November updates from the Pitchford Inquiry
Carlo Neri confirmed
Exposed only in January this year, through a collaboration between those he targeted and the Undercover Research Group , this lead to a splash in The Guardian and Newsnight. As a result, several more people were readily added as core participants to the Inquiry, including on the grounds of relationships . The Inquiry recently released that Carlo was being added to the list of core participants with cipher N104.
The police's Operation Herne had also recently tacitly admitted he was one of theirs when they sent letters to those targeted by him, requesting interviews in relation to Carlo encouraging activists to engage in arson .
When we asked the Metropolitan Police about this, they replied:
The MPS have a well established policy of neither confirming nor denying who may work or may have worked undercover.
How much longer the police will attempt to straddle the two pretty much incompatible worlds remains to be seen.
Those closely watching the spycop scandal are intrigued by the ease with which the police’s bulwark of Neither Confirm Nor Deny [NCND] was overcome in Carlo’s case. In comparison with much longer ongoing cases still awaiting formal confirmation, the relative painlessness of it is noteworthy. For campaigners, that the Inquiry can provide the information so readily strengthens demands for the release of the full list of cover names.
There may be an argument that in the case of Carlo, the evidence could be considered incontrovertible – activists uncovered documents naming Carlo as a police officer at the time he was infiltrating north London anti-racists. However, the same such unequivocal documentation was missing for Jacobs, and for several other unconfirmed but well established spycops such as Mark Jenner and John Dines . There is no obvious reason why they should not receive the same straight-forward confirmation from Pitchford.
The importance of this cannot be underestimated for the people affected. The policy of NCND in cases were it is clearly a pretence has long been an issue of complaint in court cases. One of Carlo’s former partners (and to whom he proposed marriage), ‘Andrea’ highlighted it’s impact when she told the Morning Star:
I am, of course, relieved to have finally received official confirmation... The fact that it has taken the police so long to acknowledge this has undoubtedly caused additional stress and uncertainty within an already difficult situation for myself and my family.
Timetable & Resources
It has come as a surprise to no-one that the Inquiry timetable is slipping .
The Chairman is of the view that the work of the Inquiry is too important to artificially squeeze into a three year time frame... Core participants have also expressed concerns to the Inquiry that a compacted timescale would not allow for a thorough investigation.
A revised timetable is to be presented next Spring. The reasons for the delay were given as:
The volume and complexity of the material the Inquiry is receiving is unusual in kind and scale for a public inquiry. The legal processes for making decisions on key anonymity applications have been time consuming for both the Inquiry and its core participants.
Behind the scenes, a common view on the delays is that the Inquiry has yet to get full grip on police procrastination. Despite it being due to be at the evidential stage by now, key protocols on release of evidence have still to be agreed. Pitchford may be keen to emphasis that the Inquiry will take an inquisitional rather than adversarial approach, but for many core participants it does not seem the Metropolitan Police paid attention to that particular memo.
The same note from the Inquiry also commented on resources available to it, reassuring all is well. This is clearly in response to recent concerns expressed to it, that the Inquiry is not sufficiently staffed to do the job asked of it. The lack of a secure IT system to handle sensitive documents is equally hard to comprehend: one has now been purchased, but by the time it is installed, it will be two years in.
Pitchford is also of the opinion that the Inquiry is financially well supported. This raised the issue of whether it is relying too much on police to do the leg-work for it. Currently the Inquiry has 27 people working for it, though plans to hire more. Operation Herne had 65 people last year, and complained it was not enough . But the question asked by some is why an expensive investigation that has no confidence from the many affected is still running independently to the Inquiry and with far greater resources? Why not, it is suggested, turn Herne’s resources over to Pitchford?
Finally, we note that one of the groups doing work around the Inquiry, Police Spies Out of Lives has issued a useful briefing on the, mainly legal, steps Pitchford has taken to date.