The last week has seen a series of revelations concerning the spycop Christine Green who was deployed in the animal rights movement from 1994-99. On Sunday 18th February the Guardian reported the story of how she has been living with an activist she once spied on. At the same time the Undercover Research Group’s detailed profile of her went online and I published the first in-depth article about her on this blog.
From there events unfolded rapidly. On Tuesday morning the Undercover Policing Public Inquiry announced she was HN26 and had infiltrated London Animal Action, the ALF and West London Hunt Saboteurs. Last December I had speculated about this as there were a number of clues. Christine asked the inquiry to restrict her cover name but Mitting refused citing:
The activities in which HN26 participated during deployment are matters of legitimate public concern. Others, not belonging to the Special Demonstration Squad, could, if alerted to the cover name of HN26 give evidence of potential value about them and about HN26’s participation in them. Unless the cover name is published, there is a real risk that the Inquiry would be deprived of such evidence. No practicable means exists of obtaining such evidence from them unless the cover name of HN26 is published by the Inquiry.
What could Mitting be referring to? The answer took only hours to arrive when the Metropolitan Police issued an “Apology to Hampshire Constabulary re actions of undercover unit”. It named Christine as a participant in an ALF raid on a mink farm in August 1998 in which 6000 animals were released and said she was authorised by her superiors in the Special Demonstrations Squad up to possibly the rank of Detective Chief Superintendent.
At the time the details of Christine’s involvement and the role of the ALF wasn’t shared with Hampshire police. This only happened in 2014 following an investigation carried out by Operation Herne, the Met’s internal inquiry into spycops. It presented a file to the CPS in December 2015 but the latter decided “there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction” two months later. The matter was left for another two years until Mitting’s confirmation that Christine was a spy.
A public apology like this from one police force to another is very rare. The Met, however, tried to frame it to its advantage, emphasising how much it has changed and its openness: “The decision making surrounding this incident would simply not happen in today’s Metropolitan Police Service…The MPS will be honest about our past and accept criticism where it is due.”
The Met admitted Christine’s involvement had been authorised by her then line management,”potentially up to the rank of Detective Chief Superintendent” but gave no further details. The SDS Controller of Operations who oversaw Christine’s deployment was Bob Lambert, who infiltrated the animal rights and anarchist movements in the eighties. He took up that role in November 1993 and would therefore have had a vital role in her appointment and deployment. Lambert himself is accused of placing an incendiary device in a Debenhams store in 1987 by two activists who went to prison, Geoff Sheppard and Andrew Clarke, and his role in the ALF action is currently under investigation by the Met.
Lambert left the SDS is 1998 but it’s believed he was still there in August as he hosted a meeting in his garden on the 14th of that month with an undercover codenamed N81, who had spied on the Stephen Lawrence campaign, and Richard Walton of the Lawrence Review Team, preparing the Met’s submissions to the public inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
Above Lambert was a detective chief inspector in charge of the SDS whose real and cover names (he was also previously a spycop) will be kept secret, according to Mitting. He is known by the cypher HN58 and was head of the unit from 1997-2001. But as the Met’s apology says Christine’s deployment in the raid went “potentially up to the rank of Detective Chief Superintendent” that would implicate another ex-spycop named Roger Pearce, who was commander of special branch at the time.
Three days after the Met’s apology came an even bigger surprise. On Friday the Guardian published a statement by Christine in which she asserted:
“That the current senior management team at the Metropolitan police has chosen to expose my role, knowing the vilification and furore that would follow in the ‘trial by media’ whilst being fully aware of my ill-health issues, is scandalous. It is the Metropolitan police, not I, who should be holding its head in shame.”
It is shameful, she said, that the identities of senior officers who authorised her participation in the raid were hidden while she was outed. She then went further and gave a heartfelt apology “to those activists who I was closest to and who befriended me, opening their lives and homes to me…some of the best friends anyone could ever want, people who without hesitation put their liberty and sometimes their life on the line for me. I am certain they know who they are.”
To see a former undercover officer at loggerheads with her ex-employer like this is astonishing. The Met said Christine resigned from the force in August 2000 and undoubtedly behind it lies the “long-term damaging effect on my physical and mental health” as she describes it. It will be intriguing to see if more admissions are made and what her attitude will now be towards the Inquiry. Her heavily redacted risk assessment disclosed that: “N26 does not want to be involved in the inquiry…is but does not wish to be a core participant…has not cooperated fully with this risk assessment process.”
It appears Christine would have preferred to keep out of the limelight and therefore not engage with the inquiry in any way. But now she been thrust into it by the very people she thought should protect her. She must be livid with them. Only time will tell if she feels emboldened enough to make further declarations.
The other question demanding an answer is who was responsible for sanctioning her involvement. Bob Lambert was responsible for the day to day running of the SDS yet he left the unit shortly afterwards, although exactly when is unclear. According to the Undercover Research Group’s timeline on powerbase.com, late 1998 to late 2001 are his “missing years”. Did he quit over the ALF action?
The raid itself attracted enormous publicity on national television and in newspapers. Not long beforehand the owner of Crow Hill fur farm, Terence Smith, had been fined several thousand pounds after being convicted of animal cruelty when one of his employees was filmed beating a mink’s head against a metal box. In the preceding years the wearing of fur had been widely condemned and many people called for fur farms to be outlawed. Indeed New Labour had pledged to do that just a few months before it won the 1997 general election.
The same day as the ALF mink liberation – 8 August – a national march was held in London by the Animals Betrayed Coalition. Three thousand people protested over Labour’s inaction on fur, hunting with hounds and animal experiments. Despite the claim it would ban fur farming, the government had issued four new licences and in late 1997 the Mink Keeping Order was renewed for another five years. The raid on Crow Hill might have been timed to coincide with the ABC march, as several of the activists in that campaign were also part of London Animal Action, another group Christine infiltrated.
The Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act finally became law on 1 January 2003. By then there were just three farms left which had licences to operate.