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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 557-ii
HOUSE OF COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE THE
Home Affairs Committee
Undercover Policing: Follow-Up
Tuesday 16 July 2013
Evidence heard in Public Questions 94 - 144
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
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Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Tuesday 16 July 2013
Keith Vaz (Chair)
Mr James Clappison
Dr Julian Huppert
Mr David Winnick
Examination of Witness
Witness: Mick Creedon, Chief Constable, Derbyshire Police, gave evidence.
Q94 Chair: First of all, my apologies for keeping you waiting. I am afraid enforcement and crime took a little longer than we suspected, but we are most grateful. Can I begin by thanking you for publishing your interim report? I and members of the Committee found it a very interesting and useful read and you provided a huge amount of information for us in a very short period of time. We are most grateful. It really begs the question, for 20 months, Pat Gallan and her colleagues at the Metropolitan Police were looking into Operation Herne, it cost the taxpayer £1.23 million. It engaged many members of the police force of the Metropolitan Police but it did not produce anything like the information you have produced since you were appointed on 11 February. Certainly from my point of view, I thought it would be quite difficult for you to do your job as Chief Constable as well as producing this report but you have. Do you worry that this really ought to have been done much sooner?
Mick Creedon: I think it would be wrong of me to criticise what went before and I do know that Herne started quite literally with two or three people starting to work out what it was they were facing. By the time I was involved, the Met had already set up a large incident room and I describe Herne as a huge issue that needs examining, as you are well aware, you have seen the terms of reference to the scale of the examination. I think the specific issue of identities had understandably caused a lot of concern, so we have made sure we focus on that and sought to conclude that part of it. Herne itself is enormous. We sought to bring an early conclusion to the identity issue, on which a lot of work had been done, which is the report you have seen.
Q95 Chair: You have been very gracious to those in the Met but certainly, from this Committee’s point of view, when we first took evidence on 5 February, we were not convinced that sufficient work was being done and you seem to have done a lot of that work. You have identified 42 dead children whose identities have been used by undercover agents. Is that the correct figure?
Mick Creedon: That is the correct figure we currently have. The report outlines over 100; 42 we know were based upon dead children, 45 were totally fictitious, and there are a few that we are still investigating. I am very clear in the report, it is interim in the sense we are still doing further investigations. It covers the principle and the issue but the detail could still get more-
Q96 Chair: Last week, the Commissioner made an apology prior to your review. He was also mindful of the fact that you were going to publish your report today but he has subsequently, I think, today made a fulsome apology to those families whose dead children’s identities were being used. Do you welcome what the Commissioner has said today? Obviously nobody is asking you to apologise today but do you welcome the fact that the Met has reacted so quickly to make such a fulsome apology to the families?
Mick Creedon: Totally. I briefed the Commissioner last week. He had what was a draft report. The final one was delivered yesterday and I think what was done today was absolutely right. The concerns that he expressed are the concerns that the report reported to him and I think it is the concerns that this Committee and the public have had about the use of this tactic.
Q97 Chair: What also concerns the Committee is the fact that there are still parents who have not been notified. You have not made a recommendation to this effect, though you have alluded in your report to the issue of confidentiality and safety of the police officers. We are talking about events that took place 20 years ago. Why is it not possible for all the parents to be notified that the identities of their children have been used in this way? Isn’t that the right and fair and honourable thing to do?
Mick Creedon: I think my report, toward the conclusion, says there is a clear argument that the parents, or the families, should be informed or could be informed, but equally, there is a very compelling argument based upon operational security, the contract that in effect we have with undercover officers when they enter this world, and we have to weigh up the benefits as I am quite clear some of the children could have been born as early as 1940 and probably as late as 1975. So the parents and families of these deceased children, who have never known of this event whatsoever, are likely to be very elderly, could be hard to trace, and so there is an issue about what benefit there is in telling them. The most important bit for me is this issue about the absolute contract we have when we get officers who volunteer to be undercover officers that we will protect their identity, because I am quite clear in the report, and clearly I couldn’t discuss the operation deployments, but some of these are extremely dangerous deployments and for us to start putting identity in the public arena, we cannot then control it any further.
Q98 Chair: You talked about authority going to a very, very high level. Did this affect both Special Branch and the units that you have described? And how senior a level? You are not telling us that Ministers authorised this.
Mick Creedon: No. The SDS was within the Metropolitan Police Special Branch, which obviously goes up to a very senior level including Commander, Assistant Chief Constable level. The tactic was known of within the SDS and Special Branch throughout its time. The National Public Order Unit came out of the SDS and it was a Metropolitan unit, an ACPO unit, and then returned. As you are aware from the report, we know of at least one occasion when that tactic was transferred across into the NPOIU, so it is nonSpecial Branch.
