James Straven: the curious case of the spycop with two cover names

James Straven aka Kevin Crossland spied on hunt saboteurs while undercover from 1997-2001.

In September 2018 the Undercover Policing Public Inquiry released the identity of the spycop who had been known by the cypher HN16. Intriguingly the Inquiry’s press release reveals he had two names: James Straven and Kevin Crossland. He worked for the Special Demonstrations Squad and the groups he targeted were Brixton Hunt Sabs, Croydon Hunt Sabs and the Animal Liberation Front. 

The name James Straven would have been specifically created for his deployment which began in 1997. But at some point he also called himself Kevin Crossland, the identity of a seven year old child who was killed in an aeroplane crash in 1966. The inquiry adds: “Use of this name does not appear to have been sanctioned…and the Inquiry is investigating why and how the name “Kevin Crossland” was used. It encourages anyone with information about this to come forward.”

The press release included a statement by Kevin’s relatives. He died in a tragic accident along with his sister and mother. His father survived “with multiple injuries, burns and enormous guilt that he was not able to save his family.” The relatives have been granted core participant status in the Inquiry.

Why Straven began using a different name is a mystery. We know the use of dead childrens’ identities was phased out in the mid nineties. But a much later spy who worked for the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, Rod Richardson, stole the identity of a child who had died in the seventies. It has been suggested that Richardson may have read the SDS Tradecraft Manual written by Andy Coles in 1995 which explained how to do that. Straven would no doubt have seen the document and perhaps it gave him the idea as well.

Straven had two intimate relationships with women while undercover and lied about both to the Inquiry. In October 2017 he applied for a restriction order over his cover name. This would mean that it could never be publicly divulged. In a signed statement as part of his anonymity application, Straven “denied conducting a sexual relationship in his cover name during his deployment with named women.”

One of those women was “Ellie” (not her real name). Confronted with this he admitted they had had a relationship for several months. When asked if he knew her contact details he said all he could provide was “a guess at an old email address”. This was another lie. Solicitor  Harriet Wistrich submitted a statement to the Inquiry on behalf of Ellie saying she and Stravern had had a sexual relationship for about a year from 1999-2000 and since then she had remained in touch with him. She also said he contacted her recently “to say that he had been an undercover officer in the Special Demonstration Squad and to warn her that she might be contacted by the Inquiry.”

Straven also had a sexual relationship with another woman named “Sarah” (not her real name). An Inquiry anonymity ruling made on 25 October 2018 says “the relationship was conducted by a man in an identity not his own came as a profound shock when it was disclosed to her in August by the Inquiry.” At that stage she had not given a statement to the Inquiry which instead relied on a witness statement by her solicitor, Harriet Wistrich. Both “Ellie” and “Sarah” are core participants in the Inquiry.

We know certain things about HN16/Straven thanks to his risk assessment of November 2017. According to his Powerbase profile he was “involved in protection duties before joining the SDS. Initially, he performed ‘back office’ duties and developed his legend before being deployed. He ‘did not receive any formal training for the role’, and ‘preparation consisted of research, reviewing of files and informal contact with more experienced UCOs’. ‘N16 had a mentor at the initial stage of the deployment and subsequent support from another SDS officer’. He told the Risk Assessor that promises of anonymity were given .”

We also know that he was arrested during his deployment, but the case did not come to trial, and he was the subject of a misconduct investigation.

One of those who knew Straven in Brixton Hunt sabs said they did not warm to him: “He just didn’t fit in, he was too much of a posh ‘pretty boy’. I don’t remember him ever actively sabbing, he just lingered around acting soft and always smiling.”


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