AC-PIT

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This article is part of the Undercover Research Portal - a project of the Undercover Research Group in conjunction with SpinWatch.

Assistant Commissioner - Public Inquiry Team, or AC-PIT is a unit of the Directorate of Professional Standards within the Metropolitan Police, and answerable to the Assistant Commissioner for Professionalism. Formerly known as Operation Beacon, its function is to respond to the issues raised by the Pitchford Inquiry into Undercover Policing (UCPI), anti-corruption investigations and the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel, particularly around disclosure.

As such, it forms the specific point of contact between the Metropolitan Police and the Inquiry Team for the UCPI.[1] In light of criticism over record keeping, the unit has also established Operation FileSafe, an effort to overhaul the management of records in the Metropolitan Police ahead of disclosure being required.[1]


Origins and objectives

Operation Beacon was a unit created in the Spring of 2014 to prepare the Metropolitan Police's response to Mark Ellison's Stephen Lawrence Independent Review, which came out in July 2014. Its objectives were set out in a MPS Management Meeting of 16 April 2014 as:[2]

(i) To support the work of Mark Ellison QC on the review of specific cases;
(ii) To support the Public Inquiry;
(iii) To support the [REDACTED] IPCC corruption investigation;
(iv) To support the work of Operation Herne;
(v) To review the issue of document handling and the MPS approach to records management;
(vi) To demonstrate transparency throughout; and
(vii) To learn any lessons on undercover policing, implement changes and embed organisational learning

In September 2015, Beacon is renamed as the 'Assistant Commissioner - Public Inquiry Team'[1] and splits into two strands:[2]

1. Dedicated to support of the UCPI and delivery of Operation FileSafe (see below) under Det. Supt. Neil Hutchison.
2. Dedicated to the review and disclosure of anti-corruption material, under Det. Supt. Parm Sandhu.

As well as the UCPI, AC-PIT has responsibility for providing disclosure to a number of 'legacy issues' including the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel, an MPS review of anti-corruption investigations since 1994, two investigations by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and a number of matters that have been redacted.[2]

Structure & membership

The unit is overseen by Det. Supt. Neil Hutchison as Police Team Senior Officer; his line manager is DAC Professionalism Fiona Taylor, who also oversees the Directorate of Professional Standards (under Det. Ch. Supt. Alaric Bonthron). The unit is accountable to the Assistant Commissioner for Professionalism, Martin Hewitt, to whom the head of AC-PIT provides briefings and updates.[2]

The officers and staff of AC-PIT are drawn from across the MPS and it is a policy that none of them were trained or deployed as undercovers.[1]

Undercover Policing Inquiry (Pitchford)

Together with the Directorate of Legal Services (DLS), it forms the 'Police and Legal Team' which deals with the Undercover Policing Inquiry. While the Legal Services deals with questions and other issues relating to the inquiry, it passes onto AC-PIT matters such as disclosure requested by the inquiry.[3] As such, AC-PIT is the point of contact for the rest of the Metropolitan Police in regards the inquiry, including disseminating information or receiving material. Any material to be disclosed to the inqury is first passed through AC-PIT for review and redaction.[1]

Operation FileSafe

A key criticism of Ellison's Review was the inadequacy of record keeping by the Metropolitan Police as this had hampered his investigations. This criticism, including the apparent destruction of the anti-corruption investigation Operation Othona files,[4] caused considerable embarrassment with the Metropolitan Police. Further criticism came from the Information Commissioners Office when it was discovered the MPS had sold off a building with sensitive material left in it.[5] This, plus the necessity to fully disclose to the UCPI and other investigations caused the force to focus on the issue of its record keeping. Operation FileSafe was created in May 2014 to respond specifically to this.[2] Hutchison specifically states: 'Successful delivery of Op FileSafe is required to achieve all [AC-PIT] strategic objectives including the objective to support the UCPI' (para. 28).[2]

On 20 May 2014, DAC Steve Rodhouse set out the objectives for Operation FileSafe as:[2]

To conduct a thorough assessment of all physical records held in offices and other premises across the MPS estate in order to understand:
(i) Do the MPS need to retain the material?
(ii) If so is it appropriate to be held locally?
(iii) Is there adequate indexing of the locally held data and is there sufficient corporate knowledge of its content and presence?
(iv) Should the data be held in corporate archives?
(v) To assess opportunities to utilise scanning and automated indexing solutions to reduce the volume of material held in corporate archives.
(vi) To assess whether any material located as a result of Op FileSafe has relevance to any of the terms of reference for Operation Beacon.