Q99 Chair: As far as the Stephen Lawrence issue is concerned, which you are also looking at, the Home Secretary has asked you to look at this. Have you uncovered any evidence so far that undercover officers were involved in smearing the Lawrence family?
Mick Creedon: No, none. There is limited reporting within our incident room, very limited reporting, which relates to the Stephen Lawrence murder, including references to Doreen and Neville and so on. There is no evidence whatsoever. We are really keen to speak to the officers that were deployed at that time, working at that time, including the officer that-
Q100 Chair: This is Peter Francis.
Mick Creedon: Very much so, yes.
Chair: We will come on to that.
Mick Creedon: Thank you.
Q101 Chair: As far as the Lawrences are concerned, I want to know because you have told me and the Committee in your letter that there were 50,000 documents that you had to sift through.
Mick Creedon: There are.
Chair: How were you able to find out the documents that specifically related to the Lawrence family? We have masses of information.
Mick Creedon: Yes. We have 6,000 paper documents and then around 50,000 electronic files, some of which are very small, some very large, and we have been searching on them and using search engines to go through those, hence we have names including misspellings that may or may not be Lawrence. So it is a process of elimination. Clearly, as we do the inquiry and we interview people and we start looking at more documentation and get statements, that could change.
Q102 Chair: In respect of the women who were involved and duped by these undercover officers, is it your view that they should also be informed fully about what happened?
Mick Creedon: I think in relation to the women, and, of course, there are civil claims that-
Q103 Chair: There were children as well.
Mick Creedon: Yes, the women, and the women and children, and the women who are making claims against the Metropolitan Police, I am really keen for them to come forward and speak to me. The difficulty we have is that they have a civil process they are going through, but I also have a criminal investigation that I need to get into, and without their support and their giving statements-I appreciate how hard it is for them to give statements about this matter-it gets very difficult to get to the bottom of the potential criminal matters.
Q104 Mr Winnick: Your conclusions, Mr Creedon: it was an interesting report, as the Chair said. On page 19, paragraph 11(4), you say, "The use of children’s names by undercover agents was an imperfect solution at the time to address the needs to cover an identity and the unit had little choice before 1994". That is a justification of what occurred, is it not?
Mick Creedon: I am sorry?
Mr Winnick: It is a justification of what occurred.
Mick Creedon: It is not a justification; it is an attempt at an explanation. I can’t put myself in the mind of the officers, both the operatives and the commanding officers, about the risks they faced at the time. I do know they were very real risks and they clearly made a considered judgment to go down this path. Obviously other options were available but this was seen as their safest route of providing a backstop cover identity to allow the officers to be deployed.
Q105 Mr Winnick: Would you describe it as morally repugnant?
Mick Creedon: I use those words today, but I said it would appear to some people as that. It certainly is not something that I have seen in other undercover policing, but I have to stress that the world of the SDS and the world they were in was a particularly unique world compared to what I would describe as the more usual crime undercover policing.
Q106 Mr Winnick: Yes. Mr Creedon, if we could get it quite clear. You say you can understand those who consider that the use of the names of dead children by undercover agents, obviously without the knowledge of their parents in any way, would be considered morally repugnant but, as far as you are concerned, you don’t believe that was so.
Mick Creedon: No, I didn’t say that. What I said was that, because of the inquiry, I understand now why they did it. I understand why they did it.
Q107 Mr Winnick: So can I put it to you directly? Do you consider that that was a morally repugnant practice?
Mick Creedon: I think that to a certain degree it is irrelevant what I think. As a senior police officer, and I am the lead for organised crime which includes undercover policing, this is not a tactic we would use these days-we would never authorise it in the world of undercover policing now-but it would feel very strange for me to criticise the actions of people of 20, 30, 40 years ago, without knowing what it was they faced at the time.
Q108 Mr Winnick: Did you feel that a number of people would come to the conclusion that this was a whitewash by you?
Mick Creedon: No, and I would be interested to hear why it is. I have done what was set out to do. I went, I investigated, I found out what happened. Everyone is very open about what happened, and the ethical considerations are there within it, but how this could be seen as a whitewash, I really don’t know.
Q109 Mr Winnick: I suppose the explanation people would give is that, if the police are going to investigate the police, which you did-I am not criticising the role you undertook; obviously you were asked to do a job and you did it, and you are a highly professional police officer, and no one disputes that for one moment-it is inevitable, some would say, that you would come to the conclusion that you have, to find an excuse for what occurred.
