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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: short period in 1986-1987
one group, unknown

HN72 is the cipher given to a former undercover officer with the Special Demonstration Squad who was deployed for a short period in the 1980s into an unnamed group (deployed in 1986 for one year[1]). Later, after the Macpherson Inquiry he held a significant managerial position in the unit,[2] 2005-2008.[3]

John Mitting, Chair of the Undercover Policing Inquiry, stated in April 2018, he was minded to allow HN72 to remain anonymous within the Inquiry, with both his real and cover names being restricted. In 60s & fully retired, but has has a heart-attack in 2009. Was symptom free until 2017 - telling Prof. Knight, a cardiologist, that the primary source of his distress is the prospect of his identify being revealed rather than giving evidence.[2] On 30 July 2018 John Mitting, Chair of the Undercover Policing Inquiry made a final ruling that real and cover name cannot be published by the Inquiry.[4]

  • For details of the N-numbers cipher system see the N officers page.

As an SDS undercover

Joined SDS in 1985, with two sponsors, and spent a year in the back office including creating a cover name. Deployed for only one year, 'meeting on Mondays and Thursdays for the SDS meeting.[1]

The gisted risk assessment said:[5]

N72 undertook a practical assessment of N72's ability to work in this particular field including some testing. N72 stated s/h3 was not made aware of the risks of [undercover] work. Initially, N72 spent a period of time in the back office performing administrative roles. There was no specific training for the [undercover] role, but s/he was provided a mentor by the office.
N72 never formally received a guarantee of anonymity, but considered anonymity as implicit on the basis that s/he would never be 'outed' with all of the difficulties that this would present to N72 and the organisation. N72 expressed to the risk assessor that anonymity is a trust issue that is required by the UCO and the organisation, to enable the work to be completed...
An SOS officer visited N72 at home and met N72's partner. There was a wide ranging discussion regarding the role as a UCO and the fact that there would be an impact on N72's partner's life as well as N72. N72 considered that anonymity was informally implied as a result of this visit.

In their personal impact statements, said:[1]

I never had any sexual relationships with any person whilst deployed undercover. I deliberately used unsavory habits to deter any interest.

They also wrote:[1]

One [redacted] night I was at the [redacted] and my car was parked [redacted] in a place where you could not park during the day but you could at night. It tended to fill up with lorries overnight. I was not intending to drink that night but in fact did. I therefore tried to move my car to a place where I would not be hemmed in at 11 pm. When I attempted to reposition my vehicle I ended up hitting another car. It was the slightest of scrapes. The owner demanded my credit card and when I did not give it to them they called the police. I was taken to [redacted] police station and was charged for drinking with excess alcohol in my undercover name. I did not know that the car park was a public place. I self-disclosed my real name to the Inspector there. I was bailed to appear in Court in my cover name. I remember the Court being empty aside from [2 managers] I was banned for one year in my cover name I was also fined £250 which I had to personally pay. I had no other Court appearances or arrests.

This matter was referred to the Deputy Assistant Commissioner.[5]


There was an implicit understanding that every aspect of my deployment would remain secret. I cannot see how it could work any other way. I have kept my side of the bargain to not disclose my SDS deployment.

Risk assessment:[5]

N72 acknowledged that there was not a great deal of support and welfare during employment, but s/he was not critical about this. N72 met one of the managers twice a week. S/he named a particular manager who s/he felt as excellent. Immediately following N72's deployment, s/he performed an office based role.

Became a senior manager in the SDS in the latter years of the SDS (approx 2005/2006[1]), in which there were around 10 undercover deployments under their management.[6] According to another document, he was a Detective Inspector in the unit (some time in the period 2004-2007).[7]Adrian Baxter, N30 - Risk Assessment (gisted), Metropolitan Police Service, 28 August 2018 (accessed 2 October 2018, via</ref>

Says they were very concerned with the welfare of the undercovers under him but did not feel supported in this, including at one point requesting to leave the unit, but withdrawing the request because 'I was worried about the officers having no one there'.:[1]

The risk assessment of HN30, who served as a cover officer in the period 2004-2008 notes that HN72 was involved in dealing with the fall out of an arrest of the undercover Rob Harrison for a 'minor public order offence'. According to the assessment:

Although [HN30] was a supervisor and had been a cover officer for N18 [Rob Harrison], N72 was the operational DI and took responsibility for the matter. N30 stated that in her opinion senior management used the perceived mismanagement of this arrest to close the unit.

