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E02786195    06/2023

HC 1539

Home/UCPI Interim Report for Tranche 1/Chapter 4: The Special Demonstration Squad 1974 to 1976

Chapter 4: The Special Demonstration Squad 1974 to 1976

  1. HN3810 Sir Robert Mark was Commissioner throughout this period. According to HN304 (“Graham Coates”), he visited the SDS once after he joined the unit in late 1975.1 It may be his visit that was recorded in the 1977 SDS annual report. In his letter to the Deputy Under Secretary with responsibility for policing, Sir James Waddell, dated 18 February 1975, seeking Home Office approval for the continuance of the SDS, HN3557 Assistant Commissioner (Crime) Colin Woods stated that the Commissioner continued to take a close personal interest in SDS activities.2 Closed contemporaneous evidence establishes, beyond doubt, that he did. It is inconceivable that he was less well informed about the SDS than his immediate predecessor, HN1877 Sir John Waldron (whom he succeeded on 16 April 1972). Sir Robert Mark had, as one would expect, a clear and unequivocal view of the threat posed by potential targets of the SDS, which he expressed in his autobiography, published in 1978:

    “The simple truth is that fascists, communists, Trotskyites, anarchists et al are committed to the overthrow of democracy and to the principle that the end justifies the means. Democracy must therefore protect itself by keeping a careful eye upon them. It is not difficult because they have never represented a serious threat. Paradoxically, they are less likely to do so if the state continues to treat them, as at present, as a bad joke.”3

  2. Before October 1972, the definition of subversion was derived from the Maxwell Fyfe Directive of 1952, which defined the relevant task of the Security Service: to defend the realm from internal dangers arising from actions of persons and organisations which may be judged to be subversive of the state.4 In 1972, the Director of F Branch in the Security Service defined subversion as “activities threatening the safety or well-being of the state and intended to undermine or overthrow Parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means”.5 This definition was adopted and repeated by Lord Harris of Greenwich in a formal statement to the House of Lords on 26 February 1975:6 “Subversive activities are generally regarded as those which threaten the safety or well-being of the state, and which are intended to undermine or overthrow Parliamentary democracy by political, industrial and violent means.”7 This definition was restated in the House of Commons by the Home Secretary on 6 April 19788and by Leon Brittain, Minister of State at the Home Office, on 7 November 1979, and remained the public position of the Government until the enactment of the Security Service Act 1989. These statements contain two basic elements: activities which threaten the safety or well-being of the state; and an intention to overthrow parliamentary democracy by one or more of three means. The second element is purely subjective. The first contains an objective element.
  3. I have cited these statements because they provide the contemporaneous public yardstick against which the infiltration of extremist groups by the SDS undercover officers in this and later periods can be assessed.
  4. From inception, much of the written intelligence reporting generated by the SDS undercover officers was forwarded to the Security Service, and intermittent meetings occurred between the managers of both. On 4 December 1973, HN1253 Deputy Assistant Commissioner Victor Gilbert and John Jones, then head of the Security Service section responsible for internal subversion, agreed that there should be six-monthly meetings at a senior level to discuss targeting and operational requirements.9 The first such meeting occurred on 30 August 1974.10 A list of organisations penetrated by the SDS was provided to the Security Service.11 After the meeting, arrangements were made to ensure that SDS material should be the subject of special handling safeguards within the Security Service. On 11 November 1974, it was agreed that SDS reports would be sent by courier direct to F6, each marked with a generic code to indicate that its source was the SDS and filed in a single file.12 This system remained in place from November 1974 until March 1985. It is the source of most of the recovered written SDS intelligence reporting between those dates.
  5. From then on, most SDS undercover officers understood, correctly, that their written reporting would be forwarded to the Security Service. They also understood, again correctly, that the interest of the Security Service in their reporting would arise principally from its responsibility for monitoring and countering subversion.
