Leeds officer dressed as clown during five-year undercover police operation into "clown army"
Millions of pounds of public money was “misspent” on undercover policing operations – which included an officer being trained as a clown, a public inquiry has been told.
Peter Weatherby QC, who is representing 18 individuals and organisations who have been spied on, played a video of an officer known as EN34, whose undercover name was “Lynn Watson”, on Tuesday.
In the clip, filmed in Leeds in 2004, she appears in costume and clown make-up, waving a feather duster, as part of the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (Circa) – a street performance campaign group.
Mr Weatherby said EN34 infiltrated the group, along with a series of other peace and environmental campaigns, over a five-year period during which she “befriended and tricked countless individuals”.
He also showed a picture of HN118, whose assumed name was “Simon Wellings”, who he said used his time undercover to build an orange military tank out of plywood and cardboard.
The officer was photographed at an anti-arms trade protest in the tank with the Globalise Resistance group, which he infiltrated from 2002 until he was unmasked in 2004.
Mr Weatherby asked: “How is that legitimate policing?”
He told the inquiry: “The absurdity of investing massive resources into infiltrating a clown army and groups which oppose wars and the arms trade is well illustrated by these images.
“This is what the debacle of the last 50 years of undercover political policing looks like.”
“It goes from the farcical yet deeply damaging involvement of the state in activist organisations and campaigning to the outrage of the deceitful relationships of trust formed with our CPs (core participants), their children, their families and friends, and to the abuse of intimate liaisons, which have been the subject of submissions by others, and which have been profoundly devastating for those involved.
“This is what millions of pounds of money, diverted from budgets that could have been allocated to the police to protect our communities, or that could have been allocated to other public budgets ‑ to the NHS, to schools to libraries or to the arts – was misspent on.
“It was misspent over the course of decades and decades of state sanctioned clandestine activities by the police monitoring justice campaigns, anti-racism, anti-police violence groups, environmental campaigns, community solidarity networks, animal rights groups, and the political activism, rebel clowns, musicians, artists, campaigners and others.”
Mr Weatherby told inquiry chairman Sir John Mitting “there is nothing funny” about the images shown and that he was not making a “light-hearted point”.
“It’s profoundly sinister, and an affront, not just to the basic fundamental rights of those I represent, but to democracy itself,” he added.
The Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI) was set up in 2015 by then-home secretary Theresa May after a series of disclosures about undercover tactics.
It is looking at two units – the Metropolitan Police SDS which existed between 1968 and 2008, and the undercover section of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), which existed between 1999 and 2010.
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