Victims stage walkout at undercover policing inquiry
There were dramatic scenes at the latest hearing in the Undercover Policing Inquiry last week as a number of non-state non-police core participants along with their legal team walked out of court, asking that the Chair recuse himself or reconstitute the inquiry such that he sit with an advisory panel.
Over the past few months there has been growing frustration amongst victims that the Chair's approach the inquiry was unreasonable and unaccountable. Sir Mitting had openly expressed that he had "na~Ave and old-fashioned" views and these appeared to be informing his decision making in relation to the anonymity applications being made on behalf of police officers who had infiltrated activist groups and campaigns.
There is concern amongst victims and the lawyers representing them that in the absence of any information about the officers being made public, victims will not even know whether they were placed under surveillance and so the inquiry would not be capable of obtaining any meaningful truth.
Phillippa Kauffman QC held nothing back, stating on behalf of the victims:
"we have got precisely nowhere in relation to our attempts to ensure that we can meaningfully participate"|. We are not prepared actively to participate in a process where the presence of our clients is pure window dressing, lacking all substance, lacking all meaning and which would achieve absolutely nothing other than lending this process the legitimacy that it doesn't have and doesn't deserve"
She also expressed that there is a need for the inquiry to be more cognisant of the life experiences of individuals from a wider cross-section of society including in particular "individuals who have a proper informed experiential understanding of discrimination both on grounds of race and sex. Two issues that lie absolutely at the heart of this inquiry. I'm sorry to say this but instead we have the usual white upper middle class elderly gentleman whose life experiences are a million miles away from those who were spied upon."
This same issue has also been raised by victims in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. We will all benefit from greater diversity in terms of gender, race and class within the judiciary. Such a change will not happen overnight but measures should be put in place to enable proper representation of marginalised groups. In the context of public inquiries, this should take the form of the appointment of a diverse panel that can assist the Chair in his/her decision making and approach to the conduct of the inquiry.
Both the Undercover Policing and Grenfell Tower inquiries exist in order to shine light on large scale injustices that have taken place. The needs and interests of the victims of those injustices must be placed at the forefront of any investigation process rather than being sidelined in order to appease the very institutions which need to be held to account.
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