Confirmed: Marco Jacobs was a spycop
On Wednesday, the Pitchford Inquiry dropped a small bombshell. They confirmed that ‘Marco Jacobs’ was indeed the alias used by an undercover officer. This is an important chink in the armour of Neither Confirm Nor Deny, a policy the police heavily rely upon on when it comes to challenges around the accountability for the conduct of undercover police.
Marco Jacobs was an undercover officer with the National Public Order Intelligence Unit from 2004 to 2009, infiltrating animal rights, environmental, and anarchist protest groups in Brighton and Cardiff. A contemporary of notorious spycop Mark Kennedy, the two targeted many of the same networks. And like Kennedy, he is the subject of court proceedings, in this case brought by three South Wales activists, two of whom were in sexual relationships with him.
In January 2011, following Kennedy’s exposure, Jacobs was also unmasked as an undercover officer. In August that year, several Welsh activists complained to the Metropolitan Police over the inappropriateness of Jacobs’ relationships with them, saying they were wrongly deceived. The police responded that they could ’Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ (NCND) whether or not he was a police officer.
Unwilling to be fobbed off, the three of them pressed forward, taking a court case against the various police forces involved, including making the point that the effect of undercovers is bigger than just sexual relationships. At the same time, eight women also deceived into relationships with undercover officers were pursuing a second case against the police. Again there, the police maintained the policy of NCND.
In the Welsh campaigners’ case, the police argued that the burden was on the activists as claimants to prove that Jacobs had been a police officer. At a hearing in March 2015, Justice Mitting asked the police what was the point of this, something met by an awkward silence only resolved by Mitting asking a second question. Finally, in an excruciating abuse of language, the police said they would not admit that that Jacobs was an officer, but they would not contest the assertion.
A similar tactic of obstruction and delay was used in the women’s court case, with of the five undercovers named there, the police only admitting to Mark Kennedy, Jim Boyling and Bob Lambert on the grounds these three officers had ’self-exposed' in the media. For the other two, they stuck to NCND despite admitting liability, and issuing a humbling apology in November last year.
Thanks in large part to the courage and tenacity of these women in bringing these matters to light it has become apparent that some officers, acting undercover whilst seeking to infiltrate protest groups, entered into long-term intimate sexual relationships with women which were abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong.
As one of the women said to us at the time: who admits to liability and pays out for something they haven’t done? While the Met’s apology was a step forward, it was less than satisfactory for those involved; for them the fight for truth and answers is fundamental to why they brought the case.
The tactic of NCND has been wielded by the police in both court cases as a way of dragging out matters for five years, adding to the abuse and suffering already experienced by those targeted for relationships.
They police also sought to apply NCND at the Pitchford Inquiry into Undercover Policing, something that would have effectively forced the public inquiry to be held in secret. Though that particular tactic has since been dropped, the non-police/ state core participants are expecting more battles around upcoming ‘restriction order’ applications.
So why is the admittance of Marco Jacobs' role important? That can be summed up by lawyer Jules Carey, who acts for some in the public inquiry, took to twitter to state:
‘The no fuss of adding #MarcoJacobs as a #SpyCop to Inquiry under-plays abused victims 5 year legal fight for truth’.
Given that there has been no sudden change in the situation recently, was it not possible to acknowledge the fact much earlier?
What happened this week indicates that campaigners have been right in consistently pointing out that NCND is not a long standing policy that can never been breached, as the police claim, but something adopted when it suits them, namely when it comes to challenges over their accountability.
It is noticeable that it was the Inquiry rather than the police who eventually released the confirmation that Jacobs had been one of the undercover officers. However, it is hard to believe that the police did not have some say in this.
Details of Marco Jacobs' role have been in the public domain for five years. When the campaigners who knew him went to The Guardian in January 2011 they blew any chance of the police keeping the lid on Jacobs' activities. Further details of his abuse of trust and deceptions and those he targeted have emerged since. In all cases, what is known has come solely from those targeted, and it was their concerted effort that ultimately brought Pitchford to this point.
Still, the release of what seems a small detail is quite a significant victory. To refuse the confirmation of other undercover officers will be harder for the police, as they can not hide behind the policy of NCND. Furthermore, it strengthens the demand for a full release for all cover names used by undercover officers through the years.
N.B. When asked for a comment, the Metropolitan Police stated that ’Marco Jacobs was not a MPS police officer.’ When we approached another force, we received the following reply from a spokesperson for the National Police Chiefs Council:
In order to protect undercover operatives true identities and in line with the principles adopted by all police forces in England and Wales, we can neither confirm nor deny with regard to your questions about Marco Jacobs.
Furthermore, information released by the Pitchford Inquiry is related to an ongoing civil action, and as we are corresponding with legal representation for all parties, it would not be appropriate for the NPCC to comment at this stage.