Growing calls to extend undercover policing inquiry remit beyond England and Wales


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One of the targets of exposed British undercover police officer Mark Kennedy has taken the first steps towards legal action in an attempt to have the remit of the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing expanded to cover officers' activities outside England and Wales.


Lawyers in Germany acting for Jason Kirkpatrick, who was friends with Kennedy for several years, have sent a "pre-action letter" to the UK home secretary arguing that "there is a clear need for an investigation to be urgently commissioned into the activities of Mark Kennedy in this jurisdiction." [1]

The Pitchford Inquiry, also known as the Undercover Policing Inquiry or UCPI, was established by the UK Home Secretary in March 2015.

Three months later its terms of reference were adopted, stating it would: "inquire into and report on undercover police operations conducted by English and Welsh police forces in England and Wales since 1968." [2]

It will focus on the motivations and scope of operations, the adequacy of the justifications used for them, the possibility for miscarriages of justice, the targeting of political and social justice campaigners and the work of UK police units the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.

However, despite it being widely-known that undercover officers who targeted campaigners and campaign groups operated in countries across Europe (with Mark Kennedy also visiting the United States), the Home Secretary has so far refused to extend the remit of its investigations beyond England and Wales.

The letter from Kirkpatrick's German lawyers adds to the growing calls for the inquiry's remit to be expanded, including a previous letter sent by lawyers acting for him in Northern Ireland which argued that:

"The current failure by the UCPI… to investigate allegations arising out of activities in Northern Ireland has left our client without any effective investigation into the activities of Mr Kennedy, and other SDS Officers, in this jurisdiction… It would not be rational for the UK Government to conclude that there is a need for a judge-led inquiry into these allegations in England and Wales, but for there to be no such inquiry into the same allegations, involving the same activists and the same undercover officers, in Northern Ireland." [3]

The next step following the "pre-action letters" is to launch proceedings for a judicial review of the decision not to include jurisdictions other than England and Wales in the inquiry.

It is not simply affected individuals who want the inquiry's remit expanded: in June an official letter from the German government to the UK Home Office asked "for the Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing to be extended to covert operations by British police in Germany." [4]

The Scottish justice secretary made a similar request to the Home Office in December 2015 regarding the actions of undercover officers in Scotland, although seven months later the Home Secretary not responded.

While the Scottish government seems still to be waiting for a response from the Home Office, there is an increasing clamour in for the inquiry's remit to be expanded, or for a parallel investigation to be set up: "Victims of blacklists, fellow trade unionists, environmentalists, Amnesty International, and politicians across the spectrum believe there should be some kind of Inquiry." [5]

As the letter from Kirkpatrick's German lawyers argues, quoting a UK Court of Appeal judgment from 1948: "…there may be something so absurd that no sensible person could ever dream that it lay within the powers of the authority."

There are clear grounds for extending the remit of the inquiry to cover jurisdictions beyond England and Wales. The ongoing refusal of the Home Office to do so would suggest that they are more concerned with concealing the wider activities of British 'spycops' than they are with truth, justice and accountability.


[1] Pre-Action Letter to the UK Home Secretary from lawyers in Germany, 20 July 2016 (pdf)
[2] Undercover Policing Inquiry, Terms of Reference (pdf)
[3] Pre-Action Letter to the UK Home Secretary from lawyers in Northern Ireland, 10 June 2016 (pdf)
[4] Philip Oltermann, Germany asks UK to widen undercover policing inquiry, The Guardian, 11 June 2016
[5] Harvey Duke, No Hiding Place for Spycops in Scotland, Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance, 19 July 2016

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