HN333 is the cipher given to a former Special Demonstration Squad] undercover officer who was deployed for nine months over 1968 - 1969 into 'a left wing group which no longer exists'.
According to the Undercover Policing Inquiry, no known allegation of misconduct against him and he neither committed any crimes or took the identity of a dead child as part of his cover. He described his training as 'rudimentary'. He infiltrated his target group by answering an advert for people who were following the philosophy of [redacted]. He subsequently attended meetings of this small group, which he characterised as 'extremist' and 'advocated the encouragement and instigation of others to commit violence which was seen as necessary'. Now in his 70s and retired.
According to a risk assessment, the officer received no specific assurance or guarantee of anonymity from senior officer(s), and states that there was only 'implied implication' of future anonymity'. He subsequently went on to have a 'long and distinguished career' in the police. Nevertheless, their real and cover names (and groups targeted) were restricted in the Undercover Policing Inquiry.
Unless otherwise indicated, the following material is taken from HN333's witness statement to the Inquiry.
* For the N cipher system see N officers page.
- 1 Pre-SDS career
- 2 Special Demonstration Squad
- 3 In the Undercover Policing Inquiry
- 4 Notes
Born in the 1940s, HN333 joined the Metropolitan Police in the early 1960s. In 1968 he joined Metropolitan Police Special Branch, working on 'C' Squad - he notes that at the time Special Branch was small, but he joined at a time when it was increasing intake. As a junior officer in SB, he dealt with files and paperwork, and learned about the enquiries which SB engaged in.
He was not at the March 1968 anti-Vietnam War march, but was at the October one, attending as a plain clothes officer. On being asked of his role on the day, he wrote:
- There would have been a briefing from a senior officer (I cannot remember who) to a number of plain-clothed Special Branch officers. The activity would be to mingle in the crowds to listen to pick up what the demonstrators intended to do next, i.e. to anticipate violent or other actions of concern, e.g. moving off the proclaimed route. I wouldn't have asked questions of others in the demonstration but I would have acted as if I was a law-abiding member of the public on a demonstration and may have chatted with those that I was walking near. Had I picked up information of concern I would have tried to make contact with a senior officer also present or, perhaps, by phone from a public telephone box. We did not have radios. I can't particularly recall gleaning any information of note or which would have required me reporting it back.
Special Demonstration Squad
HN333 joined the SDS in late 1968, after the 27 October demonstration. According to him the SDS dealt with the same issues as the rest of SB, differing only in its approach and work routine. In particular, an SDS officer was not office based, when they had done their inquiries they did not return to their desk. He also noted: 'SDS was unique in that SDS activities dominated your whole life'.
The role of the SDS officer was:
- focused on obtaining information from the group(s) that they interacted with, thereby contributing to a threat assessment with regard to Public Order.
HN333 places the founding of the SDS as in a time of increasing political unrest across Europe and the growth of new political movements:
- My understanding of the situation is that there was a need to improve Special Branch assessments of future protest and unrest, in order to determine the necessary police response required to facilitate peaceful protest.
- The police response to this was to assess and anticipate risk. The objective was to anticipate violent public disorder that could cause damage and injury by getting closer to those most likely to perpetrate such a state. There was always a risk that legitimate protest would be used by certain extremist groups to express their politics, potentially with violence. By virtue of the SDS being with the attendees undercover, better predictions could be made. This was [founder of the unit] Conrad Dixon's concept for the SDS. Therefore, the focal point of the SDS at its formation were the protest events that took place.
Joining and lack of training / guidance
The officer had not heard of the SDS until approached to join it, and said that at the time it was referred to as 'S Squad' or 'X Squad'. The approach to join was an informal one:
- I joined the SDS because I was asked to, and it seemed like a logical progression. I was aware at the time that we could not get the information to properly police events which could have become violent. I was a very junior member of Special Branch and enthused about joining without fully knowing what it was.
At the time of joining, HN333 was a young, single man; most of the other male undercovers of his era differed in that they were married.
As with other SDS undercovers at the time, he said he received no formal training, but relied on discussions with other undercovers:
- There were no written instructions on how to carry out my tasking. Any guidance would have been verbal. Much of it was common sense: gain the targets' confidence, do not reveal your real identity, feed back information which is helpful to the deployment or uniformed branch.
- Once in the field, we would discuss our deployments at a group meeting and exchange our varied experiences and knowledge for future events.
