Labour wants investigation into stealing of children’s IDs


by Sunny Hundal    
4:43 pm - February 4th 2013

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The Labour party has called for an “independent investigation” following revelations in the Guardian that undercover police officers created aliases based on details found in birth and death records.

A statement was issued to this blog after we asked if Yvette Cooper – the shadow home secretary – would comment on the Guardian report.

Its also interesting that Cooper thinks the current IPCC is incapable of investigating this issue. The organisation has been repeatedly criticised by campaigners for being too close to the police.

A statement by Yvette Cooper said:

We already knew that action by some undercover officers had crossed the line morally and legally, raising public concern about the way they operated, and the lack of accountability.

But people will find this latest news about using the identities of children who had died more shocking and an independent investigation into what happened is required. In theory the IPCC should do this, but I fear that with a backlog already and without the necessary powers or resources it would struggle to do the job.

This shows why we need a new framework of standards, investigations and accountability – including a new Police Standards Authority. The vital and much valued work the vast majority of police officers do each day relies on there also being an effective system to tackle problems swiftly when policing goes wrong.

A senior police chief has now been summoned to parliament to explain why police secretly authorised undercover officers to steal the identities.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


1. Robin Levett

Is it the Labour Party position that the police should not carry out undercover work?

1 “Is it the Labour Party position that the police should not carry out undercover work?”
Where does it say that, when has anyone from Labour said that?

I suppose they’ve got to start somewhere, but this may be a mistake. The powers assumed by ACPO and the undercover investigations that went too far, and maybe others that we don’t know about yet, need to be investigated. However I understand that the families whose names were being used were asked, so apart from some vague thrill at this Freddy Forsyth plot, what is really wrong here?

This does look like fake outrage. If babylon are going to use fake ids (and assuming no one is suggesting there aren’t circumstances which warrant it) is there an alternative to the Freddie Forsyth method?

5. Robin Levett

@littleox #2:

Where does it say that, when has anyone from Labour said that?

It follows from the outrage expressed. To work safely undercover the policeman involved must have a secure fake identity; which at the least means that it must be tied to a birth certificate already on file. Using the identity of someone who is still alive has very obvious problems.

6. Chaise Guevara

It really depresses me that this non-story seems to be getting more coverage than the far more important recent issue of undercover officers maintaining romantic partnerships with the people surrounding their targets.

7. Chaise Guevara

Also, based on her phrasing, it sounds like Cooper is only really interested in this to push an existing agenda of reforming police oversight. And that’s a good agenda, but it means your headline is focusing on the wrong thing.

How else are they supposed to fake IDs?

@1. Robin Levett, @4. Kennite, @8. Shatterface

Have asll asked “what else could the police have done to gain fake IDs”. This question was answered on the Today programme of the 4th, where they interviewed an ex-policeman who had been involved in infiltration exercises for serious crime/terrorism. There is an established mechanism for getting fake IDs into the system, including banks who will backdate banks, credit cards etc as well as official records. This was not used.

In some respects this is good, since it tends to indicate that this was a rogue operation, when they bypassed the system because they either didn’t think they’d get permission to do it or wern’t sufficiently senior to know what the system was.

@ 4, 6 & 8

Well,the point about Freddy Forsythe’s novel is that it was a criminal who did this. So I am reliably informed, back in the 1970′s and 80′s when the police used to infiltrate organised crime gangs thery simply made up the IDs from scratch. Unlike the fictional criminal in The Day of the Jackal they have access to DVLA, the passport office, DWP and all the rest. If needed they can even have false records temporarilly inserted into the birth registry. The RUC Special Branch did this kind of thing, I believe that MI5 / 6 still do this sort of thing.

The real question is “why did the police not do this”? I suspect it was for a very good reason, namely that they knew that to engage in having false documents and records created through official channels would require official clearance from high up people in much higher positions of authority than tyhe police wanted to deal with. I suspect that people in HO woiuld probably have refused authorisation for this kind of fishing exercise on a bunch of hippies. So plod decided to go it alone and use the criminal route.

And that is why this is so fucking bad for the police. Nothing to do with it being dead children’s ID’s, nothing to do with grieving parents, it’s all about the police trying to evade oversight.

@10 Wibble

Now that makes it more interesting. The role played by ACPO is important too.

12. Shatterface

Well,the point about Freddy Forsythe’s novel is that it was a criminal who did this. So I am reliably informed, back in the 1970?s and 80?s when the police used to infiltrate organised crime gangs thery simply made up the IDs from scratch. Unlike the fictional criminal in The Day of the Jackal they have access to DVLA, the passport office, DWP and all the rest. If needed they can even have false records temporarilly inserted into the birth registry. The RUC Special Branch did this kind of thing, I believe that MI5 / 6 still do this sort of thing.

I’m not sure I’d feel particularly safe knowing my cover story depended on the competence and confidentiality staff at the DVLA, the DWP, the Passport Office, etc.

I’d feel safer in a Grouch Marx ‘tache and glasses.

It really depresses me that this non-story seems to be getting more coverage than the far more important recent issue of undercover officers maintaining romantic partnerships with the people surrounding their targets.

Apparently 10 of the women involved are suing the police. It’s arguable that they should also have a case for rape, I’m pretty sure obtaining consent by deception is one of those things that fits the bill.

“…the only sorts of fraud which so far destroy the effect of a woman’s consent as to convert a connection consented to in fact into a rape are frauds as to the nature of the act itself, or as to the identity of the person who does the act. Consent in such cases does not exist at all because the act consented to is not the act done.”
- Mr Justice Stephens 1888

The British Police are the best in the world…

@11 Cherub

The role played by ACPO is important too

Indeed. As a private company they’re pretty much exempt from proper oversight – a travesty IMHO.

It is Labour’s great shame that they ever set up such a system that then allowed these events to take place on their watch.

It would be nice to think that these events could lead – as they should – to the dismantling of ACPO and proper democratic control being returned. Don’t hold your breath though. The Tories are loving it now, and when Labour get back in, then they’ll love it too regardless of what they might be saying at present.

@12 Shatterface

You’ve clearly never worked in the kind of place that handles sensitive data. Anyone who has will be familiar with the sight of the organ grinder occasionally coming in and personally doing some real work – which is kept well away from the prying eyes of the monkeys who might blab. Once the records are in place, then the monkeys can’t tell them apart from the genuine records, which means that they can then be dealt with as incompetantly as yours are in complete safety.

15. Chaise Guevara

@ 13 Cylux

“Apparently 10 of the women involved are suing the police. It’s arguable that they should also have a case for rape, I’m pretty sure obtaining consent by deception is one of those things that fits the bill.”

I’d argue they shouldn’t, because otherwise you get into situations where it’s rape because you happen to go by a different first name than the one on your birth certificate. Obviously if you pretend to be a different real person (someone posing as their twin etc.) that’s different. For example, there was that girl who was convicted because she successfully pretended to be a man to get women into bed – I don’t think we should litigate against that. Because down that road people end up going to jail because they told someone they had a cooler job than they actually do. I agree it’s a grey area though.

4,6,8,10 well said Also is the picture for this articel that of some police officers who are under cover, If so IT’s not a very good disguise,

Yeah! ‘Course they do, until they’re in power…Then what? More of the same!


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