National Undercover Scrutiny Panel

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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 Policing Organisations
National Undercover Scrutiny Panel
Undercover Policing Oversight Board / Group, National Oversight Group
A national body to 'review, challenge and provide feedback on the standards for undercover policing' in the UK
Parent organisations:
2014 to present (2015)

The National Undercover Scrutiny Panel (or Undercover Policing Oversight Board / Group) is an oversight group established in 2014 by the College of Policing as 'part of a set of changes to providing greater transparency and review of undercover policing'. Its name has fluxuated but is now generally referred to in the group's minutes as the National Oversight Group. According to a College of Policing press release, the role of the panel is to provide external feedback and support the review of the evidence base for policing practice and standards. It was also expected to complete a review of undercover work by January 2016.[1]

The group was initiated by the College of Policing in 2014, whose chief executive, Alex Marshall is the Panel's chair, though it is nominally independent of the College. Membership is voluntary and unpaid, though the power to determine who is or is not appropriate to invite to the meetings remains with Marshall.[1][2][3] Its first meeting took place in July 2014, and to date (October 2017) it has met quarterly, normally at Riverside House in London.

Though a few academics and civil society activists sit on the Panel, it is dominated by police with connections to undercover policing. It has been consistently chaired from its inception by Alex Marshall, while David Tucker of the College of Policing has likewise acted as its secretary.


The work of the Scrutiny Group follows on from the work of a number of internal reports into undercover police:

  • HM Inspectorate of Constabulary's "Undercover tactics in public order and extremism", October 2011.
  • The National Police Improvement Agency's "Review of the Selection, Training and Support of Undercover Officers", July 2012.[4]
  • HM Inspectorate of Constabulary 2013-2014 inspection of undercover policing (see below).[5][6] Commissioned by the Home Secretary in June 2013, the first comprehensive inspection of undercover policing of its kind, it reported in October 2014 (see below).

On 29th March 2014, the Association of Chief Police Officers held a 'Meeting to Discuss UC Oversight Board', called and chaired by Jon Murphy - see below for full details. In a letter inviting people to attend, he noted:[7]

There is a sense of urgency in moving this forward, with multiple work streams and reviews that are ongoing in respect of Undercover Policing...

In October 2014 HMIC's report An inspection of undercover policing in England and Wales was released.[5] The report, whose lead officer was Stephen Otter, was highly critical of the National Undercover Working Group and its leadership, and pointed out serious deficiencies in the standards regime around undercover police work.[8] These including the 'culture of secrecy' and the 'closed nature' of undercover work that had led to a lack of accountability and scrutiny.[9]

Simultaneously, the Association of Chief Police Officers released a statement announcing various changes in the undercover policing regime, including 'an oversight group [...] set up to build and maintain strategic support from chief constables.'[6]

In response to the report, Theresa May, then Home Secretary, stated she had increased oversight and transparency in undercover work, including raising the authorisation level for undercover officers and strengthening the role of the independent Office of Surveillance Commissioners. She also wrote to the chief executive of the College of Policing[10] and to the responsible national policing leads, Sir Jon Murphy and Mr Mick Creedon, asking them to set out an action plan and timetable for the police to respond to the recommendations of this report.[11]

At the time Jon Murphy, the Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, was the National Policing Lead for the Crime Business Area of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).[12] and the National Crime Agency.[13] In 2011 he had been acting as a spokesperson for ACPO in the press on matters around the undercover policing scandal.[14]

Mick Creedon, Chief Constable of Derbyshire Police, was National Policing Lead for Serious and Organised Crime for both the National Crime Agency [13] and the Association of Chief Police Officers.[15] He would notably go on to lead Operation Herne, the Metropolitan Police's investigation into the Special Demonstration Squad undercover unit, and present on Herne and the Undercover Policing Inquiry at various Scrutiny Panel meetings.

Note on name

Though the Panel was initially described publicly as the National Undercover Scrutiny Panel, it appears from the various minutes that it has evolved into the (Undercover Policing) National Oversight Board. It has seemed to settle on 'National Oversight Group' though internally continues to refer to itself as a Panel. For the purposes of this profile it shall be referred to as the Scrutiny Panel or NUSP.

Terms of Reference

The terms of reference for the Scrutiny Panel set out the College of Policing's intentions:[16][17]

This group will review, challenge and provide feedback on the standards for undercover policing. It will also consider the leadership, management and supervisory frameworks and the way undercover policing is presented to the wider public. It will identify what evidence might assist in developing future practice. Members will support each other in the challenge process.
The Panel will aim to
  • Improve public confidence in the use of undercover policing tactics.
  • Identify lessons from operations (not live ones), public inquiries or reviews, and make recommendations to the police service on how they should be addressed.
  • Review and assess new and emerging undercover policing standards against tests of proportionality and necessity as well as wider judgements of social acceptability and practical applicability.
  • Review the evidence base for good and effective practice in undercover policing including cost/benefit analysis.
  • Advise on such issues as the ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ policy, Agent Provocateur, Intelligence Deployments and other potentially sensitive or contentious areas.
  • Make suggestions about the areas of undercover policing that merit deeper research or analysis.
  • Assist in, and guide, the way undercover policing is described and presented to the wider public and consider how wider views and feedback might be gathered from victims of crime, practitioners and those affected by undercover policing.

