UK & World News
Undercover Police Spied On 17 Grieving Families
Seventeen families were spied on by undercover police officers who operated unchecked and by their own rules, a report has found.
The shadowy unit was said to have gone too far in investigating relatives of murder victims involved in family justice campaigns including those of Jean Charles de Menezes and Stephen Lawrence.
And it found officers on the Metropolitan Police's Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) routinely made illicit recordings of conversations and kept information they should not have had.
One reference in the secret police records even referred to a grieving relative planning to go to a funeral although "there was no intelligence to indicate that the funeral would have been anything other than a dignified event".
Derbyshire Chief Constable Mick Creedon, who published the report, said the unit operated outside of the control of management and it was "astonishing" the vast majority of commissioners and deputy commissioners knew nothing of its existence.
It said: "Over the 40 years that the unit existed, senior Metropolitan Police management of the day either knew nothing about the existence and activities of the unit or, when they did, they appeared to have allowed the SDS to exist in secret isolation in a manner that was complacent and possibly negligent."
Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz said: "As we have discovered in our hearings, despite Operation Herne costing £3.5 million, involving at least 26 officers and taking almost two years, no-one has been prosecuted and no senior officer from the Met has appeared to have taken responsibility."
The report identified 17 family justice campaigns that had been infiltrated by officers in the course of their work between 1970 and 2005.
The police were in the process of informing the families.
Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt stopped short of an apology and instead said: "I regret enormously the distress that has been caused."
The family of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, who was shot dead by police in the aftermath of the 7/7 terror attack, are considering legal action.
The mother of student Ricky Reel, whose family was targeted by undercover officers after her son was killed, has called for a public inquiry after learning of the findings of the review.
The 20-year-old died after a racist attack and the police investigations into his death were heavily criticised by his family after they failed to establish what had happened and ruled his death was probably an accident.
The SDS was set up to infiltrate protest groups but officers on the squad have come under fire for stealing the identities of 42 dead children to use as cover and for "tricking" women into sexual relations in order to carry out their work. It was disbanded in 2008.
A report on the case of the murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence earlier this year found the Metropolitan Police had placed a "spy" in the Lawrence family camp during the inquiry into the police handling of the investigation.