HN16 / N16 is the cipher given to a former undercover officer with the Special Demonstration Squad.
N16 is a core participant in the Undercover Policing Inquiry and is represented by Slater & Gordon. On 8 December 2017, the Inquiry Chair, John Mitting, granting HN16 anonymity in their real name, but stated their cover name would be released.
According to their Nov 2017 risk assessment, N16 was involved in protection duties before joining the SDS. Initially they performed 'back office' duties and developed their legend before being deployed. They 'did not receive any formal training for the role', and 'preparation consisted of research, reviewing of files and informal contact with more experienced UCOs'. 'N16 had a mentor at the initial stage of the deployment and subsequent support from another SDS officer'. They told the Risk Assessor that promises of anonymity were given. (s.3)
N16 was arrested during their deployment, but the case did not come to trial. They declined to state whether or not they had entered into any relationships during their deployment or whether they had 'engaged in any behaviour that could heighten the risk.'. The gisted version noted: 'The risk assessor expressed concern about another individual who would be impacted if a restriction order was not made.' (s.4) N16 has also been subject of a misconduct investigation. (s.5-7)
Restriction order application
March 2016 application
In March 2016, the legal representative for HN16 (Slater & Gordon) applied to restrict their cover and real name.
March 2016 application material:
In the August 2017 UCPI press release, it was stated that Mitting was considering a closed hearing for HN16 'due to sensitivity of material being considered'. His then Minded-To also stated: "Detailed factors particular to this officer's circumstances require them to be considered at a closed hearing." This closed hearing was to take place after a further risk assessment, to be submitted by 1 September 2017 - the Inquiry was awaiting the awaiting the final risk assessment from the MPS before the open versions of all documents were to be published, though some documents were previously published in March 2016.
- Publication of the cover name of HN16 is necessary to afford an opportunity to any individual who may have had an intimate relationship with HN16 under the cover name to provide information and evidence about it to the Inquiry. [emphasis added] This involves a small risk of significant interference with the right to respect for private and family life of HN16, if it leads to the revelation of the real name of HN16. Nevertheless, it is necessary to permit the Inquiry to fulfil its terms of reference to take that risk and proportionate to do so. On the basis of the information presently known to the Inquiry, and if no plausible evidence of such a relationship is forthcoming, publication of the real name of HN16 would neither be necessary for that purpose, nor proportionate nor otherwise justified.
The accompanying press release noted also:
- The undercover police deployments of all three of these individuals [HN16, HN26, HN81] are of real interest to the Inquiry and the Chairman is of the view that there is no means of getting to the truth without the cover names being made public.
Unreleased by the Inquiry was a closed note from Mitting 'which sets out in detail the reasons for refusing the application for a restriction order in respect of the cover name.' See also the NPSCP submissions of 5 October 2017.
The further material was released on 15 November 2017, including the MPS risk assessment.
The risk assessment noted that N16 had declined to meet his first assigned risk assessor, Kevin Shanahan but did provide material via his solicitors. He did meet with a new risk assessor, David Reid, but did not answer all questions. N16 has highlighted his perceptions of the risk they face if his details are released; Reid agrees with some but not all of these views. (s.10) N16 did not 'reveal any ongoing psychological issues and declined to provide [Reid] with any information in respect of counseling or psychological support. (s.16)
It stated, in gisted form that:
- Section 17: ...The risk assessor accepts that a number of the individuals N16 reported on during the course of N16s' deployment are violent, or linked to others known to be violent.
- Section 18: ... the substance of N16's evidence will betray N16's identity. In the context of the risk assessment, the risk assessor considered the giving of evidence in private to be the best means of managing the risk to N16.
Section 19 noted that in terms of risk if N16's cover name was released, the risk of attack was assessed as 'low' (2) (i.e. unlikely), though close to 'medium', but it was one of those cases were relying entirely on a numerical score was problematic. The likely impact was harder to assess, as some of the targeted individuals were likely to have a sense of betrayal, and also a history of violence which 'could foreseeably manifest into a physical attack against N16'. Thus, the impact was classed as 'moderate' (3), giving overall risk as 6.
The likelihood of physical attack if real identity confirmed was increased to medium ('probability of the risk occurring could reasonably be foreseen and is considered distinctly possible to occur at some stage'), increasing overall risk score to 9.
In relation to impact on family life:
- The risk assessor believes that on balance that the risk of interference with N16's family and private life is higher than the risk of physical assault, but does not dismiss the latter. The risk assessor assesses the likelihood of interference with N16's personal and family life if only N16's cover identity was known as medium (3). The risk assessor considers that the exposure of N16's deployment would have a significant impact on N16's career and future career prospects. The risk assessor assesses the likely impact as the upper levels of the 'moderate' category (3). This is defined as requiring "additional support, 'target hardening' at their address, or cause real anxiety within their family or close friends".
It is not explained how or why this increased risk would be higher given that this refers to only their cover name.
The risk assessor is much more concerned for interference in family / private life if the real name was to be released, simply because 'the likelihood of interference... must logically be greater if N16's real name was known other than in the circumstances above when only a pseudonym or cypher was known. The risk assessor considers this risk more likely than that of a physical attack'. He thus assesses the risk as 'high' (4), i.e. probable to occur at some stage, though it is not clear where the source of this risk is perceived. Thus the overall risk here is classed as 12.