From the minutes of the second meeting, it appears that the Terms of Reference is a evolving document and within the remit of David Tucker, a representative of the College of Policing.[2]

Details of meetings

May 2014 'Meeting to Discuss UC Oversight Board'

On 7 May 2014, the College of Policing Professional Committee discussed undercover policing and had an update on 'the standards and professional framework for the authorising and deployment of undercover officers'. This meeting accepted a recommendation of the 'establishment of an advisory group to provide an independent overview of the programme of work currently underway in the College, working with the National Undercover Working Group, to overhaul selection, recruitment, accreditation, deployment, support and professional practice for undercover officers'. Chief Constable Jon Murphy in his role as head of the National Policing Crime Area (for ACPO) agreed to chair this group, and on 21st May wrote to 'those I would consider as key strategic members of the reference group' inviting them to a meeting at the Association of Chief Police Officers' headquarters in London to discuss the 'UC Oversight Board'.[7]

Those who attended the meeting were:[18]

John Murphy, CC Merseyside, National Lead for Crime Business Area
Mick Creedon, CC Derbyshire, National Lead for Organised Crime
Gordon Ryan, College of Policing (clinical psychologist)
Neil Hunter, HMIC
Brian Quinn, HMIC

Cmdr. Richard Martin, NUWG
Det. Supt. Steve Craddock, MPS (Op.Herne)
Brian McNeill, Staff Officer to Jon Murphy
Maggie Gorman, CBA Coordinator
2 names redacted

Apologies were given from Det. Supt. Chris Green, Giles Herdale, Steve Otter, Sir Hugh Orde, DCI Jim Allen and one name redacted

The meeting itself included presentations from HMIC, College of Policing and the NUWG (given by Richard Martin). Topics included the terms of reference, name of group, its structure and governance.[19]

It appears that two separate groups were intended to be formed:

  • National Undercover Oversight Board - Focus Group, first meeting to take place in September 2014.
  • National Undercover Oversight Board - Wider / Advisory Group, first meeting to take place in July 2014.

From the Action Points of this meeting, it appears that it is this second group which became the National Oversight Group / National Undercover Scrutiny Panel, though whether this division took place is uncertain. The reference to a second 'peer oversight group' in the minutes of the second meeting indicate is probably a reference to 'Focus Group' whose membership was to be restricted to senior police officers, HMIC, the security agencies, CPS as well as a independent legal advisor and a clinical psychologist.[20]

Names put forward for the 'Focus Group' were Jon Murphy, Mick Creedon, Rob Beckley and Richard Martin from the police, while John Begg, QC was recommend to be approached to be the Independent Legal Advisor by Murphy.[20]

July 2014 Meeting (1st)

The first meeting was held on 1 July 2014, and the group was at that point titled the 'Undercover Oversight Group'. The meeting was apparently held at short notice and 'involved calling upon the knowledge and networks of colleagues and stakeholders.'[21] No formal minutes were taken, but a briefing note was drawn up by the College of Policing.[22][21][17]

The briefing noted that following a wide ranging discussion, three themes emerged, which were broken into several aspects in turn:[21][23]

  • Developing an evidence base, i.e., a better understanding of what is happening across the UK; this included suggestions for further research:
→ 'We need a better understanding of what is happening across the UK. How many deployments, for what sort of crimes, applying what range of tactics to what result?'
→ 'What would the public think about such approaches? How can we test more systematically public perceptions and issues of public acceptably?'
→ 'What impact and affect does being an undercover officer have on culture and behaviours of those involved.'
  • The development of greater transparency:
This seemed to mainly focus on how undercover policing was reported and the 'lack of understanding by commentators and the wider public' and 'there needed to be more balance in the public discourse with better explanation of how the tactic contributes to public safety'.
  • Independent and public focused scrutiny of the way officers are selected and trained. The briefing letter noted:
'We agreed to develop proposals to provide a “lay visitor” type scrutiny of undercover selection and training. We would need to consider appropriate vetting and how they can see both the actual training and the core materials.'

Peter Jukes, who attended the first meeting only,[24] noted that the first meeting was an informal discussion and was not particularly secretive. People had been invited with a view to being critical of existing practice; in his case it was a personal connection with Rob Beckley, with whom he had worked for the 2011 Radio Four drama series 'Bad Faith'. There was focus on the Special Demonstration Squad and how it had gone off the rails. Discussion focused on the dilemma between public interest and political policing. In particular, senior police officers were wary of any disclosure while journalists stated that stories needed to be broken if things were going wrong and oversight of how public money was being spent. The related dilemma of achieving transparency / public scrutiny without endangering undercovers was also covered.[25]

A list of those in attendance was provided by the College of Policing, being described as members of the group:[1]

1. Alex Marshall (Chair), College of Policing
2. Stephen Otter, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary
3. Sophie Khan, Police Action Centre
4. Sue Mountstevens, Avon and Somerset Police & Crime Commissioner
5. Richard Martin, Metropolitan Police
6. Christopher Nathan, University of Warwick
7. Jon Boutcher, Bedfordshire Police
8. David Tucker, College of Policing
9. Gordon Ryan, College of Policing
10. Kerry Robinson, College of Policing
11. Rob Beckley, College of Policing
12. Joe McGuigan, HM Revenue & Customs

13. David Carrigan, Independent Advisory Group
14. Dr Chris Nathan, Warwick Interdisciplinary Ethics Research Group
15. Bob Satchwell, Society of Editors
16. Prof Ben Bowling, Dickson Poon School of Law
17. Peter Jukes, Media consultant
18. Tom Gash, Institute for Government
19. Chris Green, Merseyside Police
20. Mick Creedon, National Lead Organised Crime
21. John Dilworth, Crown Prosecution Service
22. Dr Bethan Lofthouse, Centre for Criminology
23. Shaun Sawyer, Devon and Cornwall Police

October 2014 Meeting (2nd)

The second meeting of the Panel took place at Avonmouth House in Lambeth, London, on 22 October 2014.[26] It was attended by 11 of the 23 original Panel members and focused on the need to produce consistent training, standards and best practice across the UK in terms of undercover policing. It also noted there was cultural resistance to change in relation to undercover work within the police. The Scrutiny Panel and another unnamed 'peer oversight group' would ensure that the future framework for undercover policing was sufficient to measure the actions of undercovers. Psychological support was also cited as a key area to focus on. A programme of work was mentioned, apparently created by the National Undercover Working Group, which had been broken down in to the following areas:[2]

National, Selection, Training, Mental Wellbeing, Continuous Professional Development, Authorised Professional Practice and Accreditation.

