Sunday, 28 February 2016

John McDonnell statement on Police Surveillance

The following statement was provided by MP John McDonnell for the
BIG BROTHER - who's watching you public meeting on 26 February in Hackney.

“Only in recent years have we been gaining some knowledge of the scale and nature of Police surveillance in this country and it has proved to be shocking.

Most people appreciate that Police surveillance is part and parcel of protecting society from criminal behaviour, including terrorism.

However people also believe that they have a right to privacy and to be protected from intrusion by the state, especially when harm ensues.

The issue is always one of appropriateness, balance and justification.

The upcoming Pitchford inquiry offers the opportunity to place on the record what we know of the recent history of Police surveillance and to expose the impact it has had on the lives of those that have been the targets and in many instances the victims of Police surveillance.

It also may give us the chance of discovering more about how surveillance has operated, under what authority, and on whose decisions.

The impression that many have gained is that Police surveillance was on a scale not justified in a democratic and supposedly open society and was out of control of suitable management and accountability.

Indeed from the stories recounted and evidence established it appears that some elements of the Police force operated almost with impunity.

I wish to cite just three varied examples areas from my own experience of surveillance that have been exposed.

Ricky Reel Family Campaign

The first is the family campaign to discover the truth about the sad loss of life of my constituent Ricky Reel.

Officers from the Herne inquiry informed the Reel family and me at a meeting last year that our campaign had been what they described as subject to “collateral intrusion.”

We were told that this meant Police officers secretly attended our campaign meetings to undertake surveillance on people attending our meetings.

There is a sad irony in this in that at the very time undercover police officers were attending our meetings for surveillance purposes, we were publicly campaigning for more police resources to be applied to the under resourced investigation into Ricky’s loss.


The second is the campaign against blacklisting, which I have long supported.

After years of pressing in Parliament for legislation to outlaw blacklisting I assisted in founding the Blacklist Support Group.

From the evidence gathered in the Information Commissioner’s raid on the Consulting Association many came to the view that the source of some of the information used to blacklist workers could only have been the Police or security services.

I subsequently received a statement from one Police officer involved in the surveillance of trade unionists that he and his unit had indeed placed trade unionists under police surveillance on some scale.

It’s a matter of record that I read this statement to a public meeting held at the House of Commons.

Climate camp

The third of my examples is climate camp.

Climate Camp came to my constituency to support our local campaign against a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

I welcomed the camp and did my best as the local MP to ensure that the camp operated peacefully and effectively.

This meant assisting in making representations to the Police about issues such as water supply to the camp and routes of marches from the camp.

I now know that not only was I negotiating with Police officers but at least one of the supposed climate campers was an undercover Police officer.

Common Theme

The common theme of each of these examples is that the surveillance was of people who were not engaged in or planning any criminal acts.

These were people who were simply seeking truth and justice.

There was no justifiable reason for the surveillance.

The surveillance has caused considerable harm and distress in many of these cases.

Simple Demand

I have simple demand.

It is for the truth to be brought out, for justice for those harmed by this practice of Police spying and for an effective system of democratic management and accountability to be established for the authorisation and operation of any surveillance measures in the future.

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