I now know the name of the Metropolitan Police officer who was employed to spy on the protest group in which I was one of the key organisers in the 1990s. Thanks to his former partner Alison (not her real name) and the Guardian it has been established that the man I knew during my time at the Colin Roach Centre (CRC) in Hackney as Mark Cassidy is Mark Jenner of the Met’s special demonstration squad (SDS).
Jenner’s name was revealed when Alison gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into undercover policing, his police role confirmed by the Guardian on 1 March. He is one of 11 undercover police officers publicly identified. Nine of them had sexual relations with activists mainly from environmental groups.
The officers’ actions began unravelling in 2011 when the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) dropped criminal proceedings against six people facing charges related to a conspiracy to sabotage a coal-fired power station at Ratcliffe-on-Soar, Nottinghamshire. The convictions of another 20 activists were later quashed after it was revealed that long-term police spy PC Mark Kennedy had acted as an agent provocateur within the environmental movement. Further allegations of undercover police officers acting beyond their authorisation then surfaced and we now know they were given the names of infants who had died many years previously.
The Metropolitan Police has now been ordered to investigate under Operation Herne how SDS officers created and maintained false identities while undercover.
After Kennedy became public knowledge I wrote a piece for The Big Issue in the North in January 2011 about the man I knew then as Cassidy. Although I had worked Jenner out many years beforehand it was only after he had been active in high profile campaigns in which members of CRC were involved. The centre was opened in 1993 and named after a young black man shot dead inside Stoke Newington Police Station in 1983. It combined a number of unfunded local groups, including the Hackney Community Defence Organisation (HCDA), which had uncovered serious corruption amongst the local police, with Panorama and World in Action undercover investigations confirming some officers were involved in drug dealing.
CRC was burgled, with equipment vandalised and a computer stolen. Cash was left undisturbed
HCDA’s work overturned many convictions and a database of police officers known to have complaints or convictions against them was compiled. The Defendants Information Services (DIS) was registered despite objections from the Association of Chief Police Officers. On 23 December 1994, a day when HCDA had organised a picket of Stoke Newington Police Station to demand action over the death of Oluwasijibomo Lapite in police custody, CRC was burgled, with equipment vandalised and a computer stolen. Cash was left undisturbed. An HCDA spokesperson told the Hackney Gazette: “It was the work of Special Branch, whose real target was a new database service.” In fact DIS was run from a different location.
Early the following year a Liverpudlian who identified himself as Mark Cassidy came into the centre to say he had seen TV coverage of the annual commemoration event for those who had died at the hands of the local police. The 1995 guest speaker was civil rights lawyer Gareth Pierce.“Cassidy” quickly became active in most of the centre’s political life, including writing for our internal bulletin. When a magazine sold to the public was launched his suggestion to call it RPM – revolutions per minute – was agreed. He attended members’ meetings and was privy to confidential information on hundreds of people’s policing cases, including where police officers were charged with unlawful imprisonment and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Jenner was privy to confidential information on hundreds of people’s policing cases
Graham Smith, a Manchester University lecturer, consultant on police complaints to the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and an international expert on police accountability, says: “I am concerned that undercover officer Mark Jenner participated in an organisation that supported law abiding citizens who were involved in legal proceedings against the Metropolitan Police.”
CRC, with Jenner much involved, was also central to the campaign by businessman Malcolm Kennedy to prove he had not killed Patrick Quinn in 1990. Quinn had been battered to death – his injuries included 33 fractured ribs – in Hammersmith Police Station. Convicted of murder, Kennedy was released after his conviction was quashed when the World in Action programme, uncovered new witnesses in the police station, giving grounds for appeal.
At his retrial Kennedy was cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter. After receiving the backing of 65 MPs when a parliamentary motion supporting him was tabled he was granted further leave to appeal. Kennedy lost his appeal in 1996 but as a free man he has continued to campaign to have his conviction overturned. He alleges that as a result he has suffered constant harassment by the police, making it almost impossible for him to earn a living from his removals business.
“This may have perverted the course of justice.”
Kennedy says: “I find it eerie that Jenner was involved at the CRC during the period of my 1996 appeal when he was privy to campaign strategies and confidential information. This may have perverted the course of justice. Without a proper investigation there is no way of knowing how much damage Jenner caused to me.”