  6. On 16 February 1976, at a meeting between Sir Robert Mark and Sir Michael Hanley, Director General of the Security Service, attended by, among others, Victor Gilbert, as Head of Special Branch, it was agreed that the liaison should be deepened: a Security Service liaison officer would be appointed who would be provided with an office at Special Branch for frequent use, and there would be twice-yearly informal conferences attended by officers from both services to discuss topics of mutual interest.13 These arrangements were put in place and appear to have lasted for a period of years. The Home Office was informed about them on 11 March 1976.14 Despite them, it is likely that the Commissioner insisted that Special Branch should not do the Security Service’s work: see the manuscript note under the typed note by David Heaton, dated 2 October 1978, that Sir Robert Mark “took a strong line in this regard and the Met did much less under his command, without apparent harm”.15
  7. By early 1974, it had become the established practice for SDS undercover officers to be sent to Somerset House to research the date of birth and death of a child, with a view to adopting the name of the child as a cover name. It is probable that the first officer to research and in part adopt the name and date of birth of a real person was HN298 (“Michael Scott”), in 1971; but there is no reason to believe that his initiative prompted the routine use of the name of a deceased child by undercover officers. No surviving SDS manager has been able to explain when or for what reason the practice was started. No document has been retrieved from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to identify its origin. It is possible, but no more than possible, that the germ of the idea was prompted by the prosecution of Cecil Mulvena in 1966–1967 for using the identity of a dying man to obtain a passport in his name. The investigation was conducted by HN585 Matthew Rodger, who later, as Commander, had responsibility for the oversight of the SDS. A further possibility is that the successful adoption by a closed officer of the identity of a deceased person on the initiative of the officer contributed to the adoption of the practice. It is unlikely that the idea was simply borrowed from The Day of the Jackal, at least without some thought having been given to the security of the technique. No surviving manager thought that the parents or relatives of the deceased child would be affected by its use, because they would never learn of it. With the possible exceptions of HN80 (“Colin Clark”) and HN200 (“Roger Harris”), there is no evidence that anyone gave any thought to the propriety of its use.
  8. The long-term deployment of male undercover officers into political groups had a further consequence. Some of them not only formed friendships with members of target groups of both sexes, but entered into sexual relationships in their cover identity with female members and other women. This was to become a perennial feature of the SDS throughout the remainder of its history. The extent, if at all, to which its managers and other undercover officers knew about the relationships and/or tolerated them is a matter of controversy and conflicting evidence (see paragraphs 42 and 43 below).
  9. HN819 Derek Kneale replaced HN294 as the Detective Chief Inspector of the SDS in the spring of 1974. HN34 Geoffrey Craft was the Detective Inspector under him until promoted to acting, later substantive, Detective Chief Inspector in January or February 1976. HN244 Angus McIntosh joined the SDS as Detective Inspector in spring 1976. A curious feature of the evidence of two honest witnesses, doing their best to recall what happened, is that neither recalls serving with the other. This is in part because Angus McIntosh spent several months during his tenure on courses away from the SDS. However, they did serve together and took part in the events described below.
  10. From the early 1970s until the late 1990s, Trotskyist groups were regularly infiltrated by SDS undercover officers. As is apparent from the tenor of their written reporting, the purpose of the infiltration was twofold: to gather intelligence about the threat, if any, which the groups posed to the maintenance of public order, and, after the adoption by the Security Service in October 1972 of the “Harris” formulation, to the safety and well-being of the state. The principal Trotskyist groups were the International Socialists (IS), which became the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the International Marxist Group (IMG) and the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP). The first two, IS/ SWP and IMG, were infiltrated throughout this period, and the last, WRP, until early 1976.
  11. Two undercover officers infiltrated the WRP: HN303 (“Peter Collins”) and HN298. HN303 joined the SDS in the second half of 1973 and began to report on the WRP in January 1974.16 It was dominated by Gerry Healy, who was determined that it should be the revolutionary vanguard of the working class in Britain. He was insistent that correct lessons be learnt from the Bolshevik experience in pre-revolutionary Russia. Deviation from the party line was not permitted, and tight security was imposed, even at well-attended meetings. HN303 attended and reported on a number of such meetings. Typical examples were: the special delegate conference on 13–14 July 1974;17 the conference convened for 15–17 December 1974,18 to ratify the expulsion of a revisionist faction; and the special delegate conference, which took place at two venues on 12 and 13 July 1975,19 at which the possibility of infiltrating the Labour Party was considered. The WRP did adopt topical causes, such as support for the “Shrewsbury Two” and opposition to the Common Market. HN303 mastered the intricacies of WRP ideology and organisation and provided detailed and comprehensive reports on the events described.
