New rules will stop undercover officers having intimate relationships with people they are investigating, following concern over series of cases
By David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent
7:00PM GMT 29 Oct 2013
Undercover police are to be banned from having sex with individuals they are investigating following a series of scandals.
Chief Constable Alex Marshall, chief executive of the College of Policing, said officers responsible for authorising undercover work will be required to make it clear to their teams that sexual activity is not allowed under a new code of conduct.
Eight women are currently suing Scotland Yard over claims they were deceived into having long-term intimate relationships with undercover police officers.
David Winnick MP, questioning Mr Marshall during session of the Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “We’ve had witnesses, female witnesses, that said undercover police agents had started sexual relationships with them – and in some cases children had been born – without any knowledge on the part of the women that they were entering an intimate relationship with police officers.
“And in their view – as one of them described it – it was a form of sexual deceit by the state itself.
“Do we take it from this proposed code that undercover police agents will not enter into such relationships?”
Mr Marshall replied: “They absolutely should not. They would be breaching the code if they did.”
A new course for senior officers who oversee covert work would make clear that “sexual activity while undercover is not allowed”, he added.
Mr Marshall’s disclosures contradicted previous statements made by other officers, and a former police minister, and his comments took a significantly tougher stance than Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, as recently as last week.
Sir Bernard, Britain’s most senior police officer, said his undercover operatives may still be involved in sexual relationships with targets of their investigations.
Although guidelines said it should not take place, the rules could not prevent “human beings sometimes failing”, Sir Bernard said.
A number of concerns have been raised about undercover tactics since former Pc Mark Kennedy was unmasked in 2011 as an undercover officer who spied on environmental protesters.
A £1 million trial of six environmental activists accused of plotting to break into the Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal-fired power station in Nottinghamshire collapsed in January 2011 amid questions over Mr Kennedy’s involvement.
In June last year Nick Herbert, then the police minister at the Home Office, said regulations permitted sexual relationships because otherwise activist groups, or other targets, could use sex as a way of “outing” potential undercover officers.
Undercover police have also come under intense scrutiny after it emerged they had assumed the identities of children who died in infancy.
There have also been allegations that a Scotland Yard undercover officer was ordered to smear the family of Stephen Lawrence, the murdered black teenager.
Earlier this year the Home Office ordered every police force in England and Wales to search for evidence of misconduct by undercover officers in effort by ministers to “clean the stables” after the string of damaging allegations.
The College of Policing last week published its draft code of ethics, which forbids officers from forming sexual relationships with anyone in the course of their work, but does not explicitly refer to undercover police.