Douglas Edwards (alias)

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This article is part of the Undercover Research Portal at Powerbase - investigating corporate and police spying on activists



Part of a series on
undercover police officers
'HN326'
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Alias: Douglas Edwards
Deployment: 1968-1971
Unit:
Targets:
Anarchist groups, Independent Labour Party, Tri-Continental and Dambusters Mobilising Committee

Douglas Edwards is the cover name of a former Special Demonstration Squad undercover officer who infiltrated various groups including anarchist groups, the Independent Labour Party, Tri-Continental and Dambusters Mobilising Committee from 1968 to 1971. His cover personality was born 8 August 1945, and commonly known as 'Doug'.

He is also known by the cipher HN326 for the purposes of the Undercover Policing Inquiry and Operation Herne (for the N cipher system see N officers), and the Inquiry has ruled that the officer's real name will be restricted.[1]

As an SDS officer

About his deployment

Douglas Edwards became the treasurer of TriContinental, 'a left-wing organisation that allied itself [to] left-wing elements in Asia, Africa & Latin America, [that] also published a newspaper', accourding to documents submitted to the Undercover Policing Inquiry.[2]

There are two, opposing, explanations about the way Edwards set up his infiltration. At the start of his risk assessment it says:

The initial deployment was into the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and Tri-Continental (a left-wing, radical newspaper). The membership of ILP elevated his status allowing him to become Treasurer of Tri-Continental, this background facilitated access to other extremist, anarchist left-wing groups'.[2]

A bit further down, under 4.2, it says:

Inititial deployment into radical left-wing, and anarchist groups, at this period of time (1968-1971) many smaller groups wee loosely affiliated coming together at major demonstrations. Edwards himself says he first infiltrated anarchist groups, and left them to go to the ILP and TriContinental.[3]

Neither the ILP nor Tri-Continental were organisations that would give one easy access to radical left-wing or anarchist groups, on the contrary - they were ideologically far removed from eachother and other groups mentioned. (He may have used his position to infiltrate other groups not yet released by the Inquiry).

The ILP was a party established in 1893 which had its heyday before the second world war. In the early 1960s it pioneered opposition to the nuclear bomb and promoted ideas such as workers'control. It also campaigned for decolonisation. However, in the early 1970s the ILP reassessed its views on the Labour Party, to merge with them in 1975.[4]

Tri-continental was founded at a conference in Havana, Cuba in 1966. A publication with the same name was published there, its goal 'to expose imperialistic policies and create international solidarity with leftist political movements.'

We have not been able to locate an active branch of Tri-continental in London yet; the Freedom Archive keeps a collection of the magazine.[5][6]

Apart from the before mentioned, Douglas said he also went to 'some other funny sort of leftwing offshoot groups like the Dambusters Mobilising Committee'. He then contradicts himself when talking about a possible membership of the CND: 'I also visited the Campaign against Nuclear Disarmament headquarters once but I was never a member of that organisation and I can't think wy I was there now. I think I did have a membershipcard but it was all so long ago now.'[3]

In his personal statement, Edwards also offers some opinions about the groups he targeted:[3]

- I initially infiltrated a few anarchist groups early in my deployment. Some of them were quite nasty pieces of work.
- Some of the people in these groups were really nice, pleasant, intelligenct people. They were different politically in their views but in this country you can have different political views.

Edwards says he was confident that he set in place a cover to explain any prolonged absence, by claiming he was a long distance lorry driver. He also recalls going to the wedding and that his wedding present was 'one of those fancy tin openers' and the the groom seemed quite pleased with it. 'I had to go because I was invited. I could harldly avoid going. There are no records or photos of him being there'.[3]

Secrecy

In his personal statement, he wrote:[3]

Discretion and secrecy was the order of the day - stum und krum. Say nothing about anything. this was communicated to me right from the very start. Even other members of my unit were not aware of my undercover name and which groups I infiltrated. It was very much "keep quiet about the whole thing". To be honest, I can't recall a conversation about secrecy at the end of my deployment. It was just the nature of the job that you didn't talk about it.
... At the time of my deployment, I was living with my parents. I told them I was on the Drugs squad...

