Spy cop who led special branch admits wrongly accusing activist of bomb plot

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An undercover police officer who went on to become the head of the Metropolitan police’s special branch has admitted he mistakenly accused an activist of planning to plant bombs at a military base.

Roger Pearce, the undercover officer who infiltrated anarchist groups in the 1980s, had alleged to a public inquiry that he drove to Aldershot with a group of anarchists to “recce bomb sites”. He accused Dave Morris of being one of the anarchists.

On Tuesday Pearce withdrew his allegation after it was denied by Morris. Morris is a longtime radical campaigner who was one of the defendants in the 1990s McLibel case.

The retraction of the allegation against Morris was heard at the judge-led public inquiry which is examining the activities of about 139 undercover officers who spied on more than 1,000 political groups since 1968.

The current phase of the inquiry is looking at covert operations in the 1980s and 1990s.

Pearce pretended to be an anarchist between 1980 and 1984 using the fake name of Roger Thorley. He was a member of the Metropolitan police’s special branch, the secretive division which was responsible for monitoring political groups. By 1999, he had been promoted to the head of special branch, a post he held until 2003.

In his witness statement, Pearce had claimed that during his deployment, he had been “drawn into helping to recce’ing bomb sites” at the Aldershot military barracks. He alleged that he drove a group of four or five anarchists in his car in a spontaneous trip to the town and named Morris as one of the group.

On Monday, Morris, giving evidence to the inquiry, said the claim was “a load of rubbish”, suggesting that Pearce had made it all up.

He added: “I don’t believe I’ve ever been to Aldershot and I certainly would never have been recceing a place for whatever he’s accusing me of.”

On Tuesday, Pearce backed down after he was challenged by David Barr, the inquiry’s barrister. “Yes, Mr Morris, I am convinced, was not involved in the reconnoitre of the Aldershot barracks, so this is a mistake,” Pearce said.

Pearce still maintained he made the trip with anarchists who were not named at the inquiry. He added that “nothing came of the reconnaissance”.

Morris is best known for his involvement in the long-running McLibel trial. In that David v Goliath case, he and another environmental campaigner, Helen Steel, were sued for libel by the US fast food giant McDonald’s over a leaflet they had distributed criticising the company’s practices.

Source: theguardian.com

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