Sir Hugh Orde and ACPO’s ‘lack of transparency”

16 Jul

Originally posted at my blog spin.off , while working on the book.

Sir Hugh Orde has criticised the News of the World for ‘lack of transparency’ and for ‘withholding information from an important investigation’.

Last week the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) appeared on BBC Radio’s Today programme again, promoting himself as the next commissioner of the Metropolitan police. Now he has accused Rupert Murdoch of a complete denial of responsibility for what went on at News Corp. (Watch Orde on the BBC).

What seems to have been forgotten in the current media frenzy, is that ACPO itself is under investigation as well … for very similar facts.

Under Hugh’s presidency, the organisation had Mark Kennedy (pictured) infiltrate the climate movement for seven years. The ACPO undercover agent secretly recorded meetings of environmentalists who had discussed occupying the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power plant. But in the case brought against them, the tapes were not among the evidence in court.

As result of public pressure half a dozen official reviews into the Kennedy case are now underway. One by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and another one by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The Crown Prosecution Service did an internal investigation, which evolved into an independent inquiry chaired by a retired high court judge. And even before these reviews could start, ACPO lost the responsibility for the monitoring of so-called ‘domestic extremism’ with immediate effect.

Meanwhile, the legal battles of the climate campaigners in court are not over yet either; just this week they won their appeal over the non-disclosure of the taped evidence by Mark Kennedy.

It’s not just about infiltration, withholding information and the total lack of transparency, however. The Kennedy case puts the blurring boundaries of public and private policing in the spotlight, and ACPO is right in the middle of it. The set of secret units Kennedy reported to was established explicitly to satisfy the needs of companies targeted by activists.

ACPO was founded as a limited company, selling its data to clients such as energy companies exploiting power plants and airline companies involved in the expansion of airports and flights. And, more importantly, the cooperation works both ways. The APCO database also contains ‘information supplied by companies that hire private investigators to spy on protestors, sometimes by infiltration,’ according to its national co-coordinator for domestic extremism, Anton Setchell.

And what’s more, the companies involved hire former police and intelligence staff to deal with security issues. Scottish Power for instance contracted Gordon Irving as its security director. He joined the firm in 2001 after 30 years in Strathclyde police where he was head of Special Branch. E.ON hired Global Open to assist in intelligence gathering. Its director is Rod Leeming.

He left the police in 2001, where as head of the Animal Rights National Index he regularly infiltrated undercover operatives into protest groups. Since the ACPO units have a history in countering animal rights activism before shifting their focus towards climate campaigners, links with companies like Global Open remain rather underexposed so far.

ACPO’s manoeuvres between private and public policing need to be addressed in an independent inquiry first, before considering further career moves for Sir Hugh Orde.