  12. HN298 began to infiltrate the Little Ilford branch of the WRP (often referred to as the “East Ham Sub-district Committee”) in early 1975,20 probably by attending public lectures on Marxism attended by members of the branch.21 Little of any consequence was discussed at branch or sub-district meetings. He may have been the author of two reports on dissension at local level resulting from the reactions of local members and officials to the well-publicised police raid on the WRP education centre in Derbyshire on 27 September 1975.22
  13. HN298 attended a course at the WRP education centre at White Meadows in Derbyshire from 8 to 14 or 15 February 1976 in ignorance of the fact that permission for him to do so was about to be withdrawn. A careful and detailed report, dated 4 February 1976, about the centre and the elaborate procedures adopted to protect its security was produced and forwarded to the Security Service on 11 March 1976.23 HN298 does not believe that he was the author of the report. If it is correctly dated, he cannot have been. HN303 was due to attend a weekend course at the centre on 31 January–1 February, but there is no surviving evidence that he did so. The report was described by Matthew Rodger as the author’s “swan song”, and HN298’s deployment ended immediately afterwards. HN303 remained an undercover officer until 1977. The likelihood is that the document sent to the Security Service was part of a report to which HN298 made a substantial contribution as author and has been misdated. Elizabeth Leicester, who, with her husband Roy Battersby, ran the education centre for the WRP, gave truthful evidence about it. She stated that the report was generally accurate, but she believes that some of what is in it could only have been known to someone who had infiltrated the WRP at a central level. Her reasoning is sound, and it is likely that HN303 also contributed to the report.
  14. Either in part of the report not sent to the Security Service or in another written or oral report, HN298 concluded that the elaborate security precautions taken by the WRP were designed to boost the importance of its leaders, rather than to prepare for public disorder. The reporting was praised by Geoffrey Craft and HN1254 Commander Rollo Watts. They appear to have acted upon its conclusion, because infiltration of the WRP was not resumed after February 1976. They were right to do so. As HN3093 Roy Creamer noted about its predecessor, the Socialist Labour League, it was kept under tight control by Gerry Healy.24 Its demonstrations were disciplined and closely stewarded and posed no threat to public order. In his evidence, Geoffrey Craft stated that the WRP was not a public order problem. As the evidence of Elizabeth Leicester, confirmed by the reporting of HN303 and HN298, made clear, whatever its long-term aims, it was a small group which posed no threat to the safety or welfare of the state and was not therefore subversive within the “Harris” definition.
  15. In 1975, HN303 began to report on extreme right-wing groups the Legion of St George and the National Front (NF).25 He did so at the instigation of the WRP, as Geoffrey Craft noted in the 1976 annual report.26 His access to these groups was noted by Derek Kneale in paragraph 3 of the 1975 annual report. It is evident that HN303 found this aspect of his deployment uncongenial.27
  16. The IMG featured in the 1974 annual report and in the national news because of the part its members played in the incident in Red Lion Square on 15 June 1974, in which Kevin Gately sustained fatal injuries. The NF had hired the main room at Conway Hall for a meeting and staged a march to get there. An ad hoc group opposing them, called the Libertarians, hired a smaller room at Conway Hall at the same time. The event attracted the attention of Trotskyist groups and others, who staged a counter-march. It clashed with police, who tried, successfully, to keep right- and left-wing groups apart. The death of Kevin Gately prompted an inquiry by Lord Justice Scarman, who concluded that the precise circumstances in which an apparently minor injury to his head caused fatal internal bleeding could not be established, but was very unlikely to have been the result of a blow from a police truncheon or other deliberate violent action by a police officer; and that the riot in which he died was caused by a deliberate and violent attack by IMG supporters on the police.
