Difference between revisions of "Special Branch Registry: source material"

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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
Domestic Extremism
Special Branch Registry
Special Branch Records, IMOS
Parent Units:
Domestic Extremism, Counter Terrorism
1900s to mid 2010s

This page collects source material relating to the Special Branch Registry article.

IMOS activities (2004)

A 2004 document summarising the history of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch breaks down the activities of the Intelligence Management and Operations Support Unit into four aspects / teams.[1]

IMOS Registration Sections
The responsibility of the IMOS Registration teams is to read, search, précis, collate and disseminate information received from Special Branch officers, both from Metropolitan and County Forces. The sections also receive information from police officers of other forces and from various Government departments and International Agencies.
IMOS staff undertake other duties, such as working with SO12 officers in the Operations Room when an operation is active. At the end of their training (or in the case of new entrants to the MPS) on successful completion of a probationary period, staff are required to train police officers, police staff and attachments to interrogate and interpret the main SO12 database.
Subject Index
[...] Team members also record non-personal information relating to operations, policy and various enquiries on behalf of SO12, other police forces and government agencies. Other job responsibilities include carrying out telephone or manual searches for officers requiring current information and, occasionally researching information on historical incidents. Subject index creates and maintains dockets on a variety of subjects and also processes a large amount of loose paperwork. Over the last two years the section has run an intensive weeding, revision and destruction programme in preparation for conversion from a manual to a computerised system.
Nominal Index
The purpose of the Nominal Index is to provide operational support for S012, the wider MPS and other government departments through the prompt and efficient interrogation of the main S012 database. All completed work has to be returned within set time limits, which can prove challenging at times. The Nominal Index function encompasses five key responsibilities.
  • To perform searches on the main SO12 database in support of operational requirements. This includes completing enquiries for other County Forces and Metropolitan Police Firearms Enquiry Teams.
  • To complete certain categories of searches on behalf aof other government departments, some of which have government imposed deadlines for completion.
  • To review certain individual records, deciding whether to update or remove them from the database.
  • To accurately input and edit new information onto the database.
  • To complete telephone searches for SO12 ports officers.
Review Section
This section is responsible for the review of all files created in Special Branch firstly, in accordance with Branch Policy to determine their continuing intelligence or administrative value; secondly, in compliance with the Public Records Acts, which impose a legal requirement on the Branch to make a final decision on files of 25 years and over.
There are three options:
  • Retain files with intelligence value. (25-year files with permission of the Lord Chancellor)
  • Transfer files of historic value to the National Archive
  • Destroy files with neither of these values
The section also carries out a security and sensitivity review on Branch files transferred to the National Archive before release to public view. It is also responsible for reviewing Branch material held on the files of government departments, security services, foreign government departments and security agencies to ensure that no material is released that is against the interests of National Security or that might cause personal distress to any named person or that might compromise the operational effectiveness of the Branch.

SO15 Briefing (2005)

A 2015 briefing on the managment of information within SO15, noted of IMOS:[2]

