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ISBN 978-1-5286-4212-5

E02786195    06/2023

HC 1539


  1. On 12 March 2015, the then Home Secretary, the Rt Hon. Theresa May, announced the establishment of a statutory public inquiry to consider the deployment of police officers as covert human intelligence sources in England and Wales, and to review undercover policing practices, identify lessons learned and make recommendations about the way undercover policing is conducted for the future.
  1. This announcement marked the culmination of the wide-ranging concerns over covert policing that had been brought to the public eye over the previous half-decade. As the result of investigations undertaken by journalists and activists alike, including, notably, women who had been deceived into sexual relationships, and the revelations of ‘Officer A’, now known to be Peter Francis, from 2010 media reports began to raise serious allegations of historical misconduct by undercover officers. A series of targeted institutional responses followed:
    • A review of the conduct of undercover operations – known as Operation Soisson, later expanded into Operation Herne – was established in 2011 by the then Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe.
    • 2012 saw the establishment of the Stephen Lawrence Independent Review into the police investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, chaired by Mark Ellison QC, which included consideration of the role of undercover policing in the Lawrence case and concern over possible covert targeting of the Lawrence family during the police investigation.
    • In 2014, the Home Secretary announced to Parliament that Mark Ellison QC would also coordinate a multi-agency review “assessing the possible impact upon the safety of convictions in England and Wales where relevant undercover police activity was not properly revealed to the prosecutor and considered at the time of trial”.1
    • The same year, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary carried out and published an inspection of undercover policing practice at the time in England and Wales.
    • 2015 saw a report by Stephen Taylor into links between the Home Office and the MPS Special Demonstration Squad (SDS).
  1. The potential for an overarching public inquiry into the SDS was first raised by the Home Secretary for consideration by Mark Ellison QC during the Stephen Lawrence Independent Review. In 2014, his report concluded that such an inquiry, which could see and hear the evidence being tested and consider the wider issues, might indeed be better placed to make definitive findings.2 Though the initial intent was to permit the conclusion of ongoing criminal investigations and Mark Ellison QC’s further review into miscarriages of justice before any larger inquiry could begin,3 it became apparent during the latter that the issues involved in undercover policing and the work required to adequately review them were much larger than initially envisaged.4 The Undercover Policing Inquiry (the Inquiry) was therefore announced in 2015, to provide a more comprehensive investigation into undercover policing in England and Wales.
  2. Though the remit of the Inquiry encompasses all undercover policing in England and Wales since 1968, special emphasis has been given to two historical policing units – the SDS, which operated from 1968 to 2008, and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), which operated from about 1999 to 2010. Both units were primarily tasked to infiltrate political and activist groups, with the intention of gathering intelligence to assist in public order policing.
  3. The Inquiry was to be chaired by Sir Christopher Pitchford,5 who opened the Inquiry on 28 July 20156 under the following Terms of Reference:


To inquire into and report on undercover police operations conducted by English and Welsh police forces in England and Wales since 1968 and, in particular, to:

    • investigate the role and the contribution made by undercover policing towards the prevention and detection of crime;
    • examine the motivation for, and the scope of, undercover police operations in practice and their effect upon individuals in particular and the public in general;
    • ascertain the state of awareness of undercover police operations

of Her Majesty’s Government;

    • identify and assess the adequacy of the:
      1. justification, authorisation, operational governance and oversight of undercover policing;
      1. selection, training, management and care of undercover police officers;
    • identify and assess the adequacy of the statutory, policy and judicial regulation of undercover policing.

Miscarriages of Justice

The inquiry’s investigations will include a review of the extent of the duty to make, during a criminal prosecution, disclosure of an undercover police operation and the scope for miscarriage of justice in the absence of proper disclosure.

The inquiry will refer to a panel, consisting of senior members of the Crown Prosecution Service and the police, the facts of any case in respect of which it concludes that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred as a result of an undercover police operation or its non disclosure. The panel will consider whether further action is required, including but not limited to, referral of the case to the Criminal Cases Review Commission.


The inquiry’s investigation will include, but not be limited to, whether and to what purpose, extent and effect undercover police operations have targeted political and social justice campaigners.

The inquiry’s investigation will include, but not be limited to, the undercover operations of the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.

For the purpose of the inquiry, the term “undercover police operations” means the use by a police force of a police officer as a covert human intelligence source (CHIS) within the meaning of section 26(8) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, whether before or after the commencement of that Act. The terms “undercover police officer”, “undercover policing”, “undercover police activity” should be understood accordingly. It includes operations conducted through online media.

The inquiry will not examine undercover or covert operations conducted by any body other than an English or Welsh police force.


The inquiry will examine and review all documents as the inquiry chairman shall judge appropriate.

The inquiry will receive such oral and written evidence as the inquiry chairman shall judge appropriate.


