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AN UNDERCOVER police officer broke the law by releasing thousands of mink into the English countryside, police chiefs admitted today.
The sensational revelation emerged after the public inquiry into police spying confirmed that a woman who infiltrated animal welfare groups was indeed an undercover officer.
The woman, who used the name Christine Green during her deployment, was outed in the press earlier this week.
The Metropolitan Police issued a public apology today for failing to inform Hampshire Constabulary when she “participate[d] in a criminal act” at a fur farm in the New Forest in 1998.
The Animal Liberation Front, which Ms Green was infiltrating at the time, claimed responsibility for releasing a richness of mink from Crow Hill Farm on August 8 that year.
Around 2,000 of the animals were rounded up immediately. Another 2,000 were shot or run over within a few days, but thousands more continued rampaging across the countryside.
Police set up a “mink desk” helpline to deal with villagers’ concerns. But they failed to stop the farmed mink breaking into a local bird sanctuary and reportedly killing three owls.
Hampshire Constabulary was unable to identify the culprits.
The Met said Ms Green “was authorised by her then line management, potentially up to the rank of detective chief superintendent,” to take part in the raid.
At the time, Ms Green’s unit, the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), was headed by Bob Lambert.
The golden boy of the spy cops, Mr Lambert has himself been accused of planting a bomb in a Debenhams store while infiltrating animal rights groups as a junior officer in 1987. He denies this allegation.
Paul Gravett, an animal rights activist who knew Ms Green during her infiltration of London Animal Action, told the Star: “There’s a long track record of alleged incitements by officers infiltrating groups. This goes back to the ’80s with Bob Lambert and Debenhams.
“It’s not really a surprise for me to hear this, but I’m a bit shocked at the way it’s been announced.”
Met Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball said the inquiry, which is now headed by judge Sir John Mitting, would “fully explore” the authorisation of Ms Green’s involvement.
“I would like to be clear that the decision-making surrounding this incident would simply not happen in today's Metropolitan Police Service,” she stressed.
She said the number of mink released was “unforeseen by the SDS at the time” and it was “not possible to say what direct impact the role of Christine Green's involvement had or if different policing decisions could have averted the damage.”
The Met’s apology was welcomed by Chief Superintendent Darren O’Callaghan of Hampshire Constabulary.
He said his force had only become aware of Ms Green’s involvement in 2014 and reviewed its original investigation but decided there was “no realistic chance of prosecution” due to the elapsed time.
The inquiry into undercover policing was announced in 2015, but it has yet to start hearing evidence.
Mr Mitting announced today that the identities of a further five officers would be restricted, but, as well as confirming Ms Green’s deployment, the inquiry announced that another officer had used the name Bob Stubbs while infiltrating the International Socialists and its successor the Socialist Workers Party in the 1970s.
Officers of the Met’s elite undercover squads frequently adopted the identities of dead children while infiltrating left-wing groups, environmental campaigns and trade unions.
Ms Green is said to be the first officer to have used a completely fictitious identity, after the SDS phased out its previous practice.
Another animal rights activist, who was deceived into a relationship in the 1990s by spy cop turned Tory councillor Andy Coles and who uses the pseudonym Jessica, called on the inquiry to publish all cover names.
Jessica, who is a “core participant” in Mr Mitting’s probe, said the inquiry had “not turned out how it seemed to be” under its previous chair Sir Christopher Pitchford, who stepped down last year and died shortly afterwards.
“It’s utterly ridiculous,” she told the Star. “Mitting has asked us to trust him, but it’s becoming more and more difficult with each identity he conceals.”
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