The officer known by the cypher HN109 was an undercover officer in the 1970s who later returned to the Special Demonstration Squad as a Detective Inspector and manager of the unit in the 1980s/90s. He was a manager in an important period, and according to his risk assessment the risks of revealing his cover- and real name are low, yet the chair of the Undercover Policing Inquiry is minded to grant him anonymity.
Almost everything that is known about HN109 comes from his application for anonymity for the Undercover Policing Inquiry. The application comes with two documents. The first is the ‘open risk assessment’, which is in fact a gisted version summarising what HN109 has told a risk assessor and what the latter has been able to confirm. Then there is HN109’s personal ‘impact statement’, also seriously redacted and gisted. Additional information comes from Peter Francis, from his submission on HN109's anonymity application and the hearing on 21 March 2018.
In the documents accompagning his application for anonymity, HN109 is referred to as N109, the coding in use before the Undercover Policing Inquiry started, while Peter Francis uses the UPCI coding. We keep to the numbering as it was when quoting from documents. Though even their gender is unknown, he is refered to as male here.
As an SDS Undercover Officer
HN109’s deployment undercover was ‘in the 1970s’. According to his Risk Assessment, HN109 was offered a position in the SDS having come to the attention of a senior SDS manager; he did not recall any formal interview. The senior SDS manager and other undercovers provided the direction and advice for constructing their infiltration legend.
In the context of his undercover deployment, the risk assessment states that HN109 was 'aware of the Tradecraft document.' In March 2018, the Inquiry released a redacted version of a document with the same title, however that was authored by Andy Coles right after his deployment as ‘Andy Davey in 1995 - long after HN109's time undercover in the 1970s. Probably there was an earlier manual too.
In his personal statement HN109 says:
- I believe that I had an unremarkable deployment. I had no sexual relationships. I was never arrested in my cover identity nor did I appear in Court in my cover name. I do not believe that my deployment led to any miscarriage of justice allegation.
According to the risk assessor there is no documented intelligence to suggest that the undercover was involved in any inappropriate sexual relationship.
He does not recall anything specifically mentioned regarding anonymity but believed it was 'implied by what they did and how they went about their tasks'. HN109 stated:
- While I do not recall any express promise of confidentiality made to me when I joined the SDS, the very set up of the SDS, its functions, and the step taken to protect our real and cover identities meant that anonymity was very much part of the process. I certainly always understood that my identity would not be revealed. This included when I returned as a manager.
- I would not have undertaken the role or gone on to do subsequent roles if I had been aware that my identity would not have been protected by the State.
HN109 also said that the group he targeted contained violent elements, including where 'violence was enacted against an informant' - though the risk assessor could not corroborate this example.
As an SDS manager
HN109 returned to the SDS in the 1980s/1990s as a manager running operational aspects of SDS work. In 1995, HN109 was a Detective Inspector (DI) with the SDS according to the Ellison Report (see below). – the rank that would have run the unit day-to-day. It seems fair to say that HN109 worked as a supervisor from the late 1980s until 1995 – which is quite a long time.
The risk assessor summarised HN109 words saying he returned as a manager ‘during a lively period for SDS’. Indeed, the end of the Cold War will have cause significant changes, while the unit was also extending into other areas such as animal rights, the environmental movement and the far right.
Many of the spycops exposed to date were active during those years. Mike Chitty had been the first undercover going into animal rights in south London, 1983 – 1987. Bob Lambert had started a few months later in north London and finished his deployment in December 1988, leaving behind ‘Jacqui’ with their toddler son, and having acted as an agent-provocateur in a campaign against fur. John Dines’ deployment ran from 1987 – 1992, while ‘Andy Davey’ and ‘Matt Rayner’ went into animal rights in 1991. Peter Francis infiltrated Youth Against Racism from 1993 onwards, along with other undercovers in groups associating themselves with black justice campaigns, by which time Lambert was back as manager.
Apart from the spying on black justice campaigns, Peter Francis told The Observer about contemporary SDS officers who had infiltrated opposing right-wing groups such as the BNP and Combat 18, as well as other far-left groups. It was a time of extreme racial tension and violent clashes with the police and spycops would find themselves confronting each other as members of rival groups.
Targeting black justice campaigns
The spying on black justice campaigns is one of the important issues to be investigated by the Undercover Policing Inquiry. HN109 was the manager in charge of the SDS the night Stephen Lawrence was murdered (22 April 1993), alongside HN86 who was the DCI in charge Peter Francis pointed out at the hearing of the Inquiry on 21 March 2017, saying ‘he would have been instrumental in decision making about targeting thereafter’.
HN109 is quoted in the Stephen Lawrence Independent Review. This authoritative report on the SDS targeting of black justice campaigns was produced by Mark Ellison, QC, in 2014 after whistle-blower officer Peter Francis revealed he had been tasked to find dirt on the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence. Some officers from back in the days remember similar things, others, like HN109 quoted in the Ellison Report, vehemently denied these claims:
- There was never any reference made to “smearing” in relation to the Lawrence family. Deployments into the support campaigns surrounding Stephen Lawrence were specifically to build a picture of the public order background… Any meeting I was involved in was never about any family member. It was done to protect the family.
