By Conor Morgan
The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill, more commonly known as the “Spy Cops” Bill, was passed in the House of Commons with support from the Conservative Party and the DUP, effectively condoning crimes by undercover intelligence officers and assets by granting legal immunity from prosecution, even for assault or murder. The Labour Party, hopelessly eager to become trusted as a party of “law and order”, instructed their MPs not to vote on the bill, though 20 of them (all members of the Socialist Campaign Group) rebelled to vote against it.
While the Tories try to belittle fears that intelligence officers will break the law, past precedent tells a very different story. The shadow of state collusion hangs over many deaths here in Northern Ireland, including that of Pat Finucane. Victims campaigners will take no comfort in the Tories’ empty promises. There is also a clear precedent for intelligence officers committing sexual assault, as in the case of undercover officers Mark Kennedy and Bob Lambert. Both men formed abusive and manipulative romantic relationships with left-wing environmental activists under false identities in the full knowledge of their commanding officers, with Lambert even fathering a child whom he abandoned after 2 years. The Metropolitan Police recently agreed to pay compensation to Lambert’s child.
Of the thousands of groups infiltrated by police and intelligence services over the years, the vast majority were left-wing. Officer Peter Francis was placed undercover in five trade unions over the course of his career, and believes that evidence he collected was used to “blacklist” trade unionists from future employment. One has to wonder if this was on the minds of the Unite Executive when they chose to cut 10% of their donations to Labour following the party’s abstention on this bill, as they had previously called for “no stone to be left unturned” in the cases of these “spy cops”. Following Labour’s previous abstentions on the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill and on continuing the ban on COVID-19 Evictions, the question remains – How much does Keir Starmer really care about your human rights?