I haven’t properly blogged for a long time, but I have been following the #vancop situation, in its myriad guises, for a fair while, but have not had the time to put anything down. (Others have ploughed this furrow, I know, and ploughed well.) Today I found a moment to scribble something down…
I wonder if (former) Met spook Detective Inspector Bob Lambert (AKA ‘Bob Robinson’, Special Branch 1980-2006; infiltrated London Greenpeace 1984-1988; founder and head of the Muslim Contact Unit 2002-2007) knew any of the private spooks employed by McDonald’s to infiltrate London Greenpeace (1989-1991)?
With a revolving door policy between NSY and the security offices of big business – and also the fertile environment for sharing or trading of information which that creates – it would be interesting to see from whence the roots sprang and whereto the branches grew.
For instance, McDonald’s security during the 1980s/1990s McLibel period (when two London Greenpeace activists, Helen Steel and Dave Morris, defended themselves against a lawsuit brought by the greasy clown’s boys) was run by ex-Met copper Sid Nicholson.
Nicholson was formerly a Chief Superintendent at Brixton; his number two at the McDonald’s Security Department was Terry Carrol, also ex-Met and an oppo from Brixton, before himself making Chief Superintendent at Carter Street. In evidence, Nicholson characterised his Security Department as “all ex-policemen“, and that ‘if he ever wanted to know information about protesters he would go to his contacts in the police‘.
A memo by Carrol from 1994 read out in court during the McLibel trial noted:
I had a meeting with ARNI [Animal Rights National Index, later grew into National Public Order Intelligence Unit/NPOIU] from Scotland Yard today who gave me the enclosed literature. Some of it we have, other bits are new.
Nicholson himself noted that he had “quite a lot of experience with Special Branch officers,” and that his first contact with them in relation to London Greenpeace had taken place at a meeting at McDonald’s HQ in September 1989.
After this meeting McDonald’s decided to hire two separate private detective agencies to spy on London Greenpeace, Bishops Investigation Bureau/Westhall Services and Kings Investigation Bureau.
Eveline Lubbers claims “at least seven [private] detectives” were embedded undercover in LG, from two different firms hired separately. (Some six of the paid informant-provocateurs are named by Lubbers, based on trial evidence published by McSpotlight.)
From Bishops Investigation Bureau, there was Brian Bishop and Allan Clare. From Kings Investigation Bureau, there was full-time investigator Roy Pocklington (‘Tony’), ex-copper-turned-freelance nark Michelle Hooker (AKA ‘Shelley’), KIB secretary-cum-spy Fran(ces) Tiller née Davidson (‘Jan Goodman’), and one ‘Jack Russell’ (not thought to be the legendary Somerset wicket-keeper).
Hooker entered into a relationship (“a six month love affair”) with actual LG activist Charlie Brooke, which ended in mid-1991, when she left the operation – eight months after Maccy D’s served libel writes on five LG members for the ‘What’s Wrong With McDonald’s?’ leaflet.
Clare admitted burgling London Greenpeace’s office, stealing documents, and carrying out illicit photography. Evidence he gave at the libel trial based on his claimed contemporaneous notes was found by the European Court of Human Rights to be not wholly accurate.
The theft by McDonald’s-tasked private dicks was known to Nicholson, but he does not appeared to have been reported this criminal act to the police.
Nicholson’s interest in London Greenpeace stretched back – on his own admission – to 1987, when first he saw the ‘What’s Wrong With McDonald’s?’ leaflet. Between then and his hiring of BIB and KIB in 1989, Nicholson personally visited both London Greenpeace’s postal address and an anti-McDonald’s Fayre at Conway Hall to try to ascertain the identities of those behind the leaflet, as well as tasking various McDonald’s Security Department underlings with the surveillance of London Greenpeace activists.
But in his evidence he notes that “prior to the demonstration [of 21 October 1989] I was able to learn the identity of two of the organisers, Paul Gravett and Helen Steel.”
Let’s just recap: Between 1987 and 1989 Nicholson and his corporate security goons didn’t know who was in London Greenpeace; in September 1989 Nicholson meets with Special Branch. In October 1989 he knows the identities of two LG activists (both of whom would be served with writs). He then instructed the “two firms of enquiry agents” to further investigate London Greenpeace.
In the course of the next two years at least seven spooks infiltrated the LG group on Nicholson’s behalf. Burglary, theft and other crimes were committed during the execution of this operation, to the knowledge in part at least of Nicholson. At least one private eye entered into an intimate relationship with one of the targets.
Collusion between police and the corporate security goons was such that in 1998 the McLibel Two defendants Helen Steel and Dave Morris went on the attack, and in 2000 won a £10,000 award and an apology from the Met in an out-of-court settlement for the disclosure by the police to McDonald’s of confidential information about them.
The case helped to expose how “police (including Special Branch) officers had passed private and in some cases false information about the McLibel 2 (and other protesters), including home addresses, to McDonald’s and to their private investigators”.
In addition to the award by the Met, a named officer, Detective Sergeant David Valentine, was also made to apologise for his own specific role. Finally, the Met was made to remind all police personnel across the Greater London area “of their responsibility not to disclose information held on the Police National Computer to third parties”.
On this victory against the Met Steel and Morris released a statement that resonates just as strongly more than a decade on:
At the eleventh hour the police pulled out of facing a case which would’ve demonstrated illegal police practices. In recent years there have been a number of publicised [sic] incidents of the police passing information about campaigners to private companies. It’s clear that their claim to be impartial defenders of the public is a hollow one. This collusion reveals the political role of the police in ensuring the wheels of big business keep turning. This case has forced the Met to warn all London police officers against such practices.