- Initially you were given more guidance. It was suggested you take this route, or go to this meeting, say this or that. But I was not specifically tasked from week to week. I used my initiative instead. I could pre-announce what I was going to do at our meetings, and the management would say if they thought it was a good idea. I do not remember any specific thing I might have wanted guidance on, but I have no doubt that I would and could have asked if the need had arisen. Given that the objective was to gain intelligence, the management could not be too prescriptive. Much depended on what protests were planned, how situations developed, and which relationships could be built.
He did not recall being given advice on instigating or partaking in crime, sexual relationships or what to do if brought before the court or if they obtained legally privileged information.
Later in his witness statement, HN333 writes:
- One more senior officer in particular mentored me, Roy Creamer. He and I would chat at the safehouse. He would make sure that I was OK, not feeling threatened, and that I had enough expenses. I would have seen him every week. He would give me an indication of what was going on elsewhere in London. In the era and the circumstances, I could not have asked for more oversight.
Creation of cover / legend
He adopted a cover name, which they received some limited guidance on, but the name they used was not taken or based on anyone else's identity. His background story was 'rudimentary' and 'would have fallen apart quite rapidly' if anyone had looked into it. They were not given documents in the false name; also though HN333 said: 'I tried to get a passport in my cover name, but it did not work.' They arranged a cover employment with [redacted], though that individual was unaware HN333 was being a undercover officer. As part of his cover, HN333 rented a bedsit then a basement flat on a monthly basis. He had no vehicle provided for him, and in any case he could not drive.
HN333 changed his appearance; this included growing his hair, and:
- I bought a second hand coat and I wore desert boots, jeans and dirty t-shirts underneath.
Later he wrote:
- You had to maintain a certain front at all times. My walk and voice changed. I found myself being a chameleon among my targets. My accent became more [redacted] and this just felt natural.
Documents indicate that he spent about a month in SDS back office before approaching his target; he does not recall that time but surmises it would have been taken up preparing his cover.
Target group (unnamed)
The name of HN333's target group has been restricted by the Inquiry. According to his witness statement, he was tasked to this group and it was the only one he reported on. A member of SDS management suggested to him a public advertisement by the target group and he answered it. He then went along to the meeting where he was 'partially greeted and partially grilled'. HN333 makes it clear it was a group he was tasked to infiltrate and to continue doing so, and remained with them until the end of his deployment.
- At the outset, the management decided who would be tasked to which areas. I was thought suitable for my targets perhaps because I was quite young. My job was to assume the attitude and convictions of [gisted: a member of the group] and to monitor the intentions of [the group].
In a separate statement, he notes the group was small and extremist. However, in his witness evidence, he says the group was a loose association with no formal membership. He attended meetings which took place every two to three weeks, often in pubs, and likewise met with them socially in the pub. He also joined them on demonstrations organised by groups with which his target group was in sympathy with. Though he didn't attend every meeting he did go to demonstrations most weekends. He also stated:
- Spending time with the group meant that you could anticipate how people would protest from their characters and what they were advocating. I would report anything that was relevant, verbally, in our meetings at the safe-flat. The matters which I would have considered relevant were anticipated future events and some details of individuals within the group. Initially I would have reported on who the members of the group were, simply because they were members of that group. Later on, the types of details (would report would not be a full identification briefing but just things that I picked up which, added to others, could form an intelligence picture of upcoming risks of disorder.
- I would try to report on the identity and activity of all of the group, but I did not always succeed. This was because people do not reveal all their details in ordinary social interaction, and I would not risk becoming conspicuous by trying to find out.
HN333 also wrote:
- I never took the lead in any of the group's activities. I drifted along. I was a waif and stray that they wanted to indoctrinate. I was simply a member, and an irregular visitor.
- I did not make decisions for the group, I listened. In terms of the group's activities, and the extent of my involvement in them, I helped to make posters one time. This strengthened my credibility as a group member and as an [redacted]. Also I visited a squat with the group to show our solidarity. I spent about 2 to 4 hours there. I did not support its existence or make it happen in any way. Squatting was suddenly popular. There were other squats going on whose existence 1 came to know about, and I passed on their locations to my managers.
He feels he gained his target's confidence and was trusted to some degree by them, though he did not assume a position of trust among them. However, he also says he never formed close personal relationships there. The witness statement is mostly redacted around the issue of trust. HN333 basis of the claim he was trusted to some degree on the fact that he was asked to look after an item whose details are redacted. He kept this item in his possession for several days, taking it to the SDS safe house. No further details are required.