Other topics covered included:

  • The groups terms of reference
  • the HMIC report and the National Undercover Working Group's Action Plan in response to it.
  • Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act
  • Evidence base

Present: Alex Marshall (Chair, CoP), Stephen Otter (HMIC), Sue Mountstevens (Avon & Somerset PCC), Sophie Khan (Police Action Centre), unnamed individual, Richard Martin (Metropolitan Police), Christopher Nathan (Warwick Univ.), Jon Boutcher (Beds. Police), David Tucker (CoP), Gordon Ryan (CoP), Kerry Robinson (CoP).

Apologies: Rob Beckley (CoP), Joe McGuigan (HMRC), David Carrigan (Indep. Advisory Grp), Bob Satchwell (Soc. of Editors), Ben Bowling (Dickson Poon Sch. of Law), Peter Jukes, Tom Gash (Inst. of Goverance), Chris Green (Merseyside Police), Mick Creedon (National Lead Organised Crime), John Dilworth (CPS), Dr Bethan Lofthouse (Centre for Criminology) & Shaun Sawyer (Devon & Cornwall Police)

February 2015 Meeting (3rd)

The third meeting was held on 5 February 2015, 11am at the Novotel, Southwark, where it was called the National Oversight Group'. It was a much smaller affair, with only 10 people attending (2 by phone) and four apologies (see below for details). Previous actions appear to have all been completed, and David Tucker continued to act as effective secretary to the group.[27]

A number of topics were addressed:

  • a presentation on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (from Richard Martin);
  • a discussion on the group's 'role in encouraging openness and transparency in undercover policing', which lead to the Terms of Reference being updated to 'to make clear that the group’s role is to act as overseer and critical friend for the structures within which undercover policing operates';
  • that future meetings 'should focus on protecting identities and tactics in undercover policing, particularly the use of ‘neither confirm nor deny’ policy.'

Ben Bowling presented a papers on research issues 'he felt would form the basis of discussions between the College, the police service and academics.' These issues were listed as:

  • Public attitudes to undercover policing.
  • How the tactic is used and targeted.
  • Issues that affect undercover officers.

It was noted that the National Undercover Working Group Action Plan for responding to the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary report recommendations had been circulated prior to the meeting, and that Jon Boutcher would keep the group updated.

Present: Alex Marshall (chair), Ben Bowling, Mick Creedon, Joe McGuigan, David Tucker, individual (name removed on their request /s40), individual (name removed on national security grounds / s23), Jon Boutcher (phone), John Dilworth (phone). Also in attendance was a new member, Dr. Katerina Hadjimatheou of Warwick University.

Apologies: Rob Beckley, Chris Nathan, Bethan Lofthouse, Sophie Khan.

In a March 2015 press release, the College of Policing listed the following as the members of the NUSP:[28]

Alex Marshall (Chair), College of Policing
David Tucker, College of Policing
Sue Mountsteven, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner
Dr Chris Nathan, Warwick Interdisciplinary Ethics Research Group
Katerina Hadjimatheou, University of Warwick
Joe McGuigan, HMRC
Chris Green, Merseyside Police, North West Regional Organised Crime Unit
Mick Creedon, National Lead Organised Crime, Chief Constable Derbyshire

John Dilworth, Crown Prosecution Service
Frankie Flood, Metropolitan Police Service
Alan Pughsley, Chief Constable of Kent
Matt Parr, HMIC
Michael Lupton, Metropolitan Police Service
Chris Farrimond, National Crime Agency Deputy Director Intelligence
Andy Ward, Merseyside Police, NPCC Coordinator

April 2015 Meeting (4th)

The fourth meeting of the NUSP / National Oversight Group took place on 29 April 2015 at Riverside House.[29]

Topics and matters included:

  • Chief Constable Mick Creedon presented a paper on the principle of 'Neither Confirm Nor Deny'. This was followed by a discussion.
  • Circulation and discussion of the National Undercover Working Group Action Plan to respond to the HMIC report.
  • The revised terms of reference for the Panel were accepted.
  • Discussion of a draft Membership Code of Conduct which had been drawn up.
Concerns were expressed on the inclusion of the Nolan Principles which were said to apply only to people in public life and while the Panel's members felt they were assisting a public body the principles were not appropriate to be applied to them. Other concerns related to lack of explanation of the College of Police's duties to the Panel or and the lack of detail in the selection and de-selection of members and attendant appeals process.

Present: Alex Marshall (chair), Ben Bowling, David Tucker, and two new people - Oliver Cattermole and Natalie Davidson, both of the College of Policing.

Attending by phone: Sophie Khan, John Dilworth, Mick Creedon, Sue Mountstevens, Katerina Hadjimatheou.

Apologies: Rob Beckley, Chris Nathan, unnamed psychologist.

June 2015 Meeting (5th)

The fifth meeting took place on 24 June 2015, at Riverside House.[30]

Issues and topics discussed were:

  • Membership
The Panel were having problems recruiting individuals and organisations, and it was flagged up that the tolerance of risk was a factor dissuading people from coming forward.
  • A presentation from occupational psychologist Lisa Garland of the College of Policing on changes in the selection and training of undercover officers since 2012.
Concerns over the impact of undercover work on the private lives of officers were raised, and it was also noted that the Code of Ethics formed an integral part of the undercover officer's work - and Ethical standards were tested in the selection process formed part of the ongoing training.
  • Further discussion of the draft Code of Conduct for the panel.
  • An unnamed representative from the National Crime Agency asked how the Panel could bring scrutiny to the challenge areas of undercover work.
The minutes state: 'The NCA and other law enforcement agencies are keen to be as open as possible and want external scrutiny of contentious areas but this needs to be done without compromising tactics or identities.'

