Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and Derbyshire Chief Constable Mick Creedon said to reveal the names would put undercover police in danger.
Sir Bernard said: “We will not confirm or deny whether or not a particular identity was used. If we apologise to a particular family about a particular identity, then we are confirming or denying, and that is a policy that we are not prepared to breach.”
Mr Creedon, who is leading an investigation into the activities of undercover police, said that, while the relatives deserve an apology, revealing the names used “would and could put undercover officers at risk”.
The pair were speaking as a report into the use of deceased children’s names by Scotland Yard undercover officers was published yesterday.
Investigators have found 106 covert names that were used by the Met’s Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) between 1968 and 2008, 42 of which are believed to have been based on the details of dead children. Another 45 were fictitious, and the rest have not yet been categorised.
Identities of children born between 1940 and 1975 were used, with the preference on those who had died between the ages of four and eight.
Jules Carey, solicitor for Barbara Shaw who fears that her son Rod Richardson’s name was used, said she feels her complaint to Scotland Yard has been “swept under the carpet”.
He said: “What we heard this morning was not an apology but a PR exercise. The families of the dead children whose identities have been stolen … deserve better than this. They deserve an explanation, a personal apology and, if appropriate, a warning of the potential risk they face in the exceptional circumstances that their dead child’s identity was used to infiltrate serious criminal organisations.”
Mr Creedon was called in to lead an independent investigation into the activities of SDS officers, and will also look at a successor unit, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU). His report on the use of dead children’s identities suggested the practice might have been more widely used, by police officers outside the SDS and NPOIU, and possibly the security services.
Investigators have received 14 inquiries from 17 families that believe they may have been affected. The earliest confirmed officer to have used such an identity was in the field between 1976 and 1981, the report said.
The procedure, which was “standard practice” in the SDS, was phased out from 1994 in that unit, but potentially used by the NPOIU up to 2003.