A Metropolitan Police investigation has upheld a complaint by a woman deceived into a relationship by former undercover officer Andy Coles.
The Met have found Jessica’s claims credible and ruled that Coles would face charges of gross misconduct if he were still a serving officer.
It’s a huge blow to Coles, who has consistently denied Jessica’s account of his abuse as he tries to shore up his crumbling credibility as a city councillor and public figure.
ANDY COLES: LYING THEN
Andy Coles was a member of the Metropolitan Police’s disgraced Special Demonstration Squad. In the 1990s he spent four years undercover as peace and animal rights activist ‘Andy Davey’. Like many other officers in Britain’s political secret police, Coles abused his role to deceive women into sexual relationships. The most significant of these was a woman known as ‘Jessica’.
Jessica was, as Coles knew, a vulnerable teenager at the time. He told her he was a 24 year old who shared her worldview and became her first proper boyfriend. In reality, he was 32 and married, paid to be sent into her life to betray the values she held dear.
Coles went on to have a career in Special Branch, managing and training other officers for the same role as he’d held.
He retired from the police in 2012, about a year after the spycops scandal broke. In Peterborough he became a Conservative member of the City Council for Fletton and Woodston ward, and was appointed to the post of Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Cambridgeshire.
When he was exposed in 2017, Coles resigned as Deputy PCC within hours without explanation. However, seemingly believing lower standards apply to councillors than Deputy PCCs, he did not step down as a councillor. Every council meeting since then has seen protests calling for his resignation. His seat will be up for re-election in May this year.
ANDY COLES: LYING NOW
A year later, in 2018, the Undercover Policing Inquiry confirmed that he had indeed been a Special Demonstration Squad officer. Coles released two prepared statements to the press, which only confirmed what the Inquiry had said, and flatly denied what he called the ‘lurid allegations’ made by Jessica:
‘The allegation the ALF activist known as “Jessica” makes that I had a sexual relationship with her for over a year while undercover are [sic] completely untrue’.
The Undercover Policing Inquiry, which has access to secret police files, had already granted Jessica ‘core participant’ status in August 2017. They have only given that designation to around 200 of the most seriously affected victims of spycops. Clearly, they find her account credible too.
Through his lawyer, he told the media yesterday that he still denies having ‘an inappropriate relationship’ with Jessica.
Now that the relationship is officially regarded as credible, he is perhaps trying to insert some room for manoeuvre and suggests that even if he did have a relationship it was somehow ‘appropriate’. That quite plainly cannot be true, as has been repeatedly and unequivocally established by a range of senior officers and official investigations.
Chief Constable Mick Creedon produced a series of reports on the political secret police under the aegis of Operation Herne, and in 2014 he was clear:
‘There are and never have been any circumstances where it would be appropriate for such covertly deployed officers to engage in intimate sexual relationships with those they are employed to infiltrate and target. Such an activity can only be seen as an abject failure of the deployment, a gross abuse of their role and their position as a police officer and an individual and organisational failing.’
When the Metropolitan Police gave their landmark apology to women deceived into relationships in 2015, two years before Jessica found out the truth about Coles, they said:
‘some officers, acting undercover whilst seeking to infiltrate protest groups, entered into long-term intimate sexual relationships with women which were abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong… these relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma. The forming of a sexual relationship by an undercover officer would never be authorised in advance nor indeed used as a tactic of a deployment’.
Jon Murphy from the Association of Chief Police Officers explained it when the scandal broke in 2011, at a time when Coles was employed by the Association:
‘It is grossly unprofessional. It is a diversion from what they are there to do. It is morally wrong because people have been put there to do a particular task and people have got trust in them. It is never acceptable under any circumstances… for them to engage in sex with any subject they come into contact with.’
When his deployment ended in 1995, Andy Coles updated the Special Demonstration Squad’s Tradecraft Manual to incorporate his experience and methods, including tips on conducting the kinds of relationship he now denies having.
After this, he trained the first undercover officers in the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), a new sister unit to the Special Demonstration Squad, teaching them to steal the identities of dead children. He went on to become Head of Training for the NPOIU’s oversight body ACPO-TAM as they deployed a number of the most notorious spycops who committed the same kind of abuses, such as Mark Kennedy.
WHAT’S HE GOT TO HIDE?
During the Met’s investigation into Jessica’s complaint, Coles was interviewed twice under caution and both times he supplied a prepared statement. He refused to answer questions.
Why did he resign as Deputy PCC? Why did he refuse to answer questions put to him by his old colleagues at the Metropolitan Police? Why does he continually refuse to comment, except to confirm what’s officially concretely established and deny the rest?
These are not the actions of someone who believes they have done nothing wrong. They are more like the response of someone who is desperately trying to hide from the truth.
The fact that his old colleagues at the Met, not known for their bias against themselves, have found Jessica’s report of a relationship credible makes Coles’s desperate denials appear transparently false.
He has doubled down, telling today’s Peterborough Telegraph:
‘The Metropolitan Police has taken no further action against me’
That’s an extraordinary response to the Met upholding a complaint against him and announcing that they would bring the most serious disciplinary charges against him if only it were still in their power to do so.
Despite the Met’s investigators having spoken to many people who knew Coles and Jessica at the time, and seen documentary proof such as contemporaneous letters, Coles desperately repeats his lie:
‘I deny the accusations made completely. I denied them when they were first made, I deny them now’
While his current friends and colleagues on the council may forgive his abuse of a woman thirty years ago, if he admits it happened it means he has been lying to them since 2017. They would not look so benevolently on that. So he goes on, as the evidence piles up all around him, lying to his peers and compounding the damage he has done to Jessica.
STALLING AS HIS LIES ARE FALLING
Coles is still refusing to answer, merely saying through his lawyer that ‘it would not be appropriate to respond outside of the Inquiry’.
He talks as if the Inquiry is a court and he might prejudice a fair trial. It’s yet another deceit he is playing on the public. He knows full well that the inquiry process does not restrict him at all and that he is at liberty to say what he wants. Any number of former spycops have given interviews to television and press, made public appearances, one even hired a publicity agent.
Coles knows this is merely a way to kick the can down the road. Though the Inquiry is not a court of any kind, it is as slow as any process in the judicial system. Initiated six years ago and originally scheduled to conclude in summer 2018, it has yet to begin. There are no dates set for officers from Coles’ era to give evidence, and the whole thing is not expected to finish until 2025 at the earliest.
It leaves Coles continuing in his respected public role while Jessica – and the wider public – still wait for the truth about full extent of Britain’s counter-democratic secret police units.
‘I’m pleased the complaint was upheld however I am disappointed at the lack of accountability. Andy Coles was allowed to retire in 2013 at a time when the revelations about undercover officers having sexual relationships and even children with unsuspecting women had started to come out. I would like to know what his superior officers knew or ought to have known about our relationship. Was he properly supervised?
‘Kate Wilson is in court later this week fighting to find answers to what happened to her. Her relationship with an undercover police officer happened a decade after mine. This is not historic abuse. It’s systematic and institutionalised sexism in the police.’
Men who abuse their public roles to violate women should not be in positions of civic trust. This isn’t just about what he did 30 years ago, appalling as that was. This is also about his unrelenting deviousness and lack of integrity today.
The Sack Andy Coles campaign has protested at every Peterborough Council meeting since the truth was revealed. Join us at the next one on Wednesday 4 March 2020, 5pm at Peterborough Town Hall.
And whether you can be at the protest or not, please sign and share the petition launched by one of Coles’ fellow councillors calling on him to resign.