Undercover Policing: Interim Report - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Operation Herne

23.  Following the impressive work of The Guardian in revealing these practices, on 5 February 2013 we called DAC Gallan to give oral evidence to explain how the Metropolitan Police would deal with the situation. We were concerned to note initial confusion within the Metropolitan Police as to who holds responsibility for this issue.

24.  The Metropolitan Police is conducting a review and investigation of the use of undercover officers by the former MPS Special Demonstration Squad. This review is known as Operation Herne. The Operation was launched in October 2011 and has so far cost £1.25m, including the cost of 20 officers plus 11 staff working on the operation. However, no disciplinary proceedings or arrests have yet been made. When we put it to DAC Gallan that this was a large public expenditure with little to show in terms of results, she said that the number of files being reviewed was immense and in various formats, from written documents to computer files.[27] We heard similar explanations in the early stages of the police inquiries into phone hacking, which were overcome by the crucial intervention of DAC Sue Akers. Similar decisive leadership will be needed to deal with this investigation.

25.  The Independent Police Complaints Commission opted for a "supervised investigation" mode of inquiry, which means that its involvement is limited to setting the terms of reference and receiving the investigation report when it is complete. Control of the review has, for the majority of the investigation, been in the hands of the Metropolitan Police itself, but two days after our oral evidence session on 5 February Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe confirmed that the leadership of Operation Herne would be transferred from DAC Gallan to Chief Constable Mick Creedon (of Derbyshire Police), because he believed that public confidence would best be preserved by appointing an independent chief constable. We note that senior leaders were aware of these issues for several months before the change in leadership. It is important that in future objectivity is ensured from the outset and not only when an operation comes under scrutiny.

26.  For the sake of families whose dead infants' identities may have been used as legends, it is imperative that Operation Herne is expedited with all possible haste. It is shocking that the practice of using deceased infants' names was apparently a surprise to senior officers and it is vital that the investigation establish quickly how high up the chain of command this practice was sanctioned. Once the identity of the senior responsible leaders has been established, the matter should be referred directly to the IPCC, which should then investigate the matter itself, rather than sign off on a "supervised" inquiry.

27.  DAC Gallan told us that she first knew of the use of dead children's identities in September 2012, but the parents of that dead child have still not been informed. We cannot understand what is taking so long. Families need to hear the truth and they must receive an apology. Once families have been identified they should be notified immediately. We would expect the investigation to be concluded by the end of 2013 at the latest. Although we welcome the transfer of responsibility for the Operation to a leader from outside the Metropolitan Police, we are concerned that the appointment of a serving chief constable may not be conducive to a swift conclusion. We have written to Chief Constable Creedon for clarity about how much of his time he will be able to commit to this important work. Responsibility for this matter has already passed from the MPS to local forces, from DAC Gallan to chief constable Creedon and, we trust, from ACPO to the College. Without a clear line of accountability, the risks of malpractice are multiplied. We will return to the question of leadership of internal inquiries and undercover policing standards in our work on leadership and standards in the police.

28.  We reiterate that in this kind of serious standards case the IPCC ought to run an independent investigation. This would be in keeping with the Home Secretary's statement to the House on 12 February 2013 that the IPCC would investigate all serious and sensitive allegations, in line with our recommendations. Funds for such an investigation should be provided by the professional standards department of the Metropolitan Police. In lieu of that independence, we will be asking to be updated on the progress of Operation Herne every three months. This must include the number and nature of files still to review, costs, staffing, disciplinary proceedings, arrests made, and each time a family is identified and informed. We will publish this information on our website.

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Prepared 1 March 2013