'Nothing Has Changed...': A report from a survey of political activists targeted by undercover police in the UK.

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Abstract

Large-scale undercover policing of political activism in the UK has seen more than a thousand political groups spied on since 1968. Unlike ‘typical’ undercover policing operations, seeking to gather evidence towards criminal prosecutions, the focus of these infiltrations has been intelligence gathering, seemingly with the purpose of monitoring and disrupting the democratic right of political groups to protest. We know that undercover officers (or ‘spycops’) have spent years at a time infiltrating political campaigns. Whilst undercover, spycops have engaged in a range of harmful practices, including deceiving activists into sexual relationships, law breaking, appearing in court under false names, spying on children, and adopting the identities of dead infants without consent of their families. An ongoing official inquiry has been tasked with investigating the spycops scandal in depth. More than a decade on from the first spycops exposures, many of the impacts of these deployments remain uncertain.
During the summer of 2021 an anonymous online survey was launched, inviting responses from activists who were impacted by spycops infiltrations. The survey sought to explore the impact of spying on activists themselves, as well as exploring their perceptions of the ongoing Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI) and other related issues. Whilst a modest sample, the survey results demonstrate the need for drastic change within the UCPI to ensure it can regain and retain trust and faith among those impacted by the harms it purportedly seeks to investigate. In addition, the survey also demonstrates the enduring impact of spycops, as well as the enduring political agency of those impacted by spying, in the present, more than a decade on from the first exposures.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationNewcastle Upon Tyne
Number of pages24
Publication statusUnpublished - 13 Jun 2022

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