Crowdfunder aims to sue UK and Scottish Governments over police spying inquiry

Campaigner who alleges she was spied on by police denied legal aid

A LEFTWING campaigner who believes she was spied on by police has launched a crowdfunder to take the UK and Scottish Governments to court over their failure to establish a full Inquiry into police spying in Scotland.

Thirty two year old Glaswegian Tilly Gifford was allegedly approached by officers after her arrest in 2009 for participation in an environmental protest at Aberdeen airport, and asked to spy on fellow activists.

Gifford was denied legal aid by the Scottish Legal Aid Board in March for her bid to bring the UK Home Office and Scottish Government before the courts in her search for a judicial review into the decision not to establish and inquiry in Scotland into police spying on activists.

The Pitchford inquiry was established in 2015 in England and Wales after accusations that dead children’s names were used as fake identities for police spying on political activity. The Home Office has refused to extend the inquiry to Scotland. The Scottish Government has set up a more limited review process into police spying in Scotland.

Writing on the crowdjustice fundraising site, Gifford wrote: “The Home Office failed to extend the Undercover Policing Inquiry into Scotland. The Scottish Government also failed to order its own public inquiry into these issues. As a result, I am taking them to Court to make sure an Inquiry is held.

“Through the Pitchford inquiry, communities in Wales and England who have suffered extreme abuses of their Right to Private Life, have the chance to have light shed on such violations carried out by the State. As it stands now, people in Scotland have no such recourse to truth or accountability.

“I hope to initially raise £5,000 in order to take this case forward and to get the Court to grant permission for it to proceed to a full Judicial Review. Please support this case, it is important to me, but is just as important to hundreds of others.”

Undercover policing inquiry Scotland crowdfund page

Dr Nick McKerrell, a lecturer in law at Glasgow Caledonian University told CommonSpace: “It's unfortunate that access to justice in Scotland in 2017 means we have to seek a crowd funder for this important legal issue.

“However the systematic surveillance of activists and the sanctioning of undercover activity by senior police needs a full independent investigation.

“Hopefully the judicial review will bring these elements out in the open and make the Scottish Government think again and back an independent inquiry.”

McKerrell, a civil rights campaigner, was revealed in 2016 to have been placed on a black list for trade unionists by the Consulting Association. He has called for the Pitchford inquiry to be extended to Scotland to investigate police surveillance activity.

In March, the Herald revealed that Police Scotland have compiled a file on the operations of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, one of the police units at the heart of UK wide police spying allegations, and their operations north of the border during 2005 protests at the G8 summit in Gleneagles. This file is closed to the public and will only be considered as part of an internal review.

The Scottish Government argues it’s review is a response to the Home Office’s reluctance to extend investigations to Scotland.

Quoted in the Daily Record, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We continue to believe that a single inquiry across the UK would be the best option for a comprehensive and coherent investigation into these matters. As the UK Government has refused our request for this, we have directed HMICS to carry out an independent review of undercover policing in Scotland.

“The review will be essential in gathering facts about existing and historical undercover policing activities, over the period the Scottish Parliament has had responsibility in this area, and will inform any future decisions we make.

“People can have full confidence that the HMICS review of undercover policing will be thorough and independent.”

Picture courtesy of fotdmike

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