This article in today’s Guardian about the ongoing repercussions of the Mark Kennedy undercover cop scandal earlier this year piqued my interest.
It appears that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has suppressed key evidence about the all-too-apparent innocence of environmental protesters in the run-up to their trials. In this case Mark Kennedy aka Stone, the policeman who for years infiltrated protest groups across Europe, had covertly recorded conversations during the planning sessions to break into Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station.
Kennedy offered to give evidence to prove that the unit he worked for at the time, the private and unaccountable ACPO-run National Public Order Investigations Unit (NPOIU), had witheld this key evidence. It now appears that the police are claiming that they passed all the information on to the CPS, which then seems to have neglected to hand it over to the protesters’ defence lawyers.
Which makes it even more fascinating that in April this year the Director of Public Prosecutions, famous civil liberties QC Keir Starmer no less, took the unprecedented step of encouraging those same protesters to appeal against their convictions because of potential “police” cover-ups.
It’s just amazing, isn’t it, that when vital information can be kept safely under wraps these doughty crime-fighting agencies present a united front to the world? But once someone shines a light into the slithery dark corners, they all scramble to avoid blame and leak against each other?
And yet this case is just the tip of a titanic legal iceberg, where for years the police and the CPS have been in cahoots to cover up many cases of, at best, miscommunication, and at worst outright lies about incompetence and potentially criminal activity.
A couple of months ago George Monbiot provided an excellent summary of recent “misstatements” (a wonderfully euphemistic neologism) by the police over the last few years, including such blatant cases as the death of Ian Tomlinson during the London G20 protests two years ago, the ongoing News of the World phone hacking case, and the counter-terrorism style execution, sorry, shooting of the entirely innocent Jean Charles de Menezes, to name but a few.
Monbiot also dwelt at length on the appalling case of Michael Doherty, a concerned father who discovered that his 13 year-old daughter was apparently being groomed by a paedophile over the internet. He took his concerns to the police, who brushed the issue aside. When Doherty tried to push for a more informed and proactive response, he was the one who was snatched from his house in an early morning raid and ended up in court, accused of abusive and angry phone calls to the station in a sworn statement by a member of the relevant police force, sorry, service.
And that would have been that — he would have apparently been bang to rights on the word of a police secretary — apart from the fact he had recorded all his phone calls to the police and kept meticulous notes on the progress of the case. Only this evidence led to his rightful acquittal.
As Monbiot rightly concludes, “justice is impossible if we cannot trust police forces to tell the truth”.
It appears that the notion of “citizen journalists” is just sooo 2006. Now we all need to be not only journalists but also “citizen lawyers”, just in case we have to defend ourselves against potential police lies. Yet these are the very organisations that are paid from the public purse to protect civil society. Is it any wonder that so many people have a growing distrust of them and concerns about an encroaching, Stasi-like, police state?
This is all part of engrained, top-down British culture of secrecy that allows the amorphous “security services” to think they can get away with anything and everything if they make a forceful enough public statement: black is white, torture is “enhanced interrogation”, and war is peace (or at least a “peacekeeping” mission in Libya.…). Especially if there is no meaningful oversight. We have entered the Orwellian world of NewSpeak.
But plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. This all happened in the 1970s and 80s with the Irish community, and also in the 1990s with the terrible miscarriage of justice around the Israeli embassy bombing in 1994. If you have the time, please do read the detailed case here: Download Israeli_Embassy_Case
We need to remember our history.