The inquiry will report to the Home Secretary as soon as practicable. The report will make recommendations as to the future deployment of undercover police officers. It is anticipated that the inquiry report will be delivered up to three years after the publication of these terms of reference.”7

  1. This is the first interim report to be published by the Inquiry, and relates to the time period from the establishment of the SDS in 1968 to early 1982, which the Inquiry has called ‘Tranche 1’. Tranche 1 evidence was divided into five phases, which included three sessions of open and one session of closed evidential hearings. Tranche 1 was subdivided in this fashion due to difficulties presented by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
  1. The Inquiry’s opening statement hearings and Tranche 1 (Phase 1) evidence hearings took place from 2 November to 19 November In the Tranche 1 (Phase 1) evidence hearings, the Inquiry heard from undercover officers and non-state witnesses about the SDS between July 1968 and the end of 1972 approximately. The Tranche 1 (Phase 2) hearings took place from 21 April to 13 May 2021. In this phase, the Inquiry heard evidence from undercover officers and non-state witnesses about SDS undercover policing operations that started between 1970 and 1979. The Tranche 1 (Phase 3) hearings took place from 9 May to 20 May 2022. In this phase, the Inquiry primarily heard from SDS managers (1968–1982). The Inquiry also held closed evidential hearings (Tranche 1 Phase 4) to hear from undercover officers with restriction orders over their real and cover names. The final phase of Tranche 1 (Module 2B & C) concerned a documentary review of contemporaneous material in relation to senior police managers and the wider government. Written statements were provided by relevant witnesses. Oral closing submissions for Tranche 1 took place between 20 February and 22 February 2023.
  1. A list of witnesses who provided evidence to this Inquiry can be found in Appendix 1, and a timeline depicting the deployments of the Tranche 1 SDS officers can be found on the Inquiry’s website.8
  1. The report is divided into the following parts:
    • Chapter 1: Formation of the Special Operations Squad – the “Autumn Offensive”
    • Chapter 2: The Special Operations Squad after 27 October 1968
    • Chapter 3: The Special Operations Squad 1971 and the Special Demonstration Squad 1972 to 1973
    • Chapter 4: The Special Demonstration Squad 1974 to 1976
    • Chapter 5: The Special Demonstration Squad 1977 to 1982
    • Chapter 6: Analysis and conclusions
    • Appendix 1: List of witnesses and evidence
    • Appendix 2: List of abbreviations
  1. This report is, by nature of being an interim report, representative only of partial conclusions that can be reached on the evidence presented to the Inquiry to date. It is restricted to the Tranche 1 time period only. Consequently, not all aspects of the Terms of Reference can be addressed in this report, as they relate to broader and more overarching issues that may only be safely considered in light of the full evidence of the Inquiry. Such issues may be addressed in future interim reports, or only in the final report of this Inquiry, which will be published after all evidence has concluded.
  2. It should be noted that the delineation of the Tranche 1 time period is, to some extent, The dates in question were chosen primarily to help divide the extensive remit of the Inquiry into more manageable undertakings.9 As such, undercover deployments, management and issues may not fall neatly into the Tranche categories that the Inquiry has chosen to adopt.
  3. This report will not cover the deployments of the following undercover officers, who, despite an overlap in time with the Tranche 1 period, will be considered in Tranche 2: HN12 (“Mike Hartley”); HN19 (“Malcolm Shearing”); HN20 (“Tony Williams”); HN65 (“John Kerry”); HN67 (“Alan Bond”); HN83; and HN85 (“Roger Thorley”). HN86 and HN337’s deployments are being considered in Tranche 1 but on paper only and in closed.
  4. This published interim report can only refer to evidence presented in open sessions. A separate, closed interim report has been written and will be presented to the Home Secretary alongside this published report. The findings reached in this published interim report do take into consideration all the evidence so far, including closed evidence, even where it is impossible to detail that evidence safely within this open report. The open evidence considered by me in writing this report, including documentary evidence, transcripts and summaries of evidence hearings, and opening and closing statements from core participants, can be found published on the Inquiry’s website at
Chapter 1


  1. Home Office and Rt Theresa May, ‘Review of potential miscarriages of justice’, Written statement to Parliament, 26 June 2014, potential-miscarriages-of-justice
  2. The Stephen Lawrence Independent Review, Possible Corruption and the Role of Undercover Policing in the Stephen Lawrence Case: Summary of Findings, March 2014, https://assets. stephen_lawrence_review_summary.pdf
  3. Home Office and Rt Theresa May, ‘The Ellison Review’, Oral statement to Parliament, 6 March 2014,
  4. Home Office and Rt Theresa May, ‘The Ellison Review’, Oral statement to Parliament, 6 March 2014,; Review of Possible Miscarriages of Justice, Impact of Undisclosed Undercover Police Activity on the Safety of Convictions: Report to the Attorney General, July 2015, government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/445551/2015-07-16_HC_291_ Possible_miscarriages_of_justice_-_Web_Accessible_-_FINAL.pdf
  5. The Inquiry’s current Chair, Sir John Mitting, was appointed in May 2017, after Sir Christopher was required to step down for reasons of ill health.
  6. Undercover Policing Inquiry, ‘Chairman’s Opening Remarks’, 28 July 2015,
  7. It has proven impossible to fulfil the Terms of Reference within this anticipated timeframe. The Inquiry has kept the Home Secretary informed of progress.
  8. Undercover Policing Inquiry, ‘Tranche 1 Timeline’, version 3.1, 27 April 2023,
  9. Undercover Policing Inquiry, ‘How is the fact-finding work of the Inquiry structured’, 5 August 2019,