15 Feb 2017

Undercover police inquiry delayed amid soaring costs

The inquiry into four decades of undercover policing is ‘increasingly unlikely’ to commence public hearings into evidence until 2018 – the year it was supposed to produce its first report, and two and a half years after it was opened.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06: The Curtis Green building in Westminster, which is the new home of the Metropolitan Police force, is seen on January 6, 2017 in London, England. This building will be the the third headquarters to carry the "Scotland Yard" name, after the original home of the Metropolitan Police, on Whitehall. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
The Metropolitan Police has complained about soaring costs of retrieving secret material and has asked for another six months to prepare cases for officers who served in these clandestine units to be granted anonymity.

The Met has also questioned why the inquiry needs to hear from all those who were part of the controversial disbanded Special Demonstration Squad (SDS).

The SDS methods have been heavily criticised for stealing dead children’s identities and for relationships with women.

In a series of correspondence with the inquiry, the Met’s lawyer Melanie Jones revealed there would be 112 former undercover officers who would request their identities be kept secret.

In one letter, the Met’s lawyer writes “Many officers are reluctant to engage with the inquiry process and in particular with the question…whether or not their identity should be restricted.

“They and their families may find the process of applying for restriction, harrowing and upsetting.”

Each case, it argues, needs to be risk assessed but the Met has currently neither the staff nor the resources to do so.

The newly published letters also reveal the Met has so far spent £4.5 million pounds and has disclosed to the inquiry more than a million pages of classified material.

The inquiry’s chairman Lord Pitchford is provide a revised timetable to the Home Secretary and hold a hearing March to decide on the Met’s application for delay.

He said the question arises whether the inquiry can fulfill its remit without taking evidence from every surviving SDS officer.