Undercover officer Mark Kennedy’s German deployment to infiltrate activist groups ‘objectively illegal’, says judge
A German court has decided that a British undercover police officer who spied on environmental campaigners operated unlawfully during his deployment in that country.
The ruling concludes a long-running legal case that was initiated by one of the campaigners who was spied on by Mark Kennedy, the undercover officer.
A judge in the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern said on Monday that Kennedy’s deployment there had been “objectively illegal” because it had not been given the necessary approval by judges.
The decision focuses attention on how European police have collaborated to infiltrate political groups as part of an extensive surveillance operation.
Kennedy, a member of a covert British police unit, spent seven years spying on environmental and leftwing activists until he was unmasked in 2010.
During his deployment he travelled outside Britain and spied on activists in at least 14 countries. After his unmasking, German police were forced to admit that Kennedy had worked for three German states during at least five visits to the country between 2004 and 2009.
In Germany, he infiltrated groups of environmental activists, anarchists, anti-fascists and campaigners who were protesting against G8 summits, including the 2007 G8 in northern Germany.
Kennedy befriended an activist, Jason Kirkpatrick, who subsequently took legal action in Germany to help expose the scope of the spy’s conduct.
On Monday, Kirkpatrick and the defendant, the interior ministry of the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, agreed to settle the case after it emerged that little evidence about Kennedy’s deployment in Germany survived.
Franziska Ullrich, a spokesperson for the Schwerin administrative court, said: “A police mission in Germany that involves the collection of sensitive data would have required a permission from a German judicial authority. In this case such a court decision did not take place.
“Even though the settlement means the judge did not issue a verdict in the trial, he informed the participants that he considers the British police officer’s mission illegal”.
The Metropolitan police in March this year rejected a request for Kennedy to give testimony in the trial and declined to provide further paperwork on the mission, arguing “the risk to the UK’s own investigation into undercover policing and to undercover policing methods is simply too high”.
“It’s scandalous and highly unusual how little information the police authorities in the UK and Germany have provided in this case,” said Kirkpatrick’s German lawyer Anna Kuczak. The deployment of a British officer at a G8 summit in Germany was atypical and specific, she said, and would not have risked revealing sensitive information about undercover policing methods in general.
Kirkpatrick said: “We achieved our goal. With this declaration that spying of Mark Kennedy was illegal in Germany, it is clear that the state can no longer target activists as it did. Climate activists today will benefit from this fight against government interference.”
Investigations by the Guardian and activists after Kennedy’s unmasking in 2010 exposed how since 1968, British police sent at least 139 undercover police officers to spy on more than 1,000 political groups in covert deployments that usually lasted four years.
A slow-moving public inquiry, headed by a retired judge, is examining a range of misconduct committed by the police spies.
Many officers deceived women into long-term intimate relationships and in some cases fathered children with them. Kennedy was exposed by a woman whom he had deceived into a six-year relationship.
The undercover officers also spied on grieving relatives who were seeking to highlight police misconduct, including the parents of the murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, and stole the identities of dead children to use as part of their fake identities.