Police chiefs have been forced to confirm for the first time the identities of two undercover police officers who fathered children with campaigners from groups they had been sent to infiltrate.
One of them is Bob Lambert, the former head of the Muslim Contact Unit, who established close working relationships with many Muslim community activists in the years following the 7/7 attacks on London.
A high court judge had ordered the Metropolitan police to make the disclosures after the force lost a legal battle. The Met had fought to keep secret the identities of the two undercover officers, Bob Lambert and Jim Boyling, since a group of women launched a lawsuit three years ago.
The women are suing the Met saying they have suffered intense emotional trauma and pain after learning they had been deceived into forming long-term relationships with undercover police officers.
Harriet Wistrich, a lawyer representing the women, said the disclosures were a “partial victory” for the women: “The police have been pulled, kicking and screaming, to this first extremely significant development in the litigation brought by the women in their long battle for justice and accountability.”
Lambert had sexual relationships with four women while he infiltrated animal rights and environmental groups between 1984 and 1988. He fathered a son with one campaigner but abandoned both of them when the child was an infant.
He had a 18-month relationship with another woman, Belinda Harvey, while pretending to be a left-wing campaigner called Bob Robinson.
He was a member of Scotland Yard’s controversial undercover unit, the Special Demonstration Squad, that infiltrated hundreds of political groups between 1968 and 2008.
The women’s lawsuit continues as the Met is rejecting their claims that the force was legally responsible for the trauma experienced by them.
In a legal filing at the high court, the Met denied that Lambert and Boyling were authorised by their supervisors to form the relationships with the women or that “intimate and sexual relationships were started as a deliberate tactic” to gather intelligence about campaigners.
The Met said that the pair “violated explicit guidance” from their managers that undercover officers should not have long-term, or “emotionally committed” relationships during their deployments.
The Met said that the two men started the relationships “because of mutual attraction and genuine personal feelings”.
Harvey said she was “very upset” by the Met’s stance, adding that her relationship with Lambert was “a total violation of me and my life”.
She said: “How can a relationship be genuine when it is based on a massive web of lies? He pretended to be a man with noble ideals and political commitments, when in reality he was a police officer spying on our friendship network.
“He pretended he was committed to the future when he always knew he would go back to his real job and wife and kids. That doesn’t show genuine feelings; it is abuse and I would never have consented to such a relationship had I known.”
Wistrich said that the confirmation of the pair’s identities did not “go far enough. It is mealy mouthed, offensive and lacking in any acknowledgment of the huge abuse of power and harm caused to my clients”.
Muslim Contact Unit
From 1980 to 2008 Lambert was a police officer in London, with service in Special Branch where he was head of the Muslim Contact Unit.
Lambert was instrumental in removing Abu Hamza from Finsbury Park mosque with the help of several prominent members of the British Muslim community, many of whom continued to praise him and have ties with him after he was exposed as a former police spy.
Lambert was also heavily involved in working with “south London salafis” supposedly countering al Qaeda, as he himself outlined in a book.
His philosophy was to work with prominent members of the Muslim community who had “street credibility” in order to counter the supposedly violent message of radicalism.
Lambert is now working as a lecturer in Terrorism Studies at the University of St Andrews and and a senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University.