Clean-up of covert policing ordered after Mark Kennedy revelations

Home Office minister Nick Herbert says Acpo will lose control of three teams involved in tackling 'domestic extremism'

PC Mark Kennedy in his undercover role as an environmental activist
PC Mark Kennedy in his undercover role as an environmental activist. Photograph: Guardian

The government said today that a private company run by police chiefs should be stripped of its power to run undercover spies in the wake of a Guardian investigation into the police officer Mark Kennedy, who spent seven years posing as an environmental activist.

The Home Office minister Nick Herbert and senior police officers acknowledged for the first time that "something had gone very wrong" in the Kennedy case, which led to the collapse last week of the trial of six people accused of planning to invade a Nottinghamshire power station.

Herbert said that the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), a limited company with responsibility for some sensitive national operations, is to lose control of three teams involved in tackling so-called "domestic extremism". Ministers and senior officers hope the decision may defuse the controversy surrounding revelations of long-term undercover surveillance of peaceful protest groups.

Later in the day the national policing watchdog announced the launch of an official inquiry into undercover police work carried out by Acpo. The review by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) will investigate Acpo's decade-long infiltration of the protest movement, assessing whether operations have been "authorised in accordance with law" and "proportionate".

The review, which will be conducted by Bernard Hogan-Howe, a former chief constable, is now one of three formal inquiries triggered by the Guardian's investigation into Mark Kennedy and up to 15 other police spies. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has already announced an investigation into Nottinghamshire police over allegations it suppressed secret surveillance tapes – recorded by Kennedy – that would have exonerated six activists police tried to prosecute. And today it also emerged that the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, which has responsibility for major cover operations, has begun a simultaneous inquiry into "the conduct of Mark Kennedy".

It is the Metropolitan police that is now set to take control of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), the largest of Acpo's domestic extremism units, and today its acting commissioner, Tim Godwin, said that the force would from now on examine whether operations to infiltrate allegedly dangerous groups are necessary and proportionate, and would ensure that officers like Kennedy were not left undercover too long.

Godwin said that Acpo, which owned the unit, had already identified it as needing better governance, and that negotiations were under way to bring it into the Met "so that it would come within our command and control system, which would ensure a) compliance with law, b) compliance with rules, c) compliance with ethics".

There would "undoubtedly" be a review of the code of conduct and rules for undercover officers in collaboration with bodies like HMIC. "We need to make sure that the controls are in place, that we look after them properly, that we don't over-expose them," he said.

"For that particular unit [the NPOIU] we will be looking at all these issues around necessity, proportionality, about looking after the officers themselves, making sure that we don't leave them too long if that's the case."

Meanwhile Herbert, the minister of state for police and justice, told MPs the Kennedy case demonstrated strongly that Acpo should no longer have the responsibility for national organisations such as the unit that runs covert operations gathering intelligence on protest groups in England and Wales. "The Government is strongly of the view that there needs to be proper accountability for Acpo and its successor body," he said.

"Units like this should not be operated by Acpo and they should be operated either by a lead police force or in future the National Crime Agency where there is proper governance in place."

Acpo president, Sir Hugh Orde, said that chief police officers firmly supported the government's aims. "What is vitally important is that national units have a transparent accountability framework that provides public confidence," he told the Guardian.

"As president, I have publicly committed to that reform and we hope government will provide the support necessary to secure it."

The units to be merged into a new domestic extremism command of the Met are: NPOIU, the national domestic extremism team and the national extremism tactical co-ordination unit.

It will leave Acpo with the police national information and co-ordination centre, national community tension team, and the vehicle crime intelligence service known as Truckpol. The move was first floated last November and is expected to be confirmed by the Acpo council meeting of all chief constables later this month.

The police minister told MPs he had no knowledge of the case until the Guardian disclosed that the prosecution of six activists planning to invade Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station collapsed because of Kennedy's role in it.

He refused to comment on claims by MPs that the names of the business secretary, Vince Cable, and the Green party leader, Caroline Lucas, were listed on the domestic extremism database just because they had been at peaceful protests.

The home affairs committee chairman, Keith Vaz, who said Kennedy was "no James Bond", also pressed the minister to investigate the alleged £200,000 expenses bill run up by Kennedy.

Herbert said: "In this case it is clear that something operationally has gone very wrong and that is now the subject of an IPCC investigation."

"I think everybody is concerned by the Kennedy case and we have an IPCC precisely to investigate this kind of thing. It is right that the IPCC should look into it and then we should take note of that."

Today two protesters involved in the Ratcliffe-on-Soar station case – the last of 20 found guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespasss last month – were given community service orders.


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  • AlanRedman

    18 January 2011 9:53PM

    Have I missed something? It says there that Acpo is a private limited company run by Police chiefs. Since when has the police force been privatised?

