Ac­tivist given le­gal aid

The Herald - - NEWS - EOIN WIL­SON NEWS RE­PORTER

UN­DER­COVER polic­ing in Scot­land is one step closer to a pub­lic in­quiry fol­low­ing a de­ci­sion to grant le­gal aid to cam­paign­ers seek­ing a ju­di­cial re­view.

The Scot­tish Le­gal Aid Board re­versed a Jan­uary de­ci­sion to re­ject ac­tivist Tilly Gif­ford’s ap­pli­ca­tion for le­gal aid to chal­lenge the Scot­tish and UK gov­ern­ments’ de­ci­sions not to hold a pub­lic in­quiry into un­der­cover polic­ing in Scot­land.

Ms Gif­ford, an en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist who ex­posed po­lice at­tempts to re­cruit her as an in­former in Glas­gow in 2009, de­clared the SLAB’S de­ci­sion a “vic­tory”, but was crit­i­cal of the ob­sta­cles she has faced.

She said: “As much as I am pleased, should it re­ally be the case that in or­der to get le­gal aid in Scot­land you need to wage such a bat­tle? It makes me worry about other pub­lic in­ter­est cases that don’t have the same amount of mus­cle be­hind them.”

Calls for a pub­lic in­quiry into the un­der­cover polic­ing of po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists in Scot­land fol­low the rev­e­la­tions that un­der­cover po­lice of­fi­cers spent years in­fil­trat­ing so­cial jus­tice cam­paigns through­out the UK, with some hav­ing sex­ual re­la­tion­ships and chil­dren with ac­tivists they spied on.

The rev­e­la­tions led the UK Gov­ern­ment to ini­ti­ate the Pitch­ford In­quiry into un­der­cover polic­ing.

The UK Gov­ern­ment de­cided, how­ever, that the in­quiry would only ap­ply to Eng­land and Wales, lead­ing Ms Gif­ford to bring a le­gal chal­lenge to ex­tend it to Scot­land.

For­mer un­der­cover Metropoli­tan Po­lice of­fi­cer Mark Kennedy, one of the first “spy cops” to be un­masked, is known to have spent time with ac­tivists in Scot­land, as well as the north and south of Ire­land.

Ja­son Kirk­patrick, an ac­tivist who was also tar­geted by un­der­cover po­lice, has been granted le­gal aid by a Belfast court to pur­sue a ju­di­cial re­view in the north of Ire­land.

A re­cent re­port by Her Majesty’s In­spec­torate of Con­stab­u­lary in Scot­land con­firmed that Kennedy and other of­fi­cers had been de­ployed in Scot­land, in­clud­ing 18 un­der­cover of­fi­cers in Gle­nea­gles dur­ing the G8 in 2005.

De­spite this con­fir­ma­tion that un­der­cover po­lice of­fi­cers spied on po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists in Scot­land, Jus­tice Min­is­ter Michael Mathe­son ear­lier this month dis­missed calls for a pub­lic in­quiry into un­der­cover polic­ing in Scot­land, say­ing it would not be “nec­es­sary or pro­por­tion­ate”.

Ms Gif­ford’s so­lic­i­tor, Paul Heron, said of the SLAB’S de­ci­sion: “It is un­for­tu­nate that it has taken this long for them to un­der­stand not only that the case clearly has mer­its, but also the im­por­tance this case has to my client, and po­ten­tially oth­ers who are un­aware that they had been spied upon.”

A Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment spokesman said: “The Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary for Jus­tice pro­vided Par­lia­ment with a clear and de­tailed state­ment on Fe­bru­ary 7, and set out his full rea­sons for not hold­ing a sep­a­rate Pub­lic In­quiry in Scot­land. De­ci­sions on who was in­volved in the re­view was a mat­ter for HM Chief In­spec­tor of Con­stab­u­lary in Scot­land Derek Pen­man who led the re­view.”

It makes me worry about other pub­lic in­ter­est cases

„ Protestor Tilly Gif­ford dressed as an air stew­ardess for a Plane Stupid protest against air­port ex­pan­sion.

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