the details of what it was doing,” Mr Barr told the inquiry.
Despite the rise of far-right groups in the 1970s, the SDS continued to spy exclusively on left-wing political groups, the inquiry heard, with its targets including anti-racists, the anti-apartheid movement, animal-liberation groups and organisations fighting for justice for victims of racism.
The Met repeated apologies toay for officers having sexual relationships and using the identities of dead children without their families’ consent.
The second round of hearings continues tomorrow with opening statements from spycop victims.
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