Claiming to be a building worker himself, Jenner supported others victimised by their construction industry employers. The Building Workers Group (BWG) had decided to put pickets on workplaces where deaths had occurred. Three people a week were being killed on UK building sites and the aim was to damage the employers’ profits and force them to take action to prevent such tragedies. Where workers refused to cross a picket line it was maintained. However, where the majority went to work the others were persuaded to join them in order to prevent victimisation.
The initiative was a direct challenge to anti-trade union laws. Jenner attended picket lines, wrote for the BWG newspaper and came into contact with many union site representatives.
When UCATT officer Dominic Hehir sued BWG and union member Brian Higgins for libel over allegations he was failing to support members, a defence campaign was established – and Jenner became the chair. Although the campaign was successful the time taken up on Higgins’ defence meant there was little in reserve to picket sites. Those involved felt it was a hollow victory. Higgins, a blacklisted building worker, says: “I am appalled to discover ‘Mark Cassidy’ was actually an undercover police officer who used his cover as a building worker to infiltrate organisations the state does not like. It is like some Orwellian nightmare and it is surely time for decency, justice and democracy for blacklisted workers.”
Higgins is one of 3,213 building workers’ names on the Consulting Association (CA) database used by 44 building companies to vet potential new recruits over the last four decades. His file contained seven pages from RPM.
Many of those on the CA list were “not recommended for employment”. Their details were revealed after the Information Commissioner’s Office closed down CA and its owner, Ian Kerr, was found guilty in 2009 of breaching the Data Protection Act.
The Blacklist Support Group has established that some of the information supplied by CA came from the police or security services. They have lodged a formal complaint to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal – the security services watchdog – and want an investigation about the possible involvement of MI5 and other sections of the security services in blacklisting.
Spokesperson Dave Smith says: “We now want to know why an undercover cop posing as a building worker turned up on picket lines and at campaign meetings, the details of which were discovered in the CA files. Were names of building workers or any information gathered by this police officer passed on to the CA blacklist? It sure as hell looks dodgy.”
I began to ensure his information-gathering opportunities were reduced
By the middle of 1997 I had become suspicious. Jenner had failed to recognise any Tranmere fans when I watched with him the games of what was supposedly his favourite football team. On a union delegation to Ireland he walked down the fiercely Protestant Shankhill Road even though he was a Catholic. He had volunteered to take his van to Ireland, despite knowing it would result in his details being recorded by the security services.
It was all a bit odd but, unwilling to challenge him directly, I shared my concerns with those closest to me and began to ensure his information-gathering opportunities were reduced. By the end of 1997 Jenner’s involvement in the CRC had lessened. He still attended some events but mainly to report on his activities within Anti-Fascist Action (AFA), a militant group that had successfully physically confronted the BNP. AFA member Patrick Hayes had been convicted of causing two explosions in the South East on behalf of the IRA in 1993 and the state was certain to be interested in preventing any such actions in the future. Hayes was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment and later released under the Good Friday Agreement. It may be that AFA was always Jenner’s main intended target.
A concerned Alison rang his workplace, only to discover he had departed a few years previously
CRC had closed by the time Jenner disappeared from his home with Alison in April 2000. In the months beforehand he had acted suspiciously and had slept on the settee in his clothes. Alison had discovered a credit card in his real name, which he claimed to have bought for £50 to obtain petrol dishonestly.
A concerned Alison rang his workplace, only to discover he had departed a few years previously. Yet he had continued during this time to leave for work at 6.30am. Visits to a counsellor to discuss his reluctance to have children were abandoned without him mentioning his family. We now know Jenner was married.
When she discovered my reservations about Jenner, Alison contacted me in 2001 to reveal she had checked his claim that his father had been killed in a car accident in Birkenhead in 1975. The deaths register showed this tale was untrue – one more lie in a very long list.
The Home Affairs Select Committee has asked to be updated every three months on Operation Herne and Theresa May, the home secretary, has promised the Independent Police Complaints Commission will “investigate serious and sensitive allegations”. This may include some from me as I am examining the possibility that a former girlfriend who I lived with may have been in the SDS.
Smith says: “In addition to an examination of past undercover policing arrangements it is important that an independent and impartial investigation is conducted into the purpose of undercover operations. If there is evidence that undercover police officers like Jenner and his superiors were engaged in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, that evidence should be forwarded to the CPS, which will have to decide whether to bring criminal proceedings.”
Photo: Mark Jenner, or Cassidy, as he was known to the author and fellow activists