Police Lies and Police Spies

Reflections on Deep Deception: The story of the spycops network by the women who uncovered the shocking truth

Police Lies
Deep Deception is a heart-breaking and deeply disturbing book that has just been published (Spring 2022). It is a book that all of us interested in positive social change need to read. Deep Deception reads like a thriller but its contents are at times traumatic. It is the story of five women whose lives were devastated by having intimate long-term relationships with undercover police officers. These relationships were built on lies, deception and highly abusive emotional manipulation. These relationships were definitely not rogue police officers going off-piste; they were sanctioned at the highest levels of the state, supported by the officers’ back-up teams – and encouraged by their superiors as a way of getting literally embedded in the women’s lives.

The women were involved in environmental protests, in campaigns against corporations such as McDonalds, in support groups for striking workers, in questioning existing social structures. This was not in another country with an obvious police state and crushing of dissent. This was in the UK in the 1980s. Full disclosure: Helen Steel (one of the women who wrote this book) has been a good friend of mine since 1984. Also from 1985 to 1991, I personally knew two of the police officers (Bob Lambert and John Dines) who are featured in Deep Deception very well. I was actively involved in movements in which they were prominent activists.

Bob Lambert and John Dines were certainly not passive information gatherers, sitting quietly at the back of a room. They both incited and committed serious criminal acts; they both actively encouraged other people to break the law; they both deliberately pushed for more extreme actions. And they both – as did other officers – devastate the lives of the women who they deceived into intimate relationships.

Deep Deception is these women’s stories. One of the women – Naomi – wrote this about her experience after her ex-partner was exposed as a police undercover officer: “Following the discovery, I struggled for a long time. I was so angry I didn’t even read it as anger. I turned it inward and it became depression. The guilt and shame of feeling I should have known earlier were paralysing. I didn’t want to go out or see anybody, apart from friends I knew well. I felt very fearful in public places. The whole thing left me completely disoriented.” In the words of another of the women, Lisa: “I didn’t even know what reality was any more.” Yet amongst the harrowing details, there are stories of solidarity and empowerment.

Legal Action

In December 2011, eight women took out legal action against the Metropolitan Police over what had happened. Their press statement declared: “We are bringing this case because we want to see an end to the sexual and psychological abuse of campaigners and others by undercover police officers. It is unacceptable that state agents can cultivate intimate and long-lasting relationships with political activists in order to gain so-called intelligence on those political movements.” Gradually, fragments of truth emerged. In a July 2013 interview, Bob Lambert admitted that he understood why a woman deceived into a sexual relationship by an undercover officer would feel that they had been “raped by the state”.

All these police officers were married and had families. An officer who infiltrated political groups such as the Colin Roach Centre in East London – Mark Cassidy – had a wife and three young children; he also was in a five-year relationship with Alison, an activist at the Colin Roach Centre. Belinda, who had a relationship with Bob Lambert, wrote: “How can a relationship be genuine when it is based on a massive web of lies? He pretended to be a man with noble ideals and political convictions, when in reality he was a police officer spying on our friendship network. He pretended he was committed to the future when he always knew he would go back to his real job and wife and kids…The relationship was a total violation of me and my life.”

The process of uncovering what happened with these undercover police officers was continually blocked by the Metropolitan Police, legal authorities and the UK government. Substantial obstacles were placed in the way of finding out truth and seeking justice. It is only thanks to the efforts of these women and their supporters that some of this story has been revealed over the years.



“Unreservedly Apologise”

In November 2015, four years after the start of the legal action, a senior police officer read out a statement from the Metropolitan Police that contained these lines: “Thanks in large part to the courage and tenacity of these women in bringing these matters to light, it has become apparent that some officers, acting undercover while seeking to infiltrate protest groups, entered into long-term intimate sexual relationships with women which were abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong…I unreservedly apologise on behalf of Metropolitan Police Service.”

As Naomi wrote: “I had willingly had a relationship with Mark Stone, but he didn’t exist – his identity had been fabricated by the police, paid for by the police, and backed up by a police team and equipment…I never ever would have consented to that intimate relationship if I had known who he really was, what he was doing and for whom.” Helen wrote about her relationship with John Dines: “It hurts to realise that someone can choose to be that abusive”. She went on to write: “We women wanted to make the world a better place, a fairer place. We didn’t deserve this. Our lives were derailed – for what? So that the police could prevent change, undermine democracy and prop up the interests of the wealthy and powerful in our society.”

None of these officers have been arrested or tried in court for the serious crimes they committed. Caroline Lucas, a MP for the Green Party, stated in 2012 in Parliament that Bob Lambert firebombed a Debenhams store in Harrow in July 1987, causing £340,000 in damage. Lambert retired from the police in 2008 with the rank of Detective Inspector; on his retirement, he was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for “services to the police”. Subsequently, he became an academic; his undercover police role was exposed in 2011 and he resigned from his academic post at London Met in 2015.

I wrote in a book (Brightening Our Inner Skies) published in 2016: “[In 1990] an undercover police officer attempted to entrap me in a north London back garden with blandishments of items he claimed to have taken from a quarry. Good sense fortunately prevailed and I refused his offer.” The items were explosive devices; the officer was John Dines. This was not investigation; this was blatant entrapment by an experienced police officer. Dines resigned from the police in 1994 on the grounds of ill-health. When his undercover police role was exposed, he was working for the Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security.

True Crimes

These abusive relationships were approved and authorised by institutions such as the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office that sent these police officers to infiltrate and manipulate political groups. More than 50 women were deceived into intimate relationships that were founded in lies and exploitation. It is estimated that over 1000 groups were infiltrated by undercover police officers – barely a handful of these groups were far-right; all main political parties (apart from the Conservative Party) were infiltrated. Clearly those in power will go to great lengths (which definitely include breaking their own laws) to protect their positions and maintain their privileges.

Deep Deception has been classified by its publishers as ‘true crime’. What the police did was criminal. The lawmakers breaking laws, destroying lives, breaking hearts. Deep Deception both informs and inspires because through these brave women telling their stories, it shows that people organising together can expose state secrets and that the powerful can be challenged.

Norman Blair
19 April 2022

Alison, Belinda, Helen Steel, Lisa and Naomi Deep Deception Ebury Spotlight (Penguin Random House) 2022