Mick Creedon: This is a broad question. Clearly the IPCC have a role in relation to Herne. The IPCC oversee four strands of my investigation. But not the issue of identities, I hasten to add.
Q110 Mr Winnick: Thank you. If I may, just one further question. You say in your report it seems to have been more extensive than what has been revealed so far. Can you give any information about that?
Mick Creedon: I think what my report alludes to is that I have concentrated on the SDS. I am aware of the NPOIU. What we have not done yet is look at the development of undercover policing in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s when there is the potential it was used by other undercover units. It absolutely does not happen now.
Q111 Mark Reckless: What discussions have you had with the Home Secretary, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner or indeed Doreen Lawrence following the recent revelations and how do you think they are factual on Operation Herne?
Mick Creedon: Clearly in relation to the Commissioner, I meet regularly with both Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and Mr Mackie, his Deputy. I have personally briefed the Home Secretary but that was prior to the allegations about Stephen Lawrence. Since the allegations and the part of the inquiry I am doing, we have sought to have contact with Mrs Lawrence through Imran Khan. It hasn’t yet happened. I have also now, as of yesterday, obtained a phone number for Mr Lawrence and I am trying to make contact with him but I have had no direct contact despite the fact we tried many times.
Q112 Mark Reckless: Has there been a significant change in trajectory of the operation in light of the recent revelations?
Mick Creedon: If you remember me describing this enormous thing, which is the investigations that are undergoing, there are four distinct strands with the IPCC. There are other distinct investigations and we can prioritise whichever part needs prioritising. We clearly prioritise the work about identities. We are able to prioritise the work around the allegations about Stephen Lawrence and his murder and the undercover infiltration and we are doing that and we are working closely with Mark Ellison in that area.
Q113 Chair: Thank you. You know that Mrs Lawrence came before the Committee last week.
Mick Creedon: I do.
Chair: She said she had no confidence in the current inquiries and that she wanted a full public inquiry. What do you feel about that?
Mick Creedon: First and foremost, I would like the opportunity to meet Mrs Lawrence and explain to her what I am doing. I may be naïve but I think I could explain to her very clearly how we can investigate this and hopefully build some trust, and I think it is important we recognise the difficulties of any investigation of this nature. The officers that we need to speak to are clearly very concerned because they were covert officers in a dangerous arena and my attempts to build that trust have taken quite some time. The officers are now coming forward to me and my team gradually. How they would come forward to a judicial or public inquiry would be more complicated.
Q114 Nicola Blackwood: I wanted to go back to your answer to the Chairman about how you are providing information to Mr Ellison’s review because when we heard from him, he was very clear that he is depending on you to do the initial sift and obviously you said you have 50,000 documents, some of them digital, some of them paper. You described the way that you are sifting by looking for the word "Lawrence", which seems quite simple, so I just wonder if you could give a little bit more of a detailed explanation about how you are sifting through the information to make sure all the relevant evidence is provided to Mr Ellison.
Mick Creedon: Firstly, we are in regular contact. Secondly, we provided details to Mr Ellison both during the murder investigation, which he was counsel for, and also subsequently now he has the inquiry on behalf of the Home Secretary, and we provided what we have in our system. We have a number of documents that relate to the mention of the Stephen Lawrence murder. They have been provided to him.
We can look at the other documents in batches around the time and date they were provided, and clearly anything before the murder wouldn’t be relevant to that anyway. We are fairly confident-and one of the members of staff is in the room-that they have been gone through. There are two elements to this and I can be very brief. A document can be looked at, it can be read physically and can be looked at. That is the easy bit. Putting a document on to a computer system and indexing every aspect is quite different. So we are able to look at the documents physically to see references but then putting them on to the system is much slower. So that first process allows us to identify documents which we could then hand over to Mr Ellison.
Q115 Nicola Blackwood: Yes, all right. So at this stage, you have reached the point at which you have gone through, you have identified all the documents relevant to Lawrence inquiry.
Mick Creedon: We believe so, yes.
Q116 Nicola Blackwood: Have you put them all on the system?
Mick Creedon: The documents that we have, have been made available to Mr Ellison. He has them all and those documents are being prioritised and put on the system or are in the process of being put on the system. The most important bit is not the documentation now; it is talking to the officers, the supervisors, those that were involved, to understand what was happening around the time of the Stephen Lawrence murder.
Q117 Nicola Blackwood: All right and so that sort of human evidence, the human intelligence as it were, when do you think you will have reached a point where you are confident you have as much of that as you will be able to have?