HN333 said, while undercover, he did not participate in criminal activity or encourage it while deployed, nor was he arrested. He did not provide evidence for criminal prosecutions or was otherwise involved in legal proceedings; nor did he have access to legally privileged material or report on MPs. He summarised his time with the SDS as:
- I played a small part in amalgamating a risk assessment so that uniformed police officers could be better aware and prepared for violent public disorder, riot, damage and injury. I believe the police were better equipped, and the public better protected, as a result.
HN333 withdrew as an undercover following health issues; he consulted with his managers who saw his withdrawal as being in his best interests. He gave an excuse to his target group, then broke off contact with them. This was not long after May 1969, and probably around July 1969.
He was debriefed by a senior manager in the SDS, and wrote up notes, which included welfare issues. He attended courses and rejoined the rest of Special Branch where he spent much of the remainder of his police career.
HN333 provided considerable insight into the structure of the early meetings of the SDS at their safe house, which took place between one and three times a week:
- In the time I was deployed, the meetings which took place at the safehouse were catch-ups over the designated geographical areas and subject matters. Conrad Dixon and/or Phil Saunders would have been present, along with other SDS colleagues. As many of the unit that could attend would do so. We would report around a table.
- The meetings began with a debrief about what had happened before. We would then talk through how to approach what was coming up, and get tips from others. The managers of the day would talk us through it. We would discuss the different factions we were looking at.
Use of reports
HN333 stated that one of Special Branch roles was counter-subversion, monitoring 'a variety of organisations and political philosophies', and was the 'prime police resource for this purpose'. However, he believed that the main use of his reports was 'appropriate policing presence at future public events', and was unaware if his reports were copies to MI5.
Chain of command
During HN333's time at the SDS the unit was run by Det. Ch. Insp. Conrad Dixon and Det. Insp. Phil Saunders as his deputy. They were supported by three Detective Sergeants including Roy Creamer and HN332. He also recalled HN294 (an undercover before taking up a managerial position in 1969) and Riby Wilson as being part of the SDS.
HN333 also noted that he would:
- infrequently see the Detective Sergeants amongst demonstrators. They would be in informal plain clothes. We would not interact with each-other. I presume that they didn't do anything other than mingle as I described myself doing above but I cannot speak for them.
HN333 referenced in the Dixon 1968 authored document Penetration of Extremist Groups which set out a nominal structure for the SDS as awaiting training prior to joining the SDS. However, the officer was not able to explain what that meant given he received no formal training.
In the Undercover Policing Inquiry
- 2017, 18 May 2017: Directions made that any applications for anonymity in relation to HN333 to be served by 1 June 2017.
- 2017, May: The MPS applied to restrict the real name only, while HN333's designated lawyer has applied to restrict the cover name. There is also published a Risk Assessment for HN333 which notes: It notes that there was some exposure of HN333 in a different policing role unconnected to his time undercover. Also that:
- [H]N333 feels that the media will provide a negative and tainted portrayal of [H]N333's role within the SDS, and in fact generally the SDS as a unit. [H]N333 has a concern that due to existing wider adverse media coverage of the SDS, the association will 'taint' [H]N333 and undermine [H]N333's credibility and standing, and that of [H]N333's children.
- 2017, 17 July: Submissions made in favour of anonymity over cover name made by Designated Lawyers.
- 2017, 25 July: 'Impact Statement' of HN333 in favour of anonymity.
- 2017, 3 August: Inquiry Chair, Sir John Mitting indicates he is 'minded to' restrict real and cover names on the ground:
- There is, however, a small – in my judgement, very small – risk that if his cover name were to be associated with the valuable duties which he performed subsequent to his deployment, he would be of interest to those who might pose such a threat. The nature of that risk is set out more fully in the closed reasons which accompany this note.
- 2017, 21 November: Inquiry hearing which addresses among other issues, HN333's anonymity applications. See also the NPSCP submissions of 5 October 2017.
- 2017, 5 December: Mitting issues his ruling that the real and cover names of the officer would be restricted stating:
- HN333 is now in his 70s. He was deployed for 9 months in 1968 and 1969 against a left-wing group which no longer exists as such. There is not and never has been any known allegation of misconduct against him. No real threat to his personal safety or to that of his family would arise from surviving members or associates of his target group. Subsequent to his deployment, he performed valuable duties in another police role. There is a real, if unquantifiable, risk that if his cover name were to be published, it would lead to the identification of his real name. In those circumstances, a very small risk to life and limb would arise from those with an interest in his later activities. The nature of both risks is set out in the closed reasons which accompanied the “minded to” note of 3 August 2017 and this ruling.
