MSPs challenge police spying ethics

Written by Tom Freeman on 7 January 2016 in News

Pitchford inquiry should investigate the actions of officers in Scotland, MSPs agree

A UK inquiry into the behaviour of undercover police should address allegations officers of the Metropolitan Police also operated in Scotland, according to MSPs.

The Pitchford Inquiry was set up after allegations emerged that undercover officers fathered children while using false identities to infiltrate political campaign groups. 

During a debate in the Scottish Parliament last night led by Labour MSP Neil Findlay, MSPs heard undercover work by the Met may have included operations in Scotland, including officers infiltrating activist groups during the G8 summit.


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Community safety and legal affairs minister Paul Wheelhouse agreed the inquiry should be extended to include Met officers in Scotland, but a case hadn’t been made for a separate Scottish inquiry.

“When police forces do not live up to the high standards that we expect of them, it is only right and proper that they should be held to account, but that accountability has to be to the appropriate body,” he said.

Findlay said there had been a long history of security forces infiltrating political campaigns and industrial disputes.

“Dame Stella Rimington, who became the head of MI5, was on picket lines during the miners’ strike not 2 miles from my house. There is extensive evidence of operations occurring in Scotland.”

Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes said: “Unless the SNP Government is arguing that unearthing what has gone on in Scotland, both in terms of English officers operating here and of undercover policing within Scottish forces, is of no importance, there must be an inquiry here in Scotland; otherwise Scottish people will be short changed.”

Independent MSP John Finnie, a former policeman, said problems arose when undercover officers “wanted to act as judge and jury”. He questioned whether new Police Scotland chief constable Phil Gormley knew about the actions of undercover officers when he headed specialist operations at the Met in 2006.

In an interview with BBC Scotland Gormley said he had no knowledge of the allegations at the time. 

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