Present: Alex Marshall (chair), Ben Bowling, Joe McGuigan, Sue Mountstevens, David Tucker, Oliver Cattermole, along with two new individuals - Lisa Garland (College of Policing), Frankie Flood (National Undercover Working Group).

Attending by phone: unnamed representative of the National Crime Agency (details removed under Section 23), John Dilworth, Sue Mountstevens.

Apologies: Rob Beckley, Chris Nathan, unnamed psychologist, Jon Boutcher, Mick Creedon.

September 2015 Meeting (6th)

The sixth meeting took place on 1 September 2016 at Riverside House.[31]

Topics discussed:

  • Ongoing difficulties widening of membership of the group outside of the police, and how to explore the public's view on various ethical issues related to undercover policing which could inform the group's recommendations.
  • A presentation from Iain O'Brien of the College of Policing on the framework the College is developing for accrediting undercover units. The subsequent discussion noted:
(5.3) Panel members were concerned about the lack of external scrutiny of the process – it is delivered by ex-police officers working with current undercover practitioners. It was noted that the accreditation process forms one part of the scrutiny structure and that other parts comprise people from outside law enforcement. The College process will be managed by a person employed specifically for this role. The College is independent of law enforcement bodies. Whilst there is a close relationship between the College and law enforcement agencies, particularly the police, their roles are quite different and the college brings a measure of objectivity.
(5.4) The Panel discussed the potential to bring in people from outside law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement members of the Panel expressed some concern about the need to build confidence in the process first and the need for vetting for people from outside law enforcement undertaking the role. It is necessary for those performing a role in the accreditation process to have a good understanding of undercover policing and this could limit the potential pool of assessors to other law enforcement agencies such as military intelligence or the security services. There was scepticism that people from these agencies would add substantially to the level of external scrutiny.
  • Update on the Undercover Policing Inquiry by Mick Creedon and Jon Boutcher. Jon Boutcher also updated on progress of implementing the action plan developed in the wake the critical HMIC Inspection report.
  • It was agreed the Panel would continue working past June 2016.

Present: Alex Marshall (Chair), Mike Lupton (CT National Network), Jon Boutcher (Chair, NUWG), Joe McGuigan (HMRC), Katerina Hadjimatheou (Warwick Univ., by phone), David Tucker, Mick Creedon (NPCC Lead for Serious & Organised Crime), unnamed pyschologist (by phone)

Apologies: Rob Beckley (Coll. of Policing), Dr. Chris Nathan (Warwick Univ.), John Dilworth (CPS), Ben Bowling (Dickson Poon Sch. of Law), Sue Mountstevens (APCC)

Attending: Oliver Cattermole, Iain O'Brien.

November 2015 Meeting (7th)

The seventh meeting took place on 3 November 2016 at Riverside House.[32]

Topics discussed:

  • College of Policing met with Prof. Ben Bowling to discuss the research options and Bowling's proposals on that. A proposal to conduct a review of existing literature to go through CoP approvals process.
  • Other groups of people were being met wtih to explore widening membership.
  • David Tucker & Jeff Hill presented on the latest version of the NUWG Action Plan
  • Authorised Professional Practice (APP) on Undercover Policing is a CoP product with final sign-off coming from Alex Marshall as the head of the College. Discussion noted the need for police to be as transparent as possible and that lessons learned from cases would be included.
  • Matters around police forces conducting drug testing of their officers: the issue is to be included in the APP to 'guide forces and units on the need for a policy and implementation.' Random drugs testing by forces to be considered best practice but chief constables cannot be compelled to adopt this.
  • Update on Undercover Public Inquiry (UCPI): the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs' Council both granted core participant status. Alex Marshall has discussed issue with the UCPI Inquiry Team: 'it is likely that the College contribution will be in module 2, when policies and proceedures are discussed. There will also be a role for the College in module 3 when future arrangements for undercover policing are discussed.
  • Proposal that the lifetime of the Panel is extended to cover the period of the UCPI.

Present: Alex Marshall (Chair), Sue Mountstevens (APCC), Mike Lupton (CT National Network, by phone), David Tucker (CoP), Katerina Hadjimatheou (Warwick Univ., by phone).

Apologies: Jon Boutcher (Chair, NUWG) Rob Beckley (CoP), a pyschologist, Dr. Chris Nathan (Warwick Univ.), Mick Creedon (NPCC), Ben Bowling (Dickson Poon Sch. of Law), Joe McGuigan (HMIC).

In attendance: ACC Jeff Hill (NUWG).

January 2016 Meeting (8th)

The eight meeting took place on 19 January 2016 at Riverside House.[33]

Topics raised:

