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Using dead children’s names ‘common practice’ for undercover UK cops

Published time: May 17, 2013 16:00
Reuters/Chris Helgre

Reuters/Chris Helgre

The use of dead children’s identities by undercover officers working for the London Metropolitan Police Service was common practice, a chief constable investigating the matter told MPs.

Mick Creedon, who is leading an investigation into undercover policing dubbed Operation Herne, told British lawmakers in a letter that none of the families of the children whose identities were utilized were “ever contacted and informed.”

In response to a query regarding the number of children’s names which had been used as aliases by undercover police, Creedon was unable to provide an exact figure, though he confirmed “this was common practice within the SDS [Special Demonstration Squad],” ITV cites him as saying.

Creedon confirmed that Scotland Yard had received multiple “speculative inquiries” from relatives seeking confirmation over whether their dead child’s identity had been used.

“No answer, either positive or negative, has yet been given in relation to these inquiries from families," he continued.

The chief constable added that the issue is "very complicated and mistakes could put lives in jeopardy."

Herne was launched in October 2011 to investigate allegations made against the SDS, including the use of dead children's identities and involvement in inappropriate sexual relationships.

Regarding the latter accusation, Creedon said it would be inappropriate to provide details on the number of children the Metropolitan Police has identified as being born as a result of relationships with undercover officers.  

The letter, written in response to a series of questions forwarded by the Home Affairs Select Committee, revealed the operation is expected to cost 1.66 million pounds over the next 12 months. Nearly two dozen officers and 10 police staff are currently taking part in the investigation.

Creedon, who serves as the Derbyshire Police chief, was brought in to take over the investigation from the Metropolitan Police in February.

Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett

In an interim report published on the probe in March, MPs took a hard line towards the entire system of undercover police work in the country, arguing that such police activity should be limited to genuine threats to public safety or national security.

In many instances dating as far back as the 1980s, undercover officers infiltrated activist groups and in many cases initiated long-term romantic relationship, which were ended when the agents finished their assignment. Several women are now seeking legal recourse as a result.

The MPs further castigated the force over the use of the use of the names of dead infants as “ghoulish and disrespectful,” saying the practice is potentially dangerous to the bereaved families.

In one case, a witness told the commission how she found the home address of the people whom she believed to be the parents of her missing partner. The individual was in fact an undercover officer. The report stressed that “it is easy to see how officers infiltrating serious, organized criminal and terrorist gangs using the identities of real people could pose a significant risk to the living relatives of those people.”

The investigation has highlighted the weak oversight mechanisms for undercover agents who were gathering intelligence, arguing that officers’ methods should never undermine its admissibility in court. The report said there was a legitimate case that the legislative framework governing undercover policing, including 2000’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, should be fundamentally reviewed.