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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: unknown
Deployment: for about a year in early 1970s
anarchist groups

HN349 is the cipher given to a former undercover officer with the Special Demonstration Squad. They were deployed for about a year in the early 1970s against anarchists groups in an unsuccessful operation.[1] The Undercover Policing Inquiry has ruled that the officer's real and cover names will be restricted.[2]

Unless otherwise indicated, the following material is taken from HN349's witness statement.[3]

Pre-SDS career

Born in the 1940s, HN349 joined the Metropolitan Police in the 1960s, first as a uniformed and then transferred to Special Branch.

Special Demonstration Squad

Joining and training / guidance

HN349 joined the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) - then known as the Special Operations Squad[4] - in early 1970s, when they were still 'relatively new' to Special Branch. They had not heard of the squad until approached. There was no formal joining process. They told their risk assessor:[5]

[H]N349 had not heard of the SDS before being approached regarding a role within the unit. [H]N349 was initially approached by a [Detective Sergeant] and introduced to another SOS officer who had been a UCO. N349 does not recall any formal interview or any psychometric testing. [H]N349 was informed by the SOS officer that the role was an undercover role and that the work could be dangerous. N349 was also told he would be cut off from the rest of the MPS.

In their witness statement, HN349 says that at that meeting with the other undercover they were told:[3]

that the role would involve going undercover, that I would be away from the rest of the Metropolitan Police and that the work could be dangerous.

However, HN349 did write that he was probably being evaluated by other officers for suitability in the role of undercover, and that he must have satisfied them as otherwise they would not have sent him into the field.

They spent time in the back office before being deployed, becoming familiar with the workings of the SDS and life undercover:[3]

As far as I recall, there was no formal training when I joined the SDS. I worked in the back office and learnt from observing and interacting with other UCOs. Initially we would get exposure by reading field reports sent in by UCOs and conducting research into points arising from these reports. I think that after a few weeks in the back office, I was taken to the SDS undercover flat to meet the deployed UCOs. I think I went to the flat on at least two or three occasions before being deployed and would have picked up more information about undercover work during these meetings.

In general, he told his risk assessor, that he was expected to play it by ear.[5]

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, noting:[3]

I think that the SDS managers operated on more of a reactive basis. So if any of these issues had arisen, they would have dealt with them immediately but I do not believe that we were given instructions about them in advance.
In relation to friendships and relationships while deployed, we would all have known that we should not have sexual relationships while deployed. This was common sense. We were obviously expected to get to know our targets but only as far as was necessary to maintain our cover and achieve our objectives. I would, for example, have thought it was acceptable to go for a drink or perhaps an afternoon in the park with some activists but I would not have become more involved than that. I do not think we were ever sat down by managers and told about the limits of acceptable behaviour but it is over 50 years ago now so it is possible that I just cannot recall this. I am pretty certain that the issue of sexual relationships with activists never came up during my time on the SDS.

Creation of cover / legend

HN349 used a cover name but was not given instructions on how to to chose it. He did not use aspects of an existing person's identity or take one from a deceased child. The fake identity was not very developed; had they been asked he would have replied he was an out of work van driver. He did not have a cover employer and 'the only document with my undercover name on it was my rent book' which was for his cover accommodation.[3]

As far as I am aware, I was deployed in the same way as my fellow UCOs but I cannot explain why my undercover identity appears to be less well developed than others. Perhaps I didn't feel the need to fully develop my back story as I felt I could play it by ear if asked questions when deployed but this never came up in the end as my deployment was not successful.

The undercover changed their appearance by growing a beard and long hair, and wearing scruffy clothes. HN349 obtained a cover address by answering an advert in a newsagent. He used this accommodation as a mailing address but never slept there. However, he did not develop his back story to the same extent other undercover went to.

Deployment and target group (unnamed)

They were deployed for one year in the early 1970s:[3]

I seem to recall that I was tasked with attending any demonstrations taking place in Central London, getting to know the regular activists and reporting back. I was not tasked initially with trying to infiltrate any particular group or organisation.

