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Undercover policing report to be delivered in 2023

Thursday, 10 May 2018

The public inquiry into undercover policing will not deliver its final report to the Home Secretary until at least 2023 - eight years after it opened, according to a strategic review.

The Undercover Policing Inquiry, which was launched in 2015, has already cost around £10 million and was originally due to finish this year.

An "ambitious timeline" set out by the inquiry on Thursday now anticipates delivering its final report to the Home Secretary in December 2023, with two years of evidential hearings expected to start next summer.

The Metropolitan Police will be asked how they plan to stick to the timetable at a public hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on May 18.

The inquiry is investigating undercover operations conducted by police forces in England and Wales since 1968, involving tens of thousands of documents

and the evidence of at least 250 police witnesses.

It was ordered three years ago by then home secretary Theresa May in the wake of a string of allegations about the activities of undercover units, including claims Scotland Yard had spied on campaigners fighting for justice for murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

The probe will also investigate incidents of undercover officers from the MetropolitanPolice's Special Demonstration Squad having sexual relationships with women involved in campaign groups, and using the names of dead children to create fake identities.

There has been growing discontent among non-state participants in the probe, with concerns raised about former undercover officers being granted anonymity during the proceedings, as well as the slow speed of progress.

In March, at least 60 campaigners and their legal teams walked out of the inquiry, while a boycott of anonymity hearings began this week.

The campaigners would like to see an inquiry led by a panel rather than a single judge, because they believe that would better investigate claims of institutional racism and sexism.

But writing in the strategic review, inquiry chairman Sir John Mitting rejected calls to appoint panel members until after the fact-finding stage, in 2021.

"The appointment of additional members to the panel (currently consisting of me, as chairman alone) would impose a heavy cost in both time and money," he said.

"Once the facts have been found, it would be both practicable and desirable for a wider panel to be recruited to investigate and consider the state of undercover policing and to make recommendations to the Home Secretary for the future."