According to his risk assessment:[2]

He was recruited by Special Branch management into the Special Operations Squad, whose function was to monitor protest groups who were a major concern of the Government. He had no formal induction or form of training (3.3).
3.4 At the time of his recruitment was informed by his senior management (Detective Chief Inspector & Detective Inspector) that the Unit he was seconded to was highly secret and was to be deployed as a result of ongoing large-scale public disorder being a major concern of the Government at that time (late 1968)."
Not offered or provided with support during his deployment; it was ad hoc and uncoordinated (4.19).
After deployment, he resumed duties in Special Branch (4.16)

According to his personal statement he was also involved in HN16's deployment in an administratative role. In his risk assessment he points out that when he was asked to provide information about HN16, he had specifically requested officers from an operation [redacted, most probably Operation Herne] not to visit his home address. Despite his request, in his words 'unthinking officers unable to accept that he is retired' did visit him there, 'creating a great deal of distress to his wife'.[2]

He claims he did not use the identity of a dead child.

Edwards' role in the police service was exclusively within Special Branch, and he retired from the Metropolitan Police some years ago.

In the Undercover Policing Inquiry

The MPS applied in August 2017 for a restriction order over his real name with open versions published bar an additional threat assessment:[7] open application, personal statement, risk assessment (Kevin Shanahan).

No application over his cover name was made[8] and it was formally released in August 2017.[9]

According to Mitting (Aug 2017): [8]

He has been careful to preserve his anonymity and is worried about disclosure of his real name. He is concerned that it may be discovered by organisations such as undercoverresearch.net and fears media intrusion. He suffers from conditions which may be exacerbated by worry. His cover name will be published.

The application was heard at hearing of 21 November 2017,[10] and Mitting ruled in its favour on 5 December 2017, saying:[11]

[HN326] has been careful to preserve his anonymity and is worried about the consequences of disclosure of his real name, in particular media intrusion. He suffers from conditions which may be exacerbated by worry... I am satisfied that publication of HN326's real name would interfere with his right to respect for his private life and that the interference is not necessary to permit the terms of reference of the Inquiry to be fulfilled.

The Restriction Order over his real was made on 8 December 2017. See also the NPSCP submissions of 5 October 2017.

Notes

  1. Kate Wilkinson, Counsel to the Inquiry's Explanatory Note to accompany the Chairman's 'Minded-To' Note 12 in respect of applications for restrictions over the real and cover names of officers of the Special Operations Squad and the Special Demonstration Squad, Undercover Public Inquiry, 13 September 2018.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Kevin Shanahan, Open risk assessment for HN326, Metropolitan Police Service, 31 May 2017 (accessed via UCPI.org.uk).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 'HN326', Open personal statement of HN326, Metropolitan Police Service, 2017 (accessed via UCPI.org.uk).
  4. Wikipedia, Independent Labour Party, last updated July 2018 (accessed August 2018)
  5. The TriContinental Institute for Social Research aims to continue the heritage of the original 1966 conference, as 'an international, movement-driven institution focused on stimulating intellectual debate that serves people’s aspirations'. TriContinental, About, organisation's website, no date, (accessed August 2018)
  6. There was indeed magazine of a similar name published in London in the late 1960s, early 1970s - the TriContinental Outpost, however, that was a grassroots Black Power newletter. There is - as yet - no indication from the information provided by the Inquiry that Douglas Edwards was involved infiltrating black groups.
  7. David Barr & Kate Wilkinson, Counsel to the Inquiry's explanatory note to accompany the 'Minded to' note in respect of applications for restrictions over the real and cover names of officers of the Special Operations Squad and the Special Demonstration Squad, Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI.org.uk), 3 August 2017.
  8. 8.0 8.1 John Mitting, In the matter of section 19(3) of the Inquiries Act 2005 Applications for restriction orders in respect of the real and cover names of officers of the Special Operations Squad and the Special Demonstrations Squad ‘Minded to’ note, Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI.org.uk), 3 August 2017.
  9. Press Release: 'Minded to' note, ruling and directions in respect of anonymity applications relating to former officers of the Special Demonstration Squad, Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI.org.uk), 3 August 2017.
  10. Transcript of hearing of 21 November 2017, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 21 November 2017.
  11. Sir John Mitting, Applications for restriction orders in respect of the real and cover names of officers of the Special Operations Squad and the Special Demonstration Squad: Ruling, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 5 December 2017.