Elsewhere he wrote:[6]

This would entail joining marches and demonstrations, being 'one of the crowd' and joining in. I was not tasked initially with trying to infiltrate any particular group or organisation, merely to get to know the regulars by sight and if I could become accepted, to pursue the issue.

Again, from his witness statement:[3]

I also attended numerous meetings, predominantly left-wing oriented, again trying to become an accepted regular face. After some weeks I think I was tasked with trying to get involved with the various loose-knit anarchist activist groups which proliferated in London.

HN349 was unable to get close enough to individuals to strike up relationships with them, and did not manage to infiltrate any of his target groups.[7] They noted:[3]

I think the main reason for this was because they were highly suspicious of strangers. Since I was not able to gain the trust of the activists, I didn't manage to successfully infiltrate the group.

Thus, during his time in the field he did not engage in sexual activity with members of his target groups or engage in criminal activity.

Curiously there appears to be no documents relating to HN349's reporting, which he is also unsure of, saying:

I would have provided verbal and written reports about general demonstrations that I

continued to attend and my attempts to infiltrate my target group(s). I can only assume that these reports were not formally written up or have been destroyed over the years.

SDS safe house and meetings

HN349 gives considerable insight into the routine at the SDS safe house, then based at a West London address:

Except on our day off and when we were covering demonstrations or meetings, all UCOs would go to the undercover flat in [West London] a daily basis. We would usually attend around lunchtime and we would then have general discussions about what was going on in the SDS and provide intelligence to each other. We would also carry out general admin tasks like preparing expenses claims and writing up any reports that we needed to submit.
I would discuss anything and everything with my fellow UCOs during these meetings. I would certainly share details of my deployment with them as that was my life at the time and they would do likewise. We would exchange our experiences and offer each other advice. They were my colleagues so it was natural that we would have a general chat about our work and our personal lives. No topic of conversation would be off limits.
SDS management would join the SDS meetings about twice per week. They would therefore observe or overhear the conversations that we had during the meetings that they attended. The conversations would be pretty similar when they were there but the meetings would obviously also involve the UCOs passing on intelligence to managers and raising any issues that they were facing. If and when necessary, the management would take an individual UCO to a separate room for a private discussion away from the group. This happened more frequently for officers who were involved in the more sensitive areas of work, discuss matters that could not be shared more widely.
I passed information back to managers both verbally and in writing at SDS meetings and over the phone. Written information would be in the form of intelligence reports. I think mine were always hand-written but I do not have any clear memory of producing them. My recollection is that they were typed up in the back office. I would hand my reports over to managers when they attended the SDS meetings or I might pass a report to another UCO if they happened to be going back to the Yard for any reason. I occasionally went back to the Yard myself and may have taken reports then.
I think the majority of information would have been written down as the managers could not be expected to remember information from a number of UCOs. We would also have given some information verbally during the meetings and over the phone, if necessary.
If I was able to identify people present at the meetings that I attended then I would definitely have included this information in my reporting and if I could not identify them, I may have given a description. I cannot remember any particular individuals that I identified but I am sure I would have done this. The whole reason for being there was to gather intelligence about who was attending meetings so that we had a record of what these groups were up to. I would not have known which particular people were of relevance to Special Branch so I would just pass on all the information that I could. We were supposed to get as much information as we could and were not really told to filter it. This is how it worked for ordinary Special Branch officers as well.

Relationship with the Security Services

HN349 also spoke about the relationship between Special Branch and MI5:[3]

If the security services had requested something, you provided it without asking questions. My understanding of the relationship between the security services and Special Branch is that the security services sought the assistance of Special Branch in gathering intelligence in areas for which the security services had national responsibility.

