Mark Kennedy: from spycop to corporate spy and the animal rights connection

Mark Kennedy was undercover for seven years and had at least four intimate relationships with female activists.

Mark Kennedy is currently under scrutiny by his ex-employers. An inquiry, codenamed Operation Montrose, is examining the former undercover cop for “inappropriate sexual relationships” and breaking the 1989 Official Secrets Act when he revealed details to activists after they discovered his true identity.

The investigation, led by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and conducted by Met police officers, is “part of a wider internal inquiry into Kennedy’s former unit” according to a report by Rob Evans of the Guardian on 28 August 2019. Kennedy worked for the National Public Order Investigation Unit (NPOIU) for seven years until he was unmasked in 2010, leading to an undercover policing scandal.

The NPOIU was set up by the Labour government in 1999 to counter the growth of animal rights, environmental and leftwing movements. Kennedy lived in Nottingham and used the Sumac Centre, home of Veggies Catering Campaign, There was considerable crossover between environmental and AR activism at the time, with both using Sumac, yet Kennedy – known as Mark Stone – openly ate meat and is said to have ridiculed animal rights.

His targets were radical environmental groups such as Earth First! and Climate Camp and also anticapitalist campaigns. With his reputation for having a van, plenty of money and the ability to get things done, he quickly became a prominent figure and an expert in logistics. Kennedy was one of the organisers of the anti-G8 summit action at Gleneagles in July 2005 which attracted thousands of people.

In 2009 Kennedy played a pivotal role in an attempt to close down Ratcliffe on Soar coal-fired power station. Police stormed a planning meeting just before the action, arresting 114 people, including Kennedy. Twenty were convicted of aggravated trespass before a further six were prosecuted in a separate trial in January 2011. The trial collapsed after Kennedy’s involvement became known and those sentenced earlier had their convictions quashed a few months later.

In 2014 the convictions of 29 climate change protesters for blocking a train carrying coal from going into Drax power station in North Yorkshire six years earlier were overturned as well. Kennedy had been instrumental in the planning of the action, including spending £250 of police money to hire the van used to ferry the activists. One of them, Robbie Gillett, said:

In our trial in 2009, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service deliberately withheld evidence from the jury. They’re not interested in providing a fair trial to the political activists which they spy upon. This is political policing. It is an invasion of people’s lives, a waste of public money and from the police’s perspective, a legal failure.”

In late 2009 Kennedy was told by his bosses that his days as a spycop were over. By this point he had been entrenched in protest groups for six and a half years. His deployment had taken him to more than eleven countries, including the USA, Iceland and Germany. At least 49 (probably more) miscarriages of justice had occurred and he had had several intimate relationships with female activists, four of whom – Sarah, Kate, Naomi and Lisa – would later take legal action and receive an apology plus compensation from the Met.

In an interview with the Guardian in May 2011, Kennedy claimed he was left high and dry by the police – not given the psychological support that undercover officers need to have after leaving the field. Anything he says should be questioned. What is certain, however, is that he was composed enough to set up a company called Tokra Limited in February 2010 with himself as sole director.

The address of Kennedy’s company was also the work address of a solicitor specialising in personal injury and a former director of Global Open, a private security firm founded by Rod Leeming, who had been the boss of the Animal Rights National Index. ARNI, a Special Branch unit which collated information on animal rights activism, was incorporated into NPOIU in 1999, two years before Leeming set up Global Open.

In January 2011 the Guardian interviewed Leeming for an article called “Mark Kennedy: secret policeman’s sideline as a corporate spy.” He denied Kennedy had worked for Global Open but admitted that Tokra had been set up for a “reason” which he would not disclose.

What is certain is that after he left the Met, Kennedy carried on as an infiltrator and now targeted the animal rights movement. In August 2010 he turned up to the UK Animal Rights Gathering and the following month travelled to Italy for one there. Certain people who’d known him as an meat eating environmentalist found this rather strange.

This nevertheless fits neatly with him working for Global Open, a company known for its surveillance of animal rights activists. Following a freedom of information request, Netherlands’ General Intelligence and Security Service has just released 16 documents produced by Global Open between 2007 and 2009 in the form of “weekly digests” of protests and campaigns.

Each of these “digests” is mainly concerned with animal rights. For instance the edition dated 18 February 2009 is 24 pages long, 19 of which are devoted to reporting on AR protests (the vast majority being perfectly legal). There is also a “summary” which begins: “The success of the police operations in the UK against animal rights extremism can now be easily measured by the fact that some of the key extremists within the four main UK campaigns are all now serving terms of imprisonment”.

It makes perfect sense that Gobal Open would recruit someone of Kennedy’s experience as a corporate spy and then send him into the animal rights movement. Also, according to someone who knew him well at the time, Kennedy was short of money after leaving the police and was looking for work.

Kennedy admitted as much in an interview with the Daily Mail in January 2011. He said: I was approached by a private company which advises corporations about activist trends. It’s run by Rod Leeming, a former Special Branch officer. I’d never met him before”.

The article says Kennedy handed in his resignation from the Met in January 2010, one month before he set up Tokra, and then began working for Global Open as a consultant, though he claims he did not operate undercover for the company.

But what seemed like the ideal arrangement was not to last very long. Kennedy had to hand back his fake passport and driving licence to the police so when he went abroad he took ID containing his real identity. This amateur error cost him his new job when his girlfriend discovered his passport with the name Kennedy, not Stone. She told other activists and his web of duplicity quickly unraveled.

In October he was confronted by some of the campaigners he had spent years deceiving and confessed to them that he was a police spy. He also gave the name of another infiltrator, Lynn Watson. This appears to explain why he is under investigation for breaking the Official Secrets Act.

The unmasking of Kennedy in September 2010 was a pivotal moment in the spycops scandal. Four years later the Undercover Policing Public Inquiry was set up by Theresa May. However, one of its many limitations means it will not examine the issue of corporate spying, despite the apparent “revolving door” that exists between secret police units such as Special Branch and private security companies like Global Open.

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