in the back
Mitting needle
Spy cops inquiry, Issue 1610
NEVER-ENDING STORY: Sir John Mitting has overseen a lengthy and costly inquiry into the Met’s undercover cops
BAD news for m'learned friends, as the Home Office has finally insisted that the inquiry into the spy cops scandal must end by 2026, a mere 11 years after it started examining how a Metropolitan Police undercover unit tricked women into sexual relationships to infiltrate left-wing groups and justice campaigns.

Retired judge Sir John Mitting only managed to produce his first interim report this summer, eight years after the Undercover Policing Inquiry was set up in 2015 with an expectation of a final report three years later.

The inquiry has so far spent £70m, which means Mitting's 110-page interim report cost the taxpayer £636,000 per page and only covers the first spying period, from 1968 to 1982. There are five more stages for Mitting and his 90-strong team of lawyers and support staff to examine.

The next two spying periods – 1982-92 and 1992-2007 – are crucial, as many of the cops, politicians and captains of industry who used the intelligence to undermine civil claims for police brutality and to blacklist trades unionists are still alive. Yet, under the current timetable, the first of the remaining hearings won't start before July next year.

All talk
The first set of hearings managed to sit for just 64 days in eight years, of which only 29 days involved cops, spooks and victims actually giving evidence. The other 35 days were lawyers making opening and closing statements (17 days) or m'learned friends for the Met, MI5 and the Home Office asking Mitting to preserve the anonymity of undercover officers or withhold and redact documents (18 days).

One exasperated lawyer told the Eye: "Everything is a fight. We are moving at a snail's pace but it finally looks like Mitting is going to have to pull his finger out after the Home Office told a meeting on 27 September this has got to end by November 2026."

Home to roost
The Home Office is in a peculiar position, as it sponsors the inquiry but also funded the undercover unit, which started life as the Special Demonstration Squad and became the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.

Suspicious minds wonder if the Home Office is now keen on wrapping up the Undercover Policing Inquiry as matters move closer to its officials and political masters.

More top stories in the latest issue:

Police chiefs are resisting moves to make officers' fitness tests less stringent, even though experts say the tests require unnecessarily high fitness levels.

Healthcare digitiser Oracle Health has been hit by reports of patient harm relating to its systems in both the UK and US.

A high court trial at the high court has heard evidence of how influential local businessmen have become in Britain's largest regeneration project.

Matt Hancock was awarded free life membership of private club Black's, only for it the crypto-bros-owned joint to close last month, declaring itself insolvent.

After a high court judgment that a construction company had bribed Nigerian government officials, Priti Patel faces questions over her backing of the firm.

Plans being cooked up by the government and the British Standards Institute could leave us sitting on deadly sofas well into the middle of the century.

The demise of bathroom company Victoria Plum leaves customers and suppliers £17m out of pocket, but private equity's bankers and accountants are quids in.

To read all these stories in full, please buy issue 1610 of Private Eye - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 13th December 2023
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Private Eye Issue 1610
In This Issue
Unconfirmed reports claim Ukraine war is still going on… Celebrities sign new ‘leave us alone’ letter on Israel… King Solomon quits in despair… Matthew Perry – my ‘friend’… Foreign storms sweep in… Was Lady Macbeth responsible for husband’s policies?… Asylum seekers moved from hotels to hotels… Hamas crimes will not be forgotten until they buy Premier League team… England crash out to victorious metaphor… Bernie Taupin: an A-Z of dudes in my life, as told to Craig Brown

Promised land
A Tees freeport wrangle plays out in court

SLAPP happy
Donald Trump’s lawsuit against Christopher Steele

Labour at war
Keir Starmer’s regional difficulties over Gaza

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13th December 2023
Private Eye Issue 1609