IMOS: This is an intelligence file library siting on the [redacted] containing approximately 80,000 files which were created as the hard copy database for Special Branch record system.
Background points
  • 60,000-75,000 Secret Pink files dated 1983-2011 are held on the [redacted]. These cover all [Counter Terrorism / Domestic Extremism (CT/DE)] activity from this period. We are currently scanning these files onto a secure hard drive which will provide searchable pdf copies. Files of interest to Op Herne, Op Midland and many currently politically high profile matters contained in this library.
  • 5449 Secret and Confidential files (in 193 boxes) dated 1930-1983 are currently stored at TNT [redacted] These files have not been scanned. The cost of storing these items is now the responsibility of SO15. To return 1 box now costs the Command £125 each way. In total 70 of these boxes have now been returned for Herne/Shay/Irish matters. We have not returned these to save costs, however we are still paying a storage fee though they are in NSY. Preferred option is to provide Op Herne with a list of files at TNT. A bulk return is then made of required files which are then scanned and destroyed. Remaining files destroyed by and at TNT. Second option to return and scan all 5449 files and then destroy.
  • 607 SO1 Protection files in (124 boxes) 1983-2005 are held on the [redacted] Preferred option to pass to Op Midland team or SO1.
  • 4 crates of Special Branch records / registers and Irish/Communist material from the 1920's are held on the 19th floor. To be destroyed asap.
  • 19 Blue Crates with a numbered seal containing ICS material (Applications for Communications Data) are held on the [redacted] To be offered to op Herne and then destroyed.
  • 1358 files from 1936-1980 that have been reviewed but not taken by the National Archive are held on the [redacted] To be destroyed. The National Archive only deemed 10% of this 1358 to be of national interest. Remainder accessed under previous RRD policy as not of a current policing purpose. Second option to scan and destroy, which may be more effective than destroying and weeding electronically from NSBIS.
  • 322 Nationality Files dated 1953-2010 are held on the [redacted]. To be returned to Home Office if original Home Office files. If copies, to be destroyed.
  • 1300 files of Secret Green / TS Green files held on the [redacted]. Bespoke audit and weeding process. If necessary to keep, able to scan and secure on Zamzor IC Desk (TS).
Changes to the Public Records Act will result in the 30 years rule changing to 20 years. This will effectively require all SO15 files to be reviewed by their 15th year and a decision made as to whether to retain or dispose. This legislation applies to files created before 2000. MoPI covers retention of files created after this date.
IMOS began scanning files onto a searchable hard drive in 2013. To date over 9,000 files have been scanned covering the period from 2011, when we ceased creating hard copy, 2005. There are approximately 10,000 more files covering the period 2000-2005. This laborious and costly process using agency staff scans approximately 100-150 files per week. As the files get older, paper quality and print levels deteriorate resulting in photo-copying and darkening of type to allow a successful scan. It is expected that by April 2016 the team will have created electronic copies of all files from year 2000 onwards at a cost of nearly £80,000 in 2014 alone for agency and permanent staff costs assigned to this task.
Approximately 45,000 other files will remain unscanned [...]


SO1: Specialist Protection - a function formerly held by Special Branch
NSY: New Scotland Yard headquarters of the Metropolitan Police. Due to a move ('decant') from here in 2016, there was considerable pressure on MPS to rationalise the material it held.
RRD: Review, Retain and Deletion policy, usually governed by Management of Police Information (MoPI) guidelines.
Green Files May refer to authorisation of operations as the following passage from the book Undercover hints::[3]
The Special Demonstration Squad considered the arrest of its spies, and their occasional participation in crime, a hazard of the job that could always be ironed out with a quiet word with someone senior at Special Branch.
A practice had emerged in which SDS officers who had committed crimes quickly reported what they had done to a supervising officer. They were then provided with retrospective authorisations, recorded over the years in top-secret green files, know through their filing code: 588.

Dedicated Source Unit

The SO15 Briefing also makes note of another unit:[2]

Dedicated Source Unit / Covert Functions Archive
This contains approximately [redacted] physical files relating to CHIS activity by SO15 and SO12 dating from the 1970's to present day. Although some of the files are indexed in a protected manner on SKY, it is only the subject's name that was indexed. Details tasking, other bio details, intelligence generated (although disseminated at the time) is not searchable within that physical data. A succession of decisions about the deletion of CHIS records have been made by the National Source Working Group and MPS Directors of Intelligence / Covert Policing. The current position is that CHIS records are rarely deleted. A project was initiated to identify a means of making this archive more searchable, no solution has yet been identified and there is no current RRD activity taking place.


SO12 Metropolitan Police Special Branch. SO15 is Counter Terrorism Command, formed in 2006 out of a merger of Special Branch and Anti-Terrorism Branch (SO13).
CHIS: Covert Human Intelligence Source, and can refer to both undercover officers and also informers / other infiltrators.
SKY refers to a separate IT system used by SO15.

Operation Herne criticism (2014)

Second Operation Herne Report

The second Operation Herne Report, Operation Trinity: The Allegation of Peter Francis, 2014, addressed how material passed from the Special Demonstration Squad to the wider Special Branch, including the Registry.[4]

