Undercover Officers

MQT on 2014-03-19
Session date: 
March 19, 2014
Question By: 
Joanne McCartney
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Do you welcome the call for a full public inquiry into the actions of undercover officers in the Metropolitan Police Service?


Answer for Undercover Officers

Answer for Undercover Officers

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Yes, Joanne, I do, because obviously what happened, the revelations that we have had from the [Mark] Ellison [QC] Review and Operation Herne are very shocking and clearly there are some allegations that are deeply troubling.  It is right that they should be investigated and it is right that there should be proper oversight of what undercover officers get up to, the support they get, the kind of rules of engagement under which they operate.  Everybody understands that and everybody wants that.


What I do not think you can have is a situation in which you completely turn your back on the use of undercover policing because they are there to infiltrate organised crime gangs, to bust paedophile rings, and so on, you are always going to need undercover policing.


Joanne McCartney AM:  Yes, thank you for that.  The last time I questioned you on policing matters it was a couple of weeks ago, in fact the day before the Ellison Report came out. You were here with the Commissioner [Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis] and I asked you both if you were satisfied that the Metropolitan Police Service had a grip on the culture of the Metropolitan Police Service and you said that you were satisfied, however not complacent.  Were you surprised then that the following day Mark Ellison said that he was concerned that the Metropolitan Police Service still have not been completely transparent in their disclosure of evidence?  He referred to the mass shredding in 2003, where material relating to corruption had been shredded.  He added that there are significant areas where Metropolitan Police Service records should exist however cannot be found.  He commented on the 2012 review by the Metropolitan Police Service and he quoted that this was another example of the force providing misleading reassurance to the family and to the public and that the Metropolitan Police Service had claimed only two years ago to have found nothing new, however it held material of some potential importance.  Did that shock you, Mr Mayor?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  As I said in my answer to you two weeks ago, I am not remotely complacent about this, and it is absolutely vital that we get to the bottom of what happened and clearly information was shredded. If huge quantities of documents were shredded in 2003 then that is a matter for grave concern.  Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and his senior officers are doing absolutely everything ‑ I know because we have discussed this ‑ to make sure that every shred of possible evidence that they think might be relevant to these matters, to how undercover policing was conducted, is turned up.  Although plainly what happened in 2003 was not on Sir Bernard’s watch.


Joanne McCartney AM:  There are, however, recent matters that Mark Ellison raised.  He raised the 2012 review, which I just quoted, where they did have evidence, however they did not disclose it.  He said they claimed to have found nothing new, however the Metropolitan Police Service held material of some potential importance, which is recent.  You said that you had a conversation with the Commissioner about this.  Can I just ask you, can you honestly put your hand on your heart now and say that the Metropolitan Police Service now are not destroying any documents and are actively looking for any documents regarding undercover policing that could be important, not only to the Lawrence family, but to the wider public inquiry?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I can certainly put my hand on my heart and say yes to the second part of your question.  However, what I cannot say, is that there are no documents out there or in some salt mine in Derbyshire or wherever they store these things that might or might not be relevant.  That is the problem.  In the conversations I have had with the Metropolitan Police Service what they are basically telling me is that there is such a profusion of them, and they are obviously deeply shocked, as you are, by what happened in 2003. I note that Jenny [Jones AM] who knows an awful lot about policing, as she has told us, was probably on the Metropolitan Police Association (MPA) then.  She knows an awful lot about policing, however she did not know that documents were being shredded in 2003 when she was on the Metropolitan Police Authority.  It might have been useful for her to know that then; anyway she chose not to acquaint herself with those facts.


Joanne McCartney AM:  I do not want to be flippant about this because it is extremely serious.  Can I ask then, that you have had your talk with the Commissioner and you are satisfied you have made ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  No, I am not satisfied; let me be clear with you, I am not satisfied.


Darren Johnson AM (Chair):  Let Assembly Member McCartney ask the question and do not answer with more information about Assembly Member Jones; she is asking about the Metropolitan Police Service, not Assembly Member Jones.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It is what happened in 2003.


Joanne McCartney AM:  Mr Mayor, you are satisfied that now you have made it quite clear that you expect full disclosure from the Metropolitan Police Service and nothing less will do.  You have said previously, because Assembly Members on the Police and Crime Committee, and in this body, have been raising, for the last two years now, since that 2012 review that was obviously failing, about the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime’s (MOPAC) oversight of undercover officers.  We were first told by your Deputy that he was not aware of any oversight.  He then suggested it would probably go to the Audit Panel of MOPAC to deal with.  It was then discovered that Audit had not looked at this issue and then at the House of Commons Select Committee a year later you said that you were thinking of possibly setting up some sort of ethics panel.  Can you tell me, what has happened with the ethics panel?  I know you have appointed a Chair.  We have not heard anything more about whether you have appointed other members, whether it is meeting, whether they are looking at this.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Thank you, Joanne, for giving me the chance to tell you that yes, Lord Alex Carlile [of Berriew CBE] QC has been appointed, he is --

Joanne McCartney AM:  He was appointed back in October.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  There is a panel, I will be very happy to supply you with the details of the people on the panel and of their proceedings, however it is underway.  Indeed, one of the first things that they are going to be doing is looking at the circumstances and the management of undercover policing.  That is the issue; it is what happens, who controls the activities of an undercover police officer?  Because this person by definition will be doing things for a long time, going underground as it were, out of normal police supervision, and as Members have repeated very often, we need to have proper rules of engagement for these people.


Joanne McCartney AM:  Do you accept now that MOPAC does have to have some oversight over the Metropolitan Police Service?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes, absolutely right, and it will.


Joanne McCartney AM:  It has been two years coming, however I am very grateful for that now.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It was with the Home Office, it has now come back to London.  The Home Office did have explicit charge of the Special Demonstration Squad, from my recollection.


Joanne McCartney AM:  Yes, however the National Domestic Extremism Unit was always housed in the Metropolitan Police Service, and on the MPA there was oversight.  It was not there with MOPAC, and we have been asking for that oversight to be there for the last two years; therefore I am glad it is now there, Mr Mayor.


However, the public inquiry that has been set up, you will obviously, I am assuming, be asked your views, or you can make views to the Home Secretary as to what you think that public inquiry should cover.  Can I ask, are you asking ‑ as I would like you to do ‑ for this inquiry to be as wide as possible?  We do know that at the moment that, at the High Court, there is a challenge with regards to Metropolitan Police Service undercover officers who have fathered children, who have had intimate relations with women.  Are you going to be urging that the inquiry looks into these aspects as well?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I am sure the inquiry will look into all those matters; all those rules of engagement.  Just to give you a picture of how it works at the moment, obviously I am generally accountable for the management of policing in London.


Joanne McCartney AM:  I know how it works, Mr Mayor.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You do know how it works?


Joanne McCartney AM:  I do, which is why we have been asking you for two years to fill that gap that we identified.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I do not know why you bother to ask questions you know the answers to.