Barry Tompkins (alias)
HN106 is the cypher given to a former Special Demonstration Squad undercover officer deployed from 1979 to 1983. On the 26 June 2018, the Undercover Policing Inquiry revealed HN106's cover name as 'Barry Tompkins' and that he targeted two groups but only named one of them: The Spartacist League of Britain (SLB). 'Tompkins' is scheduled to give evidence at the Undercover Policing Inquiry in early 2021.
+++++ Last Updated October 2020 +++++
- 1 Targets
- 2 The Unnamed group
- 3 Infiltrating the Spartacist League of Britain?
- 4 Spartacist League Timeline
- 5 International surveillance of associated groups
- 6 In the Undercover Public Inquiry
- 7 Notes
According to the Undercover Policing Inquiry, the undercover officer targeted two groups, naming one of them as 'The Spartacist League of Britain'.
The Spartacist League of Britain
Barry Tompkins is not recalled by any former members of the sole (named) target group of the time 'The Spartacist League of Britain' (SLB).
One former member stated in a letter to the Undercover Policing Inquiry:
- On the record, the inquiry has put out that a police officer using the cover name of Barry Tompkins was a group member for the period 1979 to 1983: the problem we have is that 'Barry Tompkins' was not a member of the group at any time so the public record is already corrupted. It is not a question of lack of memory by members of the group: the SL/B was a small cadre organisation, every member that ever was is known as there was no such thing as a 'fleeting involvement' by any member for any period.
The Unnamed group
As mentioned, according to the Inquiry: 'He was initially deployed against one group, but then on his own ('authorised') initiative, infiltrated another between 1979 and 1983'.
It should be noted that is a supposition based on the scant information that the Inquiry has provided - it is unclear why the name of the first group Tompkins initially infiltrated has not been released.
If the assumption is correct, Tompkins would likely have been around the WSL between 1978 and 1979.
N.B. We are therefore are interested in learning more about these activities. If you think you have anything to add or to correct, get in touch (PGP key available on request).
Workers Socialist League: 1974-1979
The Workers Socialist League (WSL) was a Trotskyist group based in Britain. The group was formed in 1975 by Alan Thornett and other members of the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) after their expulsion from that group in 1974. The WSL was founded in 1975 with a leadership grouped around Thornett, Tony Richardson and John Lister. Terry Eagleton, an eminent academic was also a member. In its first few years, the WSL attempted to capitalise on its existing base in industry and expand outwards from its base in Oxford, with Alan Thornett a senior shop steward at the Cowley Car Plant near Oxford. Cowley was a site of frequent industrial arrest.
At the time, the UK Government was concerned about 'industrial subversion' and formed a secret committee -'Subversion in Public Life' to monitor individuals allegedly involved. Given this preoccupation, the WSL was a more obvious target than the SLB which had no such industrial base. The group had around 150 members at its peak (while the SLB peaked at around 90).
Also in 1975, supporters of the U.S. based Spartacist League formed a group in London with the purpose of engaging other Trotskyite groups in debate. As they shared a common past in the International Committee of the Fourth International they paid great attention to the WSL. As a result in 1977 a group formed within the WSL, known as the Trotskyist Faction. It would leave the WSL in 1978, joining with the London Spartacists to form the Spartacist League.
Infiltrating the Spartacist League of Britain?
As mentioned former members of the SLB are dismissive of the claim that anyone named 'Barry Tompkins' ever belonged to the group:
'Roy', another member also said that to join the SLB a rigorous process had to be completed, including an examination of whether a potential applicants' ideology matched with the groups. For instance, on joining the SLB, a Liverpool cadre went through the following process:
- The comrades' introduction to the politics of the SL included a series of educational classes covering the issues outlined above, as well as an SL national educational weekend school which included a history of the international Spartacist tendency and a discussion on the lessons of the Russian Revolution, in particular the Bolsheviks' struggle to retain state power following the October insurrection.
'Roy', added: 'Did they read much Trotsky in Hendon police school? Because you would need to know how to argue some stuff to get elected into membership'.
Unlike other groups, the SLB did not form coalitions with other organisation or have 'front groups' a common practice within other Trotskyist groups, (for example, the Socialist Workers Party worked through the Anti-Nazi League at the time) The timeline below, largely based on a review of the SLB's main publication Spartacist Britain, demonstrates there were almost continuous regular meetings, debates and courses hosted by the SLB during the infiltration period.
However, if his deployment was limited to attending public events as an audience member, this was a task traditionally fulfilled by a plainclothes officer as part of 'normal' Special Branch duties, rather than a long-term infiltrator.
Reaction from former members of the SLB is mixed: While 'Roy' said the whole 'infiltration' was possibly a fabrication, 'MK' took it more seriously. However, both have questions that they want the Inquiry to answer.
