Undercover police inquiry challenges Met to disclose and deliver
The public inquiry into 40 years of undercover policing has reached a crossroads, not because of funding, £4.6 million so far, but its formidable remit.
The Metropolitan Police is challenging the inquiry’s very existence because it says it can’t find the staff, the resources or meet the deadlines.
This unique and remarkable investigation will mean close to 100 current and ex police officers will have anonymity in one shape or form.
And each one of these cloaked witnesses carries with him or her hundreds upon hundreds of documents detailing their covert activities.
So the inquiry has reached a hiatus. For every one of these witnesses and possibly their families needs to be risk-assessed for the fear of exposure.
The inquiry’s demands for this immense task has exposed the limitations of the Metropolitan Police to meet them.
There were 118 undercover officers deployed either by Special Branch under the auspices of the Special Demonstration Squad or by its successor the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.
16 have died, 3 untraceable and 5 are at war with their current or former employer, the Met, about legal representation.
The inquiry argues that anonymity is the ‘gateway to transparency’, not just of police officers but of those they spied on.
“There is both evidence suggestive of very productive undercover police operations that have been instrumental in bringing dangerous criminals to justice and evidence giving cause for concern that merits further investigation”.
But as time drags on so the credibility of this inquiry diminishes. It has admitted there’ll be no public examination of evidence until 2018. There’s no estimate of when next year that will begin and as the months peel away the risk increases that more participants will no longer be in a condition to be held to account.
Next month there’s a hearing to try to find a way through this labyrinth of problems. It’s a test of who’s running this show, the Met, which is struggling to meet deadlines, or the inquiry which finds itself also unable to meet deadlines but ultimately must rule the roost.