  • Kat Hadjimatheou & David Tucker to develop concept of a "desk top exercise, based around a fictional scenario, for academics and others with an interest in undercover policing to explore some of the difficult issues related to the tactic, including the ethical considerations."
  • Update on the UCPI including:
The College has received a requirement for a letter, setting out the information it holds that might be relevant to the Inquiry, and for a statement describing the relationship between the College and the police service. The statement is to include a description of relationships of its predecessor organisations. The information letter has been sent. The statement will be submitted before the end of February."
  • Presentation from Gary McFadden of the College of Policing's training team on their undercover policing training programme delivered or licensed by the CoP.
  • The psychologist member of the group emailed in regarding the then recent media exposure of Carlo Neri and the revelation of an intimate relationship, and to which the Metropolitan Police had responded with a statement of 'neither confirm nor deny'. The email was read out, prompting a discussion:
9.3 The psychologist member of the Panel recorded his deep sense of disappointment and his e-mail was read to those attending. CC Creedon, the lead for Operation Herne, the investigation into allegations regarding undercover officers from the SDS era, had replied to the original e-mail stating that his team will look at the allegations as part of its remit.
9.4 The Chair pointed out the Inquiry into undercover policing will explore many of the issues raised by this and other allegations. There will be the opportunity for people to air their cases and the police service will need to respond in an appropriate way – CC Creedon’s team forming at least part of that response. However, the Inquiry will take some time to carry out its work and report on findings.
9.5 Kat Hadjimatheou stated that the use of NCND felt like a blanket response, used by police to evade their responsibilities. It was important to recognise that the allegations here involved a person not suspected of crime. Many of these types of allegations raise questions about the appropriateness of targeting people for undercover policing who were not suspected of crime, but were the way in which criminals could be targeted. The recent allegations all seemed to involve protest groups and there are significant questions of proportionality.
9.6 There was a view among panel members that even platonic relationships could be abusive.
9.7 Sue Mountstevens stated that the number of allegations and investigations suggested that management of them had to move outside of policing. The service has to take steps to demonstrate that it has understanding of the gravity of the issues and that there is effective oversight.
9.8 She was concerned that the public was receiving a constant stream of negative stories, many from a long time ago, and that the police service was not responding in a way that showed it understood the gravity of the challenge. There was much work going on that reduces the possibilities for improper practice, but the public is unaware. There is a considerable risk that the public thinks that nothing has changed.
9.9 The College should consider how to show that steps are being taken to ensure that the police service recognises the seriousness of the allegations and that work is taking place to ensure that undercover policing practice is managed and delivered ethically.
9.10 Kat Hadjimatheou raised the potential for remote surveillance, using digital technology. Whilst this might be possible in some cases, there would also be many that required face to face involvement so that evidence could be gathered, so the need for undercover policikng is likely to remain.
9.11 Tom Gash stated that the allegations served to highlight the need for a better sense of the cost/benefit analysis. Whilst undercover policing has had significant successes, it is an inherently expensive tactic and the risks are high in a number of ways.

Present: Alex Marshall (Chair), Sue Mountstevens (APCC), David Tucker (CoP), Katerina Hadjimatheou (Warwick Univ.), Tom Gash (Inst. for Government).

Apologies: Jon Boutcher (Chair, NUWG), Rob Beckley (CoP), a pyschiatrist, Dr. Chris Nathan (Warwick Univ.) Mick Creedon (NPCC), Ben Bowling (Dickson Poon Sch. of Law), Joe McGuigan (HMRC), Jeff Hill (Assistant Chief Constable).

In attendance: Gary McFadden (CoP)

June 2016: Undercover Policing Ethics Workshop

This workshop was held on 8th June, hosted by the College of Policing and run by the University of Warwick Interdisciplinary Ethics Research Group. A report of the event is available online.[34] The event was attended by academics who are working with police, a barrister with knowledge of covert policing, a former commissioner with the Office of Surveillance Commissioners and others with expertise of undercover policing.[35]

It was a practical based workshop, whereby participants were presented with a number of scenarios, work through them and discuss the ethical issues raised. At the end a number of recommendations were agreed upon. A number of the scenarios involved a storyline around animal rights activists.

Of the recommendations which emerged from the exercise were:

Recommendation 5A. CoP should revise guidance to interpret 'collateral intrusion' broadly, to include a range of harms. Harms that undercover officers may cause are not limited to intrusions but also include manipulation and exploitation. It is therefore misleading that the guidance limits consideration of collateral harm to 'intrusion'. The College take the lead - through training and policy documents - in making the case that this term should be interpreted broadly to include all relevant harms.
Recommendation 8. Remove the policy of 'neither confirm nor deny' and replace with a policy of consideration of each case on its merits.
Recommendation 9. Set out certain particular circumstances in which information will, in principle be provided. A set of theoretical sufficient conditions for disclosure of information would have the positive effect of assuring the public that police are proactively responsive to the ethical considerations at hand.
Recommendation 11. Take steps to establish a programme of research supporting best practice in UC. Greater transparency and a more balanced view of the use of UC could be provided if there was a body of research, such as a survey or study with views from UCO’s and AO’s. Currently much of the evidence on practice is provided only through inquiries into what went wrong. As a result, there is scant evidence of good practice, so that the public can see the benefits/successes of UC and police can model their own actions on those positive actions of others.

July 2016 Meeting (9th)

The ninth meeting took place on 5 July 2016 at Riverside House.[35]There was no intervening meeting in April / May 2016.


  • Feedback from Kat Hadjimatheou on a scenario based event / discussion hosted by the College of Policing and run by Warwick University. This feedback was followed by a discussion around the recommendations that emerged from the exercise, and it was agreed that much should feed into the consultation on the Authorised Professional Practice on undercover policing. However, on Recommendations 8 and 9 - that the policy of NCND be replaced by a merit based case-by-case approach it was noted:
Following very robust discussion, this recommendation was rejected. NCND is a legal position and considered vital to maintaining integrity of the tactic... Concern was expressed that loosening of NCND could lead to compromise of undercover tactics and safety of operatives.
  • The recent launch of the APP on Undercover Policing:
6.1 Alex Marshall updated the meeting on the recent media exposure for the launch of undercover APP. The coverage had been positive in that it recognised that publication of APP on undercover policing increased transparency. Coverage also focused on the prohibition of sexual activity and whether use of drugs by undercover officers could be permitted.
  • The Undercover Public Inquiry
7.1 ... The College has had two further information requests from the Inquiry team. UCPI team has visited two forces and they have the ambition to visit all forces.