They were also able to give insight as to the relationship between MI5 and the SDS:[3]

I think that Special Branch and the SDS would try to accommodate any requests that related to areas that the security services had responsibility for. I believe that there were discussions between the Ch. Supt., DCI and DI in charge of the SDS and the security services about matters that the security services wished to gather information on and I imagine that would have influenced our tasking. However, that is not to say that the security services had overall control of our tasking, particularly within the SDS. My understanding is that the SDS was initially set up to deal with public disorder, and since this was very much a police matter, the Metropolitan Police would have had primary responsibility when it came to directing SDS officers to obtain information about public disorder. However, once the threats to public disorder reduced after the Vietnam protests ceased, the security services played a more significant role in directing the work of the SDS. Unsurprisingly I was not privy to the details but I know that senior managers within the SDS would meet with the security services regularly. It was also generally accepted by myself and fellow UCOs that the security services provided some of the funding for the SDS but I could not say with any certainty what gave us this impression.


HN349 left the field on realising it was not being a successful deployment:[3]

My recollection is that approximately 9 months after being deployed, I came to the conclusion that my deployment was not proving to be successful as I had not properly infiltrated my target group. I felt that I was not achieving what I had set out to do. I met with my DCI and DI and told them how I felt and they agreed. It was then arranged for me to return to my usual appearance and spend a period of months in the back office at New Scotland Yard helping with the day-to-day administration of the SDS. I did not need to indicate to any activists that I was disappearing because I had not actually assimilated into any groups.

They did not recall being debriefed on leaving the field. On being reintegrated into Special Branch, they noted there was little in the way of welfare support:[3]

I do not recall being offered any advice or support following my deployment. The general practice was that you would get yourself looking smart again and then be sent away from the Yard for a period of time.

Chain of command

At the time, the SDS was headed by someone of Detective Chief Inspector rank; it sat within 'S Squad' which was headed by a Superintendent.

Other Special Branch work

Knowledge of SDS in wider Special Branch

Shortly after he left the SDS, HN349 worked in another part of Special Branch which often handled intelligence gathered by SDS officers.[7]

HN349 provides a noteworthy account of how knowledge of the SDS existed in Special Branch and that use was made of it:

I would have used SDS intelligence after leaving the SDS. In my role as an ordinary Special Branch officer I would have seen reports that were generated by the SDS. They would not have stated that the information came from an undercover officer but I would have realised this because of my time on the SDS. Any reports from the SDS that were relevant to particular Special Branch squads would have been disseminated to those squads for their use. Special Branch squads would also send requests for information to the SDS if they knew that a UCO was deployed into a particular area that they were interested in and might be able to gather helpful information. After a certain length of time in Special Branch, most officers were aware of the SDS and had an idea of the kind of groups that they had infiltrated. I suspect that I would have made requests for information from the SDS while working in the rest of Special Branch but I have no specific memory of this. That said, approaches to the SDS to request information would have been considered to be a last resort for general Special Branch officers so it would not have been something I did frequently.

Other reporting

Outside of his period undercover HN349 reported on other groups and individuals, and these reports appear to have been preserved, though not released by the Inquiry. Mention is made in the undercover's witness statement in relation to:[3]

  • Peter Hain at a public meeting
I reported information about his attendance at a public meeting because he was a

prominent activist at the time and it was our job to report anything and everything about the meetings we attended. We were sent to cover the meeting and gather as much intelligence as we could.

  • Research into a telephone number provided as contact for the organiser of a Chelsea Young Socialists march.
I imagine that I have researched the number in order to try to further identify and trace the organiser of the march.
  • Details requested by MI5 in relation to leading Maoists
I would not have known why the security services wanted [this information].
  • Research into the registered owners of vehicles seen parked outside a Communist Federation of Britain meeting in order to provide information about who might have been attending.

On anonymity and family life

In their personal impact statement, HN349 says they signed the Official Secrets Act on a number of occasions, and stated: [6]

Whilst I do not recall any specific briefing on the subject of anonymity in relation to undercover work, it was just accepted by all that our anonymity was in perpetuity, beyond the grave even.

He was married at the time, noting:[3]

I do not recall anyone speaking to me about the impact of SDS work on my family life. The attitude at the time was that even our spouses could not be given details of the work we were doing but this was the case across Special Branch as well as the SDS. No managers spoke to my spouse before I joined the SDS.