The Terms of Reference for Operation FileSafe were set out by Hutchison as: [6][7]

(i) Review records management policy;
(ii) Obtain independent scrutiny;
(iii) Conduct an operational review to ensure integrity of documents held outside agreed storage;
(iv) Support delivery of Record management strategy and associated internal awareness campaign; and
(v) Work with Total Technology programme to identify options for conversion of hard copy records in to digital, searchable formats.

FileSafe looks at MPS storage systems and historical files with a view to what should be preserved, one eye on the needs of various public inquiries and historical re-investigations. It works with a number of relevant groups within the Metropolitan Police including:[1]

  • the Records Management team at the General Registry on the roll-out of the FileSafe and the prevention of deletion of records relating to the various issues under AC-PIT's consideration and to flag up such material to AC-PIT;
  • the Intelligence Network Forcewide System database (INFOS), maintained by the Covert Intelligence unit (SC&O35);
  • the 'Informational Management and Operational Support' unit (IMOS), based in Counter-Terrorism Command;
  • working with police boroughs to do 'clean sweeps' of their buildings for documents for general re-filing / organisation and discovery.[2]

AC-PIT also looks at risks 'to the retention of potentially relevant documents', particularly 'failure to identify' and 'intentional destruction' of them, and then seeks to mitigate them.[2]

An initial review of the MPS's record storage by AC-PIT reported back in March 2015. It stated it had found a chaotic system built of multiple IT and physical storage system and no standardisation in place, both in terms of how material is stored, but also in relation to 'Retention, Review and Disposal' (RRD) policies.[2] In particular, it noted it had 'identified wholesale dysfunctional, inconsistent handling of unregistered material across the MPS' & '54% of [off-site deep-storage by a private logistics company TNT] holdings are missing. Upwards of 20% of locally archived material should be registered'.[8][9][10] 83 different digital and paper based archives of potential relevance to the UCPI alone were identified.[3]

As a result, AC-PIT has taken on overseeing the restructuring of this to facilitate its disclosure needs.[2] A new set of policies and toolkits were rolled out throughout 2015 through FileSafe, and wholesale reviews of material initiated across the Metropolitan Police initiated in conjunction with the Records Management team. Many records of potential relevance were subsequently recovered and properly archived, particularly from deep storage and local archives. It is expected to finish in 2018.[11]

In terms of the polices command and control structure, the 'Gold lead' for Operation FileSafe is AC Martin Hewitt as head its 'Diamond Group'. It in turn monitors it through the head of AC-PIT via the FileSafe Steering Group,[12] In turn, the Steering Group oversees the activities of the FileSafe Working Group, the latter chaired by the Police Team Senior Officer.[6] The Working and Steering Groups were established in September 2014.[13] Hewit is described as MPS lead for Records Management[14] and as having the management board lead on Information Assurance and Security.[2]

Preservation of records

It is AC-PIT's responsibility to ensure that no records relevant to the inquiries it is assisting are destroyed. To this end it has engaged in circulating policy instructions across the force, and undertaken extensive briefing officers of all ranks of their responsibilities throughout 2014 and 2015. This included specific engagement with Counter-Terrorism Command and in May 2015 meeting with the senior leadership team of the National Domestic Extremism Disorder Intelligence Unit (NDEDIU).[1][2]

