HN302 is the cipher given to a former Special Demonstration Squad undercover officer deployed in the 1970s into one group via two other groups, none of which currently exist. They admit a fleeting sexual encounter through one of the latter two groups. Mitting states: The Inquiry Chair, John Mitting, has ruled that for the purposes of the Undercover Policing Inquiry, HN302 will be anonymous, with neither cover or real name to be released on grounds of risk to HN302. However, they had previously appeared in the True Spies documentary under the pseudonym 'Brian'.
- For the N cipher system see N officers page.
+++++ Last Updated 16 March 2021 +++++
As an SDS officer
According to their Impact Statement, HN302 joined Special Branch in the late 1960s and was recruited into SDS by HN294, stating: 'I was primarily involved in [one group] but also attended meetings and protests with other groups with similar ideologies'. They also said 'As was the practice at that time and as I was instructed to do, I adopted the identity of a deceased child. I did not make use of or develop other aspects of the child's background for my covert identity'. They also had a cover job which appears to involve a third party. They also stated:
- I had one sexual encounter at the very beginning of my deployment with a woman who was on the periphery of [group name redacted]. This was not a group that I was deployed in and I did not see her again. I do not recall her name and I would be surprised if she remembers my cover name. I was a single man at the time, both in my real life and as part of my covert identity.
From their risk assessment, HN302 had no formal training as an undercover, or psychometric testing / evaluation. They stated there 'was an unwritten rule that anonymity was assured; to the degree it was implicitly implied'. They were never arrested and HN302 described the deployment as a 'prominent success in the intelligence N302 gathered and passed consistently for an extended period of time to prevent public disorder'. They described the support and welfare provided during the deployment as non-existent.
- My face was not shown and my identity was not revealed during this programme.
On this, the risk assessment noted:
- N302 understood that the documentary had been sanctioned by ACPO-TAM (police senior body) and via the Assistant Commissioner Specialist Operations (ACSO) within the MPS. The content of N302's input was generic and provided little or no detail of the deployment.
They left the SDS early due to ill-health, they believe was linked to stress, and have other medical issues. They also gave evidence in a criminal trial under their real name 'during police work subsequent to [their] time in the SDS'.
The risk assessor found that there was high likelihood of harm and interference in HN302's life, including media attention if real or cover name was released. They also felt there was not a sufficient 'sterile corridor' between the real and cover name, so if the latter was released it would lead to the former.
Appearance in True Spies
The officer, under the alias 'Brian', makes a number of appearances in the first episode of True Spies, the 2002 BBC Two documentary series on the Special Demonstration Squad. The caption says he was 'Metropolitan Police Special Branch, 1968-92'.
On living a new life and adapting a new personality:
- Brian: I adopted the identity of a Londoner who worked in the engineering field. I lived in a small flat and changed my lifestyle to be that person.
- Commentary: For Special Branch officers to blend into the alternative society required a complete makeover job.
- Interviewer: What did you all look like?
- Brian: Grew a beard. Long hair. Outrageous.
Brian confessed that he almost crossed over to the other side, 'going native' in police jargon (the interviewer seems to miss the importance of this confession, focussing on dialectical materialism instead):
- Archive: Singing of Internationale
- Brian: I wouldn't say I became a revolutionary - but certainly there were times when I became very close to being native...
- Archive:“Ho-Ho Ho Chi Minh!”
- Brian: I seemed to develop, take on board the aims and objectives of the people I was infiltrating,
- Interviewer: So you became a Marxist revolutionary?
- Brian:: Yeah.
- Interviewer: Take part in debates?
- Brian: Take part in debates, chair meetings.
- Interviewer: You became an expert on dialectical materialism?
- Brian: Almost. Difficult subject to master.
- Interviewer: But you had to.
- Brian: Yeah, the theory.
- Interviewer: You had to read the books, know the language.
- Brian: Know, the ideology, know the language.
