UK police have admitted that supervisors knew about a long-term sexual relationship between an undercover officer and an environmental activist, campaigners said Friday.
The activist, Kate Wilson, had a two-year intimate relationship with Mark Kennedy, who was known to her as Mark Stone. She only found out in 2010 that he had been an undercover officer tasked with infiltrating environmental protest groups.
The Investigatory Powers Tribunal is due to hear Wilson’s case against the Metropolitan Police and the National Police Chiefs’ Council, alleging breaches of the Human Rights Act, on October 3. The tribunal investigates claims that the police have abused covert surveillance powers and infringed people’s human rights.
The admission that Kennedy’s supervisors knew about their sexual relationship and allowed it to continue was made in legal papers submitted by the police ahead of the October 3 hearing, according to a document released by campaign group Police Spies Out of Lives on Friday.
It appears to contradict a public apology made by police in 2015 which said such relationships by undercover officers were “abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong,” would “never be authorized in advance” and were the result of “failures of supervision and management.”
According to the Police Spies Out of Lives document, police have “admitted to the Tribunal that an as yet unknown number of cover officers and a line manager knew about and acquiesced to the relationship.”
It added: “This means at least eight police officers were complicit in deceiving Ms Wilson in a long-term, intimate relationship, and suggests a deliberate strategy, and not a ‘failure of supervision’ as claimed.”
Police have also conceded in the legal papers that Kennedy’s relationship with Wilson violated her right to live without torture or inhuman or degrading treatment, and that this breach was made worse by the complicity of his managers, the document said.
Wilson: ‘About institutional sexism’
Wilson is one of eight women to have brought a case against the police over undercover relationships, with legal support provided by Police Spies Out of Lives.
“It has taken me eight painful years to discover that managing officers really did conspire to deceive and abuse me, something the police had consistently denied,” Wilson said in a statement Friday.
“The wider questions for society here are massive, this is about institutional sexism, senior police officers sanctioning sexual abuse, and the systematic violation of human rights because of political beliefs, and we still don’t have the whole truth.
“The police should not be allowed to evade the serious questions this case raises. Until we have a proper court hearing that examines the evidence, they will always be able to lie.”
Wilson tells how she fell in love with Kennedy – whom she describes as “charismatic and romantic” and sharing many of her interests and dreams – after meeting him at a public meeting about holding protests at the upcoming G8 summit in Scotland. He became her lover and they lived together for more than a year, she said.
“He visited my parents on many occasions, and he attended my grandmother’s 90th birthday. He was my partner in just about everything, for two years,” she said. After they separated, the pair remained “close friends” until 2010, she said.
Scotland Yard’s apology in 2015 was part of its settlement of a civil case brought by eight women, Wilson among them, who had been deceived by undercover officers. It was accompanied by an agreement to pay compensation.
While the other seven settled, Wilson continued her case and won a High Court battle against the Met Police in 2016 after the force withdrew its defense.
The Met said Friday that it would be “inappropriate” to comment on Wilson’s ongoing civil action at the tribunal.
“The (Met) has made clear its position on long-term sexual relationships known to have been entered into by some undercover officers in the past. Those relationships were wrong and should not have happened,” it said.