Police watchdog chose not to examine work of Mark Kennedy

The head of a police watchdog has said he did not feel it 'appropriate or necessary' to examine the activities of a notorious undercover officer who spied on activists.

Michael Matheson has ruled out a public inquiry into undercover policing
Michael Matheson has ruled out a public inquiry into undercover policing

In a report published on Wednesday, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) said Mark Kennedy, a member of the now defunct National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), visited Scotland on at least 17 occasions and carried out “multiple activities” on each visit.

In 2015, the Metropolitan Police issued an “unreserved apology” to a number of women tricked into relationships by undercover officers, including Kennedy.

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Asked about providing more information on Kennedy’s activities in Scotland during an appearance before Holyrood’s justice sub-committee on policing yesterday, HM Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland Derek Penman said: “We were about providing the nature and scale. We felt it was helpful to put that information in the public domain, but I was also conscious that information came from the information base which will effectively inform the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI).

“We didn’t consider it appropriate or necessary to go in and look at the actual detail behind that. Our terms of reference was very much about getting some high-level figures the extent and scale.”

Justice secretary Michael Matheson has ruled out a separate Scottish inquiry into undercover policing.

During the committee meeting, Labour MSPs raised concerns about the limited nature of the review, which examined activities in Scotland between 2000 and 2016, following on from the Undercover Policing Inquiry set up in England and Wales to investigate allegations of misconduct by undercover officers.

Environmental activist Tilly Gifford, who says she was targeted by undercover officers, is seeking a judicial review to either force the Home Office to extend the English and Welsh inquiry to cover Scotland or compel Scottish Ministers to set up a separate probe.

Daniel Johnson MSP said there were situations which would be “left in the gap” between the HMICS review and the English and Welsh inquiry, while colleague Neil Findlay said it was “inconceivable” to think that abuses only happened south of the border.

Mr Matheson told the committee: “Should new information or evidence become available in due course, particularly through the Undercover Policing Inquiry, I will give it careful consideration and if appropriate revisit the possibility of an inquiry.

“I’m not closed to if there are concerns or issues being raised or highlighted to me that they shouldn’t be considered.”