  17. In the 1974 annual report, Derek Kneale stated that the SDS “gave forewarning of both the size of the demonstration and the possible disorder which might occur”.28 There is no surviving written report to that effect, possibly because any report would only have concerned the potential for public disorder and might not have been copied to the Security Service or filed by them in a manner which would have facilitated its retrieval. Two open undercover officers, HN353 (“Gary Roberts”) and HN301 (“Bob Stubbs”) attended the event (at which the latter was struck a blow by a uniformed officer). HN353 recalls providing reports on it. Lord Justice Scarman concluded that the police had accurate forewarning of numbers likely to attend – set out in an operation order dated 13 June 1974 (1,500 left-wing marchers and up to 1,000 NF marchers). It is probable that reporting by SDS officers contributed to the assessment of left-wing numbers and the route of the march which they proposed to take. I have no reason to doubt that the statement in the annual report was accurate. There is an interesting correlation between the observation of Lord Justice Scarman that attendance by the IS was sparse, and the report by HN353, on 18 June 1974, that IS members criticised a member of the national executive, Chris Harman, for failing to attend a “Liberation” meeting on 6 June 1974 to discuss plans for the demonstration and to mobilise IS members to do so.29 Uniformed police did, however, have other readily available public information that trouble was afoot, as Lord Justice Scarman noted. SDS reporting supplemented it. The event is significant because it was the first time that serious public disorder occurred as a result of Trotskyist attempts to obstruct NF, and later British National Party (BNP), activities – a recurring, if intermittent, theme of SDS reporting from then on.
  18. HN353’s recollection is that he was deployed into the IMG in South East London in mid-1975; and that, not long after, he was put to an election by the IMG to choose between it and the IS. He chose the IMG and thereafter reported extensively on its activities.30 There is little written reporting on plans that might affect public order. Topics covered included the decision in September 1975 to infiltrate the Labour Party,31 a retrospective report on a “day of action” to save the Weir Maternity Hospital in Balham in April 197732 and a report on IMG involvement in the Greater London Council (GLC) election campaigns in May 1977.33 He also mastered the IMG’s complex rules for the practising of internal politics, based on “tendencies” and “factions”, on which he reported extensively in November 197534 and February 1976.35 He produced a comprehensive analysis as part of a detailed report on the IMG national delegate conference held between 29 May and 1 June 1976, which was commended by the Security Service and his superior officers.36 He attended the national delegate conference on 15–18 April 1978 and produced a comprehensive retrospective report on it on 4 August 1978.37 His recollection is that his deployment ended in June 1978.
  19. The largest and most active Trotskyist group was the IS. During this period, different IS London branches were infiltrated by HN301, HN351 (“Jeff Slater”), HN353 and HN200.
  20. In late 1974, HN301 belonged to the Wandsworth and Battersea branch.38 By early 1976, he belonged to and reported on the Paddington branch. He was noted as treasurer of that branch in January 1976.39 By May 1976, he had left the SDS.
  21. HN351 joined the SDS in spring 1974 and by November 1974 was reporting on branch meetings in North London.40 His reports mostly concern routine IS business, for example the downward dissemination of proceedings at the latest national conference.41 On 2 January 1975, he was designated the Socialist Worker organiser of the Tottenham branch.42 Much of his reporting on branch and public meetings was about the political stance urged by IS speakers. There was little written reporting about activities which might pose a risk to public order. HN351 says that he found his deployment debilitating and exhausting and concluded that he was not suited to it.43 His request to leave was granted without hesitation, and he was withdrawn from the field by 2 April 1975.44
  22. HN200 was recruited into the SDS in April 1974. He joined the Twickenham branch of the IS in, or shortly before, October 1974.45 He was appointed contacts secretary at a private business meeting on 29 May 1975.46 He produced regular reports on the activities of the branch from December 1974 until late October 1975. Most of these concern organisational details and political topics, including the attitude of branch members to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) bombing campaign in England and the Common Market referendum.47 There are occasional reports of proposed participation in demonstrations. He reported on a development which produced a significant split in the IS: the formation of a group of opposition members, which became the Workers League. Together with many members of the Twickenham branch of the IS, he transferred to it and reported on its founding conference on 17–18 January 1976.48 Thereafter, he reported extensively on the Workers League at branch and national level. The main topics of discussion were politics and relations with other left-wing organisations. The group appears to have achieved little and attracted few new members. It featured in the annual SDS reports for 197649 and 197750 as one of several small, left-wing splinter groups. HN200’s deployment ended without incident in the autumn of 1977.
  23. None of the Trotskyist groups posed any threat to the safety or well-being of the state. Some members of the IS and the IMG posed an occasional and intermittent threat to public order, as the events of 15 June 1974 demonstrated. The annual reports for 1974,51 197552 and 197653 set out in detail the occasions on which Trotskyist groups posed a threat to public order but, with the single exception of 15 June 1974, do not suggest that advance warning of specific threats by undercover officers made a material contribution to dealing with them. Given the nature of the reporting described above, that is not surprising.
