Activists condemned the Metropolitan Police's underhand attempts to throw a veil of secrecy over charges that undercover officers tricked them into forming sexual relationships today.
Eleven women and one man are seeking damages for emotional trauma following allegations that specialist officers, including Mark Kennedy, infiltrated environmental activist groups and engaged in sexual relationships with them.
Their cases have been lodged in the High Court, but the Metropolitan Police has launched a counter-claim arguing that some cases should be heard by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT).
The IPT, formed in 2000 by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), has the power to hold hearings in private with claimants being unable to hear the evidence. It also does not have to give reasons for its findings.
Some of the claimants say they had relationships with Mr Kennedy, who spent seven years spying on environmental activists under the alias Mark "Flash" Stone.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "They are very unusual and complex areas of law.
"Our legal position is that the IPT is the proper authority to hear these cases because of the nature of them and the evidence involved, but the decision on this will be taken by a judge."
Only half of the claimants face the Met's challenge as the other alleged relationships took place before Ripa was introduced.
Solicitor Harriet Wistrich, who is representing the claimants, said: "These women are suing for a gross invasion of privacy and the Met's response is to try and hive it off into a secret court."
Green London Assembly Member Jenny Jones told the Star that the Met was "trying to hide its sins."
She said: "They know they messed up and now they want to keep it secret. It would be better for them to be honest and own up because it will come out eventually.
"The Met is operating undercover officers in all sorts of places.
"You can understand it if it's to do with organised crime or gangs, but targeting environmental activists is not only very disruptive to people's lives but also an incredible waste of money."
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