Opinion: Crown Prosecution Service is wrong not to prosecute undercover police officers

It is now widely-known that the Metropolitan Police Force has engaged numerous undercover police officers in covertly infiltrating various organisations which ‘might be’ dangerously subversive over many years. Several such officers have’deepened’ their cover by forming sexual and emotional relationships with memebers of the organisations concerned and have even brought up young children in these circumstances: two such officers have now been named in court proceedings and the existence of almost a dozen others has been acknowledged.
Although private civil prosecutions are proceeding against both individuals and the Metropolitan Police, the Crown Prosecution Service has recently published statement that there is not sufficient evidence to obtain a reasonable chance of a successful prosecution in a prosecution for ‘misconduct in public office’ and a number of other potential offences.
Much of the evidence of the women concerned is already in the public domain and it is totally clear (and not contested) that there was no possibility whatsoever that they would ever have commenced any sexual ‘relationship’ (sic) with any person who revealed to them that they were a member of a clandestine police surveillance unit. It is also clear that there was no reason whatsoever why the police officers involved ‘needed to’ form such ‘relationships’ in order to continue to perform their covert work. The formation of such ‘relationships’ although they may well have deepened the ‘cover’ and ‘trust’ in which the officers were held, was created by the police officers concerned for their own comfort, convenience and sexual gratification after manifesting to the women concerned, over a prolonged period and in a sustained way, the premise that they had a genuine wish to create a genuine relationship with them. This latter premise is demonstrably-false:the entire persona presented to the women by each of the officers concerned was a deliberate deception. They knew that no such relationship could be sustained once the truth emerged.

Sadly, a great many men and women gain consent to sexual congress through dishonest projection of their true circumstances. However deplorable, this conduct is not a criminal offence in the UK at this time. But, while other reasons might also have been served by the overall process of deception by these covert officers, the final elements of their deception (presenting a genuine wish to form a genuine relationship) were entirely personal to the women concerned and were clearly carried out in order to procure sexual intercourse over a prolonged period. Hence, the offence of “procurement of a woman for sexual intercourse by false pretences” ought to be chargeable.
There appear to be far stronger grounds for prosecuting officers for “misconduct in public office.” Deceiving a woman into giving consent to intercourse, having intercourse and raising children is ‘misconduct’ in any reasonable person’s lexicon. The UK state and its population would not deem the conduct by the individuals concerned to be anything less than ‘misconduct’. This would be so, were the only knowledge of the events and the instigation of them to be confined to the individuals concerned but it is quite possible that those involved in this affair, if charged, would raise a defence in mitigation that their conduct in obtaining and continuing with sexual relationships by deception was at the instruction of or with the consent of senior officers. Such senior officers’ conduct, if established, in either instructing, consenting to or failing to act to stop such sexual relationships being formed and maintained as part of the operational officers’ undercover work would likely constitute not only misconduct in public office but also conspiracy to cause misconduct in public office.
The Crown Prosecution Service performs much good work, a lot of which is non-controversial. But its senior officers are part of ‘the establishment’ and their approach to matters such as this one do suggest a view of the public interest which is very narrow, to say the least.

* Councillor Tony Dawson is Lib Dem Shadow Cabinet member for Health and Adult Care on Sefton MBC . He is a former NHS middle manager and whistleblower who, in 1991, won a Judicial Review in the High Court against the NW Regional Health Authority for their improper dismissal of him.

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  • Will we be getting an LDV response to Rotherham soon?

  • Richard Dean 27th Aug '14 - 3:38pm

    I feel the need for exploring a devil’s advocate approach here ..

    This is a nasty situation for the parties to end up in, but equally there may be couples who started out in this way, with the truth eventually coming out and love overcoming this pain of deception. Relationships do break down, but proving that the whole relationship was fraudulent and entered into for police purposes is likely to be difficult. The fact of a lie in a relationship doesn’t make the relationship un-genuine.

    Both sexes can enjoy intercourse, and both parties surely have a duty to themselves to check out the other first. Men tell lies to women all the time, and vice versa, and the lies can continue throughout a genuine loving marriage with children. I can’t imagine how any sane person would plan to have children as part of a police undercover operation. But if we were to prosecute people for “deceiving a woman (or man) into giving consent to intercourse”, we’d perhaps have to prosecute half the men (or women) in the country!

    Perhaps we should start by asking this: Given that undercover police work is necessary – particularly in relation to today’s terror threats – and that it does involve deception, what rules and limits of behaviour would be acceptable in terms of liberal democrat principles?

  • That’s the trouble the system looks after its self like the Rotherham sex scandal will one official or police officer get charged with a offence i.e. perverting course of justice lose their job pension or anything NO the system is corrupt

  • Melanie Harvey 27th Aug '14 - 8:51pm

    Strange how these historical stories and cases make the media frame when one party or another (mostly the Cons and Labs) has convenient use of them and fits their agenda.

  • Tony Dawson 28th Aug '14 - 7:59am

    Richard, the issue of ‘what is (or has been) acceptable conduct for undercover officers, and also what are the acceptable parameters for instruction of such officers by their uniformed superiors are both matters where I have an FOI request in. I am not holding my breath about the response being particularly illuminating. The offence which you marvel at DOES indeed exist, although it can only reasonably be prosecuted with a chance of success in certain narrow circumstances. I would argue that these are such circumstances.

    What Terry is saying about ‘The establishment sticking together’ reflects my own experience of over 30 years in public sector. The most obvious cases are those where a few persistent individuals establish in court or tribunal that they have been sacked by processes which were not plain ‘wrong’ but were totally off the wall by people in senior positions who could not possibly have done what they did without either conspiracy and malice or the grossest of negligence. Do they ever get disciplined, let alone sacked for their attempts to destroy someone’s life? Does anything similar ever happen to people who waste millions or billions of public money on acts of procurement madness? No.

    Returning to the CPS, many might be surprised at their decision not to prosecute Phil Woolas MP for the criminal offences which he was determined to have committed during the course of the High Court trial which deprived him of his parliamentary seat. This was, apparently, ‘not in the public interest’ since the man had apparently suffered enough in the civil trial. So, a member of ‘The Establishment’, oft-praised by the Daily Mail, managed to escape without a criminal record and was therefore enabled to return to rub shoulders with his former colleagues in the House of Commons as a lobbyist. More disgracefully, if that were possible, Woolas’ political Agent, who had lost nothing during the civil action but was cautioned in the high court since it had been he, rather than Woolas, who had laid out and written the disgraceful literature, also escaped all prosecution, freeing him to later stand for election. You may be surprised (or not!) to learn this was for UKIP. You may be pleased to learn that he was unsuccessful.

    Returning to undercover police work, and confessing to having a friend who used to club seal pups in Newfoundland ‘undercover’ for the British state, there is surely, in a time of austerity, a big question as to who determines how much public resource is directed where and for precisely what purposes. It would appear that any organisation which seriously questions the rules laid down by ‘The Establishment’ are almost automatically considered to be potentially dangerous enemies of the state when arguably they may sometimes be the state’s true best friends.

  • I’m not defending the officers’ conduct but how many times have you heard someone say “I never would have slept with him/her if I’d known he/she was married/had a gambling problem/was such a total idiot”. I’ve seen marriages end with both people saying “if only I’d known then what I know now”. The bigger question in my opinion is why they were conducting such long term surveillance in the first place. Did these groups really pose a credible threat of some kind?

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