Undercover police officers banned from intimate relationships with targets
Police have been banned from having sexual relations with those they are investigating undercover following a series of outcries from their targets.
Eight women are suing Scotland Yard for being deceived into having sexual relations with undercover officers.
MP David Winnick, who is currently questioning chief constable Alex Marshall, Chief Executive of the College of Policing about the issue, commented on the objections made by the female targets involved.
He said: “We’ve had witnesses, female witnesses, that said undercover police agents had started sexual relationships with them – and in some cases children had been born – without any knowledge on the part of the women that they were entering an intimate relationship with police officers.”
“And in their view – as one of them described it – it was a form of sexual deceit by the state itself,” he added.
He went on to say that if officers are to engage in such relations, it will now be in breach of the new code that the police are introducing.
Issues of undercover policing tactics have been contested for decades. Controversy surfaced relatively recently when the £1 million trial of environmentalist activists fell through in 2011. The cause for its collapse was the contention that five officers had relationships with the activists they were spying on.
Relationships with campaigners from specific groups were also reported to span from 1985-2010, lasting from seven months to nine years.
However, attitudes about policing tactics appear wholly divided across the police department. As recently as last week Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Britain’s most senior police officer and commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said his undercover operatives may still be involved in sexual relations with targets of investigation. He also added that although guidelines state it should not take place, the rules cannot prevent “human beings sometimes failing”.
Furthermore in June last year Mick Herbert, the then police minister, said that regulations did permit sexual relationships because otherwise activist groups, and others under surveillance, may use sex as a means of exposing officers who are investigating them.
Earlier this year the Home Office ordered every police force in England and Wales to search for evidence of misconduct by undercover officers in an effort to nationally cleanse policing departments following the damage caused by consistent allegations.
Last week the College of Policing published its draft code of ethics, forbidding officers from developing intimate relationships with anyone tied to their professional work. However, these guidelines were not explicit to undercover officers.