Intelligence Submission Process from SDS to Special Branch
13.1 The SDS intelligence handling processes are not like the covert intelligence processes today whereby intelligence, although sanitised, can be attributed to a specific source through a series of firewalls. The process adopted within SDS and Special Branch in the mid 1990’s means that great efforts were made to mask and protect the covert source and it is difficult to identify and confirm any specific intelligence.
Throughout deployment, intelligence would be recorded personally or via cover officers. This report would then be sanitised by the back office staff, to remove all references to the operative or the SDS. Anonymity would be ensured by the term ‘Secret and Reliable Source’. A copy of the report would also be placed on the file of the organisation or individual subject of the intelligence.
Intelligence would normally be disseminated to a Special Branch ‘C’ Squad[5] officer who would filter the product out to the relevant desk or department. On occasion this would be passed direct to a relevant interested party.
Pre 1998, records, documents, and intelligence files were almost exclusively paper based. N53 makes reference to the fact that they were responsible for instigating the use of computers within the unit at that time.
Operation Herne has interviewed officers who have worked on both ‘C’ Squad and the SDS in order to understand the intelligence flow between the two.
13.2 Prior to the introduction of computers raw intelligence product would be completed by the undercover officer and stored within an individual folder within the SDS Office. It would be sanitised by the SDS Detective Sergeant and then passed in a paper format to ‘C’ Squad on a weekly basis. Sometimes undercover officers could meet Desk Officers from ‘C’ Squad in order to address certain submissions. The sanitised product would go to the respective field desk such as: animal rights, far-left etc and if appropriate the intelligence would be passed on to the respective borough or department.

Third Operation Herne Report

The third Herne report, Special Demonstration Squad - Mentions of Sensitive Campaigns, 2014, likewise stated:[6]

1.20 The SDS undercover officers, deployed in isolation, routinely gathered all of the information and knowledge that they became aware of and passed it on to a line manager through either verbal or written communication. The operatives, working without specific and detailed objectives or ‘use and conduct’ guidelines now commonplace in Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) authorities of today, would not themselves filter the information that they had became aware of. Operatives would gather and report all of the detail relevant to the groups that they infiltrated.
1.21 This report is highly critical of the management of SDS undercover officers’ product that came from their authorised covert deployments and in some cases were focused on obtaining knowledge rather than intelligence that was not in respect of “terrorism, public order events, the activities of groups involved in politically motivated crime and crime related to animal rights and environmentalist activity” as outlined in the somewhat aspirational “Statement of Purpose.”
1.22 Although it is apparent that the knowledge obtained was not disseminated outside of MPS Special Branch, Operation Herne has discovered that the SDS did report a range of information regarding campaigns for justice and even allowing for the collection as a consequence of the deployment, much of this information did not meet the requirements stated within the ‘Statement of Purpose’ and should not have been retained.
1.24 Whilst Operation Herne reporting has referred to “intelligence” and “information” gained by SDS undercover officers, in reality most of the detail subject of this report that was collected and subsequently retained about these Justice Campaigns was little more than “mentions” and the information submitted was normally in the public domain and had been openly discussed at the public meetings. Although targeted at identified specific protest groups, SDS practice was to report all of the information and knowledge they accumulated. Once collected MPS Special Branch managers would then assess and analyse this knowledge, sanitise and share with other MPS Special Branch indices. Often these “mentions” reported by SDS undercover officers would simply be a direct reporting and repetition of opinions and speeches voiced at these meetings, and the information was rarely disseminated further across the MPS.
1.25 This practice of the mass collection and retention of ‘knowledge’ identified by Operation Herne undoubtedly begs the question, “Why report, record and retain this information if it provided no operational benefit in targeting crime or preventing disorder and if it was not disseminated outside Special Branch for any operational or investigative purpose?”
1.26 At this time Operation Herne has not identified a documented rationale or policy decision for the collection and retention of this material. It simply appears that this had become the standard practice developed by the SDS and MPS Special Branch and as new undercover officers were recruited, this was the operating methodology they were taught. [...] In some cases it is appropriate and in fact necessary to report and retain certain covertly collected detail to provide context around specific information and thereby assist the informed assessment of potential serious public disorder and the appropriate policing of such events. Operation Herne has found evidence that supports that the SDS operated in this way.
1.27 However to date, Operation Herne has clearly established that this general operating methodology and the mass of information stored in MPS Special Branch records was not always subject of consideration in terms of the collateral intrusion it should have commanded by today’s standards. The current [Management of Police Information (MOPI) guidance 2010 (second edition)] provides clear guidance that the collection, recording and retention of such information would not be justified unless in order to:
• Protect life and property,
• Preserve order,
• Prevent the commission of offences,
• Bring offenders to justice and
• Any duty or responsibility arising from Common or Statute law.
Some of the information recorded clearly did not meet this criteria.
Note: The Statement of Purpose refers to the 1994 Guidelines on Special Branch work in Great Britain.

