Four activists who are involved in the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance met Scottish Justice Secretary Michael Mathieson this week to call for a independent inquiry into undercover policing in Scotland. The Pitchford Inquiry only covers England and wales and so far the government has resisted calls to widen its remit.
In response to that, the Scottish government commissioned Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) to do a review. But 18 of those who were spied upon north of the border wrote to the HMICS recently describing the review as a “retrograde step” because it’s “a body of career police officers investigating their colleagues. On that basis alone, it cannot be trusted.”
The four activists later held a press conference in which they said the current investigation is flawed because “HMICS is the most inappropriate body to be doing this as it’s a group of senior police officers, some of whom were personally involved in authorising these [undercover] officers.It is not independent and it cannot be trusted.”
It will also only cover from 2000-onwards, the period the devolved parliament has been in existence, and will therefore exclude many of the spycops who went to Scotland. One of those present, Helen Steel, was the partner of SDS agent John Dines who visited Scotland towards the end if his deployment in 1991.
One of them, Tilly Gifford, was approached by officers who tried to recruit her as an informant while she was involved in the anti-aviation group Plane Stupid in 2009. She said: “Because this happened in Scotland, I will not be included in the Pitchford Inquiry. Although there is evidence, and it is documented, that I was targeted, I will be completely left out of the inquiry. I don’t know who these people were. They were using Strathclyde Police resources but their names did not appear on any Strathclyde Police databases.”
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson claimed that “a single inquiry across the UK would be the best option for a comprehensive and coherent investigation into these matters. As the UK Government has refused our request for this, we have directed HMICS to carry out an independent review of undercover policing in Scotland.
“The review will be essential in gathering facts about existing and historical undercover policing activities, over the period the Scottish Parliament has had responsibility in this area, and will inform any future decisions we make. People can have full confidence that the HMICS review of undercover policing will be thorough and independent.”