  24. The deployment of two undercover officers gave rise to striking problems.
  25. The first was HN300 (“Jim Pickford”), who followed the pattern of many of his predecessors, by infiltrating numerous disparate groups. He joined the SDS in the second half of 1974.54 In November 1974, he began to report on activists in the Battersea area, notably Ernest Rodker and the groups with which he was associated, in particular the Battersea Redevelopment Action Group (BRAG) and the Pavement Collective. Neither group was a legitimate target for infiltration by an undercover officer. The aim of the first group was to prevent the construction of a Disneyland park on the site of the former Battersea funfair.55 The second group produced a local anarchist newspaper. According to Ernest Rodker, whose evidence on this point is undisputed,56 both staged modestly attended pickets at Wandsworth Town Hall and attended Council meetings there. Neither posed any threat to public order. HN300’s reporting on both groups effectively ceased in March 1975.
  26. HN300 then began to report on the Anarchist Workers Association (AWA), which regarded itself as a group of libertarian communists. He attended a meeting on 9 March 197557 to promote the foundation of a new, Kingston, branch and attended its inaugural meeting on 12 March 1975, as one of five potential members.58 He was made a full member on 30 April 1975 and thereafter played a full part in its activities.59 He attended the national conference on 3–4 May 1975.60 On 7 May 1975, he was selected to contact the Campaign Against Jenkins’s Oppressive Laws and write articles on the matter for Libertarian Struggle.61 He chaired branch meetings. He helped implement a decision in July 1975 to separate the Wandsworth branch from the Kingston branch.62 He was elected to attend the sparsely attended AWA delegate conferences on 16 August 197563 and the AWA national conference on 14–15 February 1976.64 He was elected treasurer of the Wandsworth branch on 17 July 197565 and retained that position when it changed its name to the “South London Group”.66 On 1 April 1976 (an aptly chosen date),67 he was chosen as its delegate to the Federation of London Anarchists Groups (FLAG) meeting held on 3 April 1976, attended by 16 people, at which no conclusions about any topic were reached.68
  27. HN300 also took part in meetings of the Battersea and Wandsworth Trades Council Anti-Fascist Committee. The only occasion on which it came close to posing a public order question was on 11 November 1975, when the five people who attended a meeting of the committee decided that they would attend Battersea Lower Town Hall on the same day, in case the NF decided to protest against the local authority’s decision to cancel its booking of the hall.69
  28. None of the groups on which HN300 reported were a legitimate target of undercover policing. Despite that, all three featured, by name, but not by description, in the 1974 annual report, and the AWA was named in the reports for 1975 and 1976.
  29. On 18 August 1976, HN357 Chief Superintendent David Bicknell noted that he was making arrangements to move officers, including HN300, “early next year”.70 What happened was somewhat different. According to a closed officer, whose evidence I have no reason to doubt, HN300 told him that he had fallen in love with one of his target group and wanted to tell her that he was an undercover officer.71 The closed officer arranged a meeting between HN300 and Angus McIntosh, after which HN300 was withdrawn from his deployment. It ended on 16 December 1976 when, as HN300 reported on 4 January 1977, as “Jim Pickford” he announced at a meeting of the South London branch that he intended to resign from the AWA in protest against the “minority tendency”.72 The evidence of the closed officer about the relationship is confirmed by the second wife and daughters of HN300, who state that during his deployment he began a relationship with a woman who sometimes referred to him as “Jimmy”.73 She became his third wife after he left the SDS.
  30. Angus McIntosh stated that he had no recollection of such a meeting and believes that the deployment of HN300 ended without incident on time. He did, however, state that he became aware towards the end of the deployment of HN300 that he was a womaniser.74 He did not state what caused him to have this awareness. The explanation which is most consistent with the evidence of a truthful witness – the closed officer – is that he was first alerted to that possibility by the events described by that officer. Although Angus McIntosh was doing his best to tell the truth as he remembered it, I am satisfied that his memory of these events is imperfect.