Breaches of the regulatory framework
One of the few things that is being disclosed in the risk assessment summaries of HN109’s statement is that during his time as a manager, there was an 'appetite for supervision', and that he was:
- made responsible for ensuring compliance with regard to the regulatory framework governing operations of numerous UCOs [short for undercover officers], including those of interest to the Inquiry.
Not much is known about the existence of this regulatory framework, or breaches of it. Yet in his personal statement HN109 reveals that his ‘role as a manager included addressing concerns which caused issues with some of the officers in role at the time.‘
There are several references to HN109 having problems with undercover officers he oversaw, for instance this one: ‘As a manager N109 dealt with some difficult nominals, and oversaw a disciplinary procedure.’ It is unclear who of the spycops N109 found difficult to work with, the problems are the reason for HN109 to apply for annonymity now (see below). As to the disciplinary procedure N109 oversaw, this might very well refer to the 'Lambert Report'.
Finalised in 1994, it is a 45 page investigation into Mike Chitty, who was going back to spend social time with the animal rights activists he had previously infiltrated as ‘Mike Blake’, seeking to continue his relationship with a female activist there. The report was written by Bob Lambert who had been undercover in the same period and who had been asked by SDS managers to investigate Chitty in 1992; he would finish it in 1994.
When the Metropolitan police decided Chitty should face a disciplinary hearing, Chitty wrote a letter to the Commissioner complaining of his treatment by the SDS, and threatening to go public. In his report, Lambert made the point that if Chitty did that, then former undercovers would be at high risk, and that if exposed they could expect postal bombs to their homes. Eventually, Chitty took legal action against the Met in 1995, but the case was dropped; he was awarded an ill-health pension and moved to South Africa.
Rob Evans and Paul Lewis quote the report in detail in their 2013 book Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police (pages 82 – 101). In his managerial position at the time HN109 would have had oversight in some way of the Lambert report.
The Lambert Report was discussed at the Inquiry's hearing on 21 March 2018; the Chair had asked for submissions about the risks of Rob Evans publishing further details from the Report - presumably names of other undercover officers, most likely that of HN155.
- For more detail on the report and the possible link to HN109, see: Eveline Lubbers, Why is undercover officer N109 so afraid? Join our search Undercover Research Group, 20 March 2018.
According to the risk assessment, HN109 has also worked in other sensitive roles in the police and did a role with public exposure.
In the Undercover Policing Inquiry
N109 is a crucial witness for the Inquiry, he was a supervisor during a critical period in the history of the SDS. Many of the issues key to Inquiry’s investigation come together in these years. And even more so, HN109 has revealed there indeed were rules, and that it was not easy to keep a tight rein. However, it is not sure whether he will testify in public.
HN109 is very concerned about his name being revealed in public. He sees his ‘dual role as an operative and manager of the SDS as a reason for increased interest of the media and of interest groups’. That is no different for many other spycops, although HN109 seems extremely nervous about this: ‘N109 reported being absolutely terrified of psychological harm through trolling on the internet.’ Furthermore, media intrusion would be devastating to his children.
Furthermore, HN109 has particular concerns that some of the UCOs may be hostile towards him and he described the stress caused to him and his partner as a result:
- N109's partner was terrified of other named SDS officers and was deeply concerned with regard to the interview with the risk assessors. N109’s partner fears harassment from a named individual and others when interest in the Inquiry is likely to increase.
The partner’s fears go even further, she thinks that other spycops may want to expose his name, which indeed would make the entire risk assessment superfluous:
- Other SDS officers could identify N109, and N109 believes that these officers may ‘out’ N109. The Risk Assessor assesses that N109 wold be ‘high on the list’ of those officers, should they wish to ‘out’ their colleagues. The Risk Assessor provides two reasons for this. This could render discussion about protecting N109’s identity academic.
The risk assessor checked and states ‘that there is a lateral risk to N109 from some of those managed’. He also identified ‘some lateral risk where none was declared by N109.’ He also agreed that there is a risk of media intrusion for HN109's children, but felt it would not be too negative or as impactive as HN109 fears; his explanation as to why is redacted.
Contrary to what HN109 fears, the risk assessor ‘did not identify any risk from group(s) infiltrated or from individuals,’ even if his real identity would be disclosed:
- The Risk Assessor considers that there is little evidence to support the contention that N109 would be in physical danger if N109's real identity was known. The Risk Assessor would therefore assess the probability in this category as 'very low' - the probability of the risk occurring is considered unlikely.
Peter Francis, who is ‘well aware of the group HN109 infiltrated, confirms that in his view the risk assessment is spot on’. He also points out that each UCO HN109 managed ‘already knows exactly who he is and is or likely to be fully aware of what has been said in the public domain to date, and yet, none have either “outed” him or harmed in any way.
Nevertheless, Mitting has indicated on 15 January 2018 that he is minded to grant HN109 anonymity and shield both his cover and real name. It is notable that, despite HN109’s extreme fears, the risk to HN109 is assessed to be exceptionally low. Yet the Chair thinks HN109 needs protecting, and he refuses to make his reasoning for this public.