It's head, Neil Hutchison also questioned commanding officers of SO15 to get their assurance that nothing relevant had been destroyed since 2014; however, he did not question the retired commander Richard Walton, a key figure in the undercover policing scandal, instead relying on SO15's Head of Compliance and Assurance, through whom such requests for document destruction would have been routed.[1]

In October 2015, Hewitt would give an extensive quote for an MPS intranet article calling for full cooperation with the Public Inquiry Team and for full and timely disclosure when requests came through to individual units.[15]

Independent Scrutiny Panel

Originally named the Independent Oversight Group, this was established in 2014 to 'provide independent advice'. It's role was et out as:[11]

  • To provide an independent review and comment on the strategic approach taken by the Public Inquiry Team in response to all of the investigations and enquiries...
  • To provide an independent review and comment on the strategic approach taken by the Public Inquiry Team in response to any additional taskings or activities as requested by Assistant Commissioner, Professionalism.
  • To provide an independent review and comment on developing plans to improve records management and document retention within the MPS.
  • Where the MPS are required by any of the investigations or enquiries to provide a specific response, to provide an independent review and comment on the proportionality, thoroughness and openness of the response.
  • To provide an independent review and comment on the effectiveness with which emerging organisational learning from the Public Inquiry Team is embedded in MPS practice.
  • The committee will receive access to any requested documentation unless a specific and recorded decision by AC Professionalism prohibits such access.
  • In order to fully discharge its function, the committee will be able to speak to any MPS employee.
  • To provide an independent review and comment on proposed media plans at key points in the work of the Public Inquiry Team.

Its members are:[11]

  • Lord Justice Peter Jacobs, retired senior judge.
  • Margaret Casely-Hayford, public sector worker & solicitor. Chair of ActionAid, board member at the Co-operative Bank; formerly a non-executive director of NHS England and Director of Legal Services to the John Lewis Partnership.[16]
  • Karen McFarlane. expert in public sector information managment. Government Head of Profession for Knowledge and Information Management and for eight years 'Deputy Director for Information Exploitation and Protection at GCHQ'.[17]

According to Hutchison's statement, while the panel has discussed aspects with AC-PIT, no formal findings or reports have been provided, and such reports are not anticipated.[11]

Timeline

Unless otherwise noted, constructed from the two witness statements of Neil Hutchison, June 2016.[1][2][11]

  • March 2014: Mark Ellison publishes the Stephen Lawrence Independent Review, criticising both record keeping at the Metropolitan Police and Counter-Terrorism Commander Richard Walton for his role in spying on the Lawrence family in 1998. Walton suspended until December 2014.
  • April 2014: Operation Beacon created to respond to Stephen Lawrence Independent Review and other issues.
  • May 2014: policy instruction circulated to Counter Terrorism Command / SO15 instructing no relevant files should be deleted without the permission of the Commander. Where there is doubt, refer back to AC-PIT.[18]
  • May 2014: Operation FileSafe established to review and re-structure the Metropolitan Police's record keeping, and facilitate discovery of relevant documents ahead of the public inquiry.
  • July 2014: Home Secretary Theresa May announces the Undercover Public Inquiry under Christopher Pitchford.
  • June – November 2014: briefings given to senior officer in units across the MPS, highlighting need to retain and bring to attention material of relevance to AC-PIT.
  • July/August 2014: emails go out to unit commanders across the MPS regarding retention of relevant files.
  • October 2014: AC-PIT engages with Counter Terrorism Command / SO15 over their Review, Retention and Disposal policy.[19]
  • October 2014 – October 2015: briefings on FileSafe to Senior Leadership Teams across the MPS. Various articles, emails and other activities carried out to ensure dissemination of the new policies are picked up across the force.[20]
  • January 2015: Operation FileSafe rolls out new records management toolkit, which includes the requirement to flag up material relevant to the UCPI and other issues of interest to AC-PIT.[21][22]
  • March 2015: Operation FileSafe team produces a damning internal review of MPS records storage and management.[23]
  • April 2015: further engagement with SO15 over the latter's policies, Operation FileSafe and the UCPI.
  • 13 May 2015: AC-PIT meets with the Senior Leadership Team of the National Domestic Extremism Disorder Intelligence Unit (NDEDIU) regarding the UCPI. The NDEDIU sits within Counter-Terrorism Command.
  • May 2015 - SC&O35 / Covert Intelligence circulate policy instruction that 'no material relevant to undercover deployment is to be destroyed without written authorisation of the [unit commander]'.
  • September 2015: Operation Beacon becomes AC-PIT, and its work split between (1) UCPI & Operation FileSafe, and (2) anti-corruption related disclosure / reviews.
  • December 2015: Commander Richard Walton resigns as head of Counter-Terrorism Command ahead of potential disciplinary charges, being brought by the Directorate of Professional Standards in the wake of the Ellison Review.[24]
  • January 2016: The Guardian reports a whistle-blower has come forward to tell Jenny Jones of illegal destruction of her files by the National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit.[25]
  • 20 May 2016: instruction goes out to all Metropolitan Police officers that no material relevant to undercover policing is to be destroyed.


