Police met with anger as delaying tactics in spycop cases causes further distress
Deborah (an alias), who told of how Jacobs even came to her father's funeral, began suing the Metropolitan Police for answers in 2011, along with another woman and Deborah’s former partner, Tom Fowler. Instead of presenting an actual defence, the Met sought to maintain their policy of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’. This tactic ended up as farce in court when they said they would not contest the allegation that Jacobs was a police officer, but wouldn’t formally admit it either. Confirmation eventually emerged, when the Pitchford Inquiry announced recently he had indeed been a police officer.
As with other undercovers, the Inquiry seems to have forced the police’s hand. It is only now, five years in on Deborah’s case, that the police are starting to conduct searches of the material they have relating to Jacobs’ infiltration. It has been admitted that a keyword search has run to thousands of references, leading Deborah to suspect that he was spying on every aspect of her life. An open question is why this is only being done now, particularly since they have said it will take until next April to complete a review of the references by police lawyers.
Previously, police had taken the unusual step of asking that the claimants should first disclose their medical records and undergo psychiatric examination, before the police themselves made any disclosure. Normal procedure is that disclosure happens first and all parties do it simultaneously. This stalling tactic was thrown out by the court in June. At one point, they also sought to have the entirety of the legal action struck out. The second woman has since settled the case.
Tom Fowler stated:
The police have spent five years refusing to acknowledge anything at all. They've attempted to block, delay and discredit the civic claims against them, though they were fully aware of the validity of from the beginning. Using the most disrespectful legal defence possible they have set out to cause as much further pain and suffering to the victims.
The persistent delays have also been met with anger by Deborah, who told Channel 4 News:
Dragging it out is causing me more distress. I feel it’s abusive what they are doing. They know how distressed we are. It feels really cruel how they have treated us.
Nor has this admission by Pitchford been in anyway an answer for Deborah. In a statement released through Police Spies Out Of Lives she noted:
I have not received any apology, acceptance of liability or acknowledgement of the huge impact Marco’s deployment had on our lives.
When we asked the Metropolitan Police for comment they told us:
The MPS has recently settled one of the claims from the two women, and remains hopeful that the second claim can also be settled. An apology from all the relevant police forces is of course part of that settlement.
They also reiterated that Marco Jacobs had not been a serving MPS officer.
To those following the spycop saga, this is all predictable. Similar tactics have been used in the cases of other women suing the police over being targeted for relationships by undercover police, despite the Metropolitan Police giving a public apology. And likewise, they have told of how their pain is exacerbated by the process. The apology rings hollow, forced by the tenacity of those who pursued justice rather than a genuine acknowledgement of wrong-doing.
Indeed, their support group, Police Spies Out Of Lives has as their pinned tweet:
#Spycops' bosses tactic of relentless obstructions of legal cases redoubles their original abuse. Shameful.
Core participants in the Undercover Policing Inquiry also complain of police dragging their heels, particularly with no protocol on disclosure as yet agreed. The feeling is that the judiciary are struggling to get a grip on police prevarication.
Five years in on court cases, and two for a public inquiry that was meant to have begun in earnest by now, and they have a point. What could have been accepted at the time as natural delays or hiccups in process is appearing as a regular feature. Campaigners are wondering how much this is a deliberate strategy, and if so, how high it goes. As Tom Fowler put it:
The unwillingness of the police to own up the wrongdoings and instead engage in a squalid legal fight reflects poorly on the whole service, but particularly on senior management who by their behaviour have signalled that they condoned the most obscene abuses perpetrated by their officers.
The Metropolitan Police’s response is coordinated by Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, who also delivered the police’s apology regarding relationships. Hewitt has established the Public Inquiry Team to react to various inquiries including Undercover Policing and the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel - another inquiry experiencing its own delays.
Deborah’s full statement can be read here.