HN23 is the cipher given to a former undercover officer with the Special Demonstration Squad. The Inquiry Chair, Sir John Mitting, has ruled that the real and cover names of the officer will be restricted in its proceedings.
For the N cipher system see N officers page.
As an SDS officer
In the Undercover Policing Inquiry
An application for restriction order over real and cover names was made on 7 August 2017, with supporting evidence being supplied to Inquiry, These were published on 4 January 2018, comprising of Open application for restriction order, Open risk assessment and a heavily redacted Open impact statement.
According to the Inquiry Chair, John Mitting:
- HN23 was deployed against one group and reported on other groups in the 1990s. The nature of the deployment gave rise to risks to HN23's life and safety which, to an extent which cannot be precisely quantified, remain. They are more fully set out in the closed note which accompanies these reasons. Nothing short of anonymity in respect of real and cover name could obviate the risks. I would not be justified in running them. It is unavoidable that the evidence which HN23 can give will be given in a closed session.
The Risk Assessment reveals that N23 is not a core participant in the Inquiry, and that he has previously been the subject of a misconduct investigation, which concluded with no case to answer. He says he has not been in sexual relationships. 'There was always an assumption of anonymity, but never a formal guarantee or assurance.' The increased risk of the cover or real name confirmed is assessed to be 'critical ... resulting in a life threatening injury, and more likely death, and the only security measure left would be immediate extraction and re-location.'
In their Impact Statement, N23 says he is not on any form of social media and has actively avoided being on it as a consequence of his role withing the SDS. He is also trying to prevent any photograph being put online leading back to his family and himself. He is worried the press will turn up, and worried what friends and family will think about the fact that he could not talk about the work he was doing:
- I am worried that they will not understand the reasons for this and will see it as a betrayal which will affect both friendships and relationships with family. Had I believed that there was a risk of my identity becoming known, I would not have taken on the role.
In November 2017, Mitting indicated that he would restrict publication of both real and cover names, saying: Mitting ruled to this effect on 20 February 2018. The restriction order applications were heard in open hearing on 5 February 2018 and on 20 February 2018, Mitting ruled against releasing either cover or real name, stating:
- The nature of the deployment gave rise to risks to HN23's life and safety which, to an extent which cannot be precisely quantified, remain... Nothing short of anonymity in respect of real and cover name could obviate the risks to the life and safety of HN23.
- On my understanding of the law, publication of the cover name would not give rise to an infringement of Articles 2 or 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights ('the European Convention'), but only because the risk is not "real and immediate" or "present and continuing". It is contingent; but if the contingency were to occur, HN23's life and safety would be at risk. For the reasons explained in the closed 'Minded to' note the contingency is real.
The anonymity application was heard at the 5 February 2018 hearing. Material relating to HN23 for this hearing of 5 February 2018 was submitted by the Metropolitan Police, The Guardian, Peter Francis and the NPSCPs.
On 20 February 2018, Mitting ruled that the real and cover names would be restricted.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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 2, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 14 November 2017 (accessed 15 November 2017)
- Graham Walker, HN23 Risk Assessment (open version), Metropolitan Police, 6 October 2017 (accessed 8 March 2018 via ucpi.org.uk).
- 'HN23', HN23 Impact Statement (open version), Metropolitan Police, 7 August 2017 (accessed 8 March 2018 via ucpi.org.uk).
- 15 January 2018 Press notice: Hearing on restriction orders in respect of HN23, HN40, HN241, HN322 and HN348, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 15 January 2018 (accessed 15 January 2018).
- Sir 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 - Ruling, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 20 February 2018 (accessed 4 March 2018).