Long-awaited Pitchford inquiry won’t include police spies’ collusion with big business, warn workers
A NEW inquiry into undercover policing will “turn into another Establishment whitewash” if it is not extended to cover corporate spying, blacklisted construction workers warned yesterday.
Home Secretary Theresa May announced the inquiry following investigations into claims that officers had infiltrated protest groups and, in some cases, established long-term sexual relationships with their targets.
Opening proceedings yesterday, chairman Lord Justice Pitchford said that “both creditable and discreditable conduct” on the part of undercover officers was likely to be found.
He explained that the inquiry would investigate surveillance “via social media” as well as face to face — but did not mention the tapping of phone calls, causing concern among campaigners targeted in this manner.
Referring to restrictions on public access, Lord Justice Pitchford said he had yet to decide which or how many hearings would be affected.
He stressed he would “not examine undercover or covert operations conducted by any body other than an English or Welsh police force,” prompting fears that the surveillance of trade unionists could be excluded due to the involvement of businesses.
Union activists say there is “documentary evidence” that undercover officers passed information to blacklisters in the building trade.
Blacklist Support Group secretary Dave Smith told the Star: “Neither Theresa May nor Lord Justice Pitchford has specifically referred to trade unions, despite the fact there is documentary evidence that they were spied on using covert surveillance tactics.
“The terms of reference state that the inquiry will only cover spying by the police. But if this is to be a genuine, independent investigation, it needs to look at evidence of collaboration between big business and the police.
“Corporate spying is endemic and, if it is not properly investigated, this will just turn into another Establishment whitewash.”
Mr Smith’s concerns were echoed by Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail, who said: “We need to know who authorised the infiltration of trade unions.”
The calls came as the High Court authorised an application from blacklisted workers to see further documents on the scandal.
Twelve major construction companies will be compelled to conduct thorough searches for the materials.
And 26 key named individuals must supply detailed statements explaining their involvement with right-wing bosses’ club the Consulting Association, which maintained the blacklist.
The inquiry will cover covert policing from 1968, when the Home Office authorised the establishment of the Met’s Special Operation Squad, later the Special Demonstration Squad.
In 2013, it emerged that the squad had spied on friends and family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence and attempted to gather evidence to build a smear campaign.
Mr Lawrence’s father Neville and his friend Duwayne Brooks were in court yesterday when Lord Pitchford announced the counsel who are to work with him on the inquiry.
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Brooks said he was concerned by the “lack of diversity” among the team.
“This is 2015. Those who come and give evidence [will be from diverse ethnic backgrounds] and the leading teams should also be diverse,” he said.
Mr Brooks argued that the apparent failure to include phone calls in the scope of the inquiry was a “huge oversight,” noting that such tactics had been key to the police surveillance of him and his lawyer Jane Deighton.
The inquiry will scrutinise “the motivation for, and the scope for, undercover police operations in practice and their effect upon individuals in particular and the public in general.”
It will seek to discover whether any miscarriages of justice took place as a result of covert operations, but Lord Justice Pitchford stressed it was not the inquiry’s role “to make a finding about criminal responsibility one way or the other.”