Desmond 'Barry' Loader (alias)

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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 police officers
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Alias: Barry / Desmond Loader
Deployment: 1975-1978
Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist)

++Last Updated October 2020++

Desmond 'Barry' Loader is the cover name used by a former Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) undercover officer who was deployed into the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) from 1975 to 1978.[1] For the purposes of the Undercover Policing Inquiry and Operation Herne he is also referred to by the cipher HN13. (for the N cipher system see under N officers).

Inquiry Chair, Sir John Mitting, has ruled that the officer's real name will be restricted in the Inquiry. [2]
Loader was twice prosecuted for public order offences in his cover name and convicted once. Using a false name in court is one of the issues that brought about the public inquiry.[3] Despite this, the Inquiry Chair, John Mitting, stated that there is no known allegation of misconduct during the deployment. The officer is deceased.[4]

We are grateful to Michael Chant, current General Secretary of the RCPB (M-L)[5] for his help with this profile[6]

The Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist)

The CPE-ML had its origins in the Sussex University-based English Student Movement, part of the Hardial Bains-inspired tendency known as the Internationalists; and it formed following their Necessity For Change conference in 1967.[7] The RCPB (M-L) had a modest membership – and never aimed to be a mass membership organisation. It also had a number of ‘front’ organisations including the ‘South London People's Front, the East London People’s Front and the Progressive Cultural Association.[8]

In 1970, the English Internationalists were renamed the English Communist Movement (Marxist-Leninist) and in 1972 the group founded the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist). In the 1970's it adopted a Maoist stance,[9] alongside its Marxist-Leninist orientation.

In 1972, an important facet of the party was 'the struggle of the Irish people for freedom and independence, and activists were distributing and collecting signatures for a petition as part of this work'.[10]

Around this time, the CPE (M-L) had members across the UK they were centered around South and East London, although they also had a significant presence in Birmingham.[8]

The successor party to the CPE, the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) were later infiltrated by another SDS officer Malcolm Shearing (alias) between 1981 and 1985.

Confrontations with the Police

In the 1970s, members of the CPE had several encounters with uniformed police. While none of these incidents are directly connected to the undercover policing deployments, they would have likely raised the group's profile as far as the police - and specifically Special Branch - were concerned.

Party comrades who were leafleting were 'brutally attacked' whilst by the police at a demonstration in East Street market in South East London in 1972.[11] Several received prison sentences.[11] Prominent experimental musician and party member Cornelius Cardew's song/piano piece 'Four Principles on Ireland' was inspired by this local confrontation.[11]

Later in 1972, according to rival Marxist party, the Communist Party of Britain (who was lead by Reg Birch) :[12][13]

Last December [in 1972] some supporters of the Communist Party of England (Marxist‐Leninist) were attacked by the London police and planted with drugs, ammunition, explosives and have been committed to trial at the Old Bailey on concocted charges. Comrade [redacted name], an active supporter of the Communist Party of England (Marxist‐Leninist), is at present serving a five-year sentence on concocted charges of 'malicious wounding' and 'assault'.

A report from the time gives some more details on the attending court case and sentencing:[14]

Screenshot from a film about CPE member Cornelius Cardew - 'The Content of Our Song'. Later clips of the film show rough arrests of party supporters on this demonstration in East London, 1978
In January 1974, four members of the party were found guilty of possession of petrol bombs and assaulting police. [redacted name], [redacted name], [redacted name] received 12-month sentences for possession of petrol bombs and [redacted name] a six-month suspended sentence. They were also fined for assaulting police.[14]

This was a result of a police raid on a 'house used by comrades and fabricated evidence'.[8]

Also in 1973/74, several party members were arrested for the (and according to the CPE, again, fabricated) charge of the theft of roof lead, after their car was stopped on Queens Town Road, Battersea.[8][10]

No Platform and Anti-Fascism

In the 1970s across higher education campuses, students launched a number of protests at right-wing and fascist speakers. These incidents in the early 1970s were a 'prelude' to what became known as 'No Platforming' such speakers.[15]

One incident allegedly involved student members of the CPE from Birmingham and elsewhere:[15] :

On 8 May 1973, the psychologist Hans Eysenck, whose theories were rooted in the controversial theory of eugenics, attempted to deliver a lecture at the London School of Economics, but faced heavy protests from students. A group of Maoists stormed the stage and assaulted Eysenck.

