A WOMAN with business interests in construction was spied on by Special Branch after her half-brother bribed a police officer, an inquiry into undercover policing heard yesterday.
Judge Christopher Pitchford’s investigation into covert police tactics was ordered after cases were raised of undercover officers targeting protest groups, having long-term relationships with their clients and stealing the identities of dead children.
The inquiry threatens to lay bare collaboration between officers and big business, following evidence that information gathered by police ended up on a construction industry blacklist.
Blacklisted workers and construction union Ucatt are among 156 organisations and individuals granted “core participant” status by the independent inquiry, meaning they’ll be given access to submitted evidence and their legal costs will be covered.
But at the inquiry’s first full hearing yesterday, Mr Pitchford heard appeals from those initially not given the status.
The hearing was told that the surveillance of a woman identified only as “CMR” was overt rather than secretive.
CMR’s lawyer Jesse Nicholls said his client’s half-brother had bribed a member of the Irish police “to discredit CMR” after she had been invited onto the board of a major company.
She was subsequently targeted by Special Branch officers in London, who investigated her involvement in social justice campaigns, her lawyer said.
“We know that human surveillance of CMR and her associates took place,” Mr Nicholls, of Doughty Street Chambers, told the hearing.
He said reports on CMR’s activity were supplied back to her half-brother, including from campaign meetings that “a uniformed [police] officer would not be permitted to attend.” One such report supplied to Mr Pitchford included the arrival and departure times of CMR at a meeting that took place in 2006.
Mr Nicholls said this demonstrated the covert nature of the surveillance of his client.
He also argued that the case would be particularly relevant to the inquiry’s terms due to CMR’s “business interests [being] connected to construction,” where blacklisting has been rife. He said she had been “targeted for her political activity.”
The hearing also heard from a lawyer representing two families not granted core participant status.
“[The families’] children died in the 1970s,” the lawyer said. “Their concern is that their dead children’s identities were appropriated by the police.”
The publishers of anarchist newspaper Freedom and pacifist newspaper Peace News also pressed for a central role in the inquiry.
Their barrister Nick Stanage said his clients could offer “not only longevity but continuity,” given the shorter lives of other campaign groups involved.
Mr Pitchford will consider the applicants’ information before the inquiry reconvenes in November. Full cross-examinations are not expected to begin until next year.
PITCHFORD INQUIRY: WHO’S BEEN GIVEN STATUS AND WHO HASN’T
IN: Ucatt, the National Union of Mineworkers and the Fire Brigades Union, Blacklist Support Group, Piers Corbyn — squatters’ rights activist and brother of Labour leader Jeremy — lawyer Michael Mansfield and undercover cop Mark Kennedy
OUT: The TUC and the National Union of Journalists, social justice communications tsar Jason Kirkpatrick, Campaign Against the Arms Trade, justice campaigns for Rolan Adams, Paul Coker, James Ashley and Robin Goodenough, the Undercover Research Group