Judge asked to act after police shredded documents
A JUDGE tasked with probing decades of undercover police abuses must call an immediate hearing to investigate the destruction of police files, trade union leaders demanded yesterday.
The Metropolitan Police had shredded the documents despite being ordered to retain them, the Independent Police Complaints Commission confirmed last week.
Now the leaders of seven unions whose members were spied on by undercover coppers have called on High Court judge Christopher Pitchford, who is leading the public inquiry into undercover officers, to take back control.
They are demanding Mr Pitchford “secure” all documents held by the police and hold an urgent session of the inquiry in which Met chief Bernard Hogan-Howe would be asked to account for “why, how and under whose authority documents have been destroyed.”
The statement, signed by Unite leadership frontrunner Len McCluskey (pictured), CWU general secretary Dave Ward and GMB leader Tim Roache, said: “State spying on trade unions and political campaigns is a human rights scandal that affects millions of British citizens.
“Despite continued reassurances, the Pitchford inquiry has failed to secure the documents that will be central to the investigation. Trade union core participants are beginning to question whether the inquiry team has the ability to stop the police from obstructing the pursuit of justice. Pitchford needs to act now to restore our faith.”
The other signatories are the Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack, miners’ leader Chris Kitchen, RMT general secretary Mick Cash, interim Unite chief Gail Cartmail and the National Union of Journalists general secretary Michelle Stanistreet.
The Pitchford inquiry has held a series of preliminary hearings but has yet to begin its full proceedings almost two years after it was announced by then-home secretary Theresa May.
Blacklist Support Group general secretary Dave Smith, who is a core participant in the inquiry, said the delay was “entirely due to police attempts to try to keep their dirty secrets away from public scrutiny.”
He told the Star: “The police are no longer just obstructing justice, by shredding evidence they are in contempt of court. We demand to know who gave the order and whether criminal charges will be brought against them.
“The more this scandal unfurls, the more it appears that the Met Police think they can act however they want because they are above the law. This has got to stop.”
A spokeswoman for the Pitchford inquiry said: “The destruction of documents occurred before the inquiry was established and the IPCC is the appropriate body to investigate in these circumstances.
“We refute the accusation that the inquiry has failed to secure documents that will be central to the investigation. Since its inception the inquiry has undertaken a number of steps to ensure documents are preserved.
“We will continue to undertake all reasonable steps to ensure relevant documents are preserved. It is too early to say whether or not material that has been destroyed is relevant to the inquiry.”
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