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THE CREDIBILITY of the spycops inquiry lay in tatters today after a mass walkout by core participants who refused to lend the inquiry “a legitimacy it does not have and does not deserve.”
Growing frustration with inquiry chair John Mitting, who has granted full anonymity to the vast majority of undercover officers, came to a head when the core participants and their supporters left the hearing in protest at being treated as “mere window dressing.”
The inquiry into the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), which infiltrated political groups — with undercover officers often engaging in long-term sexual relationships and committing crimes to maintain their cover — has been bogged down in anonymity applications since it was established three years ago.
Phillippa Kaufmann QC said the core participants “have reached a point where our concerns can no longer be ignored.”
Addressing Mr Mitting, she said the focus of the victims’ “very grave concerns are disclosure and, to be frank, yourself.”
She described the inquiry chair as “the usual white upper-middle-class elderly gentleman whose life experiences are a million miles away from those who were spied upon.”
Ms Kaufmann asked Mr Mitting to either stand down or at least sit with a panel of people “who will understand the critical issues that shape this inquiry.”
She concluded: “We are not prepared actively to participate in a process where [the core participants’] presence is mere window dressing, lacking all substance and meaning, which would achieve nothing other than lending this process a legitimacy it does not have and does not deserve.”
As the public gallery emptied en masse, one core participant told Mr Mitting: “You want to cover up the identity of my former abuser. You want to give him the privacy I never had.”
Doreen Lawrence, who was spied on as she campaigned for justice for her murdered son Stephen, said she was “saddened” by the walkout, but it was a step “I have been forced to take.”
She said Mr Mitting was “turning what should be a transparent, accountable and public hearing into an inquiry cloaked in secrecy and anonymity,” adding: “I want to know the names of the police officers who spied on me, my family and our campaign for justice.”
HN109, the officer in charge of the SDS the night Stephen Lawrence was murdered, was effectively granted anonymity today.
“Andrea,” who was once engaged to notorious spycop “Carlo Neri,” said: “What we need is a group who can investigate institutional sexism with some life experience and background in it.”
She pointed to the SDS “tradecraft manual” — written by current Tory councillor Andy Coles and published this week — noting that it “shows that sexual relationships were actually part of the trade … it was strategic, it wasn’t rogue officers.”
Blacklisted worker Dave Smith said the inquiry had “descended into a good old-fashioned Establishment cover-up,” adding: “Mitting was put in charge to carry out a job of work on us and he’s doing it.
“Mitting must go and needs to be replaced with a panel of experts who have at least some degree of empathy with the victims and are prepared to question the accounts of undercover police officers who have been trained to lie.”
Hannah Sell from Youth Against Racism in Europe said the walkout was the result of “an accumulation of the fact that there is no attempt to cross-question the police,” adding that she hoped the walkout “puts pressure not just on Mitting but on the whole process.
“This inquiry wasn’t set up because [then home secretary] Theresa May had a change of heart. It was public pressure that forced them to it and us walking out will exert public pressure not just on Mitting but the government.”
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