|Helen Steel with John Dines the undercover policeman who tormented her life.|
The Met has spied and lied and now it wants money off its victims by Jenny JonesHaving been deceived into a long-term relationship with an undercover police officer, the environmental campaigner Helen Steel is now being threatened with enforcement action by the Metropolitan police for legal costs associated with her attempt to disclose the truth. This pursuit of costs is part of a pattern in which the police use the courts to drag their feet, intimidate campaigners and obstruct the truth.
After years of investigation by journalists and campaigners, the Met police has admitted that Steel and many others were right about the undercover officers who deliberately deceived them into sexual relationships. The Met has been publicly exposed as an organisation that has torn innocent people’s privacy to shreds by systematically encouraging police officers to develop long-term sexual relationships with environmentalists and other protesters. This was not police officers “falling in love”, but deliberately gaining trust and access to campaigning groups.
Recovering court costs is something victims should do, not the abusers. Undercover police have been protected by the Neither Confirm, Nor Deny (NCND) policy from the very start. This has been the cover behind which the Met used the courts to prolong the years before they issued an apology and gave some of the victims any kind of justice. These apologies are reluctant and forced, with the result that very little appears to be changing in the darker corners of New Scotland Yard.
The Met continues to drag its feet at the public inquiry into undercover policing, by claiming that privacy assessments on ex-undercover officers will take years. There is also the unashamed irony of the Met using the Human Rights Act to protect the privacy of the officers who spent years trampling over the private lives of the protesters.
Since I started to raise this scandal almost seven years ago, I have made the point that the Met has been wasting our money and its time in snooping on a bunch of campaigners who are not engaged in terrorism or serious crime. In an era of police cuts and overstretched detectives, the real scandal is that the police haven’t recognised the stupidity of putting their energy into pursuing the likes of Helen Steel, when there are genuine threats to life out there. As Helen herself said: “The Met has done its utmost to protect the abusers rather than protecting the public.”
If she is forced to pay the Met legal costs, then it will be a minor victory for the state snoopers, and another block on the pursuit of truth. It will also reinforce the position of those within the Met who have failed to learn a key lesson from decades of distorted priorities, where they have wasted millions of taxpayer pounds snooping on peace campaigners and anti-road protests.
This has clear implications for today’s policing. I wouldn’t be surprised if a new generation of undercover police are currently snooping on local anti-fracking groups in Lancashire and elsewhere. There are lots of reasons to support Helen Steel and all the others seeking justice, but one of the biggest is simply to get the police to admit their mistakes and to stop repeating them.
More on Mr Dines here.