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A “DEEPLY misogynistic culture” in the Metropolitan Police allowed undercover officers to deceive dozens of women into sexual relationships for almost 50 years, an inquiry has heard.
At least six officers serving in an undercover police unit between 1974 and 1982 had sexual relationships with one or multiple women while in their cover identities, evidence disclosed during the first phase of the judge-led inquiry has confirmed.
They included officer Vincent Harvey, who had sex with four activists while spying on left-wing and anti-fascist groups in the 1970s.
Sexual relationships by officers serving in the secret unit, known as the Special Demonstration Squad, continued for decades after, with some even fathering children with activists.
In a powerful closing statement to the probe on Tuesday, Charlotte Kilroy KC, representing women who were deceived into sexual relationships, claimed that sex was known about and “tolerated” by senior officers of the unit.
“The reason why no-one took any steps to stop undercover officers from using sexual relationships with women was because the [Metropolitan Police Service] was a deeply misogynist organisation,” she said.
“When they unlawfully interfered with the public’s longstanding constitutional rights, the Metropolitan police also took the misogyny which riddled and corrupted the entire organisation, and transported it directly into the private homes and private lives of women.”
Women spied on say that concerns over misogyny in the Met today, triggered by the horrific cases of rapist officers Wayne Couzens and David Carrick, can be traced back 40 years to the abuse of women by SDS officers.
Ms Kilroy highlighted a shocking report commissioned by the Met in 1983 into policing culture.
The buried report, carried out by the Policy Studies Institute, which has come to light through Ms Kilroy’s submissions, describes the Met as a “cult of masculinity,” which heavily influenced police attitudes towards women, victims of sexual violence and female officers.
Researchers were given access to officers of all ranks and compiled their findings over two years. Campaigners say the report is evidence that the Met has known about a culture of misogyny for 40 years.
The report found that “bawdy talk” about sex and women was expected within police ranks, and women police officers were denigrated and sexualised. It highlights the practice of stamping parts of female officers’ bodies with the station stamp.
Ms Kilroy highlighted how one of the victims of Mr Carrick reported this happening in 2004.
She said the report also showed “striking similarities” with the conclusions of the police watchdog’s recent report at Charing Cross station, which unveiled vile racist, misogynistic and homophobic messages between officers.
Ms Kilroy said that in light of this “pervasive” culture of “contempt for women” within the police, it “is not a surprise that women were used casually by UCOs according to their personal preferences.”
She added: “As the crimes of David Carrick and Wayne Couzens has shown, these attitudes and the tolerance for them in the [Met] have horrific consequences for women. They can literally be a matter of life and death.”
The inquiry, headed by retired judge Sir John Mitting, is tasked with examining how undercover officers deceived women into intimate relationships up until 2010, and whether this was known about by senior officers.
The inquiry continues.
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