Undercover: The True Story of Britain's Secret Police, page 31
‘Yes, well. It is all pretty bad really.’
‘Hurting Megan is just the hardest thing. I love her so much. What has happened is just devastating for everybody. If I can help, in whatever way I can, then I would like to.’
Less than a month earlier, in the early hours of a Wednesday night, Kennedy had been in Nottingham, sat on the sofa, surrounded by friends, making his confession. Now he was reflecting on events from thousands of miles away, staying with his brother in Ohio. Kennedy told the lecturer he was grateful to their activist friends for the courtesy they showed him on the night of the confrontation.
‘They were so good, you know? That Wednesday could have been as bad as it could ever be. But you know, people were good. They were decent about it.’ Kennedy paused before adding: ‘They were always going to be.’
Kennedy’s voiced wobbled repeatedly during the telephone call. He would later describe this period – the lonely weeks abroad after he was outed – as the lowest point of his life. He was unsure who he really was. Part of him, of course, was still Mark Stone, the activist, seeking atonement for his sins.
It was this that the university academic had in mind when he arranged the call. He wanted to persuade Kennedy to take a remarkable leap. The trial of 26 activists accused of conspiring to break into Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station was due to start in a few weeks. The lecturer was among those facing conviction and a possible jail term if found guilty. He was trying to convince Kennedy to switch sides, abandoning his loyalties to the NPOIU altogether so he could give evidence on behalf of his friends in the green movement. He made sure to record the call.
‘In terms of the wider points, about police infiltration, who they go after and the methods that they use,’ the lecturer said. ‘It is quite an extreme thing that they are doing. This is not al-Qaida. It’s fucking Climate Camp, you know what I mean?’
Kennedy agreed the surveillance was overkill. ‘When you start addressing the cost and the finance of it all,’ he said, ‘I am not the only one, you know? Not by a long shot.’
‘It seems patently obvious that Lynn was [a police officer],’ the lecturer said. ‘It just totally fits.’
Kennedy had already admitted to his friends in Nottingham that Lynn Watson was a colleague of his. This time he simply laughed and said: ‘I can’t really comment. But I am not the only one.’ He added: ‘You know, when you start looking at the way the law is used and it is manipulated, it’s like, what the fuck?’
The lecturer explained the legal situation. The 26 who had been charged with conspiring to break into the power station were split into two groups. Twenty of them accepted that they planned to break into the power station, but were planning to run a ‘necessity’ defence. They would call on evidence from the world’s leading climate scientists in a bid to persuade the jury that the attempted break-in was justified because, by temporarily halting emissions at the plant, they were saving lives that would be lost to global warming. Similar legal strategies had been successfully used by climate activists in the past. This group of defendants called themselves ‘the justifiers’.
The second group of defendants had a different defence. None of them were involved in any planning of the protest against the E.ON plant. They were just part of the large crowd of campaigners who had descended on the school in Nottingham with a vague sense that there would be a protest.
When police stormed into the building shortly before midnight and arrested 114 people, these six activists had still not decided whether they wanted to take part in the occupation of the power station. Hence, they were called ‘the deniers’; their strategy was to persuade the court that – contrary to the charge – they were never part of any ‘conspiracy’. Some people had obviously planned the Ratcliffe-on-Soar protest. It just wasn’t them.
Over the phone, Kennedy agreed this was the truth. The case being brought against the activists was unjust and flawed. It risked a miscarriage of justice. He expressed an interest in saying as much in court. He said he would spend some more time thinking about giving evidence on behalf of his activist friends and agreed to start liaising with their lawyers.
‘I owe it to a lot of good people to do something right for a change,’ Kennedy said. ‘Most of all Megan.’
The lecturer also encouraged Kennedy to speak to two Guardian journalists – the authors of this book. Kennedy sounded interested in the idea of giving them his story and turning his back altogether on his former employers at the NPOIU. He was considering doing the right thing, but he was nervous.
‘The potential to blow the lid on stuff is absolutely huge,’ he said. ‘I am out on a limb here. I am totally on my own.’
On the morning of January 10 2011 – two months after that call – there was a rare moment of theatre in Nottingham Crown Court. It happened around 10.25am. The six deniers were sitting in the dock, awaiting what should have been the start of their trial. As it turned out, Kennedy went back on his offer to help the activists. Despite telling their lawyer, Mike Schwarz, he would help their case, he pulled out. It seemed he did not have the courage to stand up in court against the police, in a bid to save his old friends from a possible jail term, or ‘blow the lid’ on police spy operations by speaking to journalists at the Guardian.
However, Kennedy’s admission that he was a police officer, to his friends in Nottingham and, later, in the call to the university lecturer, had been sufficient to undermine the entire case. Shortly before Judge John Milmo entered the room, a woman clerk walked nervously over to the dock. She whispered a few words to the six men then ushered them out of the dock and across the courtroom, where they took their seats in the space usually reserved for the jury. It was a weird sight.
