N81 in the Undercover Policing Inquiry
The spying on the Stephen Lawrence campaigns during the Macpherson Inquiry has been recognised by the Undercover Policing Inquiry as one of the key aspects for it to look into. As such, the role played by N81 / HN81 is central to that investigation. However, the extent to which this can be done in public has been contested by HN81 and the Metropolitan Police. This page sets out what is in the public domain regarding the officer's interactions with the Inquiry.
N81 is a core participant at the Undercover Policing Inquiry where he is represented by Slater & Gordon. At some point the Inquiry revised how it designated police officers, moving from N-number ciphers to HN, the H presumably standing for Operation Herne which was investigating the activities of the Special Demonstration Squad.
Restriction order applications
In March 2016 N81's lawyers submitted applications for restriction orders that would prevent the inquiry from publicly releasing both N81's real and cover names, one of a number of such applications by former undercover officers. However, changing procedures, particularly around the production of risk assessments by the MPS resulted in the process being delayed and new applications being resubmitted.
A revised application with supporting material from the lawyers and the Metropolitan Police was submitted in response, with open versions being made public on the 3 August 2017. The application continued to maintain both the cover name and real name be kept secret. That month, the new Inquiry Chair, John Mitting directed that a closed session hearing would be held over whether N81's cover name should be released or not 'due to sensitivity of material being considered', This closed hearing would be directed to:
- (a) to evaluate the extent and nature of the risk to HN81 and HN81’s partner;
- (b) to explore the means by which they can be protected from that risk if the cover name is disclosed; and
- (c) if the risk cannot be taken, to explore the steps which can be taken to permit the issues identified in the open ‘Minded to’ note of reasons to be fully investigated by the Inquiry.
It was desired that N81 attends the hearing, but it was not ordered; while if the MPS or N81 wanted to submit additional material, it had to be provided to the Inquiry no later than 17 August 2017. The chair stated at the time:
- One of the reasons for setting up the Inquiry was to investigate these issues. I can at present see no means of resolving disputed questions of fact about them without the cover name of HN81 being published. One of the issues which I may have to determine is whether or not the group against which HN81 was deployed was steered towards the Lawrence family campaign by HN81. For others to be able to give evidence about that issue, they would have to know the cover name. HN81 is understandably concerned that revelation of the cover name may lead to the identification of the real name. This has had, and continues to have, an impact on HN81’s mental health. According to Dr Walter Busuttil, a consultant psychiatrist, in a report dated 15 February 2017, the impact has been significant and will be severe if the cover name is disclosed. HN81’s situation has also had an impact on the health and well-being of HN81’s partner. Their right to respect for their private and family life, including health and personal integrity, under Article 8 of the European Convention will be infringed unless the interference is justified under Article 8(2). The issue is both important and difficult. I propose, therefore, to take the exceptional course of conducting a closed hearing at which I can receive representations by or on behalf of HN81 and discuss possible means of reconciling HN81’s legitimate interests with those of the Inquiry. If necessary, I will thereafter invite representations from non-state core participants, if necessary at an open hearing. Closed reasons supplement this paragraph.
In his October 2017 Supplementary 'Minded-To', Mitting wrote:
- Following the closed hearing on 10 October 2017 I am minded to make a restriction order under section 19(3) of the Inquiries Act 2005 in respect of the real name of HN81 and to refuse the application in respect of the cover name.
- The Inquiry cannot fulfil its terms of reference on a critical issue – the alleged infiltration of the Lawrence family campaign and the intelligence gathered and reported upon it by undercover police officers, in particular HN81 – unless the cover name is published. It is essential that members of the group against which HN81 was deployed and others in the Lawrence family campaign should be able to give evidence about HN81’s actions. They cannot sensibly be expected to do so unless they know who HN81 was in the name by which HN81 was known to them. It is likely that this decision will have an adverse impact on HN81’s mental health and so interfere with the right to respect for the family and private life of HN81 and HN81’s partner. I am satisfied that the interference is justified under Article 8(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights (‘the European Convention’) because of the compelling public interest in getting to the truth about HN81’s deployment. Publication of the real name of HN81 by the Inquiry is not necessary to permit the terms of reference of the Inquiry to be fulfilled. Given that it is not necessary, it would be disproportionate to do so.
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.
Unpublished close reasons were also issued setting reasons out in greater detail for this proposed approach. Mitting also stated:
- If the decision proposed is made, neither the cover name of HN81 nor the name of the group against which HN81 was deployed will be published immediately, to permit steps to be taken to mitigate the impact on HN81’s mental health.
HN81's application was heard at the hearing of 21 November 2017, where it was noted that there were significant mental health issues to be considered in relation to HN81 and their partner. The Metropolitan Police said it would not protect its own interest in this matter by resisting the release of the cover name. Mitting ruled on 5 December that the officer's cover name would be released, though their real name would be restricted. In this he followed his reasons as set out in his minded-to note of 23 October. Publication of the real name and the group they targeted would not be done immediately in order to give the officer time to prepare for this. The Restriction Order was published on 8 December 2017.
Restriction order documents
- List of Core Participants (v.19), Undercover Policing Inquiry, 1 August 2017 (accessed 10 December 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).
- Christopher Pitchford, Order pursuant to the ruling of 2 May 2017 granting an extention of time for service of anonymity applications by the Metropolitan Police Service in respect of the Special Demonstration Squad, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 18 May 2017.
- 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 Directions (Directions arising out of the 'Minded-To'), Undercover Policing Public Inquiry (UCPI.org.uk), 3 August 2017 (accessed 5 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).
- Sir John Mitting, Supplementary 'Minded-To', Undercover Policing Inquiry, 23 October 2017 (accessed 23 October 2017 via UCPI.org.uk).
- 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).
- Transcript of hearing of 21 November 2017, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 21 November 2017.
- 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).
- John Mitting, Restriction order over the publishing of the real name of HN81, Undercover Public Inquiry, 8 December 2017 (accessed 8 December 2017).