Piers Corbyn 'was targeted by "spy cops" for almost two decades'

Piers Corbyn 'was targeted by "spy cops" for almost two decades'

November 6, 2020

‘Spy cops’ inquiry hears how Piers Corbyn was a surveillance target for almost two decades after joining the squatting movement in the 1970s

  • Piers Corbyn, 73, was targeted by Scotland Yard’s undercover police for 20 years
  • Jeremy Corbyn’s older brother was main organiser for squatting rights in London
  • He has also led mass anti-shutdown rallies around the country amid pandemic 
  • Meteorologist is a core participant in the Undercover Policing Inquiry 

Anti-shutdown protester Piers Corbyn was targeted by Scotland Yard’s undercover police for nearly two decades, a public inquiry heard yesterday.

The older brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was the main organiser for squatting groups in London between 1972 and 1982.

Mr Corbyn, 73, helped to organise the All London Squatters Federation, the Squatters Union and the Squatters Action Council. 

His advocacy of squatting put him on the radar of the Metropolitan Police’s shadowy Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) unit from 1971 to 1990.

Though squatting in residential property only became illegal in 2012, undercover police referred to squatting in a 1974 report as the ‘nursery of extremists’.    

The meterologist is a core participant in the Undercover Policing Inquiry into controversial police tactics set up by Theresa May in 2015.

After he was arrested and tried after eviction from a squat in Huntley Street in 1977, Mr Corbyn recalled that the under-sheriff had admitted in cross-examination that undercover police officers had been deployed. 

Though he has been given 53 SDS intelligence reports from 1971-90, Rajiv Menon QC told the inquiry he has been unable to identify the undercover officers because ‘he has not been provided with any witness statements or photographs to assist him’.

Anti-shutdown protester Piers Corbyn was targeted by Scotland Yard’s undercover police for nearly two decades, a public inquiry heard yesterday

The older brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was the main organiser for squatting groups in London between 1972 and 1982 (pictured in Maida Vale in 1975)

The meterologist is a core participant in the Undercover Policing Inquiry into controversial police tactics set up by Theresa May in 2015 (pictured at the Aylesbury estate in 1997)

In an opening statement read to the inquiry, Mr Menon said: ‘It is impossible for him to assess what, if any, impact the spying has had on him.’

Mr Corbyn is due to say more in a further opening statement in early 2021. 

The first evidence heard by the public inquiry into undercover policing will focus on the roots of the SDS, a Met unit which existed between 1968 and 2008.

The SDS and the undercover section of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), which existed between 1999 and 2010, are under scrutiny over tactics used.

Mr Menon told the inquiry yesterday that MI5 opened a file on Mr Corbyn in 1969 after he attended anti-Vietnam War rallies.

The Left-wing activist joined the International Marxist Group (IMG) in 1971 and attended demonstrations about issues from Ireland, anti-racism and anti-Fascism to trade union struggles for better pay and conditions.  


Mr Menon told the inquiry yesterday that MI5 opened a file on Mr Corbyn in 1969 after he attended anti-Vietnam War rallies. The Left-wing activist joined the International Marxist Group (IMG) in 1971 and attended demonstrations about issues from Ireland, anti-racism and anti-Fascism to trade union struggles for better pay and conditions

Corbyn pictured with Jennie and Charles and their daughter Melissa outside Elgin Avenue

Mr Menon told the inquiry that Mr Corbyn’s role in the squatting movement ‘seems to have triggered the interest’ of the Metropolitan Police’s so-called ‘spy cops’.

‘Squatting was a response to the lack of affordable housing, especially for young people, but was also a way of trying to establish a new type of community in the form of communal living,’ Mr Menon told the hearing.

In 1972, Mr Corbyn was instrumental in setting up the Squatters Action Council and the London Squatters Union, and he played a key role in the victory of the Elgin Avenue squatters, all of whom were rehoused by the Greater London Council. 

