Written statement to Parliament

Undercover policing

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

This written ministerial statement was laid on 14 October 2014 in the House of Commons by Theresa May and in the House of Lords by Lord Bates.

Secretary of State for the Home Department (Theresa May):

The use of undercover police officers is an area of significant public and parliamentary interest in the light of the issues identified in the reports of Mark Ellison QC and of Operation Herne. While the issues identified in those reports are historic, the public must have confidence that the behaviour described in those reports is not happening now and cannot happen in the future.

That is why, in June 2013, I commissioned from HMIC a comprehensive thematic inspection of the undercover work of all police forces in England and Wales and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (as it then was).

HMIC has today published the report of their inspection, which also covers the other law enforcement agencies with an undercover capability; the National Crime Agency (as the successor to the Serious Organised Crime Agency), HM Revenue and Customs, the Royal Military Police and the Immigration Enforcement Directorate of the Home Office. I am placing a copy of the report in the Library of the House and it is available online from the Criminal Justice Inspectorate website.

The report finds that, in general, undercover officers carry out their roles professionally and undercover policing as a tactic is essential, but there are still important improvements to be made. In short, we must do more. The report makes a total of 49 recommendations, addressed to all chief constables and the heads of the other law enforcement agencies, as well as to national policing leads and the College of Policing. The recommendations focus on ways to improve the authorisation, guidance, training and oversight of undercover officers. In addition, some recommendations are made directly to undercover officers themselves, their cover officers and managers and to those in the National Crime Agency, who manage the National Undercover Database.

While this government has already taken a number of steps to increase oversight and transparency in undercover work, including raising the authorisation level for undercover officers and strengthening the role of the independent Office of Surveillance Commissioners, it is important that HMIC’s recommendations are implemented thoroughly and quickly in order to give the public the necessary confidence in this work. I have therefore written to the chief executive of the College of Policing and to the responsible national policing leads, Sir Jon Murphy and Mr Mick Creedon, asking them to set out an action plan and timetable for the police to respond to the recommendations of this report. I will place their responses in the Library of the House when I receive them.