The timeline below has been constructed from issues of the newspaper contemporary with Tompkins's deployment. N.B. If readers know more about the activities of this group, particularly in London, at the time of Tompkins infiltration, please get in contact.
Spartacist League Timeline
- 1964 Spartacist tendency within US SWP expelled.
- 1966 Spartacist Tendency excluded form the 4th International
- 1967 New Zealand Group Started
- 1968 The U.S. based Spartacists formed in 1968.
- 1972 Spartacist League (US) appear on FBI 'ADEX' list of the most dangerous/subversive Americans.
- 1975 Australian Group Started
- 1975-1976 The Spartacists established a presence in London from 1975. From 1975 the US 'Workers Vanguard' has been distributed widely on the British left. In this period the LSGs activity is reported and reflected in that paper.
- 1976-1977 ASIO infiltration of Australasian Group 
- 1977 In 1977, the group was joined by New Zealanders Bill Logan and Adaire Hannah, who had led the Spartacist League of Australia and New Zealand from 1972 to 1977, and who was 'transferred to London at the behest of the Spartacist international leadership' with a view to strengthening the tendency's organisation there.
- 1978 SLB founded: '[...]as a fusion between the London Spartacist Group and the Trotskyist Faction. In April 1978, the first issue of their newspaper Spartacist Britain was published'. They also hold public meeting meetings in London, Oxford and Birmingham. Third issue has letter re-more defections from WSL.
- 1978-1979 Debates in London advertised at Coop Hall, in Finsbury Park on the situation in Iran, 13 December 1978 and a debate with the Revolutionary Communist Tendency at Essex Rd Library in Islington on 12 January 1979.
- Barry Tompkins (HN106) Infiltration Starts
- 1979 Account of attack on Bloody Sunday Anniversary demo by National Front in London. Advertised speaking dates
- 1979 Spartacist League (USA) appears on list of Terrorists in California.
- 1979-1980 Winter issue of SB carries reports of a demo in London (immigration laws) not dated but likely both in December 79'.
- 1980 SLB at London TUC March in March 1980. Also advertised 'public classes' at The Prince Albert Pub~, 37 Wharfdale Rd, Nl (tube Kings X). London on the 2 and 16 April. Confirmation of Leninist Faction fusion with SLB.Debate on Iran (unknown location) organised by the RCT attended by SLB member. Unknown location. Also, meeting advertised for October 24 at Central Library, 68 Holloway Road, London on 24 October. Attended CND demo in October 1980. Weekly Classes on the 'Fundamentals of Marxism' held at North London Polytechnic between 4 November and 2 December.
- 1981 Debate on Feminism at North London Polytechnic on the 27 January 'Smash H Block' public meeting at North London Polytechnic on 7 May. Workers Power defection (Charlie Shell). H-Block Hunger strike demos in London. In October 1981. the Communist Faction of the IMG fuse with BSL.More classes in London on 'basic Marxism' in London.
- 1982 Liverpool cadre joins. El Salvador demo in London. Weekly classes ongoing at Polytechnic of North London. Attendance at Anti-Regan demo in London on 7 June.
- 1983 Meetings.Pro-Kurd demo in London. Meeting on 24 June at Conway Hall, London on South America.Labour Party Conference Demo in October 1983.
- 1983 Barry Tompkins (HN106) Infiltration Ends)
International surveillance of associated groups
It is worth noting that the corresponding groups in other countries were also subject to government surveillance around the time of Tompkin’s supposed infiltration. While it is commonplace for the international counterparts of British groups who were surveilled to also be monitored by their governments, in this instance the relevance is increased as the USA group exerted control over the various groups across the world. This would mean that the monitoring of either the Australian or English group would have likely have captured information emanating from the US.
Surveillance in the United States
The Spartacist League (SL) USA is a splinter or ‘tendency’ from within the American Socialist Workers Party which established itself in 1966. It was a small group, lead and founded by James Robertson. Robertson and others within the US directed activity from afar. This included the movement of members from one continent to another.
The revelation that the Spartacist League US was under surveillance came in 1977, though the documents revealed in the magazine CounterSpy were dated 1972. They appeared on an FBI list of 16 subversive organisations that also included the Black Panthers and Socialist Workers Party. In the article in Workers Vanguard, responding to the revelation, the SL object to their place on the list as they are an open organisation – and are not secretly plotting the overthrow of the US government (see below).
Infiltration in Australia
A known instance of spying by the Australian State has a more solid link with the SDS surveillance in the UK, due to both overlap in time and individuals spied upon.
The Australasian Spartacist group began in New Zealand in 1970 and by 1975 also had a presence in Australia. In June 1977, a student named Janet Langridge who was recruited by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to infiltrate the Spartacists. Like both MI5 and UK’s Special Branch, it had already been infiltrating a multitude of left-wing organisations, placing agents in other groups like the Australian Communist Party and Aboriginal rights groups. Langridge confessed to Spartacists and gave an extensive signed statement.