Present: Alex Marshall (Chair), Sue Mountstevens (APCC), David Tucker (CoP), Katerina Hadjimatheou (Warwick Univ., by phone), Mick Creedon (NPCC), Joe McGuigan (HMRC, phone), Det. Supt. Chris Green (North West ROCU, phone), John Dilworth (CPS, phone), a representative from the National Crime Agency.

Apologies: Jon Boutcher (Chair, NUWG), Mike Lupton (A/DCS - Head of Operations for NCTPOC), Assist. Chief Constable Jeff Hill, Dr. Chris Nathan (Warwick Univ.), a psychologist.

October 2016 Meeting (10th)

The tenth meeting took palace on 19 October 2016 at Riverside House.[36]


  • Update by Alan Pughsley and David Tucker on progress with the NUWG's Action Plan, which deals with the implementation of the 49 recommendations made by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary following their inspection of undercover policing in October 2014. This includes new training programmes, guidelines and practice for undercover policing as well as the appointment by the College of Policing of a Registrar to oversee the accrediting process. Most of the HMIC requirements have been achieved.
  • Update on the Undercover Policing Inquiry, which had by then visited a number of police forces, as well as the College of Policing's training facility at Ryton-​​​on-Dunsmore, near Coventry.
  • Development of exercises based on Warwick University ethics exercise by Sam Lincoln into a branched, computer based exercise. There was a discussion about turning it into a public-facing tool as "the public needs to know about the complexity and nuances of the authorising process and the careful consideration of issues that is required".
  • A discussion around future developments around undercover policing policy and provision, looking past the HMIC inspection / NUWG Action Plan and the UCPI.

Present: Alex Marshall (Chair), Sue Mountstevens (APCC), Katerina Hadjimatheou & Chris Nathan (Warwick Univ., phone), David Tucker (CoP), Alan Pughsley (Chief Constable Kent, Chair of NUWG), Joe McGuigan (HMRC, phone), DCS Chris Green (NW ROCU), Maria Conroy (CPS), Teena Chowdhury (CoP - Undercover Registrar), an National Crime Agency representative, Matt Parr (HMIC), Andy Ward (NPCC Public Inquiry Coordinator), Natalie Williams (Kent Police).

Apologies: Mick Creedon (NPCC), a psychologist, Simon McKay (barrister), John Dilworth, CPS, A/DCS Michael Lupton (Head of Ops, NCTPOC).

In attendance: Sam Lincoln.

January 2017 Meeting (11th)

The eleventh meeting took palace on 19 January 2017 at Riverside House. [37]


  • Discussion 'how to make significant and contentious issues around undercover policing more central to their work'.
  • Update on the implementation of the NUWG Action Plan. Issue of random drugs testing of undercovers remaining an issue of concern among relevant bodies: 'The non-police members expressed the view that there should be random drugs testing because of the very high levels of public concern around the tactic.'*
  • Other matters raised where:
5.7 There were further discussions about ‘undercover online’. Panel members felt that the tactic is a vital part of the future of policing. The Panel was told that NUWG is reviewing its work groups and one change will be the introduction of a ‘futures’ group. This group will endeavour to identify new challenges and ensure that undercover policing is a modern and current tactic.
5.9 HMIC updated on their inspection plans which does not currently include revisiting undercover policing. There was a view that the Public Inquiry will be effective in scrutinising the tactic and that the accreditation process will also help to ensure standards are maintained and, where necessary, improved.
  • The Policy of 'Neither Confirm Nor Deny was raised:
4.7 A discussion took place regarding the place of ‘Neither confirm nor deny’ in police responses to questions about undercover policing. Kat Hadjimatheou had circulated a paper on the subject to Panel members in advance of the meeting. CC Creedon reminded members of the paper on the subject that he had circulated. He and other operational people were keen to emphasise the importance of seeing NCND in the context of all covert policing. Undercover policing is one tactic and relaxation of rules around NCND could have unintended consequences, enabling people to piece together apparently unconnected pieces of information to identify an undercover operative or expose a covert tactic. It is operational leaders who then must manage the risks to individuals.
4.8 Sue Mountstevens was keen to emphasise that, notwithstanding the risks, the dangers for policing adopting NCND in response to all enquiries, as a blanket response, was unlikely to build confidence in the tactic and will often appear as if the service is seeking to avoid its responsibilities. The issue is likely to be examined as part of the Public Inquiry.
  • Andy Ward updated on UCPI related work and it was minuted:
6.2 Information requests are coordinated through Andy Ward’s team to make sure that the potential for apparently unrelated pieces of information to be joined together is recognised. Undertaking the work is using significant existing undercover capacity.
  • Accreditation Process
7.1 Teena Chowdhury, the Accreditation Registrar, updated the Panel with work to establish the accreditation process. A key consideration has been the focus that the process should take. Teena thanked the members for their comments on the accreditation process.
7.2 A previous accreditation process, run by NUWG, had emphasised policy and procedures. Teena stated that, whilst the accreditation process would draw on expertise of current practitioners, she felt that the College would not have the expertise to examine policy and procedure in detail. In addition, an approach based on checking compliance with policies and procedures would be bureaucratic and was not the most effective way of improving public confidence . The College process focuses on management and governance of units, with a focus on ensuring units support legal, safe and ethical practice. Policy and procedure will be part of the evidence required as part of the accreditation process but will not be the defining criteria to achieve accreditation. The Panel supported this approach.

