A Welsh woman who was deceived into a six year relationship with an undercover Metropolitan police officer has called the police “institutionally sexist”, and fears people could still be falling victim to police intrusion.

She spoke to The National Wales this week after Kate Wilson, who was targeted by the same officer, won a landmark tribunal against the Met for violations of her human rights – and amid disturbing revelations about the ordeal suffered by Sarah Everard, who was raped and murdered by serving Met police officer Wayne Couzens in March.

The National Wales: Sarah Everard, 33, was abducted by a Met police officer on her way home from a friend's house in March (Source: PA)Sarah Everard, 33, was abducted by a Met police officer on her way home from a friend's house in March (Source: PA)

Lisa Jones, who uses a pseudonym to protect her identity, is from south Wales.

She was a victim of the “Spycops” scandal - a decades long Met police operation in which undercover officers spied on environmental, anti-racist and left-wing political campaigners across the UK – including Black MPs like Diane Abbott, the families of Hillsborough Disaster victims, and women’s rights groups.

READ MORE: Wayne Couzens handed whole-life sentence for Sarah Everard murder

Many undercover officers, who were often already married with children, began sexual relationships with the women they were surveilling, with two even fathering children with activists before they were discovered.

Lisa met “Mark Stone” in the early 2000s, when she was involved with groups raising awareness about the threat of climate change.

They became close in late 2004, and began a relationship lasting six years. The couple went on holidays together, and Mark rode in the mourner’s car with Lisa at her dad’s funeral. Now and again he’d go away, telling Lisa he was working overseas.

He was “the person [she] shared everything with”, until, while on a campervan holiday in Italy in 2010, Lisa found a passport bearing his real name – Mark Kennedy – which listed him as having children.

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Mark later sold his story to the Daily Mail, claiming he’d been “smeared” after it was revealed he’d deceived nine other women.

He told the Mail, which described Lisa salaciously as a “beautiful Welsh redhead”, that superiors considered his work “the benchmark” for other officers, and that intelligence he gathered on Lisa and her friends had at times gone straight to the desk of then-PM Tony Blair.

The impact on Lisa’s mental health, meanwhile was devastating.

“The violation goes deep. It’s in my most private, intimate moments – my family’s lives too,” she said.

“This man didn’t exist – he was a fictional character.”

Before Lisa, whose relationship with Mark was by far the longest, there was fellow climate activist Kate Wilson - she’d been with Mark for two years.

It was Kate who was able to bring her case to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which ended this week.

In a judgement released on Thursday, the tribunal said the Met had committed a “formidable” list of human rights violations during their operation.

The National Wales: Kate Wilson with other Spycops victims outside court on Thursday (Source: PA)Kate Wilson with other Spycops victims outside court on Thursday (Source: PA)

The Met says it was unaware of Mark’s behaviour, that he was one of a few “rogue” officers – but the tribunal dismissed this claim.

It said: "Either senior officers were quite extraordinarily naive, totally unquestioning or chose to turn a blind eye to conduct which was, certainly in the case of [Kennedy], useful to the operation.”

It also questioned why undercover officers were deployed at all, adding: "Our findings that [the operation’s authorisations] were fatally flawed and the undercover operation could not be justified as 'necessary in a democratic society' ... reveal disturbing and lamentable failings at the most fundamental levels."

Reading this was “overwhelming” for Lisa, who, along with other Spycops victims, has fought for over a decade to be heard.

“It's a really complicated mix of emotions - it's a really hard thing,” Lisa says.

“I feel vindicated, I feel relieved that finally someone has taken what we’ve been saying for the last decade seriously.

“But I also feel so angry at what the police have put us through all these years – changing their story constantly, saying whatever they need to, to get the best outcome for themselves.

“I’m so proud of Kate for persevering – proud of all of us victims who are fighting, and will continue to fight.”

READ MORE: Former Gwent police constable charged with misconduct in public office

Lisa was given access to her file at the tribunal. Mark’s mobile phone, which contained intimate photos of her, was part of the evidence – as well as records of him seeking authorisation to go to her dad’s funeral.

“One of the big unanswered questions for me now is – how deeply was my privacy violated by the police?” she said.

“Who authorised him to go to the funeral? Who saw those photographs of me?

“How much ‘locker room banter’ would there have been?

“I don’t believe for a second they weren’t monitoring that phone.”

When the tribunal ruling came out, new details about the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard were emerging from the sentencing of Wayne Couzens, who was given a whole life order.