- ...Although I acknowledge that the risk to the safety of HN333 is very small, it is not a risk which I would be prepared to run unless, at a minimum, it was necessary to do so for the purpose of fulfilling the terms of reference of the Inquiry. It is not. His deployment was short and appears to have been unremarkable. There are other officers still living who can give evidence about similar deployments undertaken in the early days of the Special Operations Squad. HN333 will provide or give evidence publicly, albeit not in his real or cover name. Little, if anything, will be lost by non-disclosure of his real or cover name.
- Further, this is a case in which the expectation of lifetime confidentiality held by HN333 is a relevant factor. He was entitled to rely upon it when he undertook the valuable duties which give rise to the very small risk to his safety. He does not assert that he would not have undertaken them otherwise; and I doubt that it was at the forefront of his mind when he did so. From what I know of his career, I believe that he simply did his duty when asked to do so. Nevertheless, it would, in my view, be artificial and wrong to require a conscious causative link between expectation and subsequent action in every case. An officer ought, other things being equal, to be able to rely on a reasonable expectation of confidentiality arising from the nature of his work and/or from what he was told by his employer. Given that there is nothing known about his deployment which would require this expectation to be displaced, it should be fulfilled.
- I am satisfied that publication of the real or cover name of HN 333 would interfere with his right to respect for his private life and would also be unfair to him. For the reasons explained, the interference is not necessary to permit the terms of reference of the Inquiry to be fulfilled. Given that it is not necessary, it would not be proportionate to do so.
- 2017, 8 December: restriction order over real and cover names of HN333 issued.
- 2018, 11 December: provides witness statement to the Inquiry, which is an update of an earlier witness statement made 17 October 2010.
- 2020, 19 November: a short summary of HN333's witness statement is read out at the Inquiry evidential hearings.
Given there restriction order over HN333's identity, the Inquiry has not released material relating to him into the public domain other than his witness statement. His evidence to the Inquiry is being held in closed session, not open to the public. Material relating to HN333 maybe found at UCPI.org.uk.
- Graham Walker, HN333 Open risk assessment, Metropolitan Police Service, 2 May 2017 (accessed via UCPI.org.uk).
- 'HN333', Open personal statement (redacted), Metropolitan Police Service, 25 May 2017 (accessed via UCPI.org.uk).
- 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 - Ruling, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 5 December 2017 (accessed via ucpi.org.uk).
- Press Release: 'Minded to' note, ruling and directions in respect of anonymity applications relating to former officers of the Special Demonstration Squad, Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI.org.uk), 3 August 2017.
- 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.
- HN333, Witness Statement, Metropolitan Police Service, 11 Dec 2018 (accessed via UCPI.org.uk 19 Nov 2020 as MPS-0740329).
- Conrad Dixon, Penetration of Extremist Groups, Metropolitan Police, 26 November 1968 (accessed via upci.org.uk as MPS-0724119).
- Sir Christopher Pitchford, Order pursuant to the Ruling of 2 May 2017 granting an extension of time for service of anonymity applications by the Metropolitan Police Service in respect of the Special Demonstration Squad, Undercover Policing Inquiry]], 18 May 2017 (accessed via ucpi.org.uk).
- Oliver Sanders QC, Notice of supplimentary submissions on behalf of HN321, HN330, HN333 and HN343 in support of MPS restriction order applications, Metropolitan Police Service (Designated Lawyers), 17 July 2017 (published via ucpi.org.uk).
- Application for Restriction Order (Anonymity) in respect of HN333's cover name, Metropolitan Police Service (Designated Lawyers), 27 July 2017 (published via ucpi.org.uk).
- 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 1, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 3 August 2017 (accessed via ucpi.org.uk).
- Transcript of hearing of 21 November 2017, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 21 November 2017.
- Sir John Mitting, Restriction order under Section 19 of the Inquiries Act 2005 re HN333, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 8 December 2017 (accessed via ucpi.org.uk).
- Transcript of UCPI Evidence Hearings: Tranche 1 (Phase 1) Day 14, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 19 November 2020 (accessed via ucpi.org.uk).
- Communications from the Undercover Policing Inquiry, October-November 2020.