First report into undercover policing: "whitewash"Tagged as: climate_action cps inquiry mark_kennedy mark_stone police ratcliffe report repression undercover
Neighbourhoods: nottingham ratcliffe uk
Published by group: Notts Indymedia
The first of twelve official reports resulting from the public outing of undercover police officer Mark Kennedy and the subsequent collapse of the trials of 26 climate change activists has been published. The report claims that there was no “dishonest withholding of information” and no “systemic” failings, a conclusion the CPS have been happy to repeat. Critics of the report have dismissed it as a “whitewash.”
On the newswire: Further police evidence shocks ‘to come to light’ | Police under fire .. collapse of eco-protest trial | Rose Report on the Ratcliffe Trial | CPS report on Ratcliffe Power Station Case | Report into Mark Kennedy’s secret tapes published
Previous features: Undercover police officer back in the spotlight
In January, the trial against six activists accused of planning to invade Ratcliffe Power Station in 2009 collapsed as the involvement of Mark Kennedy/Stone became public. In July, a further twenty activists convicted of the same offence during a trial late last year, had their convictions quashed on appeal.
In June 2011, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Keir Starmer, was forced to establish an independent inquiry after allegations that the CPS had supressed evidence. The CPS' preferred option of an internal inquiry no longer being tenable. In July, Starmer, asked the retired Court of Appeal Judge and Chief Surveillance Commissioner, Sir Christopher Rose, to conduct the inquiry.
The CPS have seized on Rose’s conclusion that they "did not deliberately withhold information,” and that “the failings were individual, not systemic." On Tuesday, when the report was released, Starmer went on a tour of the TV studios parroting this line, insisting that Rose’s finding that there was no "systemic" problem meant that a more extensive investigation was unnecessary. Senior prosecutor Ian Cunningham appears to have been selected as the fall guy and is reportedly facing disciplinary action and perhaps even dismissal following the publication of the report.
Many people are unconvinced by the narrative being pushed by the CPS. Ben Stewart one of the defendants whose convictions was quashed earlier this year dismissed the inquiry as the “whitest of whitewashes”. Michael Schwarz, a solicitor at Bindmans, who represented several of the defendants in the trial, told reporters that the findings represented an "almost pathological failure" to address systemic problems." He described it as "unacceptable that the CPS should produce the Rose report to hide behind. Rose’s report simply fails because it was programmed to fail."
Schwarz believes that the problem could be far wider than Rose’s report alleges. There were already two known incidents when undercover officers Jim Boyling and Bob Lambert were allegedly tried under false names. Schwarz has now revealed that Jim Boyling also offered to give evidence under his false name in another case from the 1990s, ironically one in which Starmer was the barrister for the defence.
Additionally, he told reporters: "We know – and put before the Court of Appeal – at least two other unrelated cases where concerns were expressed by the Crown Court about Notts CPS’ compliance with its legal obligations of disclosure." The Rose report was not asked to and does not deal with these other concerns and, therefore, Schwarz argues, "It cannot purport to be a proper inquiry into the health even of that regional CPS office. In fact, there is a significant amount of evidence pointing towards there being systemic problems within the CPS."
Even on the report’s own terms, Rose has to concede that it ontains serious weaknesses: "Contemporaneous documentation, by the police and the CPS, is lacking in a number of instances." He also notes that none of the people from whom "derived information, orally or in writing… has been subjected to cross-examination as would have occurred in a trial.” Rose concedes that there is a "possibility that they may wish to serve their own by being less than candid" (i.e. lie). He seems to believe he has accounted for this possibility. People will come to their own conclusions as to whether this is accurate or not.
The numerous problems with the report and its many gaps will only be grist for the mill for those calling for a genuinely independent, open judge-led inquiry into all aspects of undercover policing.