Which brings us full circle back to Bob Lambert, and a whole bunch of questions…
- After his exit from London Greenpeace in 1988 did any other undercover police officers either remain inside the group, or replace him?
- Did Special Branch pass on work product derived from Lambert (and possibly other cop-spies) to Nicholson, Carrol or others at McDonald’s, its Security Department or contracted external detective agencies?
- What was the nature of the relationship between Nicholson, Carrol and McDonald’s on the one side, and Special Branch and ARNI on the other?
- Were other police, security service or private sector agencies involved?
- Furthermore, just what was Lambert’s role at Special Branch between his exit from undercover work in London Greenpeace in 1988 and his role in setting up the MCU in 2002?
In view of that last question, we are told that whilst at the Special Demonstration Squad Lambert was responsible for Detective Constable Andrew Jim Boyling (AKA ‘Jim Sutton’), who was infiltrated into Reclaim The Streets via anti-GM and hunt sab groups in 1995, staying behind the lines until 2000.
Both Boyling and Lambert are accused of lying to courts to preserve their cover; both Boyling and Lambert duplicitously entered into sexual relationships with activists on whom they were spying; both Boyling and Lambert sired children by these women. Is this coincidence, or an indication of the nature of the training Lambert offered his protégés?
(It is also interesting that the woman with whom Boyling became involved was someone he met in the immediate aftermath of the J18 Carnival Against Capitalism – an event that Reclaim The Streets had brought off successfully right under the noses of the Met and the City of London Police – at an RTS meeting to discuss how it had all gone. This was four years into his infiltration of the environmental movement.)
Through his time at the MCU, and in his subsequent academic (and journalistic) work, ‘Dr Robert Lambert MBE’ has striven to be seen as a moderate, a progressive, someone keen to engage with Muslim activists to, in the words of a Demos report, “service the needs of grass roots Muslim community groups tackling the adverse impact of al-Qa’ida inspired terrorist propaganda at close quarters in London”.
Yet even in an article about the MCU and its work with communities in the January/February 2007 issue of Arches, a magazine of the Cordoba Foundation, Lambert links “the strategists behind 9/11” to “the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin”. For someone with an intimate understanding of anarchist and anti-authoritarian political movements, that is an interesting parallel to draw.
An accident? A casual mistake? Or operational afterburn?
Four short years on from when he originally made that remark – and given his recent ‘little trouble’ coming out – that throwaway comment by Detective Inspector Lambert of the Yard (retd) seems better chosen, more deliberately chosen, and chosen for a reason. Our political movements aren’t infiltrated by the state for the fun of it.
Background on McLibel case
‘McLibel Case‘ (Wikipedia)
McSpotlight (McLibel Two defence campaign website)
‘London Greenpeace – History and Past Campaigns‘ (McSpotlight)
Fran Tiller interview (McSpotlight)
‘Curriculum vitae: Sid Nicholson‘ (McSpotlight)
‘Witness statement: Sidney Thompson Nicholson‘ (McSpotlight)
‘Met Police Pay £10,000 to McLibel 2‘ 5 July 2000 (McSpotlight)
ECHR ruling 2003 (McSpotlight)
‘McSpying’ by Eveline Lubbers, chapter in Battling Big Business, ed. Eveline Lubbers
McLibel: Burger Culture On Trial by John Vidal
‘Bob Lambert’ (PowerBase)
‘Private security industry and the police: revolving door‘ (PowerBase)
Articles and reports
‘Special Branch help McDonald’s‘ from Squall No.14, Autumn 1996 (McSpotlight)
‘McLibel pair get police payout‘ 5 July, 2000 (BBC News)
‘Bringing it Home: Community-based approach to counter-terrorism‘ by Hannah Lownsbrough, Rachel Briggs and Catherine Fieschi, 4 December 2006 (Demos)
‘Reflections on Counter-Terrorism Partnerships in Britain‘ by Bob Lambert, January/February 2007 (Arches magazine, Cordoba Foundation)
‘We need to listen to the man from special branch‘ by Seamas Milne, 14 February 2008 (Guardian)
‘Undercover policeman married activist he was sent to spy on‘ by Paul Lewis, Rob Evans and Rowenna Davis, 19 January 2011 (Guardian)
‘Ex-wife of police spy tells how she fell in love and had children with him‘ by Paul Lewis, Rob Evans and Rowenna Davis, 19 January 2011 (Guardian)
- ‘Unmasking the environmental infiltrators‘ by Tilly Gifford, 19 January 2011 (SpinWatch)
‘Progressive academic Bob Lambert is former police spy‘ by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis, 16 October 2011 (Guardian)
‘Police accused of allowing undercover officers to lie in court‘ by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis, 19 October 2011 (Guardian)
‘Second undercover officer accused of misleading court‘ by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis, 21 October 2011 (Guardian)
‘Police spy tricked lover with activist ‘”cover story”‘ by Paul Lewis and Rob Evans, 23 October 2011 (Guardian)
‘Undercover police had children with activists‘ by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis, 20 January 2012 (Guardian)
Robert Lambert writer’s profile (Guardian)
- Staff page for European Muslim Research Centre, University of Exeter
Edited 24/1/12 to add tags, correct typos & for style.
Edited 25/1/12 for another fucking typo.
Edited 26/1/12 to add ‘Jack Russell’ & tidy things up.
Edited 26/1/13 for typos etc.