The public gallery was packed with reporters from national newspapers and TV stations. At the back of the court, behind the journalists, were a handful of detectives, including some from the NPOIU. They looked furious. By the time Judge Milmo walked into the room in his red robe, everyone in court understood the significance of the six deniers being removed from the dock.
That morning the Guardian had published the details of a special investigation into Kennedy’s seven years undercover, without his co-operation. It included the revelation that the Crown Prosecution Service was abandoning the trial against the deniers. There had been a game-changer, and it was linked to Kennedy.
It all happened remarkably quickly. Prosecutors told the court they would no longer pursue the case and the judge agreed to enter not guilty verdicts for all six activists. They walked free and, moments later, stood on the steps outside the court as Schwarz gave a brief statement to the waiting media.
‘On Easter Monday 2009, over 400 police officers were involved in a raid at Iona school in Nottingham, which led to 114 arrests. I represented 113 of those arrested,’ he said. ‘The 114th we now know was PC Kennedy, an undercover police officer. This is a serious attack on a peaceful, accountable protest on issues of public and pressing importance like climate change. One expects there to be undercover police on serious operations to investigate serious crime. This was quite the opposite. This was civil disobedience, which has a long history in this country and should be protected.’
For the first time since 1968, when Conrad Dixon began deploying spies in protest groups, a lawyer could prove that his clients had been infiltrated by police. Even though Kennedy pulled out from helping, Schwarz could request disclosure of all the evidence the undercover police officer must have gathered during the deployment. It was the equivalent of placing dynamite and a ticking clock beneath the case of the prosecution, which had little choice but to abandon the trial.
By then, the other 20 activists, ‘the justifiers’, had already been prosecuted separately. Their trial had taken place three weeks earlier. All of them were found guilty, but spared jail after the judge in the case declared they had acted with ‘the highest possible motives’.
It was a bitter pill for Kennedy’s handlers at the NPOIU. They had spent millions of pounds sp
The NPOIU might have felt relieved that, despite the judge’s proclamation, the twenty ‘justifiers’ were still found guilty, their trial taking place before the Kennedy revelations were made public. But five months later, their convictions were quashed, after the court of appeal ruled that evidence obtained by Kennedy, and withheld from the activists’ lawyers, would have exonerated them.
At the centre of the ruling was the Casio watch Kennedy used to record conversations at the school in Nottingham. The contents of Kennedy’s surveillance tapes would have supported the activists’ argument that they had planned to occupy the power station in a safe way to stop carbon emissions, rather than, as the prosecution alleged, a publicity stunt.
The three senior judges said ‘elementary principles’ of fair justice had been ignored. ‘Something went seriously wrong with the trial,’ they said. ‘The jury were ignorant of evidence helpful to the defence, which was in the possession of the prosecution but which was never revealed. As a result, justice miscarried.’
The ruling personally criticised Kennedy, concluding his deployment among the campaigners could have been construed as ‘entrapment’. They observed that the police spy ‘was involved in activities which went much further than the authorisation he was given, and appeared to show him as an enthusiastic supporter of the proposed occupation of the power station and, arguably, an agent provocateur’.
For senior managers in the NPOIU, it was a catastrophe. The behaviour of one of their undercover police officers was now public knowledge. The activists he had spent years spying on had been praised in court for their high moral principles and found to be not guilty. Now, police were in the dock.
The story of Kennedy’s undercover mission was making headlines across the world. There was astonishment that police would ever contemplate such an intrusive surveillance operation against peaceful activists. Most people never imagined undercover police would spend years posing as protesters, let alone form long-term sexual relationships as part of their cover. And the remarkable story of Kennedy’s undercover life was only the start.
Kennedy, it turned out, was just the first in a line of falling dominoes of SDS and NPOIU spies. The second police spy to be unmasked in the Guardian was Lynn Watson. She was followed a few days later by Marco Jacobs. With their identities compromised, Jacobs and Watson were told they could never work as undercover officers again. The country was realising that Kennedy was not a lone wolf, but part of a team of undercover police targeting political campaigners. Senior officers contemplated the possibility that more officers would be exposed. They put in place a contingency plan to pull out as many as 15 undercover officers and tried to discourage editors from identifying any more operatives. In the top ranks of Scotland Yard, panic was beginning to set in.
But the dominoes did not stop falling. In the months that followed, there was a cascade of further revelations, first about Jim Boyling. The revelations included the claims made by his ex-wife Laura, that he had made her change her name by deed poll and disclosed classified information about the undercover operation. The day after Laura’s story was revealed in the Guardian, Scotland Yard initiated a disciplinary inquiry into Boyling which, more than two years later, has still not beeen concluded. Still working for the Met police, Boyling denies that he ‘committed any criminal or misconduct offence whilst carrying out my duties’ for the covert unit. ‘My actions whilst deployed on SDS duties were with the approval of the Metropolitan police,’ he said. ‘I have never opposed the work of the SDS and I have never compromised my work colleagues.’
One of his former colleagues, Pete Black, started to give the inside story about the SDS, revealing the truth about the operations, including the use of dead children’s identities. Meanwhile, one by one, as activists began piecing together long-forgotten jigsaw pieces, more police were unmasked: Simon Wellings, Bob Lambert, John Dines and Mark Jenner suddenly found themselves splashed across the pages of newspapers and the subject of heated debates in parliament.
