The Undercover Policing Inquiry’s (UCPI) second phase aims to examine the work of undercover police officers in the 1970s and early 1980s.
The second phase of the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI) into the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) commenced on Wednesday, with new details coming to light.
The inquiry heard that undercover SDS officers made jokes about intimate relationships with members of the public in front of managers. It’s also emerged that between 1972 and 1983, at least five SDS officers had intimate contact with as many as 12 women, evidence suggests.
The SDS was a covert policing unit set up by the Met in 1968 to gather intelligence on protest groups deemed capable of causing serious public disorder. Before it was disbanded in 2008, the SDS did not provide written guidelines for its officers – with several allegedly becoming romantically involved with civilians while on duty.
Commenting on the period covered by the second phase, Helen Ball, assistant commissioner for professionalism, said it was a time of “immense social change and civil unrest” in Britain.
“During this period, the IRA started its bombing campaign in England; striking workers caused widespread disruption, which culminated in the ‘Winter of Discontent’; and there were a number of violent protests and riots. It was against this challenging backdrop that the SDS were operating,” Ball said in a statement.
The inquiry will hear examples of undercover officers entering into inappropriate sexual relationships with women they met during their deployments, and of undercover officers using the identities of deceased children – a practice that no longer happens, said the Met.
“The Met acknowledges that these cases caused significant harm and distress, and for this we are sorry,” said a statement by the police.
The activity of undercover British cops has been criticised by organisations representing the women affected by their relationships with the officers.
Ball stressed in her statement that the Met was “committed to being as open and transparent as possible in this very sensitive and complex area of policing.” She pledged to use each stage of the inquiry as an opportunity to “reflect on how to learn and improve further.”