A full timetable of Operation FileSafe's activities is set out in Appendices 1 and 2 of Hutchison's statement of 17 June 2016.[11]

Team members

  • Det. Ch. Supt. Jeremy Burton was the head of Operation Beacon May 2014 to June 2015; on leave to attend a Senior Police National Assessment Course December 2014 to March 2015.[2] A former Chief Superintendent in Lewisham where he lead the borough's response to the 2011 riots. Moved to be Temporay Commander for Criminal Justice and Roads Policing before becoming Assistant Chief Constable for Specialist Crime in Surrey and Sussex in 2016.
  • Det. Supt. Neil Hutchison; joined Professional Standards in May 2014 as part of Operation Beacon to take lead on Operation FileSafe.[11] Deputy to Burton before taking over Operation Beacon in January 2015 and continuing as head when it is transformed into AC-PIT. Holds title of Police Team Senior Officer responsible for the delivery of Operation FileSafe and matters pertaining to the Undercover Public Inquiry.[2] Previously a Detective Chief Inspector with Operation Trident and a Detective Inspector with Serious & Organised Crime unit targeting drugs production.
  • Det. Supt. Parm Sandhu; joins AC-PIT on 20 July 2015 with responsibility for review for anti-corruption and other investigations.[2] Highest ranking Asian officer in the Metropolitan Police, she was previously at Bromley and Greenwich Boroughs, being deputy commander for the latter.
  • Det. Supt. Chris Robson; in June 2014 worked on the precursor to Operation FileSafe.[7] Cited as a contact point for Metropolitan Police and Operation Herne by Mark Ellison in his review,[26] and as being in charge of Operation Herne in 2013.[27]
  • Det. Insp. Penny Coombes & Det. Insp. Ellie Pyemont (job-share), appointed on 1 September 2014 to provide assistance on Operation FileSafe. Deputy leaders of team responding to the UCPI having previously worked on the response to the Ellison Review.[28] Their job title is given as 'Deputy to the Police Team Senior Officer regarding the Undercover Policing Inquiry',[29] and they are described as joint Deputy Chairs of the Operation FileSafe Working Group[7]

