Undercover Policing – Beyond the Line of Duty
The television drama ‘Line of Duty’ reaches a conclusion this evening, with audiences keen to discover the identity of ‘H’ and the top copper involved in organised crime gangs. Central to the plot of this series has been an undercover cop, sent in to expose the workings of organised crime gangs. Despite appearing otherwise legitimate, he appeared to go rogue and was involved in serious criminal activity, including armed robbery and murder.
So, how near to real life is Line of Duty?
The role of undercover police officers is well documented, but surprisingly there is little statutory control over what they can and cannot do.
They cannot, of course, kill people, otherwise than with a lawful excuse, such as self-defence, but by necessity, they have to get involved in some level of criminality otherwise they would be quickly exposed.
The difficulty lies when the boundaries become blurred; can we always tell when an officer is a bystander or lowly participant, and when, as in the case of Line of Duty, they appear to be the instigator of a serious crime?
At the moment there is an enquiry underway concerning undercover policing, but its findings are some years away yet. In the meantime defence lawyers need to carefully peel away the layers of secrecy, navigating public interest immunity obstacles in a fight to uncover the real story of their client’s involvement in alleged criminality.
This work can be slow and painstaking, but experienced lawyers know the law inside out and are well placed to ensure that your corner is appropriately defended. Only by shining a light on this often secret police world can a jury fully explore all of the facts and arrive at a just verdict.
As serious crime becomes every more organised and sophisticated, and traditional surveillance techniques are frustrated by modern technology and encryption, it is likely that the police will have to rely even more on old school techniques to gather evidence.
But we also know that human behaviour is complex and undercover police do not always keep to the rules, on occasion being guilty themselves of crime and encouraging others to commit crimes that they otherwise may not have (a legal concept called entrapment).
How we can assist
If you need specialist advice, then get in touch with John Howey on 020 7388 1658 and let us help. We have the necessary skills and experience to assist you in respect to any criminal investigation or prosecution.
Please note that the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing. There may have been updates to the law since the article was written, which may affect the information and advice given therein.