HN17 is the cipher given to a former Special Demonstration Squad undercover officer who was deployed into right wing groups in some period during the last 15 years of the SDS's existence, probably mid/early 1990s. The Undercover Policing Inquiry has ruled that both NH17's real and covers names will be restricted.
For the N cipher system see N officers page.
As an SDS officer
Had been a Special Branch officer prior to joining the SDS, not knowing of the unit's existence until being approached to join. Visited at home prior to joining the SDS, when they and their partner were given express assurances their identity would be protected and the as the MPS owed them a duty of care, they would look out for HN17 and their family. HN17 also stated:
- Once I joined the unit, there was a significant time spent building up a legend, testing it and ensuring that it was secure, which all reinforced the secretive nature of our details and the work that we were doing. I understood that my cover name, my real name and the work done would all be kept confidential.
According to risk assessment conducted in relation to the Undercover Policing Inquiry, 'N17 described the SDS managers as generally very good, but there was little operational support. However, in their impact statement, HN17 says that they did not feel supported following their deployment.
Again, according to the risk assessment, those infiltrated by HN17 had a potential for 'exacting violence on others'. There were also photos of the undercover during their deployment likely to be in existence. HN17 was arrested on at least one occasion and convicted. In his March 2018 ruling, Mitting writes that 'On the information currently available, there was in fact only one arrest.'
Mark Ellison's Independent Stephen Lawrence Review references HN17 as someone mentioned by Bob Lambert as a contemporary of Peter Francis (early/mid 1990s) and as having infiltrated far right groups (Ellison, p. 214).
In the Undercover Policing Inquiry
HN17 cooperated with the Risk Assessor (Duncan Hodge), who found that the risk to HN17 if real or cover name was released as to be 'high' with a 'serious' impact, due to the nature of the groups infiltrated. HN17 also argued that if there cover name was released, it was likely their real name would also be discovered, something the assessor agreed with.
On 17 November 2017, the Inquiry Chair, John Mitting, indicated he was minded to restrict both the real and cover name of HN17, stating:
- HN17 is no longer a serving police officer. HN17 was deployed against a number of groups in the last 15 years of the existence of the SDS. If the true identity were to be discovered by members of them HN17 would be at real risk of serious violence by them or their associates. Nothing in the nature of the deployment or of what is known of HN17’s conduct of it could justify running that risk.
- For reasons which can only be, and are, explained in the closed note accompanying these reasons, publication of the cover name would be likely eventually to lead to the discovery of the real name. That is not a risk which I am prepared to run. Even if Article 3 of the European Convention is not, on the facts, engaged, Article 8 is; and the interference with HN17’s right to respect for private and family life which would be occasioned by both the risk and occurrence of violence would not be justified under Article 8(2).
- Careful thought will, in the future, need to be given to the manner in which the evidence of HN17 will be received by the Inquiry.
This provisional ruling is repeated in a press release of 5 March 2018, which notes the application is to be heard at the hearing of 21 March 2018. The application is schedule to be heard on 21 March 2018.
On 27 March 2018, Mitting ruled that neither real or cover name can be published. In explaining why, Mitting repeated the arguments made in his 'Minded to' note, cited above.
In this ruling, Mitting cites the submission of Phillippa Kaufmann QC on HN17, about investigating convictions without the help of those convicted:'
- She asks rhetorically, how the Inquiry can investigate the possibility that HN17 was an agent provocateur "without hearing from those convicted". The implicit suggestion behind her question is that the publication of the cover name of HN17 will prompt at least some of them to come forward. On the information currently available, this is very unlikely. With or without publication of the cover name, the Inquiry will, if it deems it necessary, look into the convictions on the basis of information contained in surviving SOS files and, if available, accessible public records.
Inquiry documents: Application for restriction order over real and cover names made in October 2017. Application (24 Oct 2017), Personal statement (22 Sept 2017) and Risk Assessment (8 Nov 2017), Medical report (gisted)
- 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.
- 'HN17', Personal Impact Statement, Metropolitan Police Service, 22 Sept 2017 (accessed via ucpi.org.uk).
- Duncan Hodge, HN17 Open Risk Assessment (Gisted Verison of Closed - Version 2), Metropolitan Police Service, 8 November 2017 (accessed via ucpi.org.uk).
- John Mitting, In the matter of section 19(3) of the Inquiries Act 2005 Application for restriction order in respect of the real and cover names of officers of the Special Operations Squad and the Special Demonstration Squad Ruling 5 , Undercover Policing Public Inquiry (UCPI.org.uk), 3 August 2017 (accessed March 2018).
- Mark Ellison, Possible corruption and the role of undercover policing in the Stephen Lawrence case, Stephen Lawrence Independent Review, Vol. 1, Gov.UK, March 2014
- 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)
- Press notice - Publication of documents relating to Special Demonstration Squad anonymity applications for hearing on 21 March 2018, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 5 March 2018 (accessed 5 March 2018).
- Kate Wilkinson, Counsel to the Inquiry's Explanatory Note to accompany the Chairman's 'Minded-To' Note 5 in respect of applications for restrictions over the real and cover names of officers of the Special Demonstration Squad and the Special Demonstration Squad - Update as at 7th March 2018, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 7 March 2018 (accessed 8 March 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).