Undercover police officer who had sex with woman told inquiry it was ‘surreal’

A married police officer who had sex with a woman while working undercover said it was “a particular time and place, which was slightly surreal”, an inquiry has heard.

May 9, 2022
By Website Editor

The officer, who was in the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), was referred to as HN21 at the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI), and is one of five anonymous officers who have given evidence at a closed hearing.

The transcripts of the hearings, which took place last autumn, are being published on Monday (May 9).

The latest phase of the inquiry will primarily hear evidence from those in the SDS supervisory chain of command during the period July 1968 to December 1983.

David Barr QC, counsel to the inquiry, said HN21 infiltrated the Socialist Workers Party at the end of the 1970s and start of the 1980s.

Speaking about HN21 in his opening statement on Monday, Mr Barr said: “Like most SDS undercover officers he was a married man. He gave oral evidence that he had had sex on two occasions, six or seven months apart, with a woman whom he had got to know quite well at an evening class he attended whilst undercover.

“He stated that the woman was apolitical and not an activist. He socialised with her as part of a small group.”

Mr Barr told the inquiry HN21 described “getting amorous, by which he meant kissing and cuddling the woman on other occasions”.

The inquiry heard that HN21 said he “alluded to his backstory but did not go into detail with her”, and that he used contraception.

Mr Barr said: “He expressed regret about what he had done, but could not explain why he did it, saying initially, ‘I don’t really know’.

“He later said, ‘it was a particular time and place, which was slightly surreal. And there were occasions when you were deployed that became surreal. It became unreal. You forgot about what your actual work was, and you started to relax, which is really dangerous. That’s when things go terribly wrong. So I regret from a personal point of view, from my upbringing, and also from a professional point of view, but it was a weakness, which I regret’.

“And he said, ‘it was me not being professional, and not following what I should have done’. HN21 knew what he did was wrong, and said that he did not tell anyone.”

Mr Barr said HN21 has provided a name to the inquiry for the woman he had sex with during his deployment.

The inquiry has attempted to identify and locate the woman but those efforts did not produce details of anyone who sufficiently fitted the information that the inquiry has about the woman in question to justify an approach.

The former Home Secretary, Theresa May, established the judge-led UCPI in 2015 after independent reviews by Mark Ellison QC found “appalling practices in undercover policing”.

A public outcry was sparked when it was revealed that women had been tricked into sexual relationships with undercover officers and that police spies had used the identities of dead children without their families’ permission.

The mammoth inquiry has cost more than £42 million so far.

In hearings last year, the UCPI was told that women’s groups, political parties, unions, teachers and students were monitored by undercover police officers engaged in “political policing” that targeted those perceived to be left wing.

It has also heard that sexual activity between undercover police officers and members of the public who did not know their true identities was “not uncommon” from the mid-1970s.

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