UK police colluded with construction bosses


AFP Photo / Geoff Caddick
AFP Photo / Geoff Caddick

Independent police watchdog fingers police officers across the country for allegedly providing information on workers for a blacklist of over 3,000 names which was drawn up by one of Britain’s biggest construction companies.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has informed the lawyers representing the victims of the backlist that a Scotland Yard inquiry has found that it was “likely that all special branches were involved in providing information” for the blacklist.

The disclosure by the IPCC confirms suspicions first raised last year by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), an independent public body, which aims to uphold the freedom of information deemed to be in the public interest.

The blacklist was run by a company called the Consulting Association and was funded by 40 of the biggest names in the construction industry, including Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty and Laing O’ Rourke.

Proof that it existed was found after a raid by the ICO in 2009 on the office of a construction company in Droitwich, Worcestershire. Since then the victims have been fighting a legal battle to find out who was providing information against them and the admission by the IPCC is considered a major breakthrough.

Lawyers and campaigners for the 3,200 construction workers affected say the revelation now provides “absolute evidence” that the state conspired with the industry, the Guardian reports.

Last year, the Investigations Officer at the ICO, David Clancy, told one of the tribunals adjudicating claims against construction giant Carillion, “there is information on the Consulting Association files that I believe could only be supplied by the police or the security services. The information was so specific and it contained in effect operational information that wouldn’t have formed anything other than a police record.”

AFP Photo / Johannes Eisele
AFP Photo / Johannes Eisele

Dave Smith was one of the workers on the list. He has a 36 page file under his name and was repeatedly victimized for highlighting safety hazards, including the presence of Asbestos on building sites.

“For the past five years, when we have been saying the police were involved, we were told we were talking nonsense and it was a conspiracy theory. They wanted it to go away. Now we have the absolute evidence that this is no longer about industrial relations but is a major human rights scandal involving a conspiracy between the police and the industry,” he told the Observer.

Working in the construction industry is still one of the most dangerous jobs in the UK. Despite improvements in safety in recent years, in 2012 77 people died in accidents on construction sites in the UK.

Sir Robert McAlpine, was allegedly one of the key players in funding and compiling the blacklist, and is being sued in the high court over an unlawful conspiracy to amass a database on thousands of people.

And last week, in what may seem to be an admission of guilt, eight major construction companies including Sir Robert McAlpine, said they would be compensating some of the 3,213 workers who were on the blacklist.
The eight companies said in statement, “The Companies all apologize for their involvement with the Consulting Association and the impact that its database may have had on any individual construction workers.” 

But in a letter seen by the Observer newspaper, a senior detective insists that the IPCC’s statement implicating the police is incorrect. Detective inspector Steve Craddock says that he has seen “no conclusive evidence” that Scotland Yard shared information with the blacklisters.

Craddock is investigating an inquiry into the activities of undercover police officers known as Operation Herne. Operation Herne is due to report on the blacklisting matter to the Metropolitan (London) police commissioner in due course.

However the IPCC said that its disclosure about the blacklisting was informed by previous discussions with the Metropolitan Police.

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