17 July 2015
Theresa May has outlined the terms of reference for the undercover policing enquiry.
The inquiry will look into “the justification, authorisation, operational governance and oversight of undercover policing”, and investigate “whether and to what purpose, extent and effect undercover police operations have targeted political and social justice campaigners”.
The inquiry’s investigation will include, but not be limited to, the undercover operations of the
Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.
The inquiry was set up in response to evidence that the police had spied on and attemped to smear the family of murder victim Stephen Lawrence. Police whistleblowers have attested to multiple instances of police infiltration of campaign groups and trade unions.
The inquiry is set to run for three years. Lord Justice Pitchford, who has sat in the court of appeal for five years, will head the investigation.
An investigation into miscarriges of justice resulting from undercover policing, by barrister Mark Ellison, found that there were “a number of convictions causing concern” which are now actively being considered by the Crown Prosecution Service and the Criminal Cases Review Commission. He also admitted that “there are a large number of convictions where the lack of surviving records prevent a detailed analysis”.
Commenting on the news, the Blacklist Support Group said; “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” they said.
The terms of reference in full are available here.