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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: 1970s and manager
four groups

HN337 is the cipher given to a former Special Demonstration Squad] undercover officer who was deployed Deployed against four groups in the 1970s. He returned to the SDS as a manager. Now in his 70s. Does not live in the UK. The Undercover Policing Inquiry has ruled that the officer's real and cover names will be restricted.[1]

* For the N cipher system see N officers page.

As an SDS undercover officer

From HN337's witness statement:[2]

  • Prior to serving as SDS undercover had been a Special Branch officer; promoted a higher rank while undercover. In his personal statement, he says he sourced the accommodation for his deployment himself, simply responding to an advert in a newspaper. While in the field, offered very little information as possible, and 'quickly realised people didn't offer up their surnames very often'.
  • While undercover, it was difficult for his partner, and they had to put their social life on hold; this included having to have code for when out together and they encountered someone who knew in them in their undercover role.
  • Implicit expectation cover and real identity would be kept confidential, but not expressly said. Was deployed during 'very early stages of the SDS so it was not nothing formal back then.'
  • Could not recall if a guarantee of anonymity had been formally provided.
  • On recruitment - was approached and told to 'give it a go for 6 months'. No psychometic testing and no formal training.
  • Adamant they had no kind of relationship during the deployment, and nor was any relationship expected. Then later, the gisted report says: 'The Risk Assessor notes that N337 gave an emphatic denial of any relationships and considered N337 to be sincere.
  • Considered that support during their deployment was 'pretty good'.

As an SDS Manager

  • After their undercover deployment, they remained with Special Branch and was involved in several Special Branch squads. Returned to the SDS in a managerial role in the mid-1990s. 'During this period there were several issues with UCOs requiring N337's attention, including a security threat, tasking and strategic and tactical management of sensitive deployments of interest to the Inquiry.'[2]
There are allegations of misconduct on the part of deployed undercover officers during this period about which it is likely that HN337 will be able to provide information and give evidence.[3]
  • N337 was instrumental in the increase in welfare and support programmes for undercovers.[2]
  • As a manager in the SDS in the 1990s, he was responsible for the recruitment and deployment of N81, though played no role in the targeting of the Lawrences.[4][5]

In the Undercover Policing Inquiry

From his witness statement again:[2]

  • Lives outside the UK; happy to co-operate with the Inquiry but does not wish to travel to England to give evidence as doesn't want to be away from their partner that long.
  • Wants restriction over real name being published so as to protect their partner.

They also stated:[2]

I do not see why either my cover or real name should be published. I did not commit any crimes or behave inappropriately during my deployment.
I am aware that there are some former colleagues who did the wrong thing, particuarly in terms of relationshiops with wome. That behaviour is totally wrong. If I'd have got myself into a position where failing to develop a relationship would have stopped me advancing my cover, then I'd have left. I wouldn't have done it; I would rather have cut my ties....

The Risk Assessment notes that:[6]

  • The 'documentation concerning N337's cover name does not accord with N337's recollection of the cover name.
  • The Risk Assesssor believed HN337 'appeared... to have a robust approach to management', and identified the risk that undercovers might themselves confirm HN337's name.
  • 'N337 is more concerned regarding the media intrusion into the misconduct of some SDS officers and their deployments, and the effect this is highly likely to have on N337's family and standing. N337 would consider this to be devasting, life changing and without justification, as N337 considers that N337 sought to improve supervision, welfare, support and discipline.' The risk assessor then concludes that media interest is likely to be high for N337.
  • The Risk Assessor has a serious concern for the physical safety of N337 should the cover name or true identify be officially confirmed. Risk is assessed as likely to occur at some stage, and the impact being 'critical'.

Mitting in his 'Minded to' note set out his reasoning: 'Associates of those with whom HN337 came into contact during the deployment pose a real but unquantifiable risk to life and safety. It is possible that if the cover name were published other individuals who pose no risk to HN337 could give evidence about HN337 which might be of interest to the Inquiry. There is no known allegation of misconduct, arising out of the deployment against HN337; and none is likely to be made.'[4]

The most important issue is that HN337 can't be compelled to give evidence because they live abroad, it would have to happen voluntarily - in this case publicly but under a cypher:[4]

HN337 does not live in the United Kingdom. There is, accordingly, no statutory means by which this officer can be compelled to provide evidence to the Inquiry. The evidence which can be given is likely to be of value to the Inquiry. It can only be obtained with HN337’s cooperation. It is likely that all of the evidence about this deployment and some of it about the discharge of managerial duties will be given in closed session. The evidence about HN81 can be given in open session, with measures taken to protect identity. Its cogency should not thereby be substantially diminished and it will be open to challenge by those who know HN337’s identity.
Even if it were unnecessary to make the restriction order sought for the reasons explained above, disclosure of real and/or cover names would interfere with the right to respect for private and family life of HN337 and partner, who suffers from a long-term physical health condition. It would only be necessary to re-examine the justification for this interference if, contrary to HN337’s declared intention, HN337 declines to cooperate with the Inquiry.

At the hearing in March 2018, Maya Sikand, for Peter Francis, said that even it might result in the loss of evidence from HN337, 'that was a price worth paying to send a message to recalcitrant officers: that unless they were willing to give evidence under their cover name, no restriction order would be made in respect of their real name.' Mitting said such action would be of coubtful legality and not worth the risk of loss of evidence.[7]

Inquiry documents:: Open application (MPS, 27 Sept 2017), Open risk assessment (Graham Walker, 26 Feb 2018) & Witness statement (2017)

Inquiry decisions:

  • Minded-to: Neither real or cover names can be published.[4]
  • Provisional decision (5 Mar 2018): restrict real and cover name with application to be heard on 21 March 2018.[3]
  • Ruling of March 2018: There will be a restriction order in respect of both real and cover names.[7]


  1. 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.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 'HN337', HN337 Witness Statement, Metropolitan Police Service, 2017 (accessed via
  3. 3.0 3.1 Press notice - Publication of documents relating to Special Demonstration Squad anonymity applications for hearing on 21 March 2018, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 5 March 2018 (accessed 5 March 2018).
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 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 2, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 14 November 2017 (accessed 15 November 2017).
  5. Email to core participants, '20180220 UCPI to all CPs - HN26 and HN301 cover names', Undercover Research Group, 20 February 2018, referencing update of the webpage ">
  6. Graham Walker, HN337 Open Risk assessment, Metropolitan Police Service, 26 February 2018 (accessed via
  7. 7.0 7.1 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 Ruling 5 , Undercover Policing Public Inquiry (, 27 March 2018 (accessed March 2018).