MPs: Undercover cops pose risk

An influential group of MPs have criticised the rules governing how undercover police officers operate, citing unacceptable sexual relationships and the "ghoulish" use of dead children's identities by cops.

Undercover policing 'vital in fighting crime'

As the Home Affairs Select Committee acknowledges, undercover police operations are a vital element of the fight against organised crime and terrorism but it is crucial covert powers are used proportionately and that effective human rights safeguards are in place.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act already provides strong safeguards but we recognise the system can be improved.

The Home Office is already working with the police and others to implement recommendations from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.

– Home Office spokesman

MPs condemn 'ghoulish' use of dead childrens' identities

An interim report by MPs has described the practice of undercover police "borrowing" the identities of dead children "ghoulish and disrespectful".

The practice was uncovered in an investigation by the Guardian which accused the Metropolitan Police of using the identities of an estimated 80 children over three decades.

It found that fake identity records such as passports, driving licences and national insurance numbers had been issued using the details of the dead children.

Today's report calls for the families of the children involved to be given an "unambiguous apology" from the forces involved.

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How Mark Kennedy lifted the lid on undercover cops

Undercover officer Mark Kenny is led away by police after being cut from the fence surrounding Hartlepool Nuclear Power Station
Undercover officer Mark Kenny is led away by police after being cut from the fence surrounding Hartlepool Nuclear Power Station Credit: Hartlepool Mail

The case that placed undercover policing in the spotlight was that of Pc Mark Kennedy who posed as a campaigner in protest groups over seven years from 2003.

He was outed by accident when his real passport was discovered. He went on to offer help to protesters in a trial regarding Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station, which led to the trial falling apart.

It was later revealed that he had had sexual relationships with at least two women in the protest movement.

A number of women who say they were deceived into having relationships with undercover officers - and not just Mark Kennedy - are suing the Metropolitan Police for damages.

MPs: There are some lines police officers must not cross

Here are some of the conclusions from the Home Affairs Select Committee interim report.

On undercover policing:

We are not satisfied that the current legislative framework provides adequate protection against police infiltration into ordinary peoples' lives - a far more intrusive form of surveillance than any listening device or hidden camera.

On sexual relations:

We do not believe that officers should enter into intimate, physical sexual relationships while using their false identities undercover without clear, prior authorisation, which should only be given in the most exceptional circumstances.

In particular, it is unacceptable that a child should be brought into the world as a result of such a relationship and this must never be allowed to happen again.

On using dead childrens' identities:

The practice of 'resurrecting' dead children as cover identities for undercover police officers was not only ghoulish and disrespectful, it could potentially have placed bereaved families in real danger of retaliation.

The families who have been affected by this deserve an explanation and a full and unambiguous apology from the forces concerned.

'There must be rules' for undercover police officers

Rt Hon Keith Vaz, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, has called for a "clear code of conduct" for police officers operating undercover.

He told ITV News that cases of undercover police officers fathering children with their subjects, or using the identities of children who have died, were "abhorrent".

"This isn't James Bond, this is happening," he added.

MPs demand clearer rules for undercover police officers

Pc Mark Kennedy in his undercover role as an environmental campaigner

Undercover policing laws are ambiguous to the point where ordinary people are at risk of having their private lives infiltrated, an influential group of MPs has warned.

An interim report by the Home Affairs Select Committee says there is an "alarming level of inconsistency" among ministers and senior police officers over the limits of the law.

The issue came to light in 2011 after it was revealed that undercover police officer Pc Mark Kennedy had had sexual relations with women in the environmental group he was trying to infiltrate.

It was later revealed that some undercover police officers used dead children's identities to build cover stories, a practice described as "ghoulish" in the MPs' report.

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