Former Metropolitan Police Detective Peter Bleksley has explained how undercover police work is "not for the faint-hearted" and told of his own hair-raising experiences of “staring down the barrel of a gun and being stabbed in the neck”, in the wake of a new set of guidelines being published for PCs who infiltrate criminal gangs.
Over the last few years, there have been numerous cases of officers forming unapproved long-term relationships with criminals, and committing various questionable activities while under deep cover.
Bleksley, who worked for ten years as an undercover officer, explained that while there needed to be ground rules, circumstances sometimes required exceptions.
“Imagine an undercover cop has inveigled his way into a terrorist organisation,” he told Sam Delaney.
“Whether male or female, this undercover cop has got a close relationship with the terrorist and it’s the night before the atrocity. The terrorist says: ‘tonight, we make love, tomorrow we massacre, then I’ll let you know the secrets of where we’re going to strike’. Are they going to turn round and make an excuse? It creates a caveat for that situation.”
Bleksley revealed that a Chief Constable had told him that undercover cops currently engaged in undercover work were responsible for drawing up the new rules.
"Of course, they're paying the price for the sins of their predecessors, who entered into these long-term, duplicitous pre-planned intimate relationships, which were utterly wrong and unbelievably fathered children in some cases,” he said.
"Invariably these people were activists, they were protesters. They certainly weren't the types of criminals I infiltrated, who were engaged in criminality in the highest order."
"They are very strict in saying long-term relationships, sexual activity, and taking drugs will never be authorised. But there is a little bit of a proviso, to prevent harm to the undercover cop or others, sexual activity and drug-taking could be allowed if kept to the minimum.
"These guidelines do create some kind of contingency plan if this happens - and it would be clearly frowned upon - but sometimes needs must.
"You need to be either a bit mad or a bit of a maverick or perhaps both to want to do this work."
He backed this up with some startling stories about drugs and violence.
“When you’re in a basement sitting down with the bad guys and they’re saying ‘have a bang on that, if you don’t, you must be Old Bill’. You think, 'by crikey, I’m in really sticky territory'. Sometimes you are backed into a corner. You might have to have a toot, a smoke, a line or whatever.
“I infiltrated numerous drug gangs, bought guns, pretended to be a contract killer, and had a successful career. It was intoxicating, we sent hundreds of people to prison.
"I stared down the barrel of a gun on more than one occasion, I got stabbed in the neck, I got held hostage and I had to live in the witness protection programme. So it’s not for the faint-hearted.”