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    UK Police Commissioner Resigns After Being Unmasked as Undercover Infiltrator

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    Following his unmasking as a former undercover officer who infiltrated activist movements, Andy Coles, Conservative councillor and Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has resigned. The allegations are the latest to be leveled in the ongoing "spycops" saga, which erupted in 2011.

    In a May 15 statement, Coles said he was unable to comment on the reports, but the coverage had nonetheless "significantly impacted" his ability to carry out his official duties, and he was therefore tendering his resignation with immediate effect. His official Twitter accounts — as councillor and Deputy Police Commissioner — were both subsequently set to private.

    ​The charges, to be reviewed by the Independent Police Complaint Commission, are severe. If true, Coles joins an ever-growing list of political secret police in Britain that penetrated peaceful protest groups, under the auspices of the Special Demonstration Squad.

    Coles is said to have operated in animal rights groups from 1991 — 1995, under the pseudonym Andy Davey. In a lengthy profile, based on evidence collected by the Undercover Research Group, it is noted suspicions about the bogus activist abounded contemporaneously, but were largely silenced due to "Davey's" specialist skills.

    "Davey produced the group's newsletter. Shortly afterwards he also transferred the mailing list onto a computer. We were in an era when some organisations still did not have their own PC or internet access — his IT expertise was considered invaluable. Spies are trained to exploit skills shortages like this, to ensure they become trusted and above suspicion," a former associate of "Davey" said.

    ​However, the first wave of "spycop" revelations in 2011 transformed those original anxieties into certainty. He was subsequently unmasked by URG, who followed a trail from clues from a most unlikely source — the autobiography of Coles' brother, a former rock star turned vicar, Reverend Richard Coles. After studious digging through the work, the Coles' family tree and online sources, the Group believe they have conclusively proven Coles was "Andy Davey."

    Much of the furor surrounding his undercover role relates to allegations of sexual misconduct — as with other UK spycops, Coles is accused of attempting to foster, and successfully fostering, sexual relationships with fellow activists. The practice is alleged to have contravened strict internal guidelines on undercover conduct, and has been dubbed by the Metropolitan Police as a "violation" of the victims' human rights, and "an abuse of police power" that caused "significant trauma."

    ​One individual who entered into a relationship with Coles was "Jessica" (a pseudonym) — they were entangled for around a year. In a statement published by Police Spies Out of Lives, she recounted her story.

    "I was 19…I'd never been in a proper relationship before. I didn't know how to react when he made advances towards me. Appallingly I now know my "boyfriend" was a 32 year old, married undercover policeman working for the SDS.  I believed him to be about 24 at the time.  Although not legally underage, I feel that my youth and vulnerability were used to target me. I was groomed by someone much older, and far more experienced and I was manipulated into having a sexual relationship with him.  I didn't even know his real name," she said.

    After "Davey" left the activist movement, she subsequently learned he'd made several approaches to other women, although they were unsuccessful. In fact, much of the suspicion surrounding him at the time arose from his reputation for "being lecherous" and unpleasant for female activists to be around. 

    "My life as I knew it was a lie. One of the people that I trusted most never existed.  I can't look back at those times in the same way now. I can't trust my judgement, because I got things so wrong. I am now beginning to look at people I know differently. I can't even feel that I'm being paranoid, because it's justified," "Jessica" added.

    ​In March 2017, Coles was the opening speaker at the annual conference of Link to Change, an organisation supporting young people facing sexual exploitation. He also remains Chair of Families First Peterborough, a community interest firm working with disturbed and vulnerable children in danger of being excluded from school. Moreover, he is a governor of two Peterborough schools, West Town Primary Academy and The Voyager Academy. Until last year, he was served on Peterborough's council cabinet as a Lead Member with responsibility for Children's Services. While there is no suggestion of anything untoward in Coles' focus on groups concerning young people, COPS Group have said it is "intolerable" for Coles to hold such positions if he did indeed groom (and attempt to groom) young activists for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

    Since 2011, UK police have apologized to at least eight women who were deceived into forming "abusive and manipulative" long-term relationships with undercover officers. One, "Jacqui," was discovered an undercover officer, Bob Lambert, was the father of her son. Lambert had entered into a relationship with Lambert while he was pretending to be an environment activist in the late 1980s. In 2015, compensation was also paid to seven other women who had intimate relationships, lasting years in some cases, with undercover officers.

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    Tags:
    activist, police, activism, subversion, infilitration, undercover police, spying, Metropolitan Police, United Kingdom
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