HN349's wife has made an impact statement, in which she noted that the deployment occurred when they had a baby, and she was 'left to fend for her myself and the baby most of the time. What little time my husband did spend at home was spent sleeping.' She also spoke about knowing little of his police work because of the 'need to know' principle.[8]

The True Spies documentary

HN349 recalled that they were offered a chance to take part but declined:[3]

We were all sent a letter from Roger Pearce giving us the option to take part and my recollection is that the letter inferred that there would be no repercussions if we wanted to participate but thankfully I decided not to.

In the Undercover Policing Inquiry

  • 20 February 2018: directed that any application for restriction orders to be submitted by the end of February 2018.[9]
  • 26 February 2018: application to restrict real name only made by the Metropolitan Police.[10]
  • 28 February 2018: the designated lawyers team make an application to restrict both real and cover name on the grounds that the deployment was ultimately unsuccessful and so serves no purpose to the Inquiry, and there was 'sufficient risk that disclosure of the cover name would lead to the real name and such a risk should not be taken, particularly when the same is disproportionate to the benefits where HN349's deployment is of historical / peripheral interest only'.[11]
  • 22 March 2018: Mitting indicated he was minded to restrict real and cover name, writing:[1]
He is concerned that if he were to be identified, he and his family would be the subject of unwelcome media attention. These concerns are genuine and not irrational. He also has concerns for his safety and for that of his family which, although genuine, are almost certainly misplaced. There is a small risk that if his cover name were to be published, his real name could be identified. It is very unlikely that his deployment needs to be investigated at all to permit the Inquiry to fulfil its terms of reference. If it does, witness statement from him is all that is likely to be required. Publication of his real or cover name would interfere, to some extent, with his right to respect for private and family life. It would be neither proportionate nor justified under Article 8(2) of the European Convention.
  • 15 May 2018: Mitting ruled that HN349's real and cover names will be kept restricted for the purposes of the Inquiry stating:[12]:
In this case, for the purpose of determining his application for a restriction order I have accepted that his account of his failed attempt to infiltrate anarchist groups by attending meetings is unlikely to be contradicted. It is not, as Ms Kaufmann puts it, "the police position". For the purpose of determining applications for restriction orders in respect of names, I must sometimes make a judgement about whether or not what I have been told is likely to be true. I cannot conduct a full inquiry into the facts before making that judgement. This is such a case.

The inquiry has released other material relating to the anonymity application including material from the wife and child of HN349.

Given there restriction order over HN349'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.[13] Material relating to HN349 maybe found at


  1. 1.0 1.1 Sir 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 'Minded To' Note 6 and Ruling 5, Undercover Policing Inquiry (, 22 March 2018.
  2. 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.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 'HN349', Witness Statement, Metropolitan Police Service, 26 June 2019 (accessed via 19 Nov 2020 as MPS-0740356).
  4. The name of the Special Demonstration Squad changed over time including being also known as the Special Duties Squad and Special Operations Squad. We will use Special Demonstration Squad, by which it is best known.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Adrian Baxter, N349 - Risk Assessment (gisted), Metropolitan Police Service, 6 April 2018, published 8 May 2018 via
  6. 6.0 6.1 'HN349', Personal Impact Statement (redacted), 26 February 2018, published 8 May 2018 via
  7. 7.0 7.1 Additional information to be read with gisted risk assessment for HN349, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 16 Apr 2018, published 8 May 2018.
  8. Impact statement of the wife of HN349, Metropolitan Police Service, 3 February 2018, published 8 May 2018 via
  9. 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, 20 February 2018 (accessed 1 March 2018 via
  10. Open application for a restriction order (anonymity) re: HN349, Metropolitan Police Service, 26 February 2018, published 8 May 2018 via
  11. Application for restriction order (anonymity) in respect of HN349's cover name, Metropolitan Police Service (Designated Lawyers Team), 28 February 2018, published 8 May 2018 via
  12. 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.
  13. Communications from the Undercover Policing Inquiry, October-November 2020.