The CPE (M-L) was also vocal and active in broader anti-fascist politics during the 1970s and early 1980s at a time when National Front was a significant force on the street and sometimes at the ballot box. During this time the NF was successfully challenged on the street by a variety of anti-fascist groups.

In 1974, they were also present at the Red Lion Square counter-fascist demo during clashes between anti-fascists and the police took place. During this violent confrontation, one protester Kevin Gately received severe head injuries from which he died.[16][17] Members of the party also gave evidence at the subsequent public inquiry into the incident - which was chaired by Lord Scarman.[10][18]

Leaflet from Battersea CPE issued at the time of Red Lion square and Gately's death

Commensurate with significant anti-fascist activity, there was a probable fascist attack on the election headquarters of the South London People’s Front (SLPF) in the 1978 Lambeth Central by-election.[10]

Court Cases and Undercovers

As mentioned, Loader was twice prosecuted for public order offences in his cover name and convicted once.[2] This could mean that anyone else arrested and convicted alongside him has an unsafe conviction.

Court cases where undercover officers used their cover names in British courts of law might mean that genuine activist's convictions are unsafe. Further, undercover officers acting as 'agent provocateurs', or being privy to legally privileged information may also make convictions unsafe. In fact, this is one of the many issues being investigated by the Undercover Policing Inquiry and has been (and still are) subject to review by the court of appeal and other bodies.

This issue was initially brought to light by the Ratcliffe Power station case (where 10 convictions were overturned and another related prosecution discontinued)[19][20][21] and the Ellison Review[22] which found:[23]

[...] that the SDS operated as if exempt from the proper rules of disclosure in criminal cases, and that there is real potential for miscarriages of justices to have occurred. In particular, Ellison says that there is an inevitable potential for SDS officers to have been viewed by those they infiltrated as encouraging and participating in criminal behaviour. He [Ellison] refers to officers in criminal trials failing to reveal their true identities, meaning that crucial information that should have been disclosed was not given to the defence and the court; and he finds that undercover officers sometimes failed to correct evidence given in court which they knew was wrong.

A review undertaken by the Criminal Case Review Commission[24] in 2017/18 found 19 cases which involved 84 convicted individuals, they were only able to trace a single defendant who did not wish to pursue an appeal.[25][26]

One further conviction was overturned in 2014, that of John Jordan. In August 1996, undercover police officer Jim Boyling, Jordan and other campaigners were arrested and charged with a public order offence after occupying a government office. The Crown Prosecution Service refused to give the reason why the conviction was quashed.[27]

Two cases both involving animal rights activist Geoff Sheppard are ongoing. One where spycop Bob Lambert is accused of setting fire to a Debenhams store, an action for which Sheppard was jailed[28][29] and the other where undercover Matt Rayner encouraged Sheppard to buy a shotgun, for which Sheppard was also sent to prison.[30]

Loader: Description, Personality and Activities

Desmond ‘Barry’ Loader is recalled by party members, although with very little detail. He was known as ‘Barry’ rather than 'Desmond'. One firmly held recollection from those around at the time - and at odds with the Inquiry’s deployment dates - is that he did not appear until 1978. This was at election hustings in for the constituency of central Lambeth where Stuart Monro stood for the party under ‘South London People’s Front’.[8]

Michael Chant, commented on Loader's infiltration:[10]

In the Lambeth Central by-election of 1978, Stuart Monro stood as a candidate representing the South London People’s Front, supported by CPE(ML). A campaign centre was set up in a private house in Stockwell, where mailing out of election leaflets, organising of canvassers, and other activities took place. It was only at this time that Barry Loader [...] appeared and offered to help. Given he had no known links to any progressive activity and his general bearing, he was immediately suspected of being an undercover policeman. However, following Lenin’s dictum to put suspected spies to useful, but not compromising work, he was assigned to washing-up duties in the kitchen, large-scale cooking being required to feed the election volunteers. Loader carried out his duties diligently, but was not invited to any discussions or to participate in any planning activities. When the election period ended, he disappeared, and a visit to the address he had given revealed only an empty bed-sit.