Apart from Black, none spoke openly about their undercover work. They have all tried to keep a low profile. Kennedy, on the other hand, was quick to cash in on his notoriety. He decided against speaking to any investigative journalists and did not co-operate with this book. Instead, he solicited the services of the celebrity publicist Max Clifford, who sold his exclusive story to the Mail on Sunday tabloid and arranged for a series of carefully managed interviews, allowing Kennedy to paint a one-sided and often misleading picture of his time undercover.
For many of his old friends in the activist movement, Kennedy’s media tour was the ultimate betrayal.
At the time of his first interview, less than three months after he made his confession to friends in Nottingham, Kennedy pretended to be in hiding, claiming he feared he might be killed by violent political activists seeking vengeance. Posing for photographs in a neat shirt and sweater, he looked totally different to Mark Stone; he was clean-shaven, with short hair and a neat side parting. ‘I can’t sleep,’ he said. ‘I barricade the door with chairs at night. I am in genuine fear for my life. I have been told that my former bosses from the force are out here in America looking for me. I have been told by activists to watch my back as people are out to get me.’
Just a few weeks earlier, Kennedy had been on the phone to his friend, the lecturer, apologising for what he had done and thanking his friends for the kindness they showed him on the night he was confronted in Nottingham. Kennedy had been treated humanely, and he knew it, telling the lecturer during the call: ‘I’ve frankly got nothing but gratitude for that.’
In his tabloid newspaper interview, Kennedy gave a wildly different account. For a start, he claimed that he only travelled to Nottingham to meet Megan and the other activists because he thought they might harm his family. ‘I was extremely fearful for my children because I know what the people I had been involved with were capable of,’ he said. ‘I had been infiltrating a lot of very serious people for a number of years. I needed to find out what they knew to assess the threat level. So I went.’
If that seemed far-fetched, so too was his depiction of his arrival in Nottingham, when his friends calmly gave him a chance to explain himself. In Kennedy’s account to the newspaper, it was more like a hostile interrogation. ‘I was asked to sit down, which I did,’ he said. ‘Then three or four other people came in. They shut the door in a menacing way. They sat in a semi-circle around me. It was hugely menacing. I cried a lot. It was the end of my tether. They broke me.’ He also denied telling friends that night that Watson was also a spy. ‘I didn’t give anyone up,’ he said.
Worst still for Megan and his friends was his portrayal of life in Nottingham. ‘What I found difficult was the dirt,’ he said. ‘They should have known I was a cop as I was the only one who ever cleaned anything. People didn’t buy food; they either stole it or took it out of bins. Often vegetables in the kitchen had mould on them. You couldn’t tell if they’d been there for a while or been salvaged. It would annoy me when I gave someone a lift and they put their filthy feet on the dashboard.’
On the whole, Kennedy gave every impression of a man wallowing in self-pity. It was not the people who he was spying on who were the victims of any injustice, but him. ‘I am physically and mentally exhausted,’ he said. ‘I have had some dark thoughts. I thought I could end this very quickly. I don’t have any confidence. My world has been destroyed. I don’t have any friends; they were all in th
There is little doubt Kennedy was suffering from the same kind of psychological confusion that plagued Mike Chitty 20 years earlier. The parallels between the two men are obvious. Both formed intimate relationships while undercover, and both, after finishing their deployments, returned to their former lives, unable to let go of their disguise.
Kennedy was soon giving radio interviews in which he spoke about his dual identities in the third person. ‘What Mark Stone believed in and his values are probably very similar to Mark Kennedy,’ he said. ‘It’s a part of my life which has come to an abrupt end. It’s very much like falling off a cliff. I’m trying to establish who I am now, but I think I have to put Mark Stone in the background and try and think about who I am.’
He was clearly confused, but perhaps Kennedy’s most blatant deception related not to the hygiene of his friends in Nottingham, or the nature of his confession, but the vexed question of his sexual activities. Kennedy claimed to have been the victim of a ‘smear campaign’ by women, and claims he was celibate for the first year of his deployment.
‘I avoided sexual contact, despite the fact that free love is part of that lifestyle,’ he said. He admitted to only two intimate relationships – Lily and Megan – a claim he later repeated in testimony to parliament, in effect denying his sexual relationships with all the other women.
Lily, the woman who shared two years of her life with Kennedy, with whom he spent long weekends getting to know her family and even attended her grandmother’s birthday, was reduced to a fling. ‘She came on to me at a party. She seduced me. I know it was wrong,’ Kennedy said. ‘I didn’t consider her a proper girlfriend.’
He was only a little more honest about his six-year relationship with Megan, who he described as a Welsh redhead. ‘I was in a relationship with a really amazing person,’ he said. ‘I felt really trapped as to how I was going to extricate myself from such a position without hurting that person and without hurting everybody else that was connected to me. At the same time I was being tasked to continually provide intelligence and I didn’t have time to think.’