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Yesterday, my friend Kate Wilson received a landmark ruling in her monumental ten year legal battle against the Metropolitan Police. Kate took them to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), a secret human rights court, to challenge the way in which undercover policing is used against protest groups.
The IPT ruling laid out in detail an extensive list of breaches of Kate’s human rights by the Metropolitan Police, which were “without lawful justification in a democratic society.” The court examined evidence relating to the sexual relationships that undercover police officer Mark Kennedy had with Kate and a number of other women, and looked at the widespread practice of undercover officers deceiving women into long-term, intimate relationships.
The IPT concluded that the police violated Kate’s Article 3 right to live free from inhumane and degrading treatment, as well as her Article 8 right to a private and family life. They also found that the police were guilty of sexist discrimination in their handling of her human rights.
The IPT stressed that the police failed to put in place proper systems, safeguards or protections. The training of officers in relation to sexual relationships was grossly inadequate, and there was a widespread failure of supervision. The court ruled that the failure to prevent undercover officers entering into sexual relationships primarily impacted women, to the extent that it amounted to sexist discrimination under Article 14 of the Human Rights Act.
Like Kate, I was deceived into a long-term, intimate relationship by a Metropolitan Police officer, Carlo Soracchi (“Neri”). We met in London in September 2002, at an anti-war demonstration. Carlo was a steward on the march, alongside friends who were trade union and anti-racist activists.
We were immediately inseparable and within six weeks he moved into my flat, asking me to marry him soon after. We lived together for two years and even planned to have children together. Carlo left in 2004, after appearing to have a breakdown. Leading up to his final disappearance, he went missing several times and threatened suicide.
Like many women before me, I discovered a decade later that Carlo had led two lives – one with me, as a locksmith and left-wing activist, and the other with his wife, as a highly trained undercover officer, operating in a secretive unit within the Metropolitan Police. For over a decade, I had no clue that the man I lived with was in fact a spy, paid to lie by the state.
Soon after my discovery, I met the first eight women who brought civil cases against the Metropolitan Police, one of whom was Kate Wilson. The similarities between their stories and my own were astonishing. These undercover spies often formed relationships with women as part of their cover, concealing their true identities with the help of state-manufactured fake IDs such as driving licences and passports.
This was no accident, no “rogue” officer taking advantage. This was systemic. It was state-sponsored abuse of women on an enormous scale, and we were never given any answers. Files were not disclosed to us and the snippets we have seen are heavily redacted.
We have seen from Kate Wilson’s IPT case how deployments were managed, overseen and documented by senior officers. Deceiving women into long term, intimate relationships was known about and signed off. Kate’s victory in the IPT yesterday dispenses with all the false narratives of an “absence of management” or “lack of oversight” leading to these abuses by serving police officers.
On the same day, we heard that Wayne Couzens was sentenced to a whole life term for the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021. Couzens was a serving Metropolitan Police officer when he abused his authority to abduct Sarah. We know he showed Sarah his warrant card and handcuffed her. An eyewitness didn’t intervene because they believed he was a police officer carrying out his duties.
The police want to disown him and say he wasn’t one of theirs, but he was in the same elite firearms unit that the man who deceived me was deployed to after leaving his undercover duties. Couzens’ nickname within the squad was “the rapist”.
Why did they turn a blind eye to Couzens’ predatory nature? Why did they ignore the red flags? Was it that same institutional misogyny that led to a tradecraft manual being written on how to deceive women into abusive relationships?
Women’s trust in the police is at an all time low, following several high profile cases exposing institutional sexism across different forces. It is not about rogue officers, bad apples or the “integrity” of individual officers. Now is the time for a clear admission of institutional sexism from the police. Until there is transparency, accountability and a complete structural overhaul, women cannot trust the police. Change is long overdue.
The campaign group Police Spies Out Of Lives supports women who have been affected by this issues detailed above