The episode continues to interview Tariq Ali about another undercover, introduced as 'Dan', duplicating the keys of the Black Dwarf office to let others '- presumably MI5 -' intrude the premises. Ali says it's distressing to hear about people you trust, friends 'completely betraying you all the time'. ('Dan' used the cover name Dick Epps and is known in the Inquiry as HN336). True Spies then cuts to Brian who also talks about friendship and betrayal:
- Brian: They would probably feel that I abused the friendship. The fact of the matter is it was a friendship which I valued at the time, and I enjoyed, but the objective was to provide a service.
- Interviewer: But you betrayed those friendships.
- Brian: I don't regard it as a betrayal.
Screen shots of 'Brian' taken from True Spies, 2002.
Peter Taylor, the director of True Spies, also wrote an article to promote the series for The Guardian, in which Brian featured.
The undercover officers were called the 'hairies' because of their new looks: 'As most police officers at the time sported short back and sides, certain adjustments had to be made to fit their new personae. Brian says he looked "outrageous with shoulder-length hair and bushy beard six inches beneath the chin".'
Taylor wrote that Brian infiltrated the Troops Out Movement in the early days of the Irish conflict:
- 'Being a hairy was nerve-wracking and dangerous. Infiltrating the Troops Out Movement, with its Irish republican connections (as Brian did) or the Anti-H Block campaign (as other hairies did), or working on the fringes of terrorist organisations such as the Angry Brigade or the Free Wales Army was a high-risk and potentially life-threatening operation.'
On cooperation with the security service, Taylor noted: 'Sometimes MI5 was also a recipient of the political intelligence they gleaned. "Occasionally somebody from MI5 would come to a meeting and ask, either individually or generally, if anybody could help with the identity of a photograph," says Brian.'
- For more on Special Branch cooperating with True Spies, see Eveline Lubbers, BBC True Spies series: Police happy to disclose information when it suits them, SpecialBranchFiles.uk project, 24 March 2016.
In the Undercover Policing Inquiry
- 11 Jan 2018: Directions issued for any application for restriction orders to be submitted by end of Jan 2018.
- 29 January 2018: Metropolitan Police Service apply for complete anonymity for HN302.
- 7 March 2018: Mitting indicates that neither real nor cover name will be published, saying:
- The nature of the deployment was such as to create a real risk to the safety of HN302. To an extent whcih cannot be precisely quantified, that risk remains. Because it is contingent, it does not engage Articles 2 or 3 of the Convention, but if it were to mature the harm to HN302 would be serious, possibly even lethal.
- The right of [the person in the sexual encounter] to know the identify of HN302 is outweighed by the risk of safety of HN302.
- 15 May 2018: ruling - real and cover names to be restricted, with Mitting saying:
- I accept the submission that a "proper investigation ought not to assume that it (the officer's admission of a fleeting sexual encounter) is necessarily correct". However, I cannot, at this stage of the Inquiry undertake such an investigation. No is it necessary to do so, because the reason for the order which I will make is the existence of a real risk to the safety fo HN302. I do not accept the further submission that I should enquire into and, it seems, determine whether or not a criminal offence was committed: to do so would require me to infringe section 2(1) of the Inquiries Act.
- 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.
- 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: Ruling, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 15 May 2018.
- Additional information to be read with the gisted risk assessment for HN302, Undercover Policing Inquiry', 2018, published 8 May 2018 via ucpi.org.uk.
- 'HN302', Impact Statement of N302, Metropolitan Police Service, 8 January 2018, published 8 May 2018 via ucpi.org.uk.
- Graham Walker, N302 - Risk Assessment (gisted), Metropolitan Police Service, 29 March 2018, published 8 May 2018 via ucpi.org.uk.
- True Spies - Episode 1: Subverting the subversives, BBC Two, 27 October 2002; transcripts.
- Peter Taylor, Inside job, The Guardian, 23 October 2002 (accessed October 2019)
- 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: HN302, Metropolitan Police Service, 29 January 2018, published 8 May 2018 via ucpi.org.uk.