  • webweasel

    18 January 2011 9:54PM

    Bit of a non-statement from Herbert I think. The Guardian has previously reported that chief police officers were nervous about ACPO's role here and had already agreed to transfer NPIOU to Scotland Yard.

  • vercol

    18 January 2011 9:55PM

    As an old Labour man it horrifies me that a Labour government would probably not have taken the libertarian decision of Nick Herbert and a Tory regime.

  • Contributor
    teaandchocolate

    18 January 2011 9:57PM

    Godwin said that Acpo, which owned the unit, had already identified it as needing better governance, and that negotiations were under way to bring it into the Met "so that it would come within our command and control system, which would ensure a) compliance with law, b) compliance with rules, c) compliance with ethics".

    Would that be Godwin's Law?


    (Good news. They are way over the top. Well done Guardian)

  • Tommo1957

    18 January 2011 10:01PM

    Calls to repeal the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 misunderstands what the legislation does. It puts directed surveillance etc on a statutory footing. Through out there is a need to satisfy the requirements of the Office of Surveillance Commissioners. If applications are not necessary and proportionate they will not be granted (and should not be). At least one police force in England & Wales almost lost their 'licence' to carry out surveillance due to improper authorizations which had to be put right very quickly.

  • TaGirlKeri

    18 January 2011 10:02PM

    It's about time that the British Public faced reality. The Police are not your friend. Been burgled? Did they catch them? How long did it take for them to come and inspect your ransacked place? Did they even turn up.
    Contrast that with the NoW phone hacking v. student demonstrations. Damn, they were quick off the mark then. Their little cosy company is tracking private citizens now. Scumbags, the lot

  • JumpingFrank

    18 January 2011 10:05PM

    ensure a) compliance with law, b) compliance with rules, c) compliance with ethics"

    given that none of these things seemed to have happened in this case, will we see prosecutions in this regard. there has been something very wrong with British policing for a very long time.

  • KotukuShusui

    18 January 2011 10:07PM

    but, but, but privatisation is the future that we all now have to believe in under this new Tory / Lib Dem government!!!

    I'm so relieved that the IPCC are going to be involved after they did such a good job of giving Ian Tomlinson justice!

    So climate protesters are allegedly dangerous groups. How about those companies that pollute the greenhouse gases that are taking our planet to the brink. Sorry forget that they increase GDP within this so call logical economic system that assumes that exponential growth in a world of finite resources is logical.

  • Eleusis

    18 January 2011 10:07PM

    Mr Kennedy not only brings new meaning to the expression 'sleeping with the enemy' but is also extremely well paid for doing so at the expense of the taxpayer.

    Personally, I think the buffoons in the police force should foot the bill. (Pardon the pun!)

  • dorlomin

    18 January 2011 10:09PM

    teaandchocolate

    (Good news. They are way over the top. Well done Guardian)

    The was doing the rounds of Indymedia, Urban 75, FITwatch back in October.

    What have the Guardian done? Lifted a months old alert to people of a certain political persuation that one of the many spies they know are constantly among them had been identified and to check your mailing lists and make any other personal security adjustments necessary.

    ACPOs mission creep and profiteering are old news.

    Thanking people for being late on a story, well at least they covered part of it eventually.

  • metropolis10

    18 January 2011 10:09PM

    I pay my tax to have the Police work for me, fo you for all the ordinary people!
    That is not actually the case. On the opposite the police is stumbling over us while we let the corrupt politicians swell and even do evil acts like going to war in Iraq.

  • pensive1

    18 January 2011 10:09PM

    Where is the Rage people Acpo a private company run by Copers and no outrage no questions no resignation no nothing but two fingers in my face. Aaarrrgggghhh!!!! Where is My COUNTRY

  • dorlomin

    18 January 2011 10:13PM

    Jonathan64

    So they have taken it away from the unaccountable ACPO and given it to the unaccountable MPS!

    The Metropolitan Policing Authority and especially Jenny Jones does a half decent job from time to time.

    Now the clown Vaz and his Home office select comittee, theres a laugh in terms of holding power to account.

  • Contributor
    teaandchocolate

    18 January 2011 10:16PM

    dorlomin

    better late than never. At least we are all aware.

    I

    ndymedia, Urban 75, FITwatch back in October.

    Sorry old chuck, I must be showing my age, never heard of that lot.

    Well done Guardian for informing the .. erm.... me.

  • LaurieRay

    18 January 2011 10:18PM

    interesting how the establishment is still trying to shift the blame onto Kennedy solely, serious and organisation crime and expenses investigations ... the people who ought to be investigated are those who put him under cover and authorised both his actions and his expenses.

  • Jonathan64

    18 January 2011 10:19PM

    *
    dorlomin

    The Metropolitan Policing Authority and especially Jenny Jones does a half decent job from time to time.

