Judicial review to be heard in decision not to hold undercover policing inquiry

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Campaigners have been granted permission to proceed to a judicial review of the decision not to hold a public inquiry into undercover policing in Scotland.

Lawyers acting for environmental justice campaigner Tilly Gifford launched legal proceedings in October last year in the wake of the UK Government’s 2016 decision not to extend the Undercover Policing Inquiry to Scotland.

At Scotland’s highest civil court, the Court of Session, on Thursday, judge Lord Arthurson granted permission for the case to move to a full judicial review.

It is expected to be heard in a few months’ time, possibly early next year.

The Undercover Policing Inquiry was set up in England and Wales to investigate allegations of misconduct by undercover officers going back as far as 1968.

It is claimed undercover Metropolitan Police officers were also involved in spying north of the border, but the UK Government has refused to extend the probe to Scotland.

The Scottish Government has also declined to set up a similar inquiry, although an independent review of undercover policing north of the border by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) was announced last year.

Ms Gifford, a member of the Plane Stupid campaign group, alleges she was targeted in Scotland in 2009 by officers who wanted to recruit her as an informant.

Lawyers at the London-based Public Interest Law Unit, representing Ms Gifford, said the full hearing will consider whether the UK Government acted unlawfully in refusing to extend the terms of reference of the inquiry to Scotland.

Separately, but simultaneously, it will also challenge the decision of the Scottish Government not to set up an inquiry of its own, they said.

Ms Gifford has called on the UK and Scottish governments to “reconsider their positions” and extend the inquiry without the need for a full hearing.

The lawyers involved say they are working pro bono and have raised thousands through crowd funding after a legal aid application was refused.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We are confident that the inquiry’s terms of reference will allow it to gain both a deep understanding of historical failings and make robust recommendations to ensure unacceptable practices are not repeated without extending the terms of reference.

“The inquiry is extensive and complex and in the interests of learning lessons from past failures and improving public confidence, it is important that the inquiry proceeds swiftly and makes recommendations as soon as possible.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are aware of the permission granted for this case to proceed to a full hearing.

“As the case is currently before the court it would not be appropriate to comment any further at this time.”