Undercover detective accused of 'corrupting' trial

Image caption,
"Jim Sutton" was a leading figure in the Reclaim the Streets movement

An undercover police officer has been accused of taking part in a criminal trial under an alias, calling into question the safety of a conviction.

A defence solicitor has told the BBC's Newsnight his firm unwittingly acted for Det Con Jim Boyling alongside other activists in legal proceedings.

The officer, who was engaged in covert surveillance of an environmental group, was arrested and charged in 1996.

The Metropolitan Police has so far declined to comment.

Det Con Boyling is said to have attended sensitive legal meetings and the final trial under his alias.

One of the other activists was convicted of public order offences at the 1997 trial, but the undercover officer was found not guilty.

Det Con Boyling worked in specialist operations at the Metropolitan Police, and was engaged in covert surveillance of the Reclaim The Streets environmental group using the alias Jim Sutton, when he was arrested and charged with other activists at a demonstration in London in August 1996.

Mike Schwarz of law firm Bindmans told Newsnight: "It's institutionalised police corruption of the legal process for this to happen."

He said the case "raises the most fundamental constitutional issues about the limits of acceptable policing, the sanctity of lawyer-client confidentiality and the integrity of the criminal justice system."

The case came to light following a review of records at Bindmans legal firm prompted by the case of another undercover officer, Mark Kennedy, who spent seven years infiltrating a group of climate activists.

Mr Schwarz, who acted in cases linked to Mark Kennedy, found references to a 'Jim Sutton' in his files, indicating that he had acted for him as a defence lawyer.

Mr Schwarz said that the Metropolitan Police, who were employing the undercover officer, had "wildly overstepped all recognised boundaries" in the use of undercover police officers to penetrate environmental protest groups.

John Jordan, an activist arrested alongside Jim Sutton in 1996 who was subsequently convicted of assaulting a police officer told Newsnight:

Image caption,
While working undercover Jim Sutton married an activist with whom he had two children

"You go and meet your solicitor and... you think it's you and your solicitor. You don't think it could be you, your solicitor and a police officer under cover. Jim would have been privy to all the communications we had."

"It was totally outrageous... Someone was giving all the information you were saying privately to your lawyer to the prosecution," Mr Jordan said.

Det Con Jim Boyling was placed on restricted duties in January and investigated by the Met's Directorate of Professional Standards following allegations that he married an activist whom he was supposed to be spying on.

Richard Watson's report will be broadcast on Newsnight on Wednesday 19 October 2011 at 2230 on BBC Two, and then afterwards on the BBC iPlayer and Newsnight website.