Spy cops victim
speaks at inquiry

Celia Stubbs appeared at Undercover Police Inquiry

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Following her appearance at the Undercover Policing Inquiry, Celia Stubbs, whose partner Blair Peach was killed by police, is convinced the police officers who spied on her did so “to help collude and conspire to conceal the true circumstances of Blair’s death and to enable the police to escape accountability for it”.

Meanwhile, Manchester University law lecturer Graham Smith, who has supported Stubbs throughout, believes there is a case for a charge of perversion of the course of justice against some senior police officers who knew the police had killed Peach but failed to prevent Stubbs being spied on.

The inquiry, led by Sir John Mitting, is scrutinising the conduct of 139 undercover officers in the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) who spied on more than 1,000 political groups between 1968 and 2010, possibly longer. The inquiry opened in 2020 and to date has taken evidence from the period1968 to 1982.

Fatal blow

Senior Scotland Yard officers supervised the SDS and their actions will be examined shortly. According to David Barr KC, the inquiry’s most senior barrister: “Senior police officers visited the SDS, were aware of its existence and, in broad terms, how it operated.” Yet none appear to “have considered whether the level of intrusion occasioned by SDS long-term deployments was justified”.

In April 1979, Peach, Stubbs and friends went to Southall to protest against a National Front general election rally.

Some 3,000 Metropolitan Police officers were charged with maintaining the peace. But when they began removing 3,000 sit-down protestors, the atmosphere became ugly and missiles were thrown.

Among the police were members of the Special Patrol Group, which had gained notoriety following the Red Lion Square disorders in 1974 when student Kevin Gately was killed by a blow to the head by an unidentified assailant.

Peach was leaving Southall when, according to 14 eye-witnesses, an SPG officer struck him on the head. He died the following day. The Metropolitan Police’s complaints bureau investigated, taking statements from SPG members, some of whose lockers contained unauthorised weapons.

Meanwhile, the police had started to spy on Stubbs. Over the decades eight officers filed reports on her. She knows the name of only one, Mark Jenner, who did so from1995 till around 1999.

SDS was established following Red Lion Square. Its work was to gather intelligence to prevent public disorder, and to assist the security service in defending the UK from espionage and sabotage.

SDS reported on Stubbs attending numerous meetings, including ones where Peach was not even mentioned, protests and social gatherings. Stubbs helped form Inquest, which provides expertise on state-related deaths. At none of the reported events on Stubbs was there social disorder.

“The reason for spying was to collude and conspire to conceal the true circumstances of Blair’s death and to help the police evade accountability,” said Stubbs. “It had nothing to do with public disorder.

“The inquiry has shown that the police saw accountability and justice as threatening but justice campaigns exist to uncover the truth and injustice.”

The police complaints bureau report was finally released in 2010. “It stated what we always believed – the fatal blow was struck by a Unit 1 SPG officer. It is likely it was the first officer from the van,” said Stubbs. “Deliberate untruths told by officers were laid bare. They were a major factor why nobody was prosecuted for Blair’s death.”

Smith said it was “particularly disturbing” that Stubbs was targeted when senior Metropolitan Police officers would have known that Peach was killed by a police officer, and she was spied upon for lawfully trying to call officers to account. “By allowing this unlawful interference with her right to know what happened to her partner, the evidence disclosed to the Undercover Police Inquiry points to the existence of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by Met officers,” he said.

Stubbs found her inquiry appearances “traumatic.” She wants a police apology and Mitting, who lacks powers to grant one, appears sympathetic. According to Stubbs’ solicitor Simon Creighton of Bhatt Murphy: “She has shown great perseverance and thus revealed that undercover policing against justice campaigns was not about public disorder but about defending the police’s interests.”

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