Climate Camp’s legal team refuse to participate in undercover review
The Camp for Climate Action Legal Team was recently invited to take part in a ‘Have Your Say’ event on Tuesday 24th May, as part of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary’s ongoing review into the police’s domestic extremism units. The review was launched in response to January’s serial revelations about undercover police officers deployed within a range of protest groups.
Today, we have written to HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and declined their invitation.
Climate Camp has certainly had its fair share of dealings with undercover police. It has been well documented how police infiltrators Lynn Watson and Mark Kennedy helped to execute the first camp near Drax power station in 2006. They went on to play roles in many of Climate Camp’s subsequent actions.
One thing is abundantly clear. Despite the millions of pounds that we now know was poured into undercover operations against us, they failed to stop the growing climate justice movement. While the likes of Kennedy and Watson watched every little thing we did, we were successful in stopping the third runway from being built at Heathrow and we threw the government’s plans for new coal fired power stations into disarray.
Even when they occasionally undermined our activities, our resilience was undisputable. In April 2009 the undercover unit responsible for Mark Kennedy secured the arrest of 113 climate activists on the eve of a planned shutdown of Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station. However, not only did the controversial pre-emptive arrest fail to lead to a single safe conviction, but six months later the climate movement returned to the very same power station - this time bringing over 1000 people.
Yet, this does not stop us from strongly condemning the police’s actions in deploying undercover officers against those who wish to take political action. Their actions have caused gross infringements on countless people’s right to privacy and freedom of expression. There is a great deal of evidence to suggest they repeatedly acted illegally.
Sadly, we hold little faith in this review’s ability to change anything.
The scope of this inquiry is far too limited. Its terms of reference, which failed to be made public from the outset, focus on internal issues of police management and administration. There is no scope for questioning the ethical and moral issues that emerged from this year’s revelations, particularly given that we are being offered just a single 2-hour consultation session towards the end of the review process.
Furthermore, the scandal of police infiltrators requires the actions and decisions of senior police officers to be investigated, not just the behaviour of the undercover operatives themselves. We do not therefore believe that HMIC, predominantly staffed by senior police officers, is a sufficiently independent body to be conducting the review.
The Climate Camp Legal Team has always sought to hold the police to account when they act disproportionately and unlawfully, as was demonstrated at our recent high court victory regarding ‘kettling’. The issue of undercover policing is no different, but we will only participate in a process when we believe there is hope of gaining meaningful answers.