  31. The second undercover officer whose deployment gave rise to striking problems was HN297 (“Rick Gibson”) Richard Clark. He joined the SDS in July 1974.75 His purpose was or soon became to infiltrate the Troops Out Movement (TOM), whose stated aim was the withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland and “self-determination” for “the people of Ireland”.76 It was of interest to MPS Special Branch because of its support for Irish Republicanism. Unusually in this era, there are two living witnesses able to speak in detail about his activities from the standpoint of activists who knew him and believed him to be one of them: Richard Chessum and “Mary”. Richard Chessum has provided a careful and balanced witness statement and supplemented it by detailed oral evidence. His evidence was truthful and, on questions of fact, even allowing for the passage of time, reliable. Although “Mary” did not give oral evidence, for understandable personal reasons, I have no reason to doubt the truth of her witness statement.
  32. In the autumn of 1974, HN297 enrolled as a student of Portuguese at Goldsmiths college. He had written to the national office of TOM to state that he wanted to become active in its affairs in South East London. His letter was forwarded to Richard Chessum, then a politically active student at the college. There was no South East London branch, so they agreed to found one.77
  33. At a meeting at the college on 6 February 1975, HN297, Richard Chessum, his girlfriend and future wife, and “Mary”, who were both members of Lewisham IMG, and one other individual decided to invite every left-wing group in the area to send a representative to an inaugural meeting of the branch.78 After an inaugural meeting at the college of the newly founded group on 12 March 1975, attended by 14 people,79 a further meeting took place on 18 March 1975 at the college.80 Eleven people attended. The first item on the agenda was the election of officers. HN297 and Richard Chessum’s girlfriend were elected unopposed as secretary and treasurer of the branch. The second item was the selection of Richard Chessum and HN297 to attend the next TOM London Liaison Committee meeting. Thereafter, HN297, usually accompanied by Richard Chessum until 19 September 1975, attended and reported back on the meetings of the committee. A repeated theme of their reports was the outbreak of factional disputes between independent members of TOM and Trotskyists, including the IS and IMG. Richard Chessum genuinely, and HN297 purportedly, professed to support the “independents”. In Richard Chessum’s opinion, HN297 had a poor understanding of the political views which he purported to espouse, but was accepted by activists because he was non-sectarian and a willing and enthusiastic secretary. He participated fully in the affairs of the South East London branch.
  34. HN297 also seized the opportunity to infiltrate TOM at the London regional and national levels. Richard Chessum explained what happened. His account of events is supported by a contemporaneous report by HN297 dated 24 September 1975 about a meeting of the “Big Flame Ireland Commission” on 17 September 1975.81 Big Flame was a relatively undogmatic socialist group which had an interest in Irish affairs. Both HN297 and Richard Chessum attended its meetings, although neither was a member. HN297 reported Richard Chessum’s statement that the South East London branch of TOM was being taken over by members of two Trotskyist groups, Workers Fight and the Revolutionary Communist Group. At a meeting of the branch before 19 September 1975, of which no report by HN297 has been retrieved, HN297, but not Richard Chessum, was re-elected by the branch to the TOM London coordinating committee. At a meeting of that committee on 19 September 1975, it was proposed, and he accepted, that he should be elected to the organising committee.82 At an all London meeting of TOM on 7 November,83 he was selected to stand for the post of TOM London organiser, a post to which he was subsequently elected.
  35. HN297 played a full part in the organisational activities of the London coordinating committee, later renamed the Central coordinating committee, until 15 September 1976. He then abruptly departed. The reason for his departure was that he had been confronted by two members of Big Flame with the birth and death certificate of “Rick Gibson”, the deceased child whose identity he had assumed.
  36. There is no first-hand evidence to explain the discovery, by the Big Flame members, that he was not who he said he was. A closed officer, who knew HN297, says that he was told by him that he had conducted sexual relationships with two different women, to whom he had given different accounts of his background.84 Richard Chessum learnt after the event that members of Big Flame researched his background when he applied to join the group and discovered the birth and death certificate at St Catherine’s House and the local registry for “Rick Gibson”.
