LONDON: A group of women who were tricked into having sexual relationships by undercover police officers have won a partial legal victory to have their damages claims heard in open court.
The women say they were targeted by officers who specialised in infiltrating protest movements in a series of cases that stretch back to the late 1980s. They are suing the Metropolitan and South Wales police for emotional, psychiatric and financial damages.
Both forces wanted all the cases to be heard in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), a highly secretive court which usually deals with complaints against the security services and has been criticised as being overly opaque.
But on Thursdaym a High Court judge ruled that a number of civil claims must be heard in the public civil courts.
However the court also ruled that some of the more recent cases need to go through the IPT before they can be heard in the High Court.
The decision means that evidence relating to how the police managed Mark Kennedy, an undercover officer who was exposed in 2011 as a police source within environmental movements, is less likely to become public.
The outing of Kennedy as an undercover informant sent shock waves through the Met Police and led to the convictions of a number of environmental protesters being quashed. After years undercover he appeared to switch sides and offered to appear on behalf of the defence.
Another officer who is accused of having relationships with activists according to Thursday’s judgement is Mark Jacobs, an officer who infiltrated a group of Welsh anarchists.
The court recognised that the allegations against the police were “very serious”.
“No action against the police alleging sexual abuse of the kind in question in these actions has been brought before the courts in the past, so far as I have been made aware,” the judge said.
He likened the cases to James Bond, the fictional security services operative who regularly “used relationships with women to obtain information, or access to persons or property.”
Although Ian Fleming, the writer of the Bond series, did not dwell on “psychological harm he might have done to the women concerned,” the judge said, his fictional accounts pointed to how “intelligence and police services have for many years deployed both men and women officers to form personal relationships of an intimate sexual nature.”
Lawyers for the 10 women — and one man who claims his girlfriend was seduced — say they want to expose what authorisation was given by senior officers to approve seduction as a legitimate information gathering technique.