Present: Alex Marshall (Chair), Sue Mountstevens (APCC), Mick Creedon (NPCC), David Tucker (CoP), Joe McGuigan (HMRC), Chris Farrimond (National Crime Agency), John Dilworth (CPS), Teena Chowdhury (CoP - Undercover Registrar), representative from the NUWG, Andy Ward (NPCC Public Inquiry Coordinator), Natalie Williams (Kent Police), Brian Quinn (HMIC), Chris Nathan (Warwick Univ., phone).

Apologies: Simon McKay (barrister), Katerina Hadjimatheou (Warwick Univ.), Michael Lupton (A/DCS, Head of Ops, NCTPOC), DCS Chris Green (NW ROCU), Sam Lincoln (former regulator). The unnamed psychologist sent apologies and also notice of resignation from Panel.

May 2017 Meeting (12th)

3 May 2017, at Riverside House

July 2017 Meeting (13th)

19 July 2017, at Riverside House.

October 2017 Meeting (14th)


The existence of the Scrutiny Panel came to public attention following a press release on the College of Policing website dated 12 March 2015. It presented the terms of reference for the Panel and some quotes from Alex Marshall, Sophie Khan and Sue Mountstevens.[38]

The sudden openness was, according to the press release, in response to commentary on social media. However, we have not found any trace of such commentary. With the exception of Bob Satchwell, no member with a public profile mentioned their membership of the panel online.[39] After the press release, only Sophie Khan has commented on her membership of the Panel, defending the need for public scrutiny in the light of what had come out about undercover officers having had long-term relationships with unsuspecting women.[40] She responded to comments from police ranks who questioned her presence on the Panel because of her outspoken criticism of police racism and the use of tasers.[41][42]

On 31st March 2015, the College of Policing issued and 'Updated statement' on the Scrutiny Panel[43] In it, the College of Policing responded to criticism saying:

The College accepts and welcomes the need for challenge and we encourage it by inviting critics of policing to engage with those who work within the service and share their views with us.
The panel is the first time we have brought together a group of unpaid volunteers for this purpose. Those invited to join were identified for their experience, expertise or record of challenging policing practices. The make-up of the group continues to be shaped and those initially involved were asked as part of an informal process.
The work of the scrutiny panel is entirely voluntary and unpaid. Those who share their views with us in this way do not make decisions about the setting of national standards or training for those in policing. No scrutiny panel member is ever given access to operationally sensitive information.
The College decision to make a public statement concerning the scrutiny panel in March came after we received final feedback from members around individual privacy concerns and agreement to publicising the establishment of the group. It was always our intention that the creation of the panel be open and transparent.

Resignation of Sophie Khan

Sophie Khan subsequently used her Police Action Centre blog at the Telegraph website late April 2015[44] to share her doubts, quoting the police attempt to ‘water down’ the terms of reference originally agreed and to reclassify the panel as an overseer and critical friend. She hoped that at the next meeting the membership of the panel would be extended to include more non-police voices, campaigners and activists who challenge undercover policing, but reckoned chances were small:[44]

The decision on who will be invited lies with the College of Policing’s Executive Board as it is a panel set up by the College to assist them with their work on improving policy, procedure and training on undercover policing. But without the input of those who challenge and campaign against abuse of undercover policing the task of improving standards cannot be achieved.

Khan said she was going to put her questions to the College again:

Vested interests are being protected by the police-led Panel but what about the rights of those who will be subjected to undercover policing?
Do they not have a right to be heard and for their interest to be considered?

On 1 June 2015 Khan stood down from the Scrutiny Panel, quoting disappointment with the lack of progress, of transparency and the lack of trust, writing:[45]

I am disappointed that the College of Policing has asked me and others to volunteer for a Panel that was never designed to progress the work on undercover policing.
The Panel was a good idea but without trust it is very difficult.

It is noted in the minutes of the 5th meeting that Khan had previously invited other groups and individuals but they were not forthcoming. However, it is followed by an otherwise undeveloped statement attributed to Ben Bowling that there 'needs to be an increase in tolerance of risk so that non-police voices can be heard'.[30]