The Australasian Spartacist reported:
- On Friday, 10 June, the shroud surrounding ASIO's nefarious campaign against the left was pierced again when Janet Langridge, a candidate member of the Spartacist League (SL) since April, voluntarily confessed that she had been a paid agent of ASIO for almost a year. Langridge, 21, was a first-year student at Sydney University and had been a member of the campus Spartacist Club. Together with her boyfriend and accomplice, Mark Tiernan, who was never a member of the SL, Langridge had been submitting reports to ASIO on the Spartacist League since last November. Langridge was expelled by the Spartacist League the same night as she made her confession. The following day Langridge provided further details of her ASIO connections in a taped interview with a solicitor, Tom Kelly, and a Spartacist spokesman.
Almost a year after the letters arrived, Langridge was visited at her flat by two ASIO agents several times and offered a part-time job spying on 'targeted Ieft-wing organisations.
During the period when the news of the infiltration was revealed, Adaire Hannah and Bill Logan were leading the organisation in Australia. During this time, they were transferred to Britain at the behest of the leadership in the U.S. where they joined the nascent London Spartacist Group. It seems possible that as Logan and Hannah were being targeted in Australia, this could be linked to the deployment of Tompkins in London. It is stated by the Inquiry that it was on his 'own initiative' that Tompkins moved groups but this begs the question on what prompted this initiative. However, another more straight forward reason for the infiltration is also possible: that the SLB was a new and growing group at the time.
In the Undercover Public Inquiry
- 11 January 2018, directions issued for any application for restriction orders to be submitted by 30 & 31 January 2018 for MPS and Designated Lawyers Team respectively.
- 29 January 2018: application over real name only made by Metropolitan Police Service.
- 7 March 2018: application to restrict real name only, which Mitting indicated he was minded to restrict, stating
- HN106 is a sexagenarian. He was initially deployed against one group, but then on his own (authorised) initiative, infiltrated another between 1979 and 1983. The deployments are of interest to the Inquiry. Publication of his cover name should permit members of the target groups and others to provide and/or give evidence about them. He was promised lifetime anonymity by senior officers before deployment. This is a factor of some weight in his case. Members of the targeted groups pose no risk to his safety. He is concerned about the possible impact of media intrusion into his life and that of his wider family. Publication of his real name is not necessary to permit the terms of reference of the Inquiry to be fulfilled. His cover name will be published. In those circumstances, effect should be given to the promise made to him; and the interference which would be occasioned by the publication of his real name in his right to respect for private and family life would be neither proportionate justified under Article 8 (2) of the Convention.
- 26 June 2018: details of cover name and target group released.
- 9 July 2018: provisional decision to restrict real name. It was directed that any objections to Mitting's intention to grant the restriction order to be made by 20 July 2018.
- 30 July 2018: final ruling that HN106's real name cannot be published.
- 9 October 2018 : Penal Notice published prohibiting the publication of HN106's real name, or any information which may lead to that.
- 9 September 2020: The Undercover Policing Inquiry stated in a provisional list of witnesses for Tranche 1, phase two, that HN106 will be giving evidence. This is scheduled to take commence on 25 January 2021.
Core Participant Application - Refused
In January 2019, 'Roy', a former member of the SLB applied to be a core participant in the Undercover Policing Inquiry. In the application, he made it clear that no one with the name 'Barry Tompkins' ever belonged to the group. He also said that it would have been possible that someone of that name could have attended public meetings but not in any way be party internal party meetings or other business.
The refusal letter stated:
- The Chairman is not minded to include you as a core participant at this time. His reasons are as follows. Based on what the Inquiry has seen so far, there seems to be very little reporting on the Spartacist League of Britain. It may therefore be that the officer’s involvement with the group was fleeting, in which case it is not altogether surprising that members of the group do not remember him.
The refusal email continued:
- Our investigation into this officer continues. In due course we will send the officer a list of questions to answer, and we intend to publish the intelligence reports relating to the Spartacist League of Britain (assuming that the reports are not subject to any successful restriction order applications). We will keep hold of your details in the meantime and will be in touch again once the investigation has been completed.
Despite the officer only having 'fleeting' involvement with the group, it was announced on 9 September 2020 that 'Barry Tompkins' will be giving evidence at phase 2 of the 1st tranche of the evidential hearings of the UCPI which are due to commence on 25 January 2021.
- Barry Tompkins Undercover Policing Inquiry, via https://twitter.com 26 June 2018 (accessed 21 August 2020).
- 'Roy', email to UCPI, 16 January 2019 (accessed 6 July 2020).
- Email to core participants, '20180626_UCPI_to_all_CPs_publishing_HN80_HN88_HN90_HN106_HN340', Undercover Policing Inquiry, 26 June 2018, referencing update of the webpage UCPI.org.uk/cover-names.
