7 Jul 2023

Last week, the Undercover Policing Inquiry referred the second set of suspected miscarriages of justice, identified through its investigations, to a dedicated panel set up by the Home Office.

As part of its terms of reference, the Inquiry seeks to identify suspected miscarriages of justice that might have occurred due to an undercover policing operation or an operation not being disclosed when it should have been.

The Inquiry refers any suspected cases to the Miscarriages of Justice panel, which was set up by the Home Office, who sponsor the Inquiry. The panel consists of two senior members of the Crown Prosecution Service and two from the police. Following the referrals, the panel considers whether further action is required, which could include referral to the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

The Inquiry made its second referral to the Miscarriages of Justice panel last week. The referral relates to two incidents in the deployment of Special Demonstration Squad undercover officer HN13 (“Desmond Barry Loader”) and his infiltration of the East London branch of the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) (CPE-ML). HN13 was involved in two incidents which led to the prosecution of him and other CPE-ML members.

The first prosecution (for insulting behaviour) arose out of an incident or incidents occurring on an anti-fascist march from Ilford to Barking on 17 September 1977. HN13 and seven others appeared at Barking Magistrates’ Court on 21 September 1977. They were remanded for trial at the same court on 3 January 1978. Barbara Pearce and three others were convicted on 12 April 1978 of obstructing a police officer in the execution of his/her duty after a trial by three lay magistrates at Barking Magistrates Court.

The second prosecution arose out of a clash between extreme left and right during the Brixton by-election on 15 April 1978. Michael Chant was convicted at Brixton Magistrates Court on 29 June 1978 of using insulting behaviour.

HN13, appearing in his cover name “Barry Loader” was tried on the same occasions, acquitted on the first occasion, and convicted of using threatening behaviour on the second. The offences with which he was charged arose out of the same incidents as those resulting in the convictions of Barbara Pearce and Michael Chant and others.

The incidents and the court proceedings are dealt with in paragraphs 53 and 54 of chapter 5 of the Tranche 1 Interim Report which was published on 29 June 2023. The Chairman having considered documentary evidence about both cases and the oral evidence of Geoffrey Craft about what had occurred before the trial at Barking Magistrates Court, has established on the balance of probabilities that the trial bench at Barking had been deliberately misled (though not by Geoffrey Craft) and that the trial bench at Brixton had been deliberately misled in each case about the person and role of HN13. The Chairman is therefore satisfied that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred. HN13 is deceased and it has not been possible to establish more about the facts of each case.

The Inquiry identified this case as part of its investigations into undercover operations conducted by the Special Demonstration Squad between 1968 and 1982. Materials related to the incidents can be found on the ‘Published evidence’ page of the Inquiry website. Of particular relevance is the Minute sheet enclosing memoranda discussing the arrest and conviction of HN13.

Further suspected miscarriages of justice may be identified as the Inquiry progresses chronologically through its investigations into undercover policing operations in England and Wales from 1968 to the present. The first suspected miscarriages of justice were referred in June 2021.