UK

HMIC voices concerns over undercover police recommendations

Police jacket
Image caption HMIC made key recommendations concerning the approval and authorisation of undercover work

Police inspectors say there are concerns several recommendations made in a report last year on undercover police work have not been implemented.

This includes a system of prior approval, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary said.

The findings come amid allegations undercover police were ordered to spy on the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

HMIC scrutinised the use of undercover police after the case of Mark Kennedy.

The 2012 report looked into the use of undercover police within domestic extremist groups, such as far-right activists and animal rights protesters.

After reviewing the action taken since then, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor said he was concerned not all recommendations had been implemented.

He said: "This week's coverage concerning the deployment of undercover police officers - and in particular, the serious allegations in relation to members of the Lawrence family, and Duwayne Brooks - has rightly resulted in much debate about how the tactic has been and should be used."

Trial collapse

HMIC reviewed the activities of police officer Mark Kennedy, among other undercover officers, after Mr Kennedy's actions led to the collapse of a trial of environmental protesters.

He infiltrated environmental protest groups where he had at least one sexual relationship with an activist.

HMIC's report found that Mr Kennedy "defied" management instructions.

It went on to make a series of recommendations to the Home Office, the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and the Office of Surveillance Commissioners (OSC).

Reviewing the progress made since that report, HMIC said on Thursday: "We found that some significant work has been done to improve the way in which the police deal with undercover operations.

"However, we are concerned that there are still several recommendations that have not been implemented."

The Association of Chief Police Officers's national lead for undercover policing, Commander Richard Martin, said the scrutiny and supervision of undercover operations was now "far more intrusive" than in the past.

He said the public should not underestimate the "considerable risk" officers put themselves at in order to protect communities.

He added: "However, there is more to do to ensure that undercover policing is effectively utilised and regulated and Acpo will continue to work with the government, College of Policing, the Office of the Surveillance Commissioners and HMIC to achieve this."

Key failings

HMIC did acknowledge that changes in legislation are needed to bring about some of its key recommendations, concerning the approval and authorisation of undercover police work.

However, it said that potential changes had "stalled" because of a lack of agreement over which undercover operations the new rules should apply to.

HMIC wants to establish a system whereby authorisation is given by higher ranking officers and long-term undercover operations are approved first.

The HMIC also said there was an "unacceptable" 12 month delay in its recommendation that mandatory covert police training is offered to all assistant chief constables.

It went on to criticise the failure of police bodies to agree on a suitable definition of "domestic extremism".

Unlike terrorism, which is defined in the UK by the Terrorism Act 2000, there is no equivalent legal definition for domestic extremism.

Finally, the HMIC said not enough was being done to help officers leave their undercover roles.

The review said "We found that psychologists are not engaged in the development of exit plans. We can see no sound reason why this recommendation has not been implemented."

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