    Now the clown Vaz and his Home office select comittee, theres a laugh in terms of holding power to account.

    Ah but sadly, the MPS is out of control and anything the MPA do is pretty much blowing into the wind. Perhaps its time to wind up the MPS or get a new Commissioner who understands the rule of law!

  • LaurieRay

    18 January 2011 10:19PM

    not to mention that they've put a former police chief in charge of the investigation .... into the police chiefs' private club, says a lot about what they want to report to say doesn't it?

  • Quiller

    18 January 2011 10:19PM

    Who permitted the police to set up a private company to manage the state responsibility for policing ? What was the name of this company ? People criticise America for privatising the war in Iraq and Afghanistan by employing private armies to war on behalf of the United States. This is worse than what America did - This was the setting up of a private company to establish control and policing over British citizens.

  • littlefeat

    18 January 2011 10:20PM

    I think the powers that be are suitably embarrassed by being more concerned with so called lefty environmentalists than actual terrorists.

    The people responsible for this activity should be exposed and treated as traitors.

  • oldbrew

    18 January 2011 10:21PM

    The trick presumably is to know whether a group needs infiltrating without having first infiltrated them?

    The police minister told MPs he had no knowledge of the case until the Guardian disclosed that the prosecution of six activists planning to invade Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station collapsed because of Kennedy's role in it.

    Is that the Arsene Wenger defence - sorry, didn't see the incident from where I was sitting, so can't comment?

  • dorlomin

    18 January 2011 10:25PM

    Jonathan64

    Ah but sadly, the MPS is out of control and anything the MPA do is pretty much blowing into the wind.

    True hence half decent job some of the time.... huge part of the problem is the default position of senior offices is to lie. They are habital and constant liars and there is not much that can be done about it.

    Beefing up regulatory, investigatory and punative powers of the authorities might smarten things up. If they could be fined half a months wages or face disciplinary procedings external to the MPS every time they are found knowingly lying to a investigation it may tame some of the more imagenative flights of fancy, but there is no political will at Westminister to tame their pet attack dog.

  • nevertrustacop

    18 January 2011 10:25PM

    it won't be enough to just "Move" these operations. they need to be stopped! no non-violent movement should be allowed to have undercover operations. this is preposterous. there should be a big monetary settlement (ultimately with our tax money anyways!) going out to people affected by Kennedy and his pal.
    disgusting.

    i am from germany, and knew mark fairly well. he affected people in many countries. so, to you brits, please stop your undercover officers from running amok in our nations as well!

    please do something more than just writing comments on the guardian or sitting in internat chats on this...

  • Trollrebutter

    18 January 2011 10:29PM

    Fail. The Tories and Liberal Democrats put things about allowing people to protest freely in their coalition agreement in the spring. Yet it was only in November that they "floated" the move.

    "It will leave Acpo with the police national information and co-ordination centre,"

    Sounds benign, but is that what they use to make money by flogging information from police computers off to those who can pay was it £60 a go?

    "national community tension team, and the vehicle crime intelligence service known as Truckpol. "

    Sound Orwellian. Does the vehicle crime intelligence service keep track of vehicle based crimes like speeding, drunk driving and failing to stop at red lights? I suspect not.

    "The police minister told MPs he had no knowledge of the case until the Guardian disclosed that the prosecution of six activists planning to invade Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station collapsed because of Kennedy's role in it."

    Then he is wither wilfully ignorant or is being mushroom managed by his officials. Within 25 minutes of the spy being outed in public on Indymedia in October (which is where I first heard the information), amongst the shocked comments,

  • Trollrebutter

    18 January 2011 10:31PM

    Ridiculous Guardian lack of an edit function.

    Then he is wither wilfully ignorant or is being mushroom managed by his officials. Within 25 minutes of the spy being outed in public on Indymedia in October (which is where I first heard the information), amongst the shocked comments, someone had made the connection with the police attack on the school.

  • Trollrebutter

    18 January 2011 10:37PM

    "Who permitted the police to set up a private company to manage the state responsibility for policing ?"

    Tony B Liar.

    At the time nearly all Labour MPs would do whatever he wanted, no questions asked. Things can only get better they claimed.

  • steeply

    18 January 2011 10:38PM

    Well done the guardian
    At last some good news
    And Mark Kennedy
    Although what you did for years before was rubbish and destructive

    Theres a lesson in this
    Don't let the police have a free reign with anything
    They have a relentlessly dificult and dangerous job to do
    But because of an authoritarian,conservative mindset they should never be left alone to create policy

    They please, please ,please, need to be better trained and educated on the rights of all people
    That includes respect for all cultures and backgrounds

    If they are going to be effective they also have to be representative culturally
    And for goodness sake clear out the ultra machos, the racists, the bullies and the misogynists We all know there there, and the're a disgrace and an embarrassment And instead of helping they creatate disharmony in the force and in society

    When its clear the police give respect, they will get all the respect and support they need
    Sweep away the secrecy and macho culture and give us what we pay for

  • djrush

    18 January 2011 10:40PM

    It's about time that the British Public faced reality. The Police are not your friend.

    i used to think that tagirl till one time i was about to get my head kicked in at a fairground when suddenly a couple of uniformed policemen showed up. they were my friend then.

