Statement from Peter Francis
Former SDS undercover Metropolitan Police Officer and now Police whistleblower has given this statement as he decides to stop participating in part of the Undercover Policing Inquiry
Posted on 04 May 2018
Three years ago, Stafford Scott (another Core Participant) said that walking into the Inquiry was like walking into a boxing ring, facing the Metropolitan Police with one hand tied behind your back and a blindfold covering your eyes. Sadly, his assessment has proved correct.
The approach adopted by the Inquiry to restriction orders has undermined its ability to uncover the truth about undercover policing in the UK. I had hoped my involvement in this process would in part remedy the unfair advantages identified by Mr. Scott but this has not proved possible.
I was an undercover SDS officer for five years. I helped my managers to organise the SDS’s 25th reunion and I personally attended the 30th.
I know at least half of all SDS officers. Armed with such knowledge, I had hoped to assist the Inquiry to critically assess the applications being made by former undercover police officers to keep their cover names secret. But the level of redactions accepted by the Inquiry Team is so high, even I am often unable to decipher from whom the applications are made.
The police officers’ requests for anonymity are, on many occasions, being accepted by the Inquiry wholesale, with minimal, obfuscatory or no reasoning provided at all. Even when a risk assessment concludes that risks faced by an individual are “low”, the Inquiry has refused to publish his or her cover name. In such circumstances, I cannot justify continuing to incur tax payers’ money drafting written submissions or attending hearings which are clearly not going to change the approach adopted by the Chairman.
Every argument in favour of disclosure of cover names has been put to the Chairman and each one has been rejected by him. To date there have been 15 applications for total anonymity (HN7, HN17, HN23, HN40, HN41, HN64, HN71, HN123, HN125, HN241, HN333 and HN341), including three crucial SDS managers (HN58, HN109, HN337) who were also former undercover officers.
All their applications for complete anonymity have been granted by the Chairman. Without meaningful disclosure, neither I nor, more importantly perhaps, the victims of undercover policing will be able to properly question the evidence put forward by the police officers during the evidential stage of the Inquiry.
This is crucially important, particularly when the Inquiry must remember that these former police officers have been trained to lie. It was a fundamental part of their job. Without cover names being released, so many victims of undercover policing will never even know they were targeted. Such an outcome is the very opposite of the professed aim of the Inquiry, which is primarily to establish the truth.
Surely it is in everyone’s interest, including the SDS officers themselves, to gain closure? In my view, it would be a real advantage to officers to reveal their cover names and speak openly under oath, in order to lay the past to rest and to improve current and future undercover policing. Otherwise, at the conclusion of this Inquiry, those who were spied upon will still be seeking answers, and those who gave up years of their lives to the SDS will not have contributed to the process of lesson learning, which would defeat the whole purpose of this public inquiry.
I will of course review this decision should the Inquiry change its approach to restriction order applications. But for now, I can only hope the Inquiry will listen to this final plea that all or at least the majority of SDS cover names be revealed without further delay.
PETER FRANCIS 4 May 2018