Calls for undercover policing inquiry go before judge

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Banner outside High CourtImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The inquiry being held at the High Court in London has already attracted criticism from campaigners

A woman who claims she was spied on as a political activist is taking her campaign against undercover policing to the Court of Session.

A two-day judicial review brought by Tilly Gifford will look at calls for an independent public inquiry into undercover operations in Scotland.

"Secret" police units infiltrated activist groups, some forming long-term relationships and fathering children.

The Undercover Policing Inquiry, under retired judge Sir John Mitting, is currently examining the conduct of undercover Metropolitan Police officers in England and Wales.

But UK ministers have said it is "not possible" to extend it to Scotland, despite claims of officers also spying north of the border.

Scottish ministers said they were "extremely disappointed" by this, but in February, the then Justice secretary Michael Matheson rejected calls for a new probe in light of a report on undercover policing in Scotland which showed "no evidence of any systemic failings".

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Tilly Gifford was a 24-year-old environmental campaigner when she was arrested in 2009

Tilly Gifford is the petitioner in the judicial review, to be heard by Lady Carmichael in Edinburgh on Thursday and Friday.

In 2009, Ms Gifford was working with Plane Stupid, which was protesting about the environmental damage done by airport expansion.

She told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "There is no recourse to truth and justice in Scotland. There is no inquiry here and this is why we have to bring this case to court.

"I was targeted in Scotland. I will never find out who these men were that followed me, why I was targeted or who commissioned this to happen.

"But I am just one example.

"Behind me there are miners who were on strike in 1984/85, trade unionists, peace campaigners in Scotland. And all the women who were in long-term relationships with these officers in Scotland. These people need answers to what happened in Scotland and who commissioned these things to happen."

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Plane Stupid campaigned against the expansion of Aberdeen Airport

The Undercover Policing Inquiry relates to units set up to use undercover police officers to infiltrate activist groups.

Mostly instigated by the Metropolitan Police, the officers worked in long-term operations within political groups on the far left and right, and animal rights groups.

Often, they formed intimate relationships with women members, in some cases fathering children. This has been widely condemned.

Ms Gifford said: "These are really serious abuses of human rights. These officers stole the identities of dead children, deceived women into long-term intimate relationships, some of them fathered children and disappeared out of these women's lives when they got a promotion to go and train more police officers to do the same thing.

"It's revolting the level of institutional sexism and human rights abuses - how can we move forward and have any proper safeguards in place and protect ourselves and the general public if we don't understand what happened?

"We can't move on if the files aren't opened up on political policing in Scotland and across the UK."

During the hearing, Lady Carmichael is being asked to rule on whether it is right that the UK government refused to extend its remit into activities in Scotland, including during the G8 summit at Gleneagles in 2005.

She will also determine whether it is right that the Scottish government has now refused to hold its own inquiry.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
An English officer was alleged to have infiltrated environmental groups ahead of the G8 summit at Gleneagles in 2005

Lady Carmichael will announce her ruling at a later date.

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We await with interest the outcome of the judicial review.

"There is no evidence of any systemic failings within undercover policing by Scottish police. The Scottish government has written on a number of occasions to Theresa May to make clear our disappointment that the terms of reference of the Undercover Policing Inquiry would not be extended to allow it to consider the evidence of these English and Welsh units' activity in Scotland."

The UK government said the Home Office would be defending its position in this case, but said it would be inappropriate to comment further while legal proceedings are ongoing.

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