The third Herne report concluded:

13.1 Although enquiries continue, the findings of Operation Herne indicate that the information or ‘mentions’ reported by SDS undercover officers on these Justice Campaigns are as a result of information and knowledge that was obtained from conversations often in public meetings or by members of the target group. Operation Herne does not criticise the officers that collected this material. There is no evidence of covert operations targeted against any of the respective families or Justice Campaigns.
• No documentation has been identified detailing any targeting or infiltration by the SDS into any family member of any Justice Campaign or any Justice Campaign itself.
• There are no references to any SDS undercover officers directly meeting or being tasked in relation to solicitors or legal representatives engaged to represent any family member of any Justice Campaign.
• No recording of personal information about family members has been identified.
13.2 Notwithstanding the above findings there remains a large quantity of material held within the MPS Special Branch and SDS records that should either not have been recorded, or when it had been should not have been retained, and has been held in direct contravention of RIPA and MOPI. The stated SDS remit, the operating methodology and requirement placed on its officers meant that such a collection of information by them was inevitable. For the most part it was appropriate and enabled an informed assessment of potential disorder, and references to provide context could be justified. However some information recorded simply does not meet this criteria. The concern is that there is no apparent MPS policy statement that properly dealt with how such collateral information should have been dealt with - both pre and post the RIPA legislation.
13.3 It is quite clear that maintaining the secrecy of the unit and protecting the identity of the officers was of paramount importance to all involved and in being so focused on this aspect the management of the SDS, of the MPS Special Branch and ultimately the MPS Executive Leadership of the day collectively failed. They failed in respect of keeping abreast of changes in practice and legislation, in considering the clear risks of collateral intrusion by the “hoovering” covert collection methodology, and in failing to effectively weed “community gossip” that appears to have limited operational value as it was rarely, if ever, disseminated to the wider MPS organisation. They failed in their not embracing and using the available national undercover training course which would have ensured that the operatives and supervisors better understood their personal responsibilities and the concept of collateral intrusion, necessity and proportionality. They failed in not working strictly to RIPA which would have ensured that authorising officers would have set clear objectives for the covert deployments and the collection of only appropriate and relevant intelligence. They failed in not applying MOPI which would have led to a proper assessment of relevance and the weeding of unnecessarily retained irrelevant personal information.
13.4 Ultimately the Metropolitan Police Service failed in not working to the nationally accepted Home Office Guidelines on the workings of Special Branch – had they done so this activity may well not have taken place, the intelligence would not have been recorded and if it had been it would have been rapidly weeded as it did not relate either directly or indirectly to the discharge of Special Branch functions.
13.7 The SDS remit was to provide intelligence on the potential for public disorder and serious criminality and there is a wealth of documentation which supports that this objective was carried out effectively on many occasions. As an inevitable consequence of their long term deployments, SDS undercover officers were invited to meetings and demonstrations on single issue campaigns by virtue of their alignment with a range of organisations and they subsequently reported back in general terms. There is a noticeable lack of personal and private information contained within the reporting found which suggests that individuals and their families were not directly infiltrated.
13.8 However the recording and retention of information mentioning individuals should not have occurred unless it related to potential crime and disorder - a general Special Branch thirst for knowledge and retention of information ‘just in case’ cannot ever be a sustainable rationale. Some information recorded about Justice Campaigns did not meet the ‘potential crime and disorder’ criteria and was retained in contradiction of both RIPA and MOPI.
13.9 Although Special Branch existed to primarily acquire intelligence to meet both local policing needs and to also assist the Security Service, it is clear that the culture and complacency that MPS Special Branch adopted in their quest for knowledge became blurred. While providing assessments in relation to public order and the safety of the general public, they gathered and retained a range of information which was not appropriate. The long term retention of this information is in contradiction of policy and guidelines.
13.10 It is highly ironic that had MPS Special Branch complied with established policy, little of this information would have been uncovered as it should have been “weeded” several years ago. Operation Herne has only identified this knowledge and information due to the remarkably comprehensive SDS and MPS Special Branch records that have been maintained over several decades.

