IN November 2015, Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt of the Metropolitan Police did not mince words when paying tribute to the “courage and tenacity” of eight women bringing legal cases against his force.
They had been seeking redress for the emotional damage done to them by undercover police who had infiltrated a number of protest groups and formed emotional relationships with the women and their families and friends. The men had then walked out of their lives, their espionage and disruption work seemingly done.
The behaviour of these undercover officers from the now disbanded Special Demonstration Squad was “totally unacceptable,” Commissioner Hewitt conceded. They had entered into long-term intimate sexual relationships with women that were “abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong.”
He continued, apparently full of remorse: “These relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma.” They were a “gross violation of personal dignity and integrity.”
Furthermore, the women themselves were in no way to blame for what had happened to them. They had been deceived, pure and simple. Their “good nature” had been preyed upon by officers who had “manipulated their emotions to a gratuitous extent.”
The head of the Met’s “Total Professionalism Programme” could barely contain his contrition: “I unreservedly apologise on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Service. I am aware that money alone cannot compensate the loss of time, their hurt or the feelings of abuse caused by these relationships,” he declared.
It’s true that the women were not motivated by money to take action against the Met. That’s why they were prepared to settle out of court for a fulsome public apology.
Given the scale of abuse inflicted upon them by police officers, whose conduct had descended to the gutter, any fair-minded judge would have awarded the women exemplary damages running to hundreds of thousands of pounds.
All of which makes it utterly disgraceful that the Metropolitan Police are now reviving their demand for £7,000 from each of their women victims for the costs incurred when defending abusive, deceitful and manipulative cops in the Court Of Appeal two years ago.
It also makes nonsense of Hewitt’s closing words back in November 2015: “In light of this settlement, it is hoped that the claimants will now feel able to move on with their lives,” he prayed, which they could do with their “heads held high.” He closed by commending the women who had “conducted themselves throughout this process with integrity and absolute dignity.”
If there is any integrity and dignity in the upper reaches of the Met, heads should roll forthwith, beginning with that of Assistant Commissioner Hewitt.
His should be followed by those of all the undercover officers who have engaged in sexual relations while infiltrating animal rights, peace, environmental and anti-racist groups. They should be joined by those senior officers who — according to at least one of the spies — turned a blind eye to the abuse they knew was going on. Criminal prosecutions should follow.
The public inquiry under Sir John Mitting into undercover police infiltration of perfectly legal political and campaigning bodies since the 1960s must proceed to throw all the light it can on Britain’s sinister secret state.
Meanwhile, the Met should drop its claim for costs and offer meaningful financial compensation to the abused women. And not bother with another apology from Hewitt.