Undercover policing

Building on previous events the Centre has co-organised with The Monitoring Group, this ongoing project is examining a range of issues around the undercover policing of political groups in the UK.


The infiltration of protest groups and social movements has been a police tactic since at least 1968 – although its existence was only publicly revealed in 2010. Police officers often spent five years undercover in over 100 social movements, Black justice campaigns and political organisations.

Undercover policing has become a matter considerable public interest, reflected for instance by the establishment of the current public inquiry.

The information which has emerged about undercover policing raises fundamental and to date, unaddressed, questions about the scale and intentions of these operations, the ability of the police to police themselves, and the legitimacy of this type of covert policing.


Spycops in context

From November 2017 to December 2018, in partnership with the Amiel and Melburn Trust, a one-year Research Fellow, Connor Woodman, worked on two Spycops in context papers, seeking to provide a historically-grounded, politically-situated analysis of the undercover policing issue.

The two Spycops in context publications examine the history of the secret state in Britain and how surveillance and undercover policing has served to bolster the hierarchical status quo against dissent. Published in December 2018, one paper provides a sweeping look at how the secret state has monitored and undermined dissenting movements, from the early nineteenth century parliamentary reform movement to the Communist Party of Great Britain, Black Power to the National Union of Mineworkers. The companion paper provides an analysis of the political logic underlying the practice of the secret state, and how it functions to bolster hierarchical social relations of race, class and patriarchy:

Spycops in context: A brief history of political policing in Britain
Spycops in context: Counter-subversion, deep dissent and the logic of political policing

Connor is happy to address meetings, speak on panels or meet interested parties and individuals to discuss and raise awareness around the issues contained in his papers. He can be reached here.

Undercover policing inquiry

In a project funded by The Network for Social Change, Helen Mills authored a report in 2017 on the views of spying victims about the public inquiry and current accountability processes:

The undercover policing of political protest

Our Amiel and Melburn Trust Research Fellow, Connor Woodman, also penned two comment pieces on the inquiry for our website:

'The great undercover policing cover-up', 3 December 2017
'A brick wall of silence: the latest from the Undercover Policing Inquiry', 7 February 2018

We intend to help build a broad public audience for informed thinking about undercover policing as the public inquiry into these practices continues.

For more information contact Helen Mills.

Supported by Barry Amiel & Norman Melburn Trust.