  37. What is not in doubt is that HN297 conducted sexual relationships with at least two and probably four female activists. Two of them were “Mary” and her flatmate. “Mary” had a brief and lacklustre sexual relationship with him and knows that her flatmate did as well.85 “Mary” believes that HN297 undertook both relationships to further the ends of his deployment. Richard Chessum considers that HN297’s relationship with “Mary’s” flatmate, who belonged to a Trotskyist group, may have caused her to vote against her political inclinations for HN297 at the branch vote to elect delegates to the TOM London coordinating committee before 19 September 1975. Richard Chessum wisely accepts that chance may have played a part in the achievement by HN297 of senior positions in TOM at London regional and national level; and the proposition that he deliberately exploited sexual relationships with female activists to gain advancement is not established by the evidence that has been given about it. If, as HN297 told the closed officer, his exposure occurred because he gave two female activists with whom he was conducting sexual relationships different accounts of his background, it is unlikely that he was referring to “Mary” and her flatmate, neither of whom belonged to Big Flame. Richard Chessum has provided the likely answer: he knew at the time of one relationship being conducted with a female member of Big Flame and, after the event, saw a farewell letter addressed by HN297 to another female member, which apparently evidenced deeper feelings for her.
  38. Geoffrey Craft and Angus McIntosh gave evidence about the sudden withdrawal of HN297 from his deployment. Both recall keeping observation outside a public house in South London with a small surveillance team when they knew that HN297 was going to be confronted by activists who had discovered the birth and death certificate of “Rick Gibson”. HN297 survived the encounter unscathed and, as Richard Chessum remembered, claimed to have bluffed his way out by pretending that he was on the run from the police. Despite that, Geoffrey Craft decided that his deployment must come to an immediate end, which it did. Neither he nor Angus McIntosh remember the other being present on this occasion. I am satisfied that both were and that no other senior officer was.
  39. The closed officer gave evidence that the sudden withdrawal of HN297 was announced at one of the regular safe-house meetings for undercover officers.86 He was satisfied that Geoffrey Craft did not know the underlying reason for the discovery of the birth and death certificate of “Rick Gibson” – that HN297 had been conducting relationships with female activists. His belief is justified. HN297 would surely have realised what the consequences would have been at the hands of a forthright detective chief inspector who believed that sexual activity by a police officer on duty was strictly prohibited: disciplinary proceedings which might well have resulted in his dismissal from police service.
  40. The withdrawal of HN297 from his deployment was dealt with laconically in the 1976 SDS annual report: “The sinister Big Flame organisation … was the subject of close scrutiny until September when, for security reasons, it was decided to withdraw … [N]o organisation has shown practical ingenuity in the field of investigation to compare with that of Big Flame.”87 The report was signed by Geoffrey Craft and this part of the wording must have been his. He could not honestly have written it if he knew or even had good reason to believe that the trigger for the investigation by Big Flame was the conduct of illicit sexual relationships by HN297 in his cover identity. As already stated, Geoffrey Craft was a forthright man of traditional views. He would not have stooped to deceiving his superiors by this choice of words. The closed officer was of the same opinion.
  41. HN304’s deployment began shortly before HN297 was withdrawn from the field. He provided a detailed witness statement and gave oral evidence. He was a careful, plainly truthful, witness. He described the exchange of sexual banter between some SDS undercover officers at the regular twice-weekly meetings at one of the two “safe houses”.88 From what was said, he was able to form a clear opinion about the sexual activities of some of his fellow officers. HN297 had a reputation for being a “ladies’ man” and had his “leg pulled”, in terms which HN304 found offensive, about a sexual encounter with a female activist, as did another undercover officer, whose name he cannot remember.89 HN300 had a reputation as a philanderer, a belief confirmed in his oral evidence by HN20090 and others. HN304’s view was that life as an undercover officer was stressful enough without the complication of sexual entanglements. In hindsight, he believes that there should have been much stricter guidance, because of the potential damage that such relationships would cause to individuals and families. His belief is unanswerable.
  42. One of the issues which Counsel to the Inquiry has investigated by searching questioning of the two SDS managers who have been able to give oral evidence about this period – Geoffrey Craft and Angus McIntosh – is why they did nothing about it. In the case of Geoffrey Craft, the answer is straightforward: he did not know that it had occurred. He believed that all police officers, including undercover officers under his management, would have had it instilled in them, as it was in him, that sexual relationships on duty were a serious disciplinary offence. Angus McIntosh did realise that there was a potential problem: sexual relationships could jeopardise the security of the SDS operation and the careers of undercover officers, because it would amount to misconduct.91 The likely impact on any woman who might become involved in a sexual relationship with a male undercover officer acting in his cover identity was not considered.92 Undercover officers brought up the issue of fake girlfriends. A way of solving the problem was investigated, but it was thought to be operationally impracticable.93 He did not say that anything else was done to minimise the evident risks. I am satisfied that nothing else was done.
