Activist: Scotland Yard splashing the cash on self-defence
AN INQUIRY into undercover policing must “take back control” from the Met, an activist deceived into a relationship with an undercover officer has said.
Helen Steel’s partner John Dines was a member of the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad, which targeted protest groups until it was disbanded in 2008.
The unit is one of several under scrutiny at the undercover policing inquiry, which has been beset by delays since it was announced in 2014.
At the conclusion of a preliminary hearing yesterday, the Met repeated its pleas for more time to submit anonymity requests for former undercover officers.
The force argues it has not had enough time to carry out risk assessments on the impact of revealing cover names.
But in an impassioned address to the hearing, Ms Steel suggested the police were attempting to control the inquiry’s terms.
She pointed to the “imbalance” of resources between the two sides of the inquiry.
Police and state institutions such as the Met, the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the National Crime Agency are all represented by their own barristers and solicitors at the inquiry’s preliminary hearings.
But the inquiry has only paid for one legal team to represent the victims of police spying, despite these numbering 178 different organisations and individuals.
Mr Pitchford has justified this on the grounds that such “core participants” have common interests in the preliminary hearings.
But addressing inquiry chairman Christopher Pitchford, Ms Steel said: “I understand [the police’s] funding doesn’t come through you, but at the end of the day, their funding comes from the taxpayer all the same.
“The inquiry has to take back control and stop the police from controlling the process.”
Mr Pitchford interrupted: “As you see it, getting away with it.”
Ms Steel replied: “Yes, exactly.”
She argued that core participants’ solicitors should be funded to attend the hearings. The victims of police spying have also argued for a second junior barrister to represent differing opinions among their group.
Mr Pitchford has said they can apply for such representation for each hearing, but Ms Steel said this put “a huge amount of pressure and stress” on individuals who had already experienced trauma.
Mr Pitchford will make a ruling in the coming weeks over the police’s requests for more time and a more narrowly focused inquiry.