- Undercover Research Group, Interview with 'Roy', February 2019 (accessed 6 July 2020).
- E- mail from 'MK' to Undercover Research Group, 6 November 2018 (accessed 6 July 2020).
- Note: One reason that perhaps weighs against the WSL being the unnamed group, is that their activities were concentrated in Oxford. This is because SDS deployments were principally within London. However, a search of the WSL newspaper of the time: Socialist Press, also illustrated that they had two branches in London. See:Socialist Press Index], Marxism.org undated (accessed 6 October 2020).
- Note: Not the film maker who was in the WRP, but a car maker at Cowley.
- Subversion in Public Life CAB 301/485 Home Office 1986 (accessed 6 July 2020).
- Chris Brian, State Surveillance in 1984 – Union Organising as ‘conspiracy’ Undercover Research Group, 6 January 2020 (accessed 6 July 2020).
- MK, email to Undercover Research Group, 28 October 2020.
- Thirty years of the Spartacist League/Britain Workers Hammer, Summer 2008 (accessed 6 August 2020).
- Spartacist Britain April 1982 (accessed 8 July 2020).
- Email from 'Roy' to Undercover Research Group, 30 September 2020 (accessed 5 October 2020).
- Undercover Research Group, Spartacist Britain: Search. August 2019.
- Note: For a detailed look into standard (non-infiltration) Special Branch operations See a number of articles on: http://specialbranchfiles.uk/ (website).
- Email from 'MK' to the Undercover Research Group, 30 September 2020 (accessed 5 October 2020).
- International Communist League undated (accessed 6 August 2020).
- The Development of Spartacist League Spartacist League of New Zealand, August 1972 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- FBI's HIT List CounterSpy, Volume 3, Issue 2, December 1976 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- Workers Vanguard 1 April 1977 (accessed 6 July 2019).
- ASIO targets Spartacist Australasian Spartacist, 24 June 1977 (accessed 6 August 2019).
- Spartacist Britain April 1978 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain June 1978 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain July-August 1978 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain November 1978 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain January-December 1978/79 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain March 1979 (accessed 7 July 2020)>.
- Spartacist Britain June 1979 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain July 1979 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain February 1982 (accessed 8 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain December 1979-January 1980 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain April 1980 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain May 1980 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain October 1980 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain October 1980 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain February 1981 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain March 1981 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain May 1981 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain June 1981 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain October 1981 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain November 1981 (accessed 7 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain July 1982 (accessed 8 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain December 1982-January 1983 (accessed 8 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain June 1983 (accessed 8 July 2020).
- Spartacist Britain July/August 1983 (accessed 8 June 2020).
- Spartacist Britain December 1983/January 1984 (accessed 8 July 2020).
- Note: The UK Socialist Workers Party was heavily infiltrated, and the British Black Power movement also monitored. See:Timeline of SDS undercover officers Undercover Research Group, June 2018 (accessed 29 September 2020), and Rosie Wild and Eveline Lubbers, Black Power Movement Special Branch Files (website),19 September 2019 (accessed 29 September 2020).
- The Protest Years Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, undated (accessed 12 August 2020).
- Gary Foley, ASIO, THE ABORIGINAL MOVEMENT AND ME, In: Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, edited by Meredith Burgmann, UNSW Press, pp. 91–112, 2014 (accessed 5 October 2020).
- 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, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 11 January 2018.
- Open application for a restriction order (anonymity) re: HN106, Undercover Public Inquiry, 29 January 2018, published 9 July 2018 via ucpi.org.uk.
- 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 Special Demonstration Squad - 'Minded To' Note 5, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 7 March 2018 (accessed 10 March 2018).
- Publication of documents relating to anonymity applications: National Public Order Intelligence Unit & Special Demonstration Squad, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 9 July 2018.
- Sir John Mitting, Applications for restriction orders in respect of real and cover names of officers of the Special Operations Squad and the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit - Directions, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 9 July 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 12 and Ruling 10, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 30 July 2018.
- Sir John Mitting, Penal Notice Undercover Policing Inquiry, 9 October 2018 (accessed 21 August 2020).
- Provisional List of UCOs and Civilians whose evidence is to be considered in Tranche 1 Phase 1 ‘20200908_JW_NPSCP_Response_To_Queries.pdf’, attached to Letter from James Wilson, Inquiry Solicitor to Lydia Dagostino, Coordinator to the Non State Core Participant lawyers, 9 September 2020
- 'Roy', E-mail to UCPI, 14 January 2019 (accessed 6 July 2020).
- Michael Pretorius, E-mail from UCPI to 'Roy', 16 January 2019 (accessed 6 July 2020).
- Provisional List of UCOs and Civilians whose evidence is to be considered in Tranche 1 Phase 2, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 2 September 2020 (accessed 21 September 2020).