An undercover police officer was “told to develop personal relationships in order to gather pre-emptive intelligence” with activists, a tribunal heard on Tuesday.
Kate Wilson, 41, was deceived into a relationship with an undercover police officer, which lasted almost two years.
Ms Wilson is suing the Metropolitan Police for “egregious and serious violations” of her human rights, which “debased, degraded and humiliated” her.
Ms Wilson is taking legal action against the Met and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) for breaches of Article 3, her right to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, Article 8, her right to privacy and Article 10, her right to freedom of expression.
Environmental activist, Ms Wilson, began a relationship with Mark Stone shortly after meeting him in 2003 and had a “whirlwind romance” until splitting up in 2005, when she moved to Spain.
In 2010, Ms Wilson found out he was a married police officer called Mark Kennedy, who was sent to spy on activists as part of the Met’s National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPIOU).
The Investigatory Powers Tribunal heard at the Royal Courts of Justice that Kennedy had sexual relationships with as many as ten other women during his deployment.
Some were short, but with one woman, only known as “Lisa” lasted six years, after Lisa discovered Kennedy’s real identity through his passport.
In a statement before the hearing today, Ms Wilson said: “The police want us to believe that a top intelligence unit was so incapable of interpreting basic human interactions that they had no idea that we were boyfriend and girlfriend. I just don’t believe that.
“My relationship with Mark Kennedy was documented in great detail in their secret reports for over 18 months.
“I am one of many dozens of women deceived into this kind of relationship by deployed undercover police officers. They used sex with women to gather ‘intelligence’.
“The evidence suggests a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach by senior officers embedded in a culture of misogyny and mission creep. I have no doubt that the police are institutionally sexist.”
The Met and NPCC admit that Kennedy’s actions amount to a breach of Ms Wilson’s right to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, her right to privacy and her right to freedom of expression.
However, the Met and NPCC deny that apart from Kennedy and his cover officer, known only as “EN31”, did other officers know or suspect that Kennedy was in a sexual relationship with Ms Wilson.
Ms Wilson claims her relationship with Kennedy “was known or suspected by several other police officers, including more senior ones” and was “part of a practice of permitting undercover officers … to enter into sexual relationships”.
Charlotte Kilroy QC, who is representing Ms Wilson, told the Royal Courts of Justice today that she was “a committed campaigner on climate, environmental and social justice issues”.
In 2003, the NPIOU sent Kennedy to investigate the Sumac Centre, a community centre in Nottingham, which they believed was used by persons involved in extremism relating to animal rights, environmentalism, anarchy, anti-weapons and war issues and anti-globalisation”.
This was also where Kennedy and Ms Wilson met.
Ms Kilroy said: “It was a community space with a vegan café used by a wide range of people and groups.”
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Kennedy was “told to develop personal relationships in order to gather pre-emptive intelligence” on activists who attended the centre, with the help of “an extensive support system for long-term infiltration”, Ms Kilroy added.
“He had police-issued phones, laptops, passport and bank cards”, all under a false identity while also having “a police-issued van and a flat paid for by the police”, Ms Kilroy said.
During this time, Ms Wilson and Kennedy “did almost everything together”, while the officer “reported all his activities with (Ms Wilson) to his cover officer, EN31”, including visits to Ms Wilson’s parents home in London, the tribunal heard.
Ms Kilroy said: “What Mark (Kennedy) did, could not have occurred without the express or tacit agreement or tolerance of other police officers.”
Ms Kilroy told the tribunal that Kennedy’s sexual relationships while undercover “resulted from a practice or culture” within the NPIOU and SDS of “tolerating” intimate relationships with activists.
However, Ms Kilroy said the Met and the NPCC “do not accept any of this, they will not take any systemic or organisational responsibility for the occurrence of the sexual relationships”.
She added: “The police have been given extraordinary powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.
“In the claimant’s case, and that of many other women, these powers were seriously abused over decades, until an accidental discovery by Lisa exposed the abuse.”
The tribunal was heard before Lord Boyd, Mrs Justice Lieven and Professor Graham Zellick QC and is expected to last until next Wednesday.
It is likely the tribunal will conclude its ruling at a later date.