Covert Policing Ethics Committee

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This article is part of the Undercover Research Portal at PowerBase - investigating corporate and police spying on activists.

Part of a series on
Undercover Policing Organisations
Covert Policing Ethics Committee
Advisory body concerned with ethical issues in undercover policing
Parent organisations:

The Covert Policing Ethics Committee is a little known, short-lived police organisation that played a role in undercover policing. It appears to have been established in 2008 by Metropolitan Police officer Kevin O'Leary, then Head of Operations for it's Specialist Crime Division and a member of the National Undercover Working Group. At his LinkedIn page, he states as follows:[1]

I created a strategic ethics committee in 2008 to provide an additional layer of governance in the use of intrusive methods of investigation. I recruited academics, lawyers and senior people from NGOs to provide a sounding board for proposed operations, taking external views and feedback on the proportionality of covert policing methods.

According to a freedom of information request, there was only one meeting, which took place on 15 July 2009, and was chaired by Detective Chief Superintendent Alastair Jeffrey, OCU commander for covert policing in the Metropolitan Police.

The Committee's draft terms of reference were:[2]

The committee will serve as an advisory body on the formulation of policies and/or guidelines concerned with ethical issues in covert policing, and:
  • provide a forum for external discussion and sharing of perspectives concerning the use of covert law enforcement tactics.
  • enable external consideration of policies and procedures to facilitate equalities impact assessments.

It is of note that the Committee was set up in the wake of the closing of Special Branch's undercover unit, the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), but before Mark Kennedy was exposed in late 2010. The SDS was folded following an internal reorganisation in 2008, apparently for breaking rules. According to an article in The Guardian, a 2009 internal review indicated there were concerns with the way the SDS had functioned, including that it 'operated without tight controls, ignored ethical issues and gathered information that had no use in fighting crime.'[3] [3]

As a concept, the Covert Policing Ethics Committee seems to have been the predecessor of the National Undercover Scrutiny Panel, founded in 2014.

Associated people

  • Adam Pacifico: member of the Committee in 2009. A barrister since 1991, he 'took a career break and became a serving police officer with the Metropolitan Police' between 1994-1999 'with three years spent on the pro-active covert drugs team'. He would return to being a barrister, with Red Lion Court Chambers, and go on to found a number of businesses related to risk consultancy and training (for details see under Kevin O'Leary).[5]
  • John Adams is Emeritus Professor of Geography at University College London. He is an Honorary Member of the Institute of Risk Management and received it's 2014 lifetime achievement award[6][7] He noted on his personal website that he was a member of the Covert Policing Ethics Committee and that it 'quietly disappeared'.[7] (He lists himself as a member in a speaker's biography in late 2010.[8])

It is of note that O'Leary and Pacifico were also partners in a number of risk management consultancies - see under Kevin O'Leary for more details.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Kevin O'Leary, Profile,, undated (accessed 27 March 2015). Note: this LinkedIn page was updated mid 2015 to remove references to undercover policing, but the version of 27 March 2015 has been archived by the Undercover Research Group.
  2. Damion Baird, Covert Policing Ethics Committee - response to an FOIA request of Peter Salmon, Metropolitan Police Service, 27 August 2015 (accessed 30 August 2015).
  3. Rob Evans, Scotland Yard shut down undercover police unit because it broke rules, The Guardian, 26 July 2015 (accessed 12 September 2015).
  4. Alastair Jeffrey, Profile,, undated (accessed 13 September 2015).
  5. High Stakes Persuasion, The Team, Adam Pacifico profile, corporate website, undated (accessed 21 June 2015).
  6. Institute of Risk Management, Professor John Adams has received the 2014 Institute of Risk Management (IRM) lifetime achievement award, 14 March 2014 (accessed 21 June 2015).
  7. 7.0 7.1 John Adams, About, (personal website), undated (accessed 21 June 2015).
  8. Battle Of Ideas, 2010 Conference: Speaker Detail: John Adams, Institute of Ideas /, 2010 (accessed 21 June 2015).