Undercover policing used ‘effectively’, review finds
Undercover officers were involved in 423 operations between 2000 and 2016, mainly involving drugs, trafficking and child sexual exploitation.
A review of undercover policing in Scotland found no evidence that officers operated “outwith the parameters of the authorisation”.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) examined the practice between 2000 and 2016, following on from the Pitchford Inquiry which was set up in England and Wales to investigate allegations of misconduct by undercover officers.
The Scottish review found undercover officers were involved in 423 operations since 2000, mainly concerning drugs, trafficking and child sexual exploitation investigations.
HMICS said undercover policing had been used effectively and that Police Scotland had not infiltrated social justice campaigns, as had been suggested by some.
It found the use of undercover operations was not widespread but that the Metropolitan Police’s controversial Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) and National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) had both deployed officers to Scotland.
The report said: “The purpose of these visits was connected with activities elsewhere in the UK and often in regard to legend building and maintaining their covert status within the target group.”
The review also found there was no recognised cross border provision for advising Police Scotland when undercover officers from England and Wales are deployed to Scotland or if Scottish officers go south of the Border.
At the G8 Summit at Gleneagles in 2005 there were 18 undercover officers deployed, with six from SDS and six from NPIOU.
The HMICS review found on that occasion they were authorised by Tayside Police.
The report said: “We are satisfied that the deployment of undercover officers to support the police security operation at the G8 Summit was undertaken with the full knowledge, co-operation and the authorisation of Tayside Police.
“Outwith the G8 policing operation all other undercover operations conducted by the SDS and NPOIU in Scotland was the responsibility of the SDS and NPOIU.”
Derek Penman, Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, said undercover policing raises “complex ethical questions” and must be controlled with effective safeguards and supervision.
He said: “During the course of our review, we spoke with all of Police Scotland’s qualified undercover officers who were available for deployment.
“We found them to be professional and dedicated police officers with a clear understanding of their ethical responsibilities.
“They were acutely aware of the concerns around the use of undercover policing that have been legitimately highlighted by the media, social justice campaigns, reviews and the UCPI.
“They fully supported the need for safeguards and welcomed intrusive supervision of their use and conduct whilst deployed on undercover policing operations.”
The review made 19 recommendations for Police Scotland “to strengthen the future delivery of undercover policing” including regular audits, better record keeping and psychological support and counselling for officers.