The undercover policing inquiry was on shaky ground before it started, and victims are right to be concerned

The abuse carried out by undercover “spy cops” working in two police units over 40 years took many forms. The deception practised by at least 20 officers who had sexual relationships with their targets – mostly women, at least three of whom had children as a result – was a gross breach of the women’s human rights, as the force acknowledged when it apologised and paid substantial compensation to seven of them. The harm caused to the children of these deceitful unions is still unfolding: last month it was revealed that compensation has also been paid to a man who had his life turned upside down by the discovery in 2012 that the father who abandoned him as a child was a police officer, Bob Lambert.

Others had their trust violated in different ways. The first month of Sir John Mitting’s public inquiry into the work of 139 officers has heard evidence about how they passed details of trade union activists to a blacklisting organisation used by companies to stop them getting work. A leftwing writer, Tariq Ali, was spied on by at least 14 officers, and said he was shocked by their “prurient” reports. For Stephen Lawrence’s family, the discovery that police spied on their justice campaign was a profound insult that has been compounded by the Metropolitan police’s failure over the past six years to release documents about what happened.

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