Dee Doocey writes… Questions now must be answered over the Met’s record of undercover policing

Last week, it was revealed that an undercover Metropolitan police officer, Jim Boyling, had been arrested and tried for a public order offence under his cover name, Jim Sutton. Yet at no time during the trial did he reveal the fact that he was using a false identity. At the time, in 1996, he had been posing as a member of the non-violent, pro-cycling ‘Reclaim the Streets’ campaign.

At the trial, Boyling would have given evidence under oath about who he was and what had happened – while maintaining a false identity. He had allowed himself to be arrested, charged, prosecuted and potentially convicted of a criminal offence. As it turned out, he was found not guilty. But Sutton’s police minders were prepared to allow him to face possible conviction for a criminal offence – an offence committed by a serving undercover police officer, giving evidence on oath with the benefit of privileged legal advice that he shouldn’t have had.

And Boyling was acting for both the prosecution and the defence. He was party to defence counsel’s advice, and had he shared any of this information with the crown, he would have made any prosecutions in the trial unsafe – surely a perversion of the legal process.

It just beggars belief that an undercover Met police officer went through the criminal justice system pretending to be someone else. There are a number of very serious questions which the Met must now answer:

  • Who in the Metropolitan Police authorised this operation, if anyone?
  • Was Jim Boyling authorised by his superiors to lie to the court about his identity?
  • If so, who authorised this, why was it authorised and is this officer still working for the Met?
  • How widespread were such practices?

If this operation was authorised, it was a monumental misjudgement by the Met and may call into question a number of convictions which may now be considered unsafe.

The Metropolitan Police Authority is meeting tomorrow and I will be asking the Commissioner for detailed answers to these questions.

The police have a duty to prevent and detect crime, and that work may sometimes require undercover operations. But in the Boyling case, the Met clearly crossed the line. After all, the ‘Reclaim the Streets’ protestors were a bunch of cyclists, not terrorists!

This case is now being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and the rules around undercover officers have now changed and should ensure that this can’t happen again.  However it remains the case this would have never have come to light without a press exposé.  This is simply not good enough.

Baroness Dee Doocey is the Liberal Democrat London Assembly policing spokesperson and member of the Metropolitan Police Authority.

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This entry was posted in London and Op-eds.
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3 Comments

  • Why? Didn’t you learn anything from all the lies they told about Jean Charles de Menezes?

  • Hear hear. This needs to be pursued until someone’s in court – a resignation or two is not going to be good enough.

  • Rather than playing the blame game about who authorised the operation it may be more pertinent to ask what legislation the operation was conducted under, whether that legislation still applies or whether it’s been superseded by PACE and the Serious Organised Crime Act.

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