Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Battle to open police spy database

Battle to open police spy database
Campaigners’ attempts to discover what personal information is held about them on police intelligence databases are drawing a blank.
In the wake of revelations about police spies and the undercover surveillance of activist groups dating back decades, individuals who believe they may have been targeted have submitted Data Protection Act requests to the Metropolitan Police.
But despite a requirement that police reply within 40 days, some have yet to hear back
from them several months later – while others are dissatisfied with their response.
Still waiting
The campaigners want to learn what details were gathered about them by the now-defunct Special Demonstration Squad – later replaced by the National Domestic Extremism Unit – and some have asked for information which may be held about campaigns they participated in. Each request costs £10.
Kevin Blowe, a miscarriage of justice campaigner with Newham Monitoring Project since the late 1980s, is still waiting for a basic acknowledgement of his request more than 12 weeks on. He says he is in contact with others who have similar experiences.
Standard response
Those who have received a response were sent a standard letter from the Metropolitan Police, reading: “From the personal details supplied in this request, there is no information the Commissioner is required to supply you. Please note this letter should not be used as a certificate of good character.”
Among those to have received this letter is former social worker Celia Stubbs, whose partner Blair Peach died in 1979 after an unidentified police officer struck him during a demonstration in Southall against the National Front. For the next 20 years, Stubbs was an active member of Hackney’s Colin Roach Centre, which was targeted by the Special Demonstration Squad, whose undercover officer Mark Jenner infiltrated the organisation for around three years in the mid 1990s.
Mary Pimm received a similar letter after asking police if they had records about whether her telephone was tapped duringa civil service strike that she participated in.
She said: “In 1981, I picked up my phone to hear a previous conversation being replayed. I also wanted to know if the police had collected information on the Harry Stanley Campaign that was formed after Harry was shot dead by the police on 22 September 1999.”
Ethics panel
Concerned by the brush-off, Pimm contacted her Greater London Assembly (GLA) member, Jeanette Arnold. The Labour councillor also sits on the GLA police and crime committee. She took up Pimm’s case with mayor Boris Johnson – whose responsibilities include oversight for the Metropolitan Police. He replied he was “not in a position to respond to your request to confirm there was no infiltration to the Stanley campaign”.
Johnson supported home secretary Theresa May’s decision not to hold a public inquiry into undercover policing and instead backed three ongoing investigations.
The mayor is, however, pressing ahead with the establishment of a legacy and ethics panel attached to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC). He recently appointed Lord Carlile, a former Liberal Democrat MP and reviewer of terrorism legislation, to chair the panel.
Carlile’s appointment and his announcement that he wants to look at undercover policing has been cautiously welcomed by Jenny Jones, leader of the Green Party group on the GLA and deputy chair of the police and crime committee.
Oversight responsibilities

She said: “Until I see the detail of what its powers will be and what access to information it will be granted, I remain sceptical about its ability to change Met Police behaviour. This panel must not allow MOPAC to dodge its oversight responsibilities on undercover policing.”

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