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  • Author or Editor: Raphael Schlembach x
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This chapter draws on the work of Gary Marx (1984) and William Walters (2021) to analyse the Undercover Policing Inquiry as a holder of ‘dirty data’ and its processes as maintaining secrecy through ‘devices of dis/closure’. It seeks to go beyond a reading of the Inquiry as simply maintaining the police’s secrets. Disclosure and secrecy are here seen as being in a more complex relationship with each other. Public inquiries employ various tools, or ‘devices of dis/closure’ in Walters’s terms, to mediate competing political, moral and technical demands for data management. Reflecting on each of these, the chapter examines how the Inquiry responded to the conflict between the state and non-state participants and how victims of undercover police abuse pressured both the police and the Inquiry to allow them to access their intelligence files.

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in Spycops
Secrets and Disclosure in the Undercover Policing Inquiry

The ‘spycops’ scandal has laid bare the existence of secretive police units that sent undercover police officers to infiltrate and undermine hundreds of political campaigns and activist groups.

This is the first academic analysis of the activists’ experiences and their attempts to find answers and accountability in the Undercover Policing Inquiry. Written from the perspective of the ‘policed’, the author draws on extensive fieldwork and his first-hand experience of police infiltration through his participation in climate campaigns.

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This chapter situates the conflicts and contestations in the Undercover Policing Inquiry within a broader debate about the role of inquests and inquiries. Drawing lessons from interventions made by Stuart Hall into the politics of inquiries during the 1990s, it examines inquiries under the Inquiries Act 2005 as political openings as well as political closure. Public inquiries therefore have an uneasy relationship to public accountability.

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This chapter serves as an introduction to the spycops scandal, starting with the exposure of Mark Kennedy, who had infiltrated environmental activists. It details findings from several reviews into the practices of undercover policing, and the information provided by a whistleblower, which convinced the Home Secretary at the time to establish a statutory inquiry. The political undercover units targeted left-wing and anti-racist activism and used sexual relationships to build trust and cover identities. The chapter thus analyses these units in relation to the allegations of institutional racism and institutionalised sexism.

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This chapter examines the strategy by the police and other state institutions to rely on human rights-based arguments in the Undercover Policing Inquiry. It shows how Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, ‘the right to privacy and family life’, became the foundation of the police’s efforts to maintain secrecy and avoid accountability. Based on a close analysis of applications for anonymity orders, risk assessments and transcripts from Inquiry hearings, the chapter demonstrates that the police argument for privacy and confidentiality moved the dominant discourse from one of institutional scandal to one of individual harm.

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This chapter reflects in the methodological problems when studying secret state practices. Theoretical reflection is necessarily limited by the difficulty of accessing empirical data. While for some, the answer has been to build stronger research partnership with police institutions themselves, this chapter questions the reliability and ethics of such an approach. It uses the example of the former undercover officer Bob Lambert who later took on lectureships at universities without disclosing the details of his deployments. Rather, the tendency for police organisations to protect their reputations and to limit the disclosure of internal material should be treated as a form of data itself. The chapter is therefore a call for ‘deviant knowledge’ (Walters, 2003) and activist research.

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This chapter introduces the focus of the book and lays out its contribution to the scrutiny of the Undercover Policing Inquiry. It begins to identify the key sites of contestation in the Inquiry and offers a conceptualisation of covert surveillance that is of interest to political activists, privacy campaigners and researchers. For many whose lives were infiltrated by undercover police due to their political activities, the official Inquiry is an essential aspect of finding the truth about their personal and political stories. The chapter shows how the agency of participants and their struggle to force concessions from state institutions are essential in order to shift the focus onto questions of transparency and disclosure. The chapter further outlines the methodology of the study and sets out the structure of the book.

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This chapter proposes a reading of public inquiries that foregrounds contestation and struggle. At the outset of the Undercover Policing Inquiry, the police developed an approach of ‘neither confirming nor denying’ the deployments of undercover officers into political groups. This approach was fiercely contested by non-state participants who sought to find answers about the levels of intrusion into their lives. The chapter shows how the Neither Confirm Nor Deny position was eventually rejected by the Chair of the Undercover Policing Inquiry, but how the issuing of restriction orders allowed him to protect the anonymity of many police witnesses.

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This chapter focuses on the non-police and non-state core participants in the Undercover Policing Inquiry and on their fight for the truth, both inside and outside the Inquiry. It uses several examples of resistance to secrecy. First, the chapter details how campaigners challenged the Terms of Reference given to the Inquiry, specifically as they limited its investigation to the activities of undercover police in England and Wales only. Second, it shows how non-police participants threatened to walk away from the Inquiry as they saw their participation increasingly limited and meaningless. Third, it examines the controversy surrounding a public campaign by the high street retailer Lush to increase awareness of the Inquiry and its limitations. Fourth, it explores attempts to make the Inquiry’s evidence hearings more transparent and accessible, at times during the COVID-19 pandemic when the public was largely excluded from the hearings. The chapter concludes by showing the significance of one woman’s legal battle to have her human rights claims recognised in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

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The building of a new ‘super prison’ in Wrexham, North Wales has begun amidst a wider expansion of the penal industrial complex. Campaigns are mobilising nationally and locally against the project. This article examines the concerns surrounding what will become the United Kingdom’s largest prison and argues that its construction is a symptom of a wider ideological attack on marginalised groups while also examining the case against prison expansion.

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