In his ruling following the hearing of 21 March 2018, Mitting decided to grand a restriction order for both the cover and the real name of HN109, the reason for which are set out in his closed note accompagning his 'minded to' note of 15 January 2018. He agrees that HN109 should be heard and that 'careful thought will need to be given as to how this is to be achieved':
- Measures can be taken to protect identity. My intention is that all evidence relevant to the discharge of the managerial duties of HN 109 should be given and tested in public, with the aid of such measures. Only that part of the evidence which gives rise to risks to the safety of others would need to be heard in closed session.
March 2018 documents: 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 5, 27 March 2018.
January 2018 documents: Minded-to: grant a restriction order for the real and cover name (15 Jan 2018). Provisional decision (5 Mar 2018): restrict real & cover name with application to be heard on 21 March 2018.
2017 documents: Open application (29 Nov 2017), open risk asssessment (Adrian Baxter, 26 Feb 2018) & open personal statement (30 Nov 2017) Nov 2017, (extension sought to move consideration of their restriction order to a future tranche.)
N109 is represented by the Metropolitan Police’s 'Designated Lawyers Team'.
True Spies documentary
N109 appeared in the 2002 BBC documentary series True Spies. In his risk assessment it says: ‘N109 gave N109's views on the True Spies programme’, which according to Mitting, the chair of the Inquiry at the hearing of 21 March should be read as, ‘he expressed his views about the programme’. Maya Sikand, counsel for Peter Francis explained that this is what drew Francis and her to check. Peter Francis in his submission said that HN109 was prepared to appear on that programme and name his targets in 2002 and that it is clear that both he and senior officers took the view that there would be no risk at all to him in participating. The support and co-operation of the MPS was authorised by Commander Roger Pearce, a former SDS officer himself (he was known as HN85, both his real and cover names have been confirmed by the Inquiry). Francis then made the point that it does not make sense for HN109 to apply for anonymity now:
- If he was prepared to take that risk then and appear on a TV programme of that kind (albeit in shadow), it is obvious that the MPS took the view there was no risk at all to him, even if his real identity was revealed. It does not behove the MPS to now apply for a restriction order on the basis of a risk of interference with his Article 8 ECHR rights with no explanation for such a fundamental shift.
In his March 2018 ruling, Mitting denied that HN109 had appeared in True Spies, saying he re-examined the material held by the Inquiry. He invites Peter Francis to provide further evidence.
- Adrian Baxter, HN109 Open risk assessment, Metropolitan Police Service, 26 February 2018 (accessed via ucpi.org.uk).
- 'HN109', Open impact statement, Metropolitan Police Service, 30 November 2017 (accessed via ucpi.org.uk)
- Andy Coles, Special Demonstration Squad Tradecraft manual, SDS, 1995/1996 (accessed March 2018)
- Mark Ellison, the Stephen Lawrence Independent Review, 6 March 2014, p.211 (accessed March 2018)
- MAYA SIKAND, SUBMISSIONS ON BEHALF OF PETER FRANCIS RE THE CHAIRMAN’S ‘MINDED TO’ DECISIONS RELATING TO HN17, HN41, HN64, HN71, HN109, HN125, HN337 & HN341, 18 March 2018 (accessed 21 March 2018)
- Rob Evans, Probe into claim that police spy set fire to Debenhams could end by July, The Guardian, 16 January 2017 (accessed March 2018)
- Tony Thompson, Inside the lonely and violent world of the Yard's elite undercover unit, The Observer, 14 March 2010 (accessed March 2018)
- Quote from an interview by operation Herne, in Mark Ellison, the Stephen Lawrence Independent Review, 6 March 2014, p.211 (accessed March 2018)
- 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: 'Minded to' note 3, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 15 January 2018 (accessed 15 January 2018)
- 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 5, 27 March 2018 (accessed 29 March 2018)
- Press notice - ‘Minded-to’ anonymity: Special Demonstration Squad Officers (HN13, HN296, HN304, HN339, HN340, HN354, HN356/124, HN61, HN819, HN109, HN9, HN66), Undercover Policing Inquiry, 15 January 2018 (accessed 15 January 2018)
- Press notice - Publication of documents relating to Special Demonstration Squad anonymity applications for hearing on 21 March 2018, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 5 March 2018 (accessed 5 March 2018).
- Counsel to the Inquiry's Explanatory note to accompany the 'Minded-To' Note (2) in respect for restrictions over the real and cover names of officers of the Special Operations Squad and the Special Demonstration Squad, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 14 November 2017 (accessed 15 November 2017).
- Draft Transcripts hearing 21 March 2018, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 21 March 2018, p.50 (accessed 22 March 2018)
- For correspondence between Peter Taylor of the BBC and the Metropolitan Police, see True Spies - Story and Maya Sikands submission at the Inquiry's hearing 21 March 2018, Draft Transcripts hearing 21 March 2018, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 21 March 2018, p.50-52 (accessed 22 March 2018)