July 18, 2019

I was lied to by a police spy. The inquiry promised the truth but we’re far from it | Kate Wilson | Opinion


So now we know. When asked, the chair of the undercover policing inquiry, Sir John Mitting, has granted anonymity to two-thirds of the police spies who asked for it. I am dismayed that Mitting has erred towards keeping the police’s secrets, although I’m not really surprised. The chair, who is a member of the men-only Garrick Club and has described himself as old-fashioned, has repeatedly shown himself to be out of touch with the realities of institutional sexism, racism and political persecution, which are what the inquiry is about. It is hard not to conclude that he is biased in favour of the police. As someone who has invested so much into the fight for answers, I am deeply concerned.

If you haven’t followed my story, in 2003 I fell in love with a man who did not exist. He was charismatic and romantic and shared my interests and dreams. We lived as lovers for more than a year. He was close to my family, and we were the closest friends. Then, in 2010, I received a phone call: Mark Stone was not the man I thought I knew. He was Mark Kennedy, an undercover police officer, paid to infiltrate political groups; provided with resources to deceive me; supervised and followed by a team of cover officers and senior police. He was under orders, manipulating my emotions and actions according to their operational aims.

Mine is not the only, or even the most horrifying, story. There is a long catalogue of abuse and there will be more to come. There is increasing evidence of a calculated conspiracy, with police using women’s bodies as a tool of political persecution, raising fundamental questions about political policing in a country that believes itself to be free.

Yet Mitting has ruled to keep secret not only real names, but also many cover names – the fictitious names they used to deceive and commit the abuses the inquiry was set up to investigate. Each of those decisions means that some people targeted by that officer will never know their friend or lover was lying. It means that the only version of events will be the one told by the police. It means that some victims will be given no right to reply.

My case has become the first time facts and documents about undercover relationships have been examined by anyone outside the police. As a result, we now have evidence that managers were complicit in the relationships, and that many of their public statements were misleading or untrue.

There are lessons to be learned. The first, and most important, is that these officers lied; they did not always discriminate about to whom they told those lies; and if they can get away with it, many are lying still. That means secret intelligence documents produced then, or even statements made now, cannot be taken at face value. Yet, in allowing many of these officers anonymity, Mitting appears to believe the testimony of their victims is of little importance, and in such cases he plans to draw conclusions based solely on police statements and files.

The second lesson is that the police are not approaching these investigations in good faith. From the outset, in our cases, and in the inquiry, they have dedicated vast amounts of public money to avoiding scrutiny of their actions. On the 10th anniversary of Mark’s true identity being exposed, the inquiry will not have even started hearing evidence.

Meanwhile, on 16 May, I am in court again. The police claim they are keen to get to the truth, yet after eight years of legal battles, there is still no trial in sight. I may not be able to fight them much longer, as I am literally being priced out of court. Unlike the police, I, and the other women affected, depend on donations. We are currently crowdfunding to be able to continue, and I am in the daunting position of possibly having to face the police on these deeply painful issues without any legal representation.

That is scary, because the third lesson is that these secretive police units existed in an echo chamber. Their operations were beyond public scrutiny and subject to runaway mission creep for too long. They lost their moral compass. They lost touch with what was real.

I was recently deeply shocked by a statement made by the Metropolitan police to the BBC, saying that policing Extinction Rebellion (XR) was “very, very difficult” for officers because they are dealing with “probably quite nice people … who don’t want confrontation … but are breaking the law”, and that this was a situation they had never encountered before.

The police believe that I and the hundreds of political groups they targeted over the past five decades are not nice people. They believe there is some significant difference between XR protesters, who last week were locked together in the City of London, and (for example) the Stansted 15, who were locked together on the runway, and convicted of terrorism-related charges.

Paradoxically, in many cases we are the same people. I have been part of XR protests. Many “nice” XR supporters have been the targets of spy-cops and victims of police violence, because we have been campaigning about environmental destruction, social justice, and yes, climate change, for many years.

The practices investigated by the inquiry amount to political policing. We were targeted for our beliefs, often regardless of whether we were breaking the law. Even where police evidence is “truthful” it forms part of the narrative they created to justify what they did. In allowing officers to maintain their anonymity, Mitting appears to believe that police evidence is more valuable than victims’, and his bias when it comes to deciding what the public needs to know puts control of the narrative in the hands of a sexist, racist, politically prejudiced institution that carried out anti-democratic operations without public oversight for decades. He asks us to trust him to make an assessment of that narrative alone. Whatever your political position, that should be cause for concern.

Kate Wilson is an activist who was deceived into a relationship with the undercover police officer Mark Kennedy



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