Witness Statment of Alistair Pocock

In April 2017, Det. Insp. Alistair Pocock of the Metropolitan Police's Public Inquiry Liaison Team submitted to the Undercover Policing Inquiry a witness statement on the management of information within SO15 Counter Terrorism Command. SO15 CTC had inherited responsibility for the Special Branch Registry and IMOS and Pocock was able to provide considerable insight into how the information was being managed.[7]

Relevant excerpts only.

(ii) IMOS background

7. Intelligence Management and Operation Support or 'IMOS' is the current name of the former Special Branch Records ('SBR') section. The SBR section was know to be in existence in the 1960s under this name. However, SB would have had a records section from its inception. The name IMOS was adopted in 2004. For purposes of clarity in this statement, I have referred to the section as IMOS throughout.
8. IMOS remit was and remains to record and administer intelligence received from all areas of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch (MPSB). MPSB became Specialist Operations 12 or SO12 in the late 1980s. SO12 was amalgamated with the Anti-Terrorist Branch (SO13) in 2006 and became the Counter Terrorism Command otherwise known as SO15. IMOS is now part of SO15.
9. Material received by IMOS consists of intelligence reports and enquiries on the strategic intelligence priorities that SO15 collects upon, messages from the MPS Computer Aided Despatch system (force wide computer system), correspondence from other police forces and partner agencies; information and intelligence generated from operational activity; local and relevant MPS guidelines policy; open source material.
(iii) How IMOS records are Indexed
10. To explain how IMOS records are indexed today, it is necessary to explain how IMOS paper files were stored prior to computerisation of its records.
11. Prior to computerisation, IMOS maintained a Nominal Index of any individual that was mentioned in its reports. The Nominal Index consisted of binders containing white card slips that noted the biographical data of individuals (for example, their names and aliases) and a summary of their known activity. The slips were cross-referenced with relevant file numbers (known as 'mentions'). The slips were an aid to finding the files in which an individual was referred to.
The Nominal Index and Personal files
12. If a Personal file about an individual was opened, the white card slip was replaced by a pink card slip containing the individual's biographical data and personal file number. The white card slip with the original information was converted into a history sheet which was then stored at the rear of the new Personal file. The history sheet was used to record further information concerning the individual's activity.
The Subject Index and Bulk files
13. Non-nominal information was kept in a card index known as the Subject Index. The Subject Index contained, amongst other matters, dedicated sections relating to entities (such as groups), policy, operations, events and a large miscellaneous section.
14. The Subject Index consisted of white card slips that contained a summary of the information contained in the reports and which were cross-referenced with relevant file numbers (known as 'mentions'). The slips were an aid to finding the original reports stored in the files.
15. Some non-personal matters were made the subject of their own files known as Bulk files. If a Bulk file about, for example, a specific group was opened, the white card slip in the Subject Index would have been replaced by a pink card slip detailing the Bulk files created on that matter. The white slip with the original information was converted into a history sheet which was then stored at the rear of the new Bulk file. The history sheet was used to record further information concerning the entity's activity.
The creation of Personal and Bulk files
16. Personal and Bulk files were opened about individuals or subject matters on direction of SB officers according to the level of activity of the nominal or any specific current interest or operational requirement. IMOS staff could also submit a request to SB officers for authorisation to create a Personal or Bulk file if an individual or an entity came to frequent notice.
The recording of material
17. When a document was received into IMOS, it would be allocated to the most appropriate file by IMOS records staff. Once the document was assigned to a file, it would be indexed with a file number and folio (or page number). A summary of the information in the document would be made to assist its retrieval on request.
18. The document would also be cross-referenced with nominal and non-personal matters. SB Registry staff would index the nominals on the Nominal Index and the Subject Index staff would note the document for its subject matter on the Subject Index.
(iv) How IMOS files are stored
19. Until late 2011, IMOS received all material in hard copy. Hard copy material received into IMOS would generally be stored on paper files. The Registry Section of IMOS were responsible for maintaining the manual indices described above at [Sections] 11-15.
20. Each registered hard copy file had a corresponding location slip bearing the file number and title. This was used to book out files to sections or individuals and acted as an audit trail. The locations slip was stored in the Locations Index, which is currently held in IMOS. The Locations Index assists IMOS to search for historical hard copy Personal and Bulk files.
21. In the 1980s, a Computer Section was created in IMOS and the gradual shift to electronic records began with the introduction of the Intelligence Network Force wide Official System ('INFOS'). Initially, storage on the INFOS system was limited and only the top 300 nominal records of interest were computerised.
22. The Registry Section continued to maintain the manual Indices. In due course, the Registry Section computerised its Nominal Index on the Millennium System, which was then superseded by the Aquarius system. At that point, there were two computer systems in operation - the INFOS sytem maintained by the Computer Section and the Aquarius System maintained by the Registry System. The decision was taken that INFOS would be subsumed into the Aquarius System, which is otherwise known as the Bibliographical Retrieval System ('BRS').
23. Starting in 2003, the Nominal Index was computerised. The Nominal Index was computerised. The Nominal Index can now be searched through the BRS. From that time, new material was indexed on BRS directly. Once the Nominal Index was computerised, the hard copy version was destroyed.
24. The Subject Index was not suitable for conversion for technical reasons, but the information on pink card slips found at the back of Bulk files were computerised. The white card slips were destroyed.
25. The Personal and Bulk files have not been computerised, but were retained in hard copy form and subject to review, retention and/or destruction in accordance with legislative requirement and MPS information management policy and guidelines. Destruction proformas were created upon file destruction. However, a comprehensive record of file destruction does not exist.
