The claimants sought damages for deceit, assault, misfeasance in public office and negligence arising out of long term sexual relationships which they had with four men, who they allege were undercover police officers acting under the direction and control of the defendant.
There is a very strong public interest in protecting the anonymity of informers and undercover agents, and thus of permitting them and their superiors neither to confirm nor deny (NCND) their status; but it is for the court to balance the public interest in the policy against any other competing public interests which may be applicable. Even where an individual agent has self-disclosed, the police may nevertheless be permitted to rely on NCND in respect of allegations in the case where to admit or deny them might endanger other people, hamper police investigations, assist criminals, or reveal police operational methods.
The Court did not accept that there was any legitimate public interest entitling the defendant to maintain the stance of NCND in respect of the general allegation that officers, as part of their work as undercover officers and using false identities, engaged in long term intimate sexual relationships with those whose activities the defendant wished to observe; and that this was authorised or acquiesced in by senior management. In respect of the specific allegations, self-disclosure is relevant, but it does not have the same significance as official confirmation by the police force concerned.
Phillippa Kaufmann QC was involved in this case.