Mick Creedon: I think the scoping of that and the understanding who we need to speak to is relatively easy. Getting them to come and speak to us is slightly more difficult but again, we are working with Mark Ellison and the view is we are prioritising that and I think he is certainly looking to have a report on this by the end of the year at the latest and we will work with him.
Q118 Dr Huppert: This inquiry started two years ago and you were given charge of it I think earlier this year. If it hadn’t been for Peter Francis, if he hadn’t gone public, do you think you would have found out any of this? Would you have discovered it was an issue you ought to be looking at, at all?
Mick Creedon: The Stephen Lawrence issue?
Dr Huppert: Yes.
Mick Creedon: Yes.
Q119 Dr Huppert: You are confident you would have done so.
Mick Creedon: Yes, because we had already made it available to Mr Ellison. It was already known by the Commissioner, his office, and it was something that was known to the Metropolitan Police Service.
Q120 Dr Huppert: Just not to the public.
Mick Creedon: Clearly not, no.
Q121 Chair: When was it known to the Commissioner?
Mick Creedon: Certainly prior to the revelations.
Q122 Chair: Prior to it appearing in the newspapers, the Commissioner knew about the smearing of the Lawrence family?
Mick Creedon: No. Prior to the revelations in the newspaper, the Commissioner knew there was reporting within the SDS about the Stephen Lawrence murder, which is quite, quite different.
Q123 Chair: Right. But how long prior to that?
Mick Creedon: I don’t have the exact date but certainly prior to that. It is a matter of record, and the point being-
Chair: Not a matter of record with us.
Q124 Dr Huppert: It would be interesting to know firstly when the Met Commissioner, and presumably the Home Secretary, were told that there was some connection with Stephen Lawrence and the family-Duwayne Brooks and Doreen and Mr Lawrence-in the files. But also there was some connection that went somewhat further-were they told about the level of involvement before it went public?
Mick Creedon: Sorry, you say the level of involvement in terms of?
Q125 Dr Huppert: The efforts to smear the Lawrence family-
Mick Creedon: No. The allegation of efforts to smear the family is not what the Commissioner was made aware of.
Q126 Chair: What was it then?
Mick Creedon: The Commissioner was made aware that there had been covert deployments that had, in a sense, reported on the Stephen Lawrence murder.
Q127 Chair: That sounds very vague, Mr Creedon.
Mick Creedon: That is very different to the attempts to smear the family.
Q128 Chair: We understand that, Mr Creedon, and I realise why you are saying this, but the Committee is very concerned about this because if there was reporting which, to quote you, in a sense made reference to the Lawrence family, you are saying the Commissioner was aware of that. The reporting, maybe not the smearing, but the reporting.
Mick Creedon: No. The issues that Operation Herne have seen, which are in relation to covert deployments, which have reported intelligence, which relate to the Lawrence family was a matter that was known about.
Q129 Chair: All right. When?
Mick Creedon: This was revealed to counsel prior to the murder trial.
Q130 Chair: All right. Forget about counsel, because they are not here today. We are interested in the police. We will come to counsel later. When was it known?
Mick Creedon: I could find the date. I am very happy to supply it to the Committee.
Chair: Thank you, that is helpful.
Q131 Dr Huppert: Can I speak very clearly? It would be very helpful to have that. The specific allegations about smearing, did that come from Peter Francis or was that known to you, to your team or to the Commissioner, ahead of Peter Francis’ comments?
Mick Creedon: The allegations about smearing were put to me when I did the filming for the Dispatches programme. That was the first I knew about them.
Q132 Chair: Which was when?
Mick Creedon: The Wednesday before it went public; the day before the book launch.
Q133 Chair: That is all very helpful, but we need a date-the book launch, the film and all this kind of stuff.
Mick Creedon: Again, I can find out.
Q134 Chair: Sorry, can we just establish a date, please? Do we have a date? Do you know when the date was? Was it February?
Mick Creedon: No, no. Whenever the book launch was. It was a matter of five or six weeks ago.
Q135 Dr Huppert: Then to come back to my original question, can we be sure that without Mr Francis going public, there would have been information about the smearing of the family found by your inquiry or you can’t be certain that it would ever have been found?
Mick Creedon: No. I think what I said was we can be certain that Operation Herne would have found out about reporting that related to the Stephen Lawrence family, as indeed there will be reporting in relation to many other high profile events in the capital. There was nothing in Operation Herne that suggested any attempt whatsoever, two things, firstly to be tasked against the Stephen Lawrence family and secondly, to besmirch the Stephen Lawrence family. There is no evidence to that whatsoever.
