Undercover policeman 'fire-bombed shop,' MPs told

Aftermath of fire at Debenhams in Luton in 1987 The worst of the Animal Liberation Front fire-bomb attacks was on a Debenhams store in Luton

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An MP has used parliamentary privilege to name an undercover police officer who allegedly planted a fire bomb at a London department store in 1987.

Green MP Caroline Lucas said a jailed man, Geoff Sheppard, believed police officer Bob Lambert planted a device.

Mr Lambert infiltrated the Animal Liberation Front and his evidence helped convict two men of fire-bombing three Debenhams stores.

In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Lambert denied planting the device.

The attack in Harrow, north west London, did £340,000 of damage and was part of a series of attacks on stores, including attacks in Romford and Luton, which cost £8m and caused Debenhams to stop selling furs.

When contacted by the BBC for a response, Mr Lambert referred to his statement in the Guardian.

He told the newspaper: "It was necessary to create the false impression that I was a committed animal rights extremist to gain intelligence so as to disrupt serious criminal conspiracies.

"However, I did not commit serious crime such as 'planting an incendiary device at the [Debenhams] Harrow store'."

Speaking in Parliament, Ms Lucas called for a "far reaching public inquiry into police infiltrators and informers".

Caroline Lucas repeated the allegations in Parliament

Ms Lucas said one of the other men who was jailed claimed when he heard about the fire at Debenhams in Harrow "I straight away knew that Bob had carried out his part of the plan".

Ms Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: "It seems that planting the third incendiary device was perhaps a move to bolster Lambert's credibility."

She said Mr Lambert was known by the alias Bob Robinson and "pretended to be a committed environmental and animal rights campaigner between 1984 and 1988".

Ms Lucas said: "In October 2011, after he was exposed as an undercover officer, Bob Lambert admitted that, and I quote 'In the 1980s I was deployed as an undercover Met special branch officer to identify and prosecute members of Animal Liberation Front who were then engaged in incendiary device and explosive device campaigns against targets in the vivisection, meat and fur trades'."

She said: "Mr Lambert has also admitted that part of his mission was to identify and prosecute specific ALF activists."

Ms Lucas added: "He says: 'I succeeded in my task and that success included the arrest and imprisonment of Geoff Sheppard and Andrew Clarke'."

'Culprit never caught'

She said: "Sheppard and Clarke were tried and found guilty, but the culprit who planted the incendiary device in the Harrow store was never caught."

Ms Lucas said: "Bob Lambert's exposure as an undercover police officer has prompted Geoff Sheppard to speak out about that Harrow attack.

"Sheppard alleges that Lambert was the one who planted the third device and was involved in the ALF's co-ordinated campaign."

The Brighton MP said Sheppard had made a statement, which she had seen, and she quoted from it: "Obviously I was not there when he targeted that store because we all headed off in our separate directions but I was lying in bed that night, and the news came over on the (BBC) World Service that three Debenhams stores had had arson attacks on them and that included the Harrow store as well.

"So obviously I straightaway knew that Bob had carried out his part of the plan.

"There's absolutely no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Bob Lambert placed the incendiary device at the Debenhams store in Harrow. I specifically remember him giving an explanation to me about how he had been able to place one of the devices in that store, but how he had not been able to place the second device."

Ms Lucas said: "This case raises anew questions about the rules governing undercover police infiltrators and informers, particularly when it comes to those officers committing a crime - an area where the law is particularly grey."

Tougher guidelines

Police Minister Nick Herbert insisted there are tougher guidelines for police to follow.

He said: "Undercover operations are sometimes necessary to protect the public to prevent or detect crime. I think we should commend the difficult and often dangerous job performed by our undercover officers.

"It is important for me to point out that the deployment of Lambert took place in the (1980s) and that was before the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, or RIPA as it is known, came in to purpose.

"That is the legislative framework that enables police and the authorities using covert human intelligence sources such as undercover officers to ensure they are acting within human rights legislation."

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