26. In 2004, IMOS was re-organised. Intelligence was re-arranged into thematic sections such as Operations, International, Irish and Domestic Extremism. The Registry and Computer Sections were merged as they were, by that time, performing the same function.
27. In late 2011, SO15 adopted its own version of the NSBIS database ('SO15 NSBIS'). Since the adoption of SO15 NSBIS, IMOS has received material in electronic form only and stored it on SO15 NSBIS . Since that time, IMOS has not created new paper files or added to existing paper files, but it has retained paper files that existed prior to the move to electronic record-keeping.
28. IMOS receives material electronically on the SO15 NSBIS. The BRS database is no longer updated, but it is linked to the SO15 NSBIS database. Indexers populate the SO15 NSBIS database with electronically submitted material and make the appropriate links between records, including to historical records on the BRS system. This allowed IMOS to retrieve historical information from BRS through the SO15 NSBIS.
29. Files are marked in accordance with the Government Protective Marking Scheme. Prior to GPMS, files were marked as per previous iterations of government protective security marking policy.
30. The Location Index is stored in a file store at IMOS. The Personal and Bulk files are also stored there and at a MPS deep storage facility. The deep stored files can be retrieved at the request of IMOS staff.
Document Retention
31. In response to the UCPI, in May 2014 the SO15 OCU Commander circulated a directive that no material will be deleted without their authority. The file store at IMOS is supervised by IMOS staff during working hours and access to it is restricted to a small number of security vetted personnel within SO15. The store is locked outside of normal working hours and access is only allowed to staff in the 24 hour SO15 Reserve Room. Reserve staff are the only SO15 personnel aside from IMOS staff who have a key to the store. If serving SO15 police officers or police staff need access to IMOS records, they can ask for them if they have teh appropriate level of security clearance. Current practice determines that a member of IMOS staff will locate and draw the files, book them out and hand them to the requestor who should not enter the store unless accompanied by an IMOS staff member. This system protects the integrity of IMOS records and ensures that a security vetted SO15 officer is accountable for any files booked out. Similarly, staff from Operation Herne and the Assistant Commissioner's Public Inquiry Team (AC-PIT) that require access to IMOS files are subject to the same process. Access to IMOS files is on a 'need to know' basis, therefore, with the exception of those officers and staff responding to this Inquiry, non-SO15 staff will have no need to access IMOS files. No specific reason is required to book out an IMOS file. Booked-out files are subject to periodic reminders for return.
32. In the past, IMOS files have been reviewed, retained and/or destroyed in accordance with legislative requirements and MPS information management policy and guidelines. For NBSIS RRD policy please cross-reference Jeff Lamprey's statement re Rule 9 (25) REQUEST THIS. As noted at S.48(vi) of Detective Superintendent Neil Hutchinson's witness statement , dated 17 June 2016 in response to the Inquiry's twelfth Rule 9 request, all deletion of SO15 material, including that held by IMOS, was suspended for the duration of the Inquiry. This was at the direction of SO15 Commander Duncan Ball.
(v) Searching IMOS records
33. The SO15 NSBIS database, including the incorporated BRS database, can be searched using a free text search tool.
34. In late 2011, SO15 migrated to the NSBIS intelligence management system. Dependent on the search parameters, search results may identify material uploaded since late 2011. If so, it can be viewed on the NSBIS SO15 database. Search results that identify material received by IMOS before late 2011 provide only a précis of that material and an indication were that material is located. It will be necessary to review the hard copy Personal and Bulk files stored in IMOS since such material does not exist in a comprehensive electronic format.
36. First, it is important to note that generally the source of intelligence was not recorded on intelligence submitted to IMOS for indexing. Intelligence product was 'santised' by the office submitting the intelligence to remove the details of the source. Intelligence received by IMOS could have originated from a significant number of sources, most of which are unrelated to undercover policing. IMOS does not hold an index of intelligence received from a particular source (such as a specific undercover officer), from a specific unit (such as the SDS) or by certain means (such as undercover policing). Personal and Bulk files must be manually searched to attempt to identify intelligence that may have originated from a specific undercover officer, a specific unit and/or undercover policing. The PILT have learned that there are some indicators which may suggest that intelligence originated from an undercover officer or SDS, but the correct attribution of intelligence requires a very careful examination of the records and even then it is not guaranteed.
Additions dated 6 April 2017
48. Further to paragraph 28 above, IMOS receives information electronically through the internal shared mailbox system on the secure network used by SO15. The unit that possesses the information initially in SO15 assesses whether it needs to be sent to IMOS for storing and indexing. If it is assessed that the information needs to be sent to IMOS, the information is sent using the shared mailbox on the SO15 computer system. I am aware from my knowledge of CTPNOC [Counter Terrorism Policing National Operation Centre] work that it uses a different system of secure email.
49. The reference at paragraph 32 above is to guidance provided by what was then known as Association of Chief Police Officers Terrorism and Allied Matters Information Security Services ('ACPO (TAM) ISS'). This was on application of Management of Police Information to [Review, Retention and Disposal] RRD and also the practical aspects of conducting RRD on [National Special Branch Information System|NSBIS]]. Both of these policy documents are exhibited to my witness statement as Exhibit AP/170405/1.
50. The general procedure by which RRD is conducted, including the process of scheduled and triggered reviews, is as described in the document at Exhibit AP/170405/1. SO15 apply the criteria in creating a nominal and reviewing a material set out at sections 3.1 to 5.2 of the document entitled 'Standard Review, Retention and Disposal Procedure'. Until deletion was paused in 2014 for the purpose of retaining material potentially relevant to the Undercover Policing Inquiry, material that did not satisfy the requirements of retention were deleted. After deletion was paused, material is reviewed in accordance with the same criteria and the material not suitable for retention is marked as suitable for disposal but not disposed of'. [....]