In the Undercover Policing Inquiry

  • 22 Nov 2018: any application for anonymity to be submitted by 30 November for the MPS Legal Team and by 4 December 2017 for the MPS Designated Lawyer Team.[31]
  • Jan 2018: Mitting is minded to grant restriction order over the real name; there was no application in relation to cover name.[32] The Chair noted that HN13 is survived by a widow, now in her early 70s, who claims her husband was assured life-long confidentiality and would not have become an undercover officer otherwise. She wishes that her husband's memory, she and her family should be left in peace, and that a restriction order is granted in both real and cover names. Mitting however notes there is a 'sterile corridor' preventing HN13's real name from being discovered from his cover name and even if it was breached the risk to the widow etc. is negligible. This is no good reason preventing the publishing of the cover name. As some risk of interference in the private life of the widow, if the real name is published, that shall be restricted.[4]
  • 24 July 2018: cover name released.[1]
  • 13 September 2018: following responses to the 'Minded To', open material relating to the publication of the real name will be published, with date for responding.[33]
  • 2 October 2018: the open application applied for by the Metropolitan police to restrict HN13's real name was released,[34] with a deadline for responses give as 23 October.[35]
  • 8 November 2018: Mitting makes the ruling that the officer's real name will be restricted for the purposes of the Inquiry, saying:[2]
Publication of the real name of HN13 will not assist the Inquiry to get the truth of his deployment or about undercover deployments generally. I have explained the harm which would be caused by publication to his widow and children in the 'minded to' note of 15 January 2018. I do not resile from the conclusions there expressed.
The Restriction order was made public on 23 October 2020.[36][37]
  • 9 September 2020: The Undercover Policing Inquiry stated in a provisional list of witnesses for Tranche 1, phase two, that documentary evidence regarding HN13 will come under consideration. This is scheduled to take commence on 25 January 2021.[38]


  • The RCPB (M-L) website ( has a online archive of more recent Workers Weekly's and background to the party and its work.
  • This profile also used both primary and secondary sources from historian Evan Smith's blog and other writings: New Historical Express.


