Friday, October 21, 2011

Outrage over British undercover policeman's 'lies on oath to protect his secret identity'

Scotland Yard faced calls for a judicial inquiry last night after an undercover officer apparently lied on oath to protect his secret identity. The demands came after it was revealed detective constable Jim Boyling gave evidence under a false name during the trial of environmental activists he had infiltrated.

A second undercover officer claimed the practice was widespread and sanctioned by bosses as a way of protecting the prized network of informants.

But one former director of public prosecutions warned it could spark a flood of appeals and accused police of making a ‘mockery of the courts’.

Lord Macdonald said: ‘It is highly disreputable to send someone into court to lie about who they are and what they were. It is making a mockery of the courts, the judge and the entire justice system. ‘It is pretty jaw-dropping stuff and shows that the police were taking a cavalier attitude towards the courts. ‘I would have thought that anyone who has been convicted because of an undercover police operation will be considering an appeal.’

The revelations were the latest blow to senior officers who are desperate to maintain police spies among the growing ranks of discontented activists.

The news forced a police watchdog to postpone the publication of a landmark review into the future of undercover policing. Written by Bernard Hogan-Howe before he took office as Metropolitan Police commissioner, it was expected to rule out the introduction of extra scrutiny.

The row comes after claims Mr Boyling allegedly maintained a fictitious alias throughout the trial of a group of Reclaim the Streets activists in 1997. The officer, who remains at Scotland Yard on restricted duties, infiltrated the environmental and anti-capitalist protesters for up to five years.

Mr Boyling and several other protesters were arrested during a protest at London Underground’s headquarters in 1996.

Legal records showed he told police he was ‘Pete James Sutton’, and that his occupation was ‘cleaner’, when he was taken to Charing Cross police station. He then appeared under this name during a series of court hearings that culminated in a three-day trial at Horseferry Road magistrates’ court.

The undercover officer and several others were acquitted, but arts lecturer John Jordan was convicted of assaulting a police officer. His case has now been referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission and he expects it to be quashed at the Court of Appeal.

Defence solicitor Mike Schwarz said Mr Boyling was present during confidential discussions between Mr Jordan and his solicitor. He said police ‘wildly overstepped all recognised boundaries’ and called for a judge-led inquiry into the affair.

Mr Jordan said the case was ‘totally outrageous’ and the conviction made his career in education ‘pretty difficult’.

Another Met officer, Peter Black, who worked undercover with Mr Boyling, said there were other cases in which officers were prosecuted under false names. He said it was ‘part of their cover’ and suggested it increased their reputation among those they were collecting information about.

It is not clear whether Mr Boyling broke the law, but he could face investigation for perjury, perverting the course of justice or contempt of court.

The allegations came 10 months after the prosecution of six environmental protesters collapsed when an undercover officer offered to give evidence on their behalf. Long-haired climber Mark Kennedy was exposed as an undercover officer who had a series of affairs with activists during seven years working across Europe.

Mr Schwarz added: ‘I think that, for us all to come to reach any conclusions about what should happen in the future, the police must be open about what has happened in the past.’

A Met spokesman said: ‘We are confident that the current legislative and regulatory framework governing the deployment of undercover officers ensures that all such deployments conducted now are lawful and appropriately managed.’

Original report here

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