See also NSBIS Review, Retention and Disposal User Guide


  1. History of UK Special Branch, Metropolitan Police, August 2004 (accessed via SpecialBranchFiles.uk).
  2. 2.0 2.1 Appendix A to SO15 report dated 11th June 2015 concerning Information Risks in SO15. Appears in Exhibit D754: Debriefing re Management of Information within SO15, Metropolitan Police, June 2015, (accessed via ucpi.org.uk, appended to a witness statement of Det. Supt. Neil Huchison).
  3. Rob Evans & Paul Lewis, Undercover: The True Story of Britain's Secret Police, Faber & Faber, 2013.
  4. Mick Creedon / Operation Herne, Report 2: Operation Trinity - Allegations of Peter Francis, Metropolitan Police, 2014.
  5. C Squad was the section within Metropolitan Police Special Branch which dealt with 'counter-subversion' or domestic extremism'. See History of UK Special Branch, ibid.
  6. Mick Creedon / Operation Herne, Report 3 - Special Demonstration Squad: Mentions of Sensitive Campaigns, Metropolitan Police, July 2014.
  7. Det. Insp. Alistair Pocock, Witness statement, Metropolitan Police Service, 6 April 2017, incorporating statement of 3 January 2017 (accessed via Undercover Policing Inquiry - ucpi.org.uk).