November 2017 application
- HN16 - further written statement to Inquiry (16 October 2017) - fully gisted, answering three questions from the Inquiry 'arising from the circumstances of HN16's deployment as an undercover officer.
- N16 - Risk Assessment (David Reid, 10 November 2017, mostly gisted) - this is the third version as Kevin Shanahan no longer employed for such assessments, with David Reid taking over from him.
- HN16 - further written statement to Inquiry (28 April 2016) - fully gisted, which 'outlines HN16's views on possible routes by which HN16's identity may be revealed.
- N16 Medico-legal psychiatric report (Dr Walter Busuttil, 6 March 2017) - fully gisted, concluding that 'should N16's undercover and true identity be revealed medical issues will become more severe'.
- N16 Second Additional Statement in Support of Anonymity (15 June 2017) - fully gisted, setting out 'N16's concerns as to the impact on current and future employment should his cover or real identity be revealed'.
- HN16 - further written submissions to Inquiry in support of restriction order application (11 October 2017) - partial release. The Chair has written to N16 seeking to 'clarify the basis of the application for the restriction order being sought. N16 replied saying it was on basis of:
- (i) a real and immediate risk of physical harm
- (ii) a real risk of harassment falling short of physical harm
- (iii) a real risk of loss of N16s employment and reputation
- (iv) a real risk of harassment or even physical harm to N16's immediate family.
- The gisted version of this document also notes that it makes supporting submissions 'regarding the threats resulting from public campaigns' and references 'a bundle of press articles to demonstrate types of direct action which have blighted the lives and careers of those affected in recent years.' This is presumably the S&G Media Coverage Bundle also released in the November documents. The further written submissions also touch on the various other issues such as the public interest in their case, the risk of 'jigsaw' identification, possible harm under Article 8, possible harm to third parties and effectiveness or otherwise of possible mitigation measures.
Minded-to & Ruling of December 2017
Inquiry Chair, John Mitting, consistently indicated that he was minded to release HN16's cover name, but restrict their real name. This was set out in his initial Minded-To note on this application (Oct 2017) and followed on from a closed hearing.
HN16's open application was heard at the hearing of 21 November 2017 and on 5 December 2017, Mitting granted a ruling that there would be a restriction order for HN16's real name, but not their cover name. This was on the grounds that HN16's cover name was all that was required to fulfil the Inquiry's purposes, though if relevant wrong-doing came to light during their deployment, a case to release the real name could be made.
In granting this order, Mitting stated:
- I do not accept that publication of the real name of HN16 is necessary at this stage to fulfil any of those purposes [factors in favour of openness]. What is essential is publication of the cover name. Members of the public who new HN16 when deployed as an undercover officer
The matter of HN16's economics situation and how much could be said about it was raised by the non-police/state core participants in their general submissions of 11 January 2018. and responded to in the Counsel to the Inquiry's note of 31 January 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: Ruling, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 5 December 2017 (accessed 9 December 2017).
- David Reid, N16 - Risk Assessment (mostly gisted), Metropolitan Police Service, 10 November 2017 (accessed via UCPI.org.uk).
- Press Release: 'Minded to' note, ruling and directions in respect of anonymity applications relating to former officers of the Special Demonstration Squad, Undercover Policing Public Inquiry (UCPI.org.uk), 3 August 2017 (accessed 3 August 2017).
- 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 Public Inquiry (UCPI.org.uk), 3 August 2017 (accessed 5 August 2017).
- 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 Public Inquiry (UCPI.org.uk), 3 August 2017 (accessed 5 August 2017).
- Supplementary ‘Minded to’ note on anonymity, updated and additional hearing dates, directions to the Metropolitan Police Service, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 23 October 2017 (accessed 23 October 2017 via UCPI.org.uk).
- Sir John Mitting, Supplementary 'Minded-To', Undercover Policing Inquiry, 23 October 2017 (accessed 23 October 2017 via UCPI.org.uk).
- 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).
- Phillippa Kaufmann, QC & Ruth Brander, Submissions on behalf of the Non-Police, Non-State Core Participants re the Chairman's 'Minded To' note dated 23 October 2017 concerning restriction order applications, 6 November 2017 (accessed 3 February 2018 via UCPI.org.uk).
- Maya Sikand Submissions on behalf of Peter Francis re The Chairman's Supplementary 'Minded To' note dated 23 October 2017 re restriction order applications, 6 November 2017 (accessed via UCPI.org.uk 3 February 2018).
- Transcript of hearing of 21 November 2017, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 21 November 2017.
- Phillippa Kaufmann, QC & Ruth Brander, Non-police, non-state core participants response to consultation on disclosure in the context of SDS anonymity applications, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 11 January 2018.
- David Barr, QC & Kate Wilkinson, Counsel to the Inquiry's note on the future approach to the publication of open evidence in support of key anonymity applications, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 31 January 2018 (accessed 3 February 2018 via UCPI.org.uk).