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.

Photo: Getty
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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.