Police spy victims, along with Unite, have spoken out in support of cosmetic store Lush after it was accused of being “anti-police” over its campaign highlighting the scandal of undercover officers spying on law abiding trade union and political activists.
The retailers’ #spycops campaign, featuring posters of a model dressed as both a police officer and an activist that read “police have crossed a line” and “paid to lie”, have been criticised by home secretary Savid Javid and others as “poorly judged” and “damaging to the police”.
A public enquiry is currently underway into the decades long practice of sending undercover police officers to spy on trade unionists, politicians and political and environmental activists.
However, victims say the enquiry is allowing police to hide evidence of their wrongdoings, which include the duping of women into sexual relationships by police spies sent to infiltrate the groups they belonged to.
An open letter published in the Guardian, signed by Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail and other trade union leaders, defended the Lush campaign, saying it was not an attack on the police.
The letter states, “In many of these secret undercover operations the police have admitted to violation of human rights, abuse of police powers and causing significant trauma, including inhuman and degrading treatment breaching article 3 of the European convention of human rights.
“The cosmetics retailer Lush has used its facilities to help us as victims press for full disclosure and reform so that this never happens again. This is not an attack on police; it serves to help all those in the police service who wish to uphold the highest standards of policing.”
Javid response ‘disgraceful’
Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS) secretary Lois Austin was particularly critical of home secretary Javid’s comments that the Lush campaign was “not responsible” and “against our hardworking police”.
Austin, the former chair of Youth Against Racism in Europe (YARE), was herself spied on by undercover police officer Peter Francis whilst organising demonstrations against the BNP during the mid-1990s.
She said, “The response by Savid Javid is completely unwelcome and disgraceful. Lush isn’t attacking all police officers. They’re highlighting the problem of secret police units that have a brief which is about political policing.
“People like myself have never committed any crime. Yet I was spied on for years and have a great big file on me for activity which was completely legal.
“Instead of criticising Lush, Javid should be responding to the calls of people like Doreen Lawrence, who was also spied on, for the undercover policing inquiry to be fully open and democratic and to be really aimed at getting to the truth of what went on.”