Helen Steel et al.May 9, 2022
The Story of the Spycop Network, by the Women Who Uncovered the Shocking Truth
Ebury Press 2022
In Deep Deception: The Story of the Spycop Network, by the Women Who Uncovered the Shocking Truth (Ebury, 2022), five women discuss their experiences of being manipulated into serious long-term relationships with undercover police officers. Through detective work and campaigning, these ‘spycops’ victims uncovered a hitherto-unknown practice whereby police officers were deployed for multiple years to surveil and report on activist groups. Many of these officers formed long-term intimate relationships with female activists; several also fathered children.
The Metropolitan Police acknowledged in 2015 that these relationships were “a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma”. Yet the extent to which such long-term undercover deployment continues today is unknown.
Since 1968, more than one thousand groups have been surveilled by undercover officers, with dozens of women deceived into relationships in the process. The vast majority of groups infiltrated were left-wing organizations, including feminist, anti-fascist, environmentalist, socialist and anti-apartheid campaigns.
In this interview, Helen Steel and Alison shared their experiences of multi-year relationships with police officers and their ongoing fight for justice alongside other victims and supporters including Police Spies Out of Lives, The Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance and the Undercover Research Group. Helen also discussed the intersection of undercover policing with the McLibel case. Finally, Alison and Helen reflected upon what these undercover policing practices tell us about the nature of policing in the UK, and the implications of these practices for British democracy.
This book is a timely and important contribution to our understanding of domestic security and surveillance, and essential reading for scholars of policing.
Catriona Gold is a PhD candidate in Geography at University College London. She is currently researching the US Passport Office's role in governing Cold War travel, and broadly interested in questions of security, surveillance and mobility. She can be reached by email or on Twitter.