  1. 1.0 1.1 20180724_UCPI_to_all_CPs_publishing_HN13_CP20_RLR16', Undercover Policing Inquiry, 24 July 2018 referencing an update of the page
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Sir John Mitting, Applications for restriction orders in respect of the real and cover names of officers of the Special Demonstration Squad and Special Duties Squad Ruling 13, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 8 November 2018.
  3. Rob Evans and Paul Lewis,Met chief says officers' use of fake identities in court was not illegal 27 October 2011 (accessed 22 July 2020).
  4. 4.0 4.1 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 3, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 15 January 2018.
  5. In 1979, the Communist Party of England (M-L) was renamed the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain.
  6. Note: Unusually for the profiles, we are reliant on just a single primary source: Michael Chant, and limited secondary materials which Michael doubts the accuracy and veracity of. The party's archives for this period are currently unavailable due to Corvid restrictions.
  7. Richard Daly, Looking Back on Necessity for Change Conference, Celebration of 50th Anniversary of Historic Necessity for Change Conference, 12 November 2017 (accessed 4 July 2020).
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Undercover Research Group, Interview with Michael Chant, 13 July 2020 .
  9. Note: The current party General Secretary, states that it never a 'Maoist' party (although others described them so) but did 'adopt Mao Zedong thought' before later rejecting it.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 email from Michael Chant to Undercover Research Group, 8 September 2020.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Corneilus Cardew undated (accessed 20 July 2020).
  12. Who is the Real Cause of 'Violence' and 'Terror' in England and Ireland? Worker’s England Daily News Release, 4 September 1973 (accessed 4 July 2020, via Marxists online).
  13. Note: also cited (with more details) in: Peter Shipley, Revolutionaries in Modern Britain 1976 (accessed 4 July 2020).
  14. 14.0 14.1 Peter Shipley, Revolutionaries in Modern Britain 1976 (accessed 4 July 2020) pp.160.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Evan Smith, No Platform: A History of Anti-Fascism, Universities and the Limits of Free Speech, pp65-75 Routledge, 2020.
  16. Nigel Copsey, Anti-Fascism in Britain, p.120 Palgrave Macmillan, 2000.
  17. Evan Smith, Red Lion Square and the Death of Kevin Gately, New Historical Express (website), 15 June 2013 (accessed 14 September 2020).
  18. Scarman Inquiry into Red Lion Square Disorders: Minutes, Evidence and Papers HO233, 1974-1975 (accessed 14 September 2020).
  19. Dónal O’Driscoll, Operation Aeroscope - A Re-examination Undercover Research Group, 7 November 2018 (accessed 22 September 2020).
  20. Home Secretary announces terms of reference for undercover policing inquiry 16 July 2015 (accessed 22 September 2020).
  21. Note a further case also involving Mark Kennedy - Drax Coal Train - resulted in a further 29 defendants having their convictions quashed. See: Rob Evans,Drax protesters' convictions quashed over withheld evidence of police spy 21 January 2014 (accessed 20 October 2020).
  22. Mark Ellison,Stepen Lawrence Independent Review Hansard, 6 March 2014 (accessed 25 September 2020).
  23. The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May)Ellison Review House of Commons Hansard, 6 March 2014 (accessed 25 September 2020).
  24. Note the Criminal Case Review Commission is the statutory body responsible for referring miscarriages to the court of appeal. In 2018 a report found that it was 'not fit for purpose'. See: Eric Allison, Simon Hattenstone and Owen Bowcott Miscarriages of justice body is not fit for purpose, lawyers say The Guardian, 30 May 2018 (accessed 25 September 2020).
  25. CCRC Annual Report 2018 (accessed 22 September 2020).
  26. Note: A similar review also was conducted by the Attorney General. See:Impact of Undisclosed Undercover Police Activity on the Safety of Convictions Report to the Attorney General Crown Prosecution Service (via March 2019 (accessed 22 September 2020 and Rob Evans,Prosecutors forced to admit covert operation caused miscarriage of justice The Guardian, 24 September 2014 (accessed 22 September 2020).
  27. Rob Evans,Prosecutors forced to admit covert operation caused miscarriage of justice 24 September 2014 (accessed 20 October 2020).
  28. Rob Evans, Activists to appeal against convictions over involvement of police spy The Guardian, 7 March 2014 (accessed 22 September 2020).
  29. Note: The internal Metropolitan Police investigation -'Operation Sparkler/Nitrogen' is still in ongoing. See: Lesley Curtis, Final report of Operation Sparkler/ Operation Nitrogen, whatdotheyknow (website), 17 October 2019 (accessed 25 September 2020).
  30. Rob Evans, UK undercover officer accused of encouraging activist to buy shotgun The Guardian, 15 July 2020 (accessed 22 September 2020).
  31. 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, 22 November 2017 (accessed 26 November 2017).
  32. Press notice - ‘Minded-to’ anonymity: Special Demonstration Squad Officers (HN13, HN296, HN304, HN339, HN340, HN354, HN356/124, HN61, HN819, HN109, HN9, HN66), Undercover Policing Inquiry, 15 January 2018.
  33. 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.
  34. Department of Legal Services, Open application for a restriction order (anonymity) re: HN13, Metropolitan Police Service, 29 November 2017 (accessed via
  35. Sir John Mitting, Restriction Order Applications by HN4, HN13, HN25, HN30, HN33, HN82, HN96. HN200 and HN304, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 2 October 2018.
  36. Email to core participants, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 23 October 2020.
  37. Sir John Mitting, Restriction Order - HN13, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 8 November 2018 (published on 23 October 2020).
  38. 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.