  43. The evidence of undercover officers, in particular HN304 and the closed officer referred to, establishes that the occurrence of sexual relationships between some male undercover officers in their cover identity and women they encountered during their deployment was common knowledge among many of them. It does not establish that they were deployed as a tactic generally used by undercover officers to gain acceptance by infiltrated groups; and I am satisfied that their managers would have disapproved if they had done so.
Chapter 3
Chapter 5


  1. First Witness Statement of HN304 para 140
  2. MPS-0730906 p3
  3. DOC057 p293
  4. UCPI0000034262
  5. First Witness Statement of Witness Z para 13
  6. Hansard, HC, vol. 357, col. 947, 26 Feb. 1975
  7. UCPI0000034265
  8. Hansard, HC, vol. 947, col. 619, 6 Apr. 1978, UCPI0000034265
  9. MPS-0735752
  10. MPS-0735815
  11. UCPI0000030896
  12. UCPI0000030053
  13. MPS-0735760
  14. MPS-0735761
  15. UCPI0000035084 p3
  16. UCPI0000009963
  17. UCPI0000009950
  18. UCPI0000012168
  19. UCPI0000022002
  20. First Witness Statement of HN298 para 176
  21. UCPI0000012162
  22. MPS-0741130, UCPI0000009257
  23. UCPI0000012240
  24. HN3093 Transcript of Oral Evidence p143
  25. UCPI0000006931, UCPI0000012751, UCPI0000009480, UCPI0000009553
  26. MPS-0730099
  27. MPS-0747771
  28. MPS-0730906 para 20
  29. UCPI0000007917
  30. First Witness Statement of HN353
  31. UCPI0000007598
  32. UCPI0000017379
  33. UCPI0000017335
  34. UCPI0000009350
  35. UCPI0000008229
  36. UCPI0000021343, MPS-0730725
  37. UCPI0000011360
  38. First Witness Statement of HN301
  39. UCPI0000009537
  40. First Witness Statement of HN351
  41. UCPI0000015056
  42. UCPI0000012014
  43. First Witness Statement of HN351
  44. MPS-0730681
  45. First Witness Statement of HN200
  46. UCPI0000007328
  47. UCPI0000012141, UCPI0000007328, UCPI0000015002
  48. UCPI0000009608
  49. MPS-0728980
  50. MPS-0728981
  51. MPS-0730906
  52. MPS-0730099
  53. MPS-0728980
  54. MPS-0724152
  55. UCPI0000012093
  56. First Witness Statement of Ernest Rodker
  57. UCPI0000006950
  58. UCPI0000006975
  59. UCPI0000007200
  60. UCPI0000007287
  61. UCPI0000007190
  62. UCPI0000012805
  63. UCPI0000007469, UCPI0000007625
  64. UCPI0000012220
  65. UCPI0000012685
  66. UCPI0000012250
  67. UCPI0000012355
  68. UCPI0000012356
  69. UCPI0000009315
  70. MPS-0730732
  71. Closed Officer Gist para 21, Unattributed Excerpts from Closed Officer Evidence Excerpt 26
  72. UCPI0000017642
  73. Witness Statement of HN300’s Second Wife and Family
  74. HN244 Transcript of Oral Evidence pp86–7
  75. MPS-0741092
  76. MPS-0728667 p4
  77. First Witness Statement of Richard Chessum
  78. MPS-0728678
  79. MPS-0728701
  80. MPS-0728710
  81. MPS-0728754
  82. MPS-0728755
  83. MPS-0728762
  84. Closed Officer Gist para 24
  85. First Witness Statement of “Mary”
  86. Unattributed Excerpts from Closed Officer Evidence Excerpt 26
  87. MPS-0728980 para 7
  88. First Witness Statement of HN304 p43
  89. Ibid. p41
  90. HN200 Transcript of Oral Evidence p196
  91. HN244 Transcript of Oral Evidence pp74–91
  92. Ibid. p76
  93. Ibid. pp76–7, p118