Police chiefs body loses power to run undercover units in wake of eco-warrior spy scandal
Last updated at 11:28 PM on 18th January 2011
Striped of powers: The unit which had responsibility for Mark Kennedy's undercover role is to lose all operational duties after the fiasco
A controversial policing body is being stripped of responsibility for the shadowy unit behind the Mark Kennedy eco-warrior fiasco.
The Association of Chief Police Officers, a private company which is unaccountable to the public, will also lose all other ‘operational’ duties.
In a further blow, it is facing a funding crisis after the Association of Police Authorities said it was no longer prepared to hand over £850,000 a year in grants.
ACPO could now be forced to ask ministers for extra cash to carry out its remaining tasks – which are limited to producing guidance, and providing ‘leadership’ to senior officers.
Police minister Nick Herbert said it was clear something had ‘gone very wrong’ in the case of Mr Kennedy – the undercover officer who infiltrated eco-activists for eight years.
The £1million trial of six campaigners accused of plotting to occupy a power station collapsed after Mr Kennedy ‘went native’ and offered to give evidence in their favour.
He was part of an undercover unit controlled by ACPO, known as the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.
A string of inquiries will shortly begin into what went wrong. The Independent Police Complaints Commission and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary have already announced investigations and the Serious Organised Crime Agency is likely to follow suit.
Police Minister Nick Herbert said something had gone very wrong in the case of Mark Kennedy and that they needed to be held to account
Mr Herbert, quizzed on the case by MPs, said ACPO would be stripped of all ‘operational duties’.
The Metropolitan Police will take charge of the unit for which Mr Kennedy worked, which also controls a database of suspected activists. ACPO will also lose responsibility for two other linked ‘anti-extremism’ units, which will pass to the Met.
Teams which gather intelligence on vehicle and gun crime will be switched to large police forces.
It means a huge reduction in the power wielded by ACPO. Mr Herbert said: ‘It is not desirable that nationally operated units like that are run by ACPO.
‘The Government is strongly of the view that there needs to be proper accountability for ACPO.’
Scotland Yard’s acting commissioner Tim Godwin also expressed concern over the Kennedy case.
He said more consideration must be given to ‘necessity’ in deciding whether to undertake covert operations.
Last night, ACPO president Sir Hugh Orde said the association supported Government aims to reposition its focus.
He added: ‘What is vitally important is that national units have a transparent accountability framework which provides public confidence.’
No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.