  • TeaJunkie

    18 January 2011 10:42PM

    It's a disgrace that our police force was partially privatized 14 years ago, with no public debate whatsoever. Where is the democracy in that?
    Why did the government feel the need to pass 'responsibility for some sensitive national operations' to a limited company, which can bypass Freedom of Information requests? Why have our politicians waited until now to ask questions about ACPO?

  • Drahdiwaberl

    18 January 2011 10:50PM

    So they're taking away from Apco and giving to the Met -- the most corrupt and despised police force in the country (even despised by other police forces).

    I sort of stopped reading about there.

  • Trollrebutter

    18 January 2011 10:59PM

    "The people responsible for this activity should be exposed and treated as traitors."

    The death penalty was only finally formally abolished in 1999. It was only in 1998 that High Treason and piracy with violence were removed as capital crimes, effectively ending it. The last gallows were kept in working order until 1992, tested every six months and only dismantled in 1994.

  • Blackadder2

    18 January 2011 11:01PM

    Is ACPO on the verge of becoming a public nuisance (and hence a criminal organisation?). Ought it not to be proscribed and its members rounded up?

    It's not really a private company in any usual sense, it is a private gang of bureaucrats who are hiding behind the veil of incorporation, funded by the State and exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. The worst of all worlds really.

    Could it not be nationalised and its directors and employees sent to clear mines in Afghanistan (with sledgehammers)?

  • Contributor
    Bluecloud

    18 January 2011 11:03PM

    Clean-up of covert policing ordered after Mark Kennedy revelations

    First of all, great work by IndyMedia , the Guardian and especially the activists and journalists who have made this news.

    Now we must see fair change. Let the inquiry recommend how changes should be made.

  • dorlomin

    18 January 2011 11:06PM

    Lets just contextualise this a little more.
    An example (one among many) of how the police respond when people try to be as peaceful as possible.

    Its instructive in the attitude of the police, one that prevelence of video cameras is slowly exposing. This is the attitude that led the police to undertake a £15 million operation that has resulted in about 20 sentances for comunity service and police to believe anyone near their subjects of investigation they could get into bed was an perk of the job.

    And it was not one rogue, Officer B was getting his wick dipped and officer A was aware of Kennedy liasons so either condoned and kept schtum or passed on the infomation and the entire operation felt it was his entertainment allowance for a hard job.

  • nickmavros

    18 January 2011 11:14PM

    Meanwhile, the real Bono of the band U2 is suing the Met and Mark Kennedy for placing his life in danger. Said Bono: " I think it was very stupid to have an undercover agent disguised like me - I've seen the fu*king pictures. Are you trying to get me killed, or ruin my reputation, or what?

  • Smurfylicious

    18 January 2011 11:18PM

    'Clean-up of covert policing ordered after Mark Kennedy revelations'

    I've got a better idea:
    1. De-invent the notion of 'Domestic Extremism'.
    2. Disband the unit that has been organising the infiltration of protest groups.
    3. Put the money saved back where it should be (i.e solving and preventing real crimes).

  • djrush

    18 January 2011 11:26PM

    <i1. De-invent the notion of 'Domestic Extremism'.
    >

    de-invent??? you've got my attention now, smurfy. please do tell more.

  • Trollrebutter

    18 January 2011 11:28PM

    "And it was not one rogue, Officer B was getting his wick dipped and officer A was aware of Kennedy liasons"

    Don't be sexist about this. Officer A was not the immaculate conception either. They all seem to have seen being paid by the taxpayer to put themselves around to have been a perk of the job.

  • dorlomin

    18 January 2011 11:32PM

    Trollrebutter

    Don't be sexist about this. Officer A was not the immaculate conception either

    There have been rumours but no one has come forward, even anonymously, that I am aware off.

    You may have far better sources than me, which is for the most part various blogs and the like.

  • Trollrebutter

    18 January 2011 11:33PM

    "Why have our politicians waited until now to ask questions about ACPO?"

    They were happy with the setup. It allowed them to claim that things they wanted to deny were nothing to do with them. The idiot who came up with Operation Kratos was an ACPO member and it was very convenient for politicians to claim they knew nothing of it.

  • Trollrebutter

    18 January 2011 11:35PM

    "There have been rumours but no one has come forward, even anonymously, that I am aware off."

    That is the situation as I understand it too.

    You may have far better sources than me,"

    I very much doubt it.

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