The National Wales: CCTV footage caught Couzens, 48, staging a false arrest under Covid powers to kidnap Sarah (Source: PA)CCTV footage caught Couzens, 48, staging a false arrest under Covid powers to kidnap Sarah (Source: PA)

Couzens had used his police credentials to “arrest” Sarah for Covid violations. Her kidnapping happened in front of witnesses, who assumed she had done something wrong.

The case displays disturbing symmetry to that of South Wales Police detective Jeffrey Davies, who was convicted of multiple rapes in 2016, carried out while he was a family liaison officer in the early 2000s.

He’d told one woman, a domestic abuse victim, she was being taken to the police station to see her son. He drove her to the Bwlch mountain instead.

Lisa says these cases are symptoms of an “endemic” problem of misogyny in the police.

“I think it's now time to have a finding of institutional sexism within the police,” she said.

“The police always bang on about rogue officers, bad apples, but this culture of misogyny is so accepted and so entrenched that it’s led both to my situation and now this awful tragedy with Sarah.

“It makes me sick that it’s allowed to continue.

“I’ve seen it at protests, there’s an entitlement to power. You’ve got no right to question anything, you have to just obey.

“It’s a power dynamic that’s so, so open to abuse.”

Lisa sees similarities between the responses to Sarah’s case and her own.

The National Wales: Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick issued an apology on Thursday, amid calls for her resignation (Source: PA)Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick issued an apology on Thursday, amid calls for her resignation (Source: PA)

Much like Mark Kennedy was called a “rogue officer”, police officials have been quick to disown Couzens. A senior investigator on Sarah’s case said on Wednesday that police “do not view” Wayne Couzens as a police officer.

“The first priority is always to protect the reputation of the police,” Lisa says.

“Their only objective is to keep that power.

“They believe themselves to be above reproach, and questioning them is seen as such a shocking thing.

“That’s what happened when Lush did a campaign to support our case.”

Back in 2018, the cosmetics company Lush installed window displays raising awareness of the Spycops scandal.

They pulled the campaign, citing concerns for their staff’s safety, after they were accused of “anti-police” sentiment, with the Police Federation encouraging people to boycott the store.

READ MORE: Daughter of Cardiff Three's Tony Paris on trauma of miscarriage of justice

Asked why the UK finds this conversation so difficult, Lisa responded: “I think because it goes to the heart of everything about the way our society is organised.

“There’s this idea that if we can't trust authority, then it feels like society might break down.

“But there are loads of different sections of society that have had had this realisation for a long time – Black men in particular, and people on the fringes of society.

“We saw that with the case of the Cardiff Three.”

The National Wales: Emotional protests were held across Wales after Sarah's disappearance in March (Source: Huw Evans Agency)Emotional protests were held across Wales after Sarah's disappearance in March (Source: Huw Evans Agency)

 

The Undercover Policing Inquiry, called by Theresa May in 2015 as a response to reports of "appalling practices" by undercover Met police officers, is expected to be hearing evidence all the way through to 2023, and is not expected to provide its conclusions until near the end of the decade.

Meanwhile at the UK Labour party conference this week, leader Keir Starmer was criticised for linking recent cases of violence against women with decreasing police numbers, and the Shadow Home Secretary, Torfaen MP Nick Thomas Symonds, announced that a Labour government would introduce “next-generation neighbourhood watch”, using doorbell cameras and Whatsapp groups to gather intelligence for local police.

The Conservative government’s Policing and Covert Human Intelligence Bills, currently passing through parliament, will give police unprecedented powers to seize data, suppress public protest, and grant undercover officers immunity from a raft of serious criminal charges.

“It’s scary,” Lisa says.

“Women can’t trust the police – more police isn’t the answer.

“This idea, too, that women are feeble, that we need more people to call on to protect us, it doesn’t get to the root of the problem.

“Society has to confront the idea of misogyny, that it’s men who have to change – not us.”

Lisa hopes that the problem might finally be addressed, now that these power dynamics are being questioned.

But she worries for the new generation of young activists, with groups like Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter, who she fears may be targeted like she was.

The National Wales: Lisa worries for the safety of today's new generation of climate and racial justice activists (Source: Huw Evans Agency)Lisa worries for the safety of today's new generation of climate and racial justice activists (Source: Huw Evans Agency)

“It was our whole social scene that Mark infiltrated,” Lisa says.

“Anyone who was even remotely associated with our protests was caught up in the net.

“It’s really important that gets called out, for the people who are protesting now – who are often really young - to know what went on and what might happen to them.

“Hopefully now that blanket use of undercover officers, on anyone that opposes the government or the status quo, gets questioned.

“Imagine what these movements could have achieved if they weren’t being scuppered like that.”

More information on the Spycops scandal can be found here.

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