The former wives of undercover police officers have told a public inquiry about the “shattering” discovery that their marriages were “imbued with deceit” as a result of their husbands’ covert deployments.
A statement was made to the inquiry on behalf of three women who believed they were making personal sacrifices so their husbands could go undercover to infiltrate political groups during long-term deployments.
Years later, they discovered their marriages had been “based on lies” and that their husbands had had sexual relationships with other women during their deployments.
The deployments caused their marriages to break down, the inquiry heard.
The women outlined their experiences in an opening statement read out at the judge-led inquiry, which is looking at how 139 undercover officers spied on more than 1,000 political groups over more than four decades.
The former wives said some of their children were conceived or born during the deployments, adding that they were “mothers of children born into relationships imbued with deceit”.
The wives were not named in the statement made on Wednesday by their QC, Angus McCullough, nor were their former husbands.
He said there had been little focus on the former wives so far during the controversy over the use of undercover officers that started to be exposed a decade ago.
McCullough said the Metropolitan police had apologised to women who had been deceived into intimate relationships by undercover officers.
But the former wives “cannot understand why they have not received one too. They sacrificed so many aspects of their lives for the Metropolitan police and not once has anyone from the police acknowledged, let alone apologised for, what has been done to them and their families.
“Their sacrifices went way beyond those they had willingly taken on, and have had a shattering impact on each of their lives (and that of their wider families) as they have come to learn something of the reality of their husbands’ roles. This has cost each of them their marriage and had a profound ongoing psychological impact.”
McCullough said the trio, who called themselves “police wives”, had “unwaveringly” supported their husbands when they went undercover. “Years later they found out that their marriages were based on lies, that their husbands’ jobs – of which they had been so proud – had been vehicles for the worst kind of infidelity.
“None of them had any idea that in the name of policing their husbands were having sexual relationships with other women.”
He said the Met had caused them stress by encouraging them to believe their husbands were infiltrating serious and violent criminals or extremists, not protesters that posed no threat to the undercover officers or their families.
“When the women found out the truth about the groups their husbands infiltrated, they were horrified as this was at odds with the picture that had been painted to them,” he added.
The inquiry has identified one of the ex-wives as Jennifer Francis, who waived her anonymity two years ago when she criticised Scotland Yard for failing to give her any support when her marriage came under strain from the demands of her husband’s work.
Her former husband, Peter Francis, has become a whistleblower. His revelation that police had spied on the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence prompted the government to establish the public inquiry, which is headed by retired judge Sir John Mitting.
He is the only undercover officer who has broken ranks and blown the whistle on the covert operation to spy on political groups. He revealed extensive details of his former unit, the Special Demonstration Squad.
He was an SDS undercover officer between 1993 and 1997, infiltrating anti-racism groups. He has disclosed that while he was undercover, he had two sexual relationships with women who did not know his true identity.
In an opening statement to the inquiry, his QC, David Lock, said he “has already paid a very high price for his openness about the time when he served as an undercover police officer”.
Francis had sought assurances from the police that he would not be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act for his disclosures in the public interest, but had so far received none. This threatened the loss of his pension, he said.
“He took the decision that ordinary people would know about the tactics used by the SDS – because the public have a right to know what is done in their name and paid for by their taxes,” Lock added.