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Undercover policing inquiry 'may expose discreditable conduct'

The public inquiry into undercover policing methods may "expose both creditable and discreditable conduct, practice and management", its chairman has warned.

In delivering his opening remarks, Lord Justice Pitchford said the inquiry will "need to examine any evidence of the targeting of individuals for their political views or participation in social just campaigns".

The public inquiry, ordered by Home Secretary Theresa May, will look into police infiltration of political and social justice groups in England and Wales since 1968.

It was announced after claims that Scotland Yard had spied on campaigners fighting for justice for murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

Lord Justice Pitchford said: "It seems likely that the inquiry will expose both creditable and discreditable conduct, practice and management.

"This is the first time that undercover policing has been exposed to the rigour of public examination.

"At the conclusion of its investigation, the inquiry will report to the Home Secretary and make recommendations as tot he deployment of undercover police officers in future."

The inquiry comes after concerns that undercover officers from the Metropolitan Police's Special Demonstration Squad had sexual relationships with women involved in campaign groups and had used the names of dead children to create fake identities.

Stephen Lawrence's father, Neville, and Duwayne Brooks, who survived the 1993 race-hate attack in which the teenager was killed, sat quietly in the Royal Courts of Justice as Lord Justice Pitchford made his remarks.

It took 18 years for two members of the gang to be jailed.

After the hearing, Mr Lawrence said: " I hope it will get to the truth. We have waited too long without having the answers. I think that after more than 20 since since the death of my son we deserve some answers.

"One of the things I am hoping to get from the inquiry is to get answers as to why they decided to send officers to watch a grieving family.

"After the two men were sent to prison we thought we would have a chance to get back to normal but then we heard that officers were sent in to our houses."

Mr Brooks raised concerns about the make-up of the inquiry.

He said: "Many of the people giving evidence to this inquiry will be diverse and from diverse backgrounds. In 2015 we should still not be having all-white panels."

Preliminary hearings are due to start in the autumn and the inquiry is set to last three years.

Lord Justice Pitchford will be able to access documents and call witnesses to give oral and written evidence to draw up a report for publication within three years, which will include recommendations on the future use of covert policing.

Mrs May has tasked the inquiry with assessing the adequacy of ''justification, authorisation, operational governance and oversight of undercover policing; selection, training, management and care of undercover police officers; and ... the statutory, policy and judicial regulation of undercover policing''.

And the investigation will include a review of forces' duty to disclose the existence of undercover operations during criminal trials and an assessment of the scope for miscarriage of justice where they are not disclosed.

Any possible miscarriages of justice uncovered by the inquiry will be referred to a panel of senior members of the Crown Prosecution Service and the police, which could refer the case to the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

The inquiry will look into the use of covert human intelligence sources by all English and Welsh police forces, including the targeting of political and social justice campaigners and the activities of the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.


From Belfast Telegraph