External resources

  • National Undercover Scrutiny Panel, an FOIA request of Alan Wright (made 15 March 2015) on This release contains various related documents to the NUSP / National Oversight Group including several documents suggesting police officers, government agencies, civil liberty organisations and other individuals who were being suggested as being approached as possible members in advance of the group being established.
  • Minutes of meeting of National Undercover Scrutiny Panel, results of an FOIA request of Peter Salmon (made 26 June 2015) on
  • NUSP minutes (albeit incomplete) are now published at a College of Policing FOIA disclosure webpage.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Jason Lavan, National undercover scrutiny panel, College of Policing (press release), 13 March 2015 (accessed 23 March 2015 - now available through
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 National Undercover Scrutiny Panel, Minutes of October 2014, College of Policing, 2014 (accessed 23 March 2015 - now only available through
  3. M. Knox, Response to FOIA request of Alan Wright, College of Policing, 14 July 2015 (accessed via
  4. This report is restricted, but cited in the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary 2014 report, vide infra.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Stephen Otter (lead author), An inspection of undercover policing in England and Wales, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, 14 October 2014 (accessed 21 March 2015).
  6. 6.0 6.1 Association of Chief Police Officers, Reforms of undercover policing already underway, 14 October 2014 (accessed 23 March 2015).
  7. 7.0 7.1 Jon Murphy, Letter of 21 May 2014 to multiple recipients (unknown), Association of Chief Police Officers (accessed via
  8. Press Association, [Undercover police watchdog slammed], Sunday Post, 14 October 2014 (accessed 23 March 2015).
  9. Jonathan Owen, Half of all undercover police officers in UK are ‘off the books’ and not on national database, The Independent, 14 October 2014 (accessed 26 March 2015).
  10. The College of Policing is a national police body that replaced the National Policing Improvement Agency that had in turn replaced Centrex, though it appears a number of employees simply continued their job through the organisational changes. Undercover Research Group, examination of staff histories, 23 March 2015, unpublished work. See for example, Sarah Clapperton, Profile,, undated (accessed 23 March 2015)
  11. She also said: "I will place their responses in the Library of the House when I receive them." Theresa May, Home Secretary, Written statement to Parliament: Undercover Policing, Gov.UK, 14 October 2014 (accessed 25 October 2015).
  12. Association of Chief Police Officers, Business Area: Crime, undated (accessed 21 March 2015)
  13. 13.0 13.1 Serious and Organised Crime Local Profiles: A Guide, Home Office (, November 2014 (accessed 21 March 2015).
  14. Mark Townsend & Tony Thompson, Undercover police cleared 'to have sex with activists', The Guardian, 22 January 2011 (accessed 20 October 2017).
  15. Police raids to recover stolen rhino horn, Echo News (Newsquest (Essex) Ltd), 10 September 2013 (accessed 21 March 2015).
  16. National Undercover Scrutiny Panel, Terms of Reference, College of Policing, 2014 (accessed 23 March 2015). This document can now be found on the College of Policing's website here, while an earlier draft is available at
  17. 17.0 17.1 Neil Smith, Letter to Peter Salmon, College of Policing, 7 July 2014 (accessed via
  18. Meeting to discuss UC Oversight Board - Attendance list (partially redacted), Association of Chief Police Officers, 29 May 2014 (accessed via
  19. Meeting to discuss UC Oversight Board - Agenda, Association of Chief Police Officers, 29 May 2014 (accessed via
  20. 20.0 20.1 Action Points resulting from the Meeting to discuss UC Oversight Board, Association of Chief Police Officers, 29 May 2014 (accessed via
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Rob Beckley, Undercover Meeting Letter, College of Policing, 7 July 2014 (accessed via in response to a FOIA request of Peter Salmon). Also available as part of material released to an FOIA request of Alan Wright at
  22. Undercover Policing - National Oversight Board - Advisory Group], College of Policing, July 2014 (accessed 20 October 2017).
  23. Undercover Policing - National Oversight Board - Advisory Board Briefing Note, College of Policing, undated (accessed via
  24. Apparently there were oversights in the process resulting in him not being informed of future meetings.
  25. Undercover Research Group interview with Peter Jukes, 29 June 2015.
  26. National Oversight Group - Minutes, College of Policing, 22 October 2014 (wrongly given as 2015) (accessed via in response to an FOIA request).
  27. National Oversight Group Minutes, College of Policing, 5 February 2015 (accessed via in response to a FOIA request of Peter Salmon). See also National Undercover Oversight Group - Action Log (via
  28. National undercover scrutiny panel, College of Policing (press release), 13 March 2015 (accessed 20 October 2017).
  29. Minutes of 4th Meeting of the National Oversight Group, College of Policing, 29 April 2015; produced at in response to a FOIA request of Peter Salmon.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Minutes of 5th Meeting of the National Oversight Group, College of Policing, 24 June 2015; produced at in response to a FOIA request of Peter Salmon. These minutes appear attached to the minutes of the 4th Meeting and one needs to scroll down to page 9 to find them.
  31. Minutes of 6th Meeting of the National Oversight Group, College of Policing, 1 September 2015.
  32. National Oversight Group Minutes, College of Policing, 3 November 2015.
  33. National Oversight Group Minutes, College of Policing, 19 January 2016.
  34. Kat Hadjimatheou & Christopher Nathan, Report on Undercover Policing Ethics Workshop, University of Warwick Interdisciplinary Ethics Research Group, 10 June 2016 (accessed via College of Policing website).
  35. 35.0 35.1 National Oversight Group Minutes, College of Policing, 5 July 2016.
  36. National Oversight Group Minutes, College of Policing, 19 October 2016.
  37. National Oversight Group Minutes, College of Policing, 19 January 2017.
  38. College of Policing, National undercover scrutiny panel set up, 12 March 2015 (accessed 1 April 2015). Note, this is a different press release than the statement issued on 13 March 2015, which contained a list of members of the Panel, and additionally, the minutes of the October meeting, both missing from the 12 March statement. It has been updated on 4 June 2015 to remove comments of Sophie Khan following her resignation from the Panel; a copy of the original has been archived by the Undercover Research Group.
  39. Results of a search conducted by the Undercover Research Group 17-25th March 2015, though the Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner did put up a notice on their website that Sue Mountstevens was a member, though merely redirected to the College of Policing for more details.
  40. 'RetiredAndAngry', CofP National UC Scrutiny Panel – Sophie Fights Back, (blog), 18 March 2015 (accessed 21 March 2015).
  41. James Murray, Lawyer slams the 'racist' police she works for, The Express, 29 March 2015 (accessed 30 March 2015).
  42. ActiveMessage, Lots of upset from the ranks as @khan_sophie is given a place on the @CollegeofPolice scrutiny panel for undercover policing, Twitter, 13 March 2015 (accessed 30 March 2015), Josh Loeb, Scrutiny panellist denies being 'anti-police, Police Oracle, 17 March 2015 (accessed 3 June 2015 - a search by the Undercover Research Group of social media found mention of concern from police officers regarding Sophie Khan's presence on the panel over her previous criticism of police - see for example this search on twitter).
  43. College of Policing, Updated statement on the National Undercover Scrutiny Panel, 1 April 2015 (accessed 1 April 2015); this is an update of the statement issued on 31st March.
  44. 44.0 44.1 Sophie Khan, The National Undercover Scrutiny Panel, Police Action Centre (blog at, 27 April 2015, accessed 2 June 2015
  45. Sophie Khan, The Panel was a good idea but..., Police Action Centre (blog at, 1 June 2015, accessed 2 June 2015

Categories: UndercoverResearch