JUSTICE Mitting’s indication that the real names of police officers who spied on legal political organisations for three decades may never be made public sheds new light on the extent of Britain’s secret state.
As bad as this decision is, the judge’s justification for it is worse still.
He cites officers' health, wellbeing and desire to maintain privacy as valid reasons before putting the top hat on it by wrapping the entire scandal up in so-called “national security.”
None of the activists spied on represented a threat to national security.
They were involved in democratic and legal political parties, trade unions, environmental, peace and other campaigning organisations.
Their methods were open, sometimes direct, but nothing they did risked violence or physical harm to fellow citizens. Nor were they involved in any unconstitutional action calculated to overthrow the state.
The implication of Justice Mitting’s statement, in light of his caveat that senior police figures will be “expected to account for their decisions,” is that individual officers can hide behind a defence of following orders.
Those they spied on and deceived in a variety of ways may have thought that they too had rights to health, wellbeing and privacy, but their rights have been trampled on by an ongoing conspiracy by state repression agencies.
They may well have believed that justice was just around the corner in 2015 when then home secretary Theresa May set in train the Pitchford inquiry to investigate police spying activities.
But the ingenuity of the police top brass in finding ways to frustrate progress has been mind-blowing, from “accidentally” shredding relevant documents to hiding behind a “neither confirm nor deny” position.
Their contention that “deep cover” officers might find the process of applying for anonymity “harrowing and upsetting,” which could have an adverse effect on recruitment, was just one means of stalling the process.
Justice Mitting’s acceptance of the police demand for what amounts to lifelong anonymity appears based on fears of what might befall officers if their real identity was revealed.
But the real names of a small number of those who spied on people involved in lawful activities and who inveigled women into long-term emotional relationships have been revealed without untoward results.
This claim is yet another false pretext to preserve anonymity for the wrongdoers while smearing the victims of their unethical conduct with hints that they or their associates are prone to violent retribution.
No-one was immune to the dirty tricks played by the secret police — even the family-led campaign for justice for murdered south London black student Stephen Lawrence was infiltrated.
Dave Smith and Helen Steel were right to give vent to their feelings of injustice in court yesterday.
They understand their history and know a state stitch-up when they see one.
The inquiry represents a classic example of the little people standing up against power where justice is undermined by the imbalance in what each side can bring to court.
The Establishment in the guise of police and government has eight highly paid and influential QCs performing on its behalf while 200 complainants — those whose privacy, health and wellbeing have been jeopardised — are represented by a single legal team.
Who can doubt the likelihood that, when the legal pantomime is complete, once the police lawyers feel that they have strung out the procedure to the furthest degree, most undercover spies will have their anonymity preserved and justified?