- High Court update:
We spanked them 4-0.
Hugh and John crushed them on Tuesday and Wednesday. Dinah and Guy were brilliant on Thursday. We won on every single decision made by the judge. The blacklist firms now have a massive, costly and highly intrusive exercise to find & disclose the documentary evidence by 31st October. Take that, you human rights abusing wretches.
- Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing.
Spycops inquiry Terms of Reference announced by Teresa May today. Not a single explicit mention of blacklisting or spying on unions – we need to keep up the pressure to ensure that we are a core part of the inquiry. John McDonnell MP asked a parliamentary question about whether spying on unions would be part of the inquiry – but there has been no response from the Home Office.
Statement from the Blacklist Support Group regarding the announcement of the terms of reference for the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing
“The Blacklist Support Group has called on the Pitchford Inquiry not to become a whitewash in its investigation into undercover policing and ensure that spying on trade unionists is properly investigated. Teresa May has today (Thurs) announced the terms of reference for the public inquiry into undercover policing. The announcement by the Home Secretary lays out the scope of the inquiry to be led by the High Court judge and Privy Council member, Lord Justice Pitchford. The inquiry, set to run for three years, will look into the role of undercover policing and political campaign groups and social justice groups. The concerns of thousands of trade unionists must be heard and must be investigated – otherwise this is just another whitewash.
Many in the trade union movement may be skeptical about whether the Pitchford Inquiry, or indeed any investigation by the British establishment, will expose the full extent of state spying on unions. Even to get to this point has been a struggle. Getting the Pitchford inquiry to looking at political campaigns was not granted out of the generosity of Teresa May’s heart. Campaigners have had to fight for it over many years. This is only the latest stage in our battle for justice.
Trade unionists have known for decades that the police have been spying on us but whenever we have raised it we were accused of being conspiracy theorists with no evidence to back up our allegations. That has changed thanks to a combination of grassroots campaigning and investigate journalism – and the Pitchford Inquiry has the opportunity to test these allegations.
It is now known that the undercover police officers Mark Jenner and Peter Francis spied on trade union members in construction and other sectors. Both were part of the Special Demonstration Squad, a unit within Special Branch where police officers went undercover not for the occasional demonstration but for years on end.
Peter Francis, the undercover cop who turned whistleblower to expose the scandal, has publicly admitted spying on UCATT, FBU, CWU, NUT and Unison members. He released a statement admitting this at the Parliamentary launch of Blacklisted – the book which details the secret vetting of construction industry workers and environmental activists. However Francis was unable to appear in person even in the House of Commons because he feared prosecution under the Official Secret Act.
It is vital that Francis is able to give evidence in full to the Pitchford Inquiry without fear of prosecution. Just as the Child Sexual Abuse inquiry has secured a guarantee from the Attorney General that whistleblowers will be granted immunity from prosecution. Similarly, the Attorney General needs to give such an assurance to the Pitchford Inquiry.
The inquiry must investigate the activities of officers such as Mark Jenner. Under his alias Mark Cassidy, the officer was well known on construction picket lines in London. The police spy was a paid-up member of the construction union UCATT between 1996-98, infiltrating the union to spy on activists. He chaired meetings for one rank and file campaign.
One of those he spied on was Steve Hedley, currently the RMT Assistant General Secretary. Hedley said:”The police and big business has spied on me and other union activists for decades for nothing more than standing up for rights of our fellow workers. The undercover cop Mark Jenner targeted me for a number of years in the late 1990s and even stayed at my mum’s house. The sooner this anti-democratic scandal at the heart of the British state is exposed the better.”
Other ‘enemies of the state’ were targeted by undercover cops such as John Dines, Bob Lambert, Marco Jacobs and Mark Kennedy. These include environmental and anti-racists activists. Many of those subject to state surveillance also had files held by the notorious The Consulting Association (TCA) blacklist maintained on behalf of some of the country’s biggest construction firms. Francis says he opened a Special Branch file on one Liverpool bricklayer – that activist has a TCA file which says he is “under constant watch officially”.
This is more than about simply gathering details of who attended which meeting. The total lack of morality at the heart of this state-sectioned surveillance is demonstrated by the fact that the SDS training manual encouraged these officers to have sexual relationships with women activists as a way of gaining trust within the campaigns they were targeting. In some cases they fathered children with their targets. When the bereaved families of racist murder victims such as Ricky Reel and Stephen Lawrence dared to question the police, this resulted in undercover surveillance by the SDS.
And this was not about a few secret policeman swapping gossip with friends in the private sector. This was not about a few bad apples.
In 2013, the Blacklist Support Group complained to the IPCC about the role of the police spying on blacklisted trade union activists in the building industry. In a frank admission, the police watchdog admitted that its initial investigations had found that “every Special Branch in the country routinely provide information about prospective employees”.
Documents leaked to John McDonnell MP show that DCI Gordon Mills from the then National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU) even attended The Consulting Association meetings to give a PowerPoint presentation. A ‘two way exchange of information’ was agreed between TCA and NETCU..
Spying on trade unionists is not an aberration but standard operating procedure, outside of democratic oversight and out of control. The effects on those targeted were often life-changing. It is a human rights abuse that cannot be tolerated – and which Pitchford cannot ignore.
A central question Pitchford must answer is why police intelligence was exchanged with big business. If our liberal democracy is to have any meaning then we deserve to know in whose interests the state acts. It may be uncomfortable for some but the public needs to know what, if any, political oversight has been exercised by both Labour and Conservative home secretaries.
One obvious omission from Teresa May’s statement is any mention of the role of the security services. The excuse of national security will be used as a cloak these undemocratic antics. The actions of Special Branch, the foot soldiers for MI5, cannot be the end of Pitchford’s investigation if it is to have any meaning.
Our hopes are not high on this.The government continues to block the release of official papers relating to the prosecution of pickets at Shrewsbury in 1972. These secret documents would expose the role of undercover state agents in this notorious miscarriage of justice.
But public inquiries are stand alone bodies, in theory at least, one step removed from the government. If Pitchford is demonstrate that justice done must seen to be done without fear or favour then it must show its teeth. Campaigners will be arguing forcibly that other instances such as the Miners Strike, Grunwick, Wapping and blacklisting should all be investigated. There is prima facie evidence in all these case of undercover police involvement. The internal police inquiries so far have been a sham.
Pitchford may not get the full story of state surveillance on trade unions but an opportunity like this only comes along once in a generation. After decades of campaigning, we cannot tolerate a whitewash”.
- Tolpuddle Festival
Phil Chamberlain and Dave Smith will be at Tolpuddle Festival at 10:30am this Saturday 18th July in the Marquee.
Books signed by the authors available from the Bookmarks tent.
- Blacklisting Arrest
Dave Smith’s trial following his arrest for protesting about blacklisting and safety isues on Crossrail is next week.
Thursday 23rd July (assemble 9am for photos)
City of London Magistrates Court
(next to bank tube)
Expect celebrity witnesses, political revelations and fireworks (not literally) in court