UK

Undercover policing report delayed by new allegations

A report into undercover policing has been delayed after a BBC investigation uncovered claims an officer underwent trial using his operational alias.

A lawyer told BBC Newsnight that Met Police Det Con Jim Boyling's conduct called into question the conviction of an activist whose group he infiltrated.

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has delayed the publication of its report to consider the new information.

Its inquiry was prompted by earlier complaints about officer conduct.

"In light of the [latest] allegations in the media, we are delaying the launch of our report," said a statement by the watchdog.

"This is so we can consider the relevance of this information to the recommendations for improvement in undercover policing tactics that we are making in our review."

The investigation was originally ordered into revelations about undercover officer, Mark Kennedy, who spent seven years infiltrating a group of climate activists.

'Institutionalised corruption'

However the latest claims, uncovered by a Newsnight investigation with the Guardian newspaper, concern Det Con Boyling.

He worked in specialist operations at the Metropolitan Police and was engaged in covert surveillance of the Reclaim The Streets environmental group when he was arrested and charged with other activists at a demonstration in London, in August 1996.

He is said to have attended sensitive legal meetings - including those with a fellow defendant - and the final trial under his alias, "Jim Sutton".

One of the other activists was convicted of public order offences at the 1997 trial, but the undercover officer was found not guilty.

Mike Schwarz, of law firm Bindmans, which unwittingly acted as defence solicitor for "Jim Sutton", told the BBC's Newsnight the officer would have given evidence under oath about who he was and what had happened.

"It's institutionalised police corruption of the legal process for this to happen."

He said the case "raises the most fundamental constitutional issues about the limits of acceptable policing, the sanctity of lawyer-client confidentiality and the integrity of the criminal justice system".

John Jordan, who was arrested alongside Det Con Boyling and subsequently convicted of assaulting a police officer, told Newsnight: "You go and meet your solicitor and... you think it's you and your solicitor.

"You don't think it could be you, your solicitor and a police officer under cover. Jim would have been privy to all the communications we had.

"It was totally outrageous... someone was giving all the information you were saying privately to your lawyer to the prosecution."

Collapsed trial

The Metropolitan Police (MPS) said it had been "reviewing issues regarding the deployment of undercover officers and the policy and practices in place at the time" of these claims.

"The MPS acknowledges that these are serious matters and is continuing to review the situation, and will take account of any additional information that becomes available.

"We are confident that the current legislative and regulatory framework governing the deployment of undercover officers ensures that all such deployments conducted now are lawful and appropriately managed."

Det Con Boyling was placed on restricted duties in January and investigated by the Met's Directorate of Professional Standards following allegations that he married an activist whom he was supposed to be spying on.

The fresh allegations emerged following a review of records at Bindmans carried out after Mr Kennedy's covert work was exposed.

The trial of six men, who were accused of conspiring to shut down Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottinghamshire in 2009, collapsed earlier this year amid reports that Mr Kennedy had changed sides and offered to help the defence.

The HMIC review had been expected to highlight a failure of supervision and suggest police chiefs ensured officers were not left on undercover assignments for too long in the future.

But it was not expected to call for judges' authorisation of undercover operations, which has been suggested by some senior police.

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