Chair: Thank you. That is very clear. James Clappison.
Q136 Mr Clappison: Can I just briefly ask you a bit more about this because the way you have chosen to put it is that it was reporting about the Stephen Lawrence family, yes? There was reporting about them being carried out under cover.
Mick Creedon: Let me try to explain that. If there was a violent protest group, the violent protest group may well hook on to any high-profile incident as a vehicle for their violence, for their protest. So if there was undercover reporting against that violent protest group, it may well report on several high-profile incidents. It does not mean there is an undercover operation against that family.
Q137 Mr Clappison: I can’t put myself into Mrs Lawrence’s shoes, but what I understood from the evidence she gave to us the other day, one of the things that upset her, was that she was, in effect, being spied on or watched by police officers unbeknown to her when she thought the police should be directing all their activities into finding out who had committed this very serious offence.
Mick Creedon: I completely understand that, and that is what she has been told as a result of the allegations made by Peter Francis, which is why there was a need to investigate these properly.
Q138 Mr Clappison: But the police were watching her rather than carrying out investigations.
Mick Creedon: I would stand to be corrected but I believe Peter Francis has been quite open. He never ever met the Lawrence family.
Q139 Chair: He is not here, so we will have to see him at another stage. Do you know if any action was taken by the Commissioner when he found out about this, before it became public knowledge, when he presumably didn’t know it would become public knowledge?
Mick Creedon: This was a matter that Operation Herne had limited knowledge on and was always investigating but this is a matter the Metropolitan Police had known about before.
Q140 Chair: Was anything done about it?
Mick Creedon: In terms of the recent knowledge by the Commissioner?
Mick Creedon: Yes. Operation Herne was looking at this but Operation Herne is looking at many, many issues and I think people are getting the wrong end of the stick in terms of working out what this is. I keep trying to explain, the fact that an undercover deployment made a reference to the Stephen Lawrence family does not mean there was undercover deployment against the Stephen Lawrence family. Can I put this very briefly in context?
Chair: Very briefly.
Mick Creedon: If there is a violent protest group now with undercover officers in, they could well be reporting on another high-profile incident. It does not mean that family or that incident is being targeted. It means the group is being targeted.
Chair: Thank you. I am coming to you next, Mr Winnick. Just for colleagues who still have to ask questions, we have our other witness waiting and we must be very brief. Mr Creedon, you have been good at your brief answers. Mr Winnick.
Q141 Mr Winnick: Mr Creedon, do you agree with what the Prime Minister said in the House over the manner in which Peter Francis made these allegations? And if it happened, the Prime Minister, to say the least, as was the Deputy Prime Minister afterwards, was highly critical? Do you accept the sentiments they expressed?
Mick Creedon: If this were true, quite clearly I would accept it. It would be completely unacceptable. The most important thing is that this needs investigating and my plea would be for Peter Francis to give us a statement because without that statement, we cannot ask the question, "Who tasked you? Who was the supervisor? What was your reporting? What was the reason you were tasked?"
Q142 Mr Winnick: I had the impression from the answer you gave Mr Clappison that there is a distinction to be made, in your eyes at least, between spying on Mrs Lawrence, the mother of the murdered person, Stephen, and spying on a group of people that might have been involved in any demonstration over the murder. Is that correct?
Mick Creedon: There is a huge difference. There will be no justification that I know of why anyone would have an undercover deployment against a murder victim’s family, particularly in this case. There is no reason. There is a completely different reason why you would infiltrate a violent protest group that would seek to use an event as part of their campaign.
Q143 Mr Winnick: When Mrs Lawrence gave evidence to us, she was quite clear in her own mind that she and her husband, at the time, were being spied on and that instead of the police investigating the brutal murder of Stephen, the police were far more interested in the families.
Mick Creedon: This is why I would like to meet Mrs Lawrence and explain exactly what we-
Q144 Chair: Thank you. I think you have made that clear several times. We are going to have to move on. Chris Ruane has the final question. You don’t have one?
Thank you very much for coming here today and thank you for your interim report. We do appreciate it and we will be in touch with you again. In terms of resources you now have an additional number of Metropolitan Police officers helping you. Do you think you may need officers from other forces?
Mick Creedon: I have the support of the Home Office with some funding around this and I have a group that will now do the Phase 1 work, so I believe I have sufficient resources for the time being.
The Dispatches programme, I am told, was 19 June, so I would have filmed four days earlier.
Chair: Thank you for coming. Please keep us updated. Thank you.