Judge defends undercover police lovers with Bond reference

"Ian Fleming did not dwell on the extent to which his hero used deception…"

A British judge based part of his decision on a case involving women deceived into having sexual relationships with an undercover policeman on a bizarre reference to James Bond, according to his concluding remarks, published today.

A joint lawsuit by 10 women and one man alledges emotional trauma following the revelation that the two men, Mark Kennedy and a second man who posed as "Mark Jacobs", who they had "deeply personal" relationships with were in fact police spies. But the judge hearing the case only gave them a partial right to trial, ruling that half the cases would have to be heard first by a closed court more commonly used to deal with cases involving the security service. Judge Tugendhat did, however, reject the Metropolitan Police's attempt to have the entire case thrown out of court.

In explaining his reasoning, the judge cited Ian Fleming's Bond books. The comments can be found at paragraph 177 in the ruling:

Other examples come to mind from the realms of fiction. James Bond is the most famous fictional example of a member of the intelligence services who used relationships with women to obtain information, or access to persons or property. Since he was writing a light entertainment, Ian Fleming did not dwell on the extent to which his hero used deception, still less upon the psychological harm he might have done to the women concerned. But fictional accounts (and there are others) lend credence to the view that the intelligence and police services have for many years deployed both men and women officers to form personal relationships of an intimate sexual nature (whether or not they were physical relationships) in order to obtain information or access.

In the context of the rest of the ruling, the judge appears to be claiming that, because a famous fictional spy had fictional sexual relationships with fictional women in fiction, Parliament must have intended the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to bestow the ability to have deceptive sexual relationships on police spies.

The Guardian explains the conclusion of Judge Tugendhat:

In his ruling, the judge said that claims against two police officers - Mark Kennedy and a second spy who posed as Mark Jacobs - should first be heard by the IPT. Both of these officers were deployed after 2000, and some of the claims allege their activities constituted a breach of the Human Rights Act, which came into force in October that year.

However, the judge said that other claims for damages under common law, including torts of misfeasance in public office, deceit, assault and negligence, should be heard by the high court.

James Bond (Daniel Craig) Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.