He joined the Labour Party in 1982 and campaigned to keep the cost of public transport down in the 1980s, before becoming a councillor in Southwark in 1986.

Counsel to the inquiry David Barr QC said in his opening statement on Monday that the SDS was set up amid protests over the Vietnam War in the late 1960s.

There were official concerns that public anger over the issue and unrest in Europe, particularly in Paris, signalled that far-Left political groups in England and Wales were planning disorder on home soil. 

Piers Corbyn addresses the crowds at the We Do Not Consent protest in Trafalgar Square

Police officers apprehend Piers Corbyn, brother of former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, during a demonstration against the coronavirus lockdown at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park

Piers Corbyn makes a speech at a demonstration in Trafalgar Square organised by the organisation Stand Up X in London in August

Wives of undercover Met Police officers who duped activist targets into sexual relationships tell ‘spy cops’ inquiry their lives are ‘for ever tainted’ and want apology from Scotland Yard 

Three ex-wives of Metropolitan Police officers who had sexual relationships with other women while working undercover said their lives had been ‘for ever tainted’ by the scandal. 

The women, who are core participants of the Undercover Policing Inquiry, only found out about their partners’ infidelity from media reports on controversial police and called on Scotland Yard to apologise.

Senior Met officers have apologised to the women who were tricked into relationships with the men unaware of their fake identity, but not to their wives.    

In a statement streamed online on their behalf yesterday Angus McCullough QC said that the women had supported their husbands without backing from the force, and had taken on the ‘burden of secrecy’ living in fear of reprisals, both during their marriage and after the truth was discovered.

He said the women ‘found out that their marriages were based on lies’ and that their husbands’ jobs ‘had been vehicles for the worst kind of infidelity’.

‘They have been left to reconstruct their lives, and those of their children, forever tainted by their connection with men who have behaved so appallingly,’ he said.

‘What once brought them pride, now brings them shame and fear.’

Initially the SDS, also known as the Special Operations Squad and nicknamed the Hairies because of undercover officers’ hippie appearance, targeted only far-Left groups and those associated with Irish civil rights campaigns.

At first officers were deployed undercover for weeks or months, rather than the years-long assignments seen later.

Documents from the time suggested that the unit had only a budget of a few thousand pounds per year, excluding salaries, between 1968 and 1973, whereas in fact it had funding of £500,000.

The start of the Troubles in the late 1960s is thought to have fuelled ongoing SDS interest in groups campaigning on Irish issues in England and Wales, and meant the unit continued to exist. 

More than 200 witnesses, ranging from the undercover officers, their superiors, Whitehall officials and politicians, are due to give evidence to the inquiry.  

On Tuesday Peter Skelton QC for the Met told the inquiry: ‘It is necessary to acknowledge the real concern about the way undercover policing has been conducted in the past.

‘The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) fully appreciates that the inquiry will be properly and directly informed by testimony of the experiences of those affected by undercover police operations.

‘The MPS is acutely aware of their continuing anger and distress.’ 

In his opening statement delivered via a live video stream on Monday, counsel to the inquiry David Barr QC set out the background to the investigation and why it was established in 2015.

He said: ‘This inquiry has been set up as a result of profound and wide-ranging concerns arising from the activities of two undercover police units.

‘First, the Special Demonstration Squad, which existed between 1968 and 2008, second, the undercover element of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, which existed between 1999 and 2010.

‘It has emerged that for decades undercover police officers infiltrated a significant number of political and other activist groups, in deployments which typically lasted for years.

‘The information reported by these undercover police officers was extensive. It covered the activities of the groups in question, and their members. It also extended to the groups and individuals with whom they came into contact, including elected representatives.

‘Reporting covered not only the political or campaigning activities of those concerned but other aspects of their personal lives.

‘Groups mainly on the far Left but also the far Right of the political spectrum were infiltrated, as well as groups campaigning for social, environmental or other change.’

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