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Neil Hutchison, Witness Statement on Rule 9-10(a) to Undercover Policing Inquiry, Metropolitan Police Service, 6 June 2016 (accessed 12 July 2016).
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 Neil Hutchison, Witness Statement on Rule 9-12 (PARTIALLY REDACTED) to Undercover Policing Inquiry - PART 1, Metropolitan Police Service, 17 June 2016 (accessed 12 July 2016).
  3. 3.0 3.1 Neil Hutchison, Briefing to Management Board on Public Inquiry into undercover policing, Publs theic Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police Service, 10 July 2016 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  4. Vikram Dodd, Stephen Lawrence detective with 'corrupt links' to accused's father named, The Guardian, 6 March 2014 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  5. Ellie Pyemont & Penny Coombe, MPS Progress in the field of Information Management since the publication of the Stephen Lawrence Independent Review, Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police Service, 13 July 2015 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  6. 6.0 6.1 A wider description of Operation FileSafe's terms of reference is given at: Ellie Pyemont & Penny Coombe, Operation FileSafe Working Group Terms of Reference - version 3.0, Assistant Commissioner - Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police, 11 September 2014 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Chris Robson, Review of MPS records management - Terms of Reference, Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police, 17 June 2014 (accessed 20 July 2016)
  8. Penny Coombe & Ellie Pyemont, An overview of activities undertaken as part of Operation FileSafe between July 2014 and March 2015, highlight key milestone and future risks, Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police Service, 6 March 2015 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  9. Penny Coombe & Ellie Pyemont, Operation FileSafe - Options Paper regarding MPS unregistered archives - Version 8, Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police, 2 March 2015 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  10. Penny Coombe & Ellie Pyemont, Operation FileSafe - Information Management: briefing for the Information Assurance and Security Board, Metropolitan Police Service, 15 July 2015 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 Neil Hutchison, Witness Statement on Rule 9-12 (PARTIALLY REDACTED) to Undercover Policing Inquiry - PART 2, Metropolitan Police Service, 17 June 2016 (accessed 12 July 2016).
  12. The terms of reference for Operation FileSafe Steering Group are set out at Public Inquiry Team, Operation FileSafe - Steering Group Terms of Reference (following from Record Management ToR, Metropolitan Police Service, 23 September 2014 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  13. Jeremy Burton, FileSafe Update, email of 10 September 2014, Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police Service (accessed 20 July 2016).
  14. Neil Hutchison, Public Inquiry Team - Briefing note re Records Management, Metropolitan Police Service, 30 June 2014 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  15. Be ready to respond to Inquiry into Undercover Policing, Metropolitan Police Service intranet, 11 October 2015 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  16. Margaret Casely-Hayford, Profile, LinkedIn.com, 2016 (accessed 18 July 2016).
  17. Profile: Karen McFarlane, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, undated (accessed 20 July 2016).
  18. Duncan Ball, Positive Retention Policy, Metropolitan Police Service / SO15, Email of 12 May 2014 (accessed via UCPI.org.uk 20 July 2016).
  19. Email exchange between AC-PIT and SO15 entitled 'File safe destruction policy', Metropolitan Police, October 2014 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  20. Positive Retention Policy - Command Circulation, SO15 Counter Terrorism Command, Metropolitan Police Service, 12 May 2014 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  21. Records Management Toolkit - Management of Police Information (MoPI) - Group Table to inform records Review Retention and Disposal (RRD), Met HQ Information Assurance Unit, Metropolitan Police Service, 8 July 2015 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  22. Operation FileSafe, Directorate of Professionalism, Metropolitan Police Service, 26 January 2016 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  23. Penny Coombe & Ellie Pyemont, An overview of activities undertaken as part of Operation FileSafe between July 2014 and March 2015, highlight key milestone and future risks, Public Inquiry Team, Metropolitan Police Service, 6 March 2015 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  24. Stephen Wright, Police chief accused of covering up secret ploy to spy on the family of murdered Stephen Lawrence dodges disciplinary action by retiring, Daily Mail, 15 January 2016 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  25. Rob Evans, Officer claims Met police improperly destroyed files on Green party peer, The Guardian, 8 January 2016 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  26. Mark Ellison, Stephen Lawrence Independent Review, Volume 1, UK Government, 6 March 2014 (accessed 20 July 2016)
  27. Harriet Wistrich, Letter to Rosemary Fernandes, Crown Advocate, Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, Crown Prosecution Service, 21 January 2013, Birnberg Pierce & Partners, released via Home Affairs Select Committee 23 October 2013 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  28. Ellie Pyemont & Penny Coombe, Metropolitan Police Service, Timewise.co.uk, undated (accessed 20 July 2016).
  29. Ellie Pyemont, Profile, LinkedIn.com, undated (accessed 20 July 2016).