Earlier this month the Undercover Research Group (URG) published the first extensive record of James Straven on the website Powerbase. Straven has been known about in spycops circles for some time and an article about him appeared here last November. Thanks to URG we now know much more about him.
In a blog post to accompany the profile, Evelyn Lubbers says Straven was “was a text book undercover officer”. Like his predecessors in the secret Special Demonstrations Squad he had a car ,which he used to transport activists to protests, “a bedsit that looked unlived in, barren and impersonal” and a job as a location scout for film productions which meant he would go away from time to time. He also claimed to have children with an ex-girlfriend.
Straven began infiltrating Croydon Hunt Sabs in 1997. The public inquiry also lists Brixton Sabs and the Animal Liberation Front as his targets but there is no evidence of that to date. Regarded with curiosity and suspicion by his fellow sabs for being “posh’, he even earned the nickname “James Blonde”.
Straven’s deployment began soon after that of Matt Rayner ended in November 1996 but he was not a direct replacement for him. Rayner did go hunt sabbing but he mainly spied on London Animal Action. There is no evidence Straven did too despite living in southeast London. Members of LAA at the time don’t recall him, although the group’s meetings were exceptionally well attended (60-70 people each month) and he may have got overlooked.
Christine Green had already infiltrated LAA for two years when Straven appeared. She joined West London Hunt Sabs and the two spies paths would no doubt have crossed. When Green’s “tour of duty” ended, Straven faked an emotional breakdown. URG believes this was deliberately contrived as Green was in love with hunt sab Tom Frampton and were she to spill the beans, “James would be ready to disappear. Or so it seems. When nothing like that happened, James continued his deployment for another two years.
Initially Straven claimed he had not had any intimate relationships. Inquiry chair John Mitting then granted a restriction order forbidding anyone revealing Straven’s real name. But after two women came forward to say they had sexual relationships with him, Mitting revoked the order. “Sara” and “Ellie” (not their real names) were given Straven’s true identity by the Inquiry in October 2018 and his “real name will not now be redacted in documents that the Inquiry will publishin due course.”
Straven quit spying on the animal rights movement in early 2002. He claimed his ex partner was moving to the USA and he wanted to go there to be near his children. According to his URG profile: “Some remember that it was her new partner who got a job in San Francisco as the reason for the move. Straven claimed that being in the film industry, it would be easy for him to work from Los Angeles.”
Straven’s departure meant there was just one known spycop in the London/southeast region, Dave Evans, who had been infiltrating LAA since 1999. Soon afterwards Ritchie Clarke entered the field. However he was deployed by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit and lived in Bedford so should not be considered a direct replacement for Straven.