This is repeated later in the assessment:

She commented: its so unfair. This is blame culture that began with the closure of the unit by N314 and N275. They could have closed the unit much earlier and more fairly. They used N72 as a fall guy. It was really unfair. When I talk and think about it, it really upsets me.
When commenting on the SDS, N72 stated 'N314 and N275 undermined field officers. They had it in for N110 and they tried to get rid of another backroom staff, N30'.

HN314 and HN275 are identified in the risk assessment as Detective Chief Inspectors for the Special Demonstration Squad, an as such would have headed up the unit.

Spying on the Lawrence family

Mitting wrote of HN72:[2]

He has important evidence to give, principally about his performance of his duties as a manager and the activities of the deployed undercover officers when he was. He was also noted by Herne investigating officers to have stated that HN81 had been tasked to infiltrate the Stephen Lawrence campaign at the suggestion of the then Deputy Commissioner. It is important that, if possible, this evidence should be given publicly and in a manner which permits the public to judge for itself its truthfulness and reliability.... the best,perhaps only, means of receiving his important evidence is for it to be given under a cypher. A restriction order in respect of both real and cover names is therefore required.

Provided evidence that HN81's tasking to spy on the Lawrence family came from Commissioner Stevens (Ellison, p. 253; Herne II, 21.1.15 & 21.2).[8] Operation Herne told Ellison that N72 did not serve with SDS until after the Macpherson Inquiry so his account should be treated as hearsay; Stevens also denied this (Ellison, p. 253).[9]

HN72 apparently disputed matters raised by Operation Herne in relation to N81's involvement in the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry.[6]

Other material

HN72 named one key associate who they considered aggressive and potentially violent. However, the risk assessor found the risk of physical harm if HN72 details became public as low, though risk of interference in their personal life as high.[5]

HN72's post undercover career in the police 'included work in sensitive areas and work in a public facing role'.[6]

Had a heart attack in September 2009 and retired from Metropolitan Police in 2010 after 30 years of service.[1]

In the Undercover Policing Inquiry

  • 14 Nov 2017: extension sought to deal with in a future tranche.[10]
  • 20 Feb 2018, directions issued that applications for restriction orders to be submitted by end of Feb 2018.[11]
  • 22 March 2018: Inquiry awaiting further information before making decision on anonymity.[12]
  • 26 April 2018: minded to grant full anonymity.[2]
  • 3 July 2018: the Inquiry reiterated Mitting's intention to grant the officer full anonymity[13] and published a number of open / gisted document relation to the application, including:[14]
It was also directed that any objections to Mitting's intention to grant the restriction order to be made by 20 July 2018.[15]
  • 30 July 2018: final ruling that real and cover name cannot be published.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 'HN72', Personal Impact Statement of HN72 (redacted), Metropolitan Police Service, 26 February 2017 (accessed via
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 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 the Special Demonstrations Squad - 'Minded to' note 8, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 26 April 2018.
  3. Undercover Research Group: the dates can be inferred from other material HN72 was the likely successor of HN53 who was Detective Inspector for the unit 1998-2005. HN72 is also mentioned as recruiting HN35 for back office duties in 2006. He is also alleged to have been scapegoated for the closure of the unit in 2008.
  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 12 and Ruling 10, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 30 July 2018.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Adrian Baxter, N72 - Risk Assessment, Metropolitan Police Service, 28 May 2018 (accessed via
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Inquiry's gist of additional material from HN72's closed risk assessment, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 2018 (released 3 July 2018).
  7. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named hn30.ra.28Aug2018
  8. Mick Creedon, Operation Herne: Report 2 - Allegations of Peter Francis, Metropolitan Police Service, March 2014.
  9. 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
  10. 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.
  11. 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).
  12. 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 (accessed 28 March 2018).
  13. Publication of documents relating to anonymity applications: Special Demonstration Squad - November 2017, January 2018, March 2018 and April 2018 'Minded' to notes, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 3 July 2018.
  14. List of applications and evidence published on 03 July 2018, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 3 July 2018.
  15. Sir John Mitting, Restriction Order Applications by HN1, HN3, HN8, HN9, HN12, HN19, HN20, HN27, HN60. HN72, HN353 and HN355, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 3 July 2018.