The television drama ‘Line of Duty’ continues to captivate audiences keen to discover the identity of ‘H’ and the top copper involved in organised crime gangs.
Central to the plot of this series has been undercover cop John Corbett, who met with an unexpected and grisly end in episode 4.
Having been sent in to expose the workings of organised crime gangs, he appeared to go bandit and was involved in armed robbery and murder, despite appearing otherwise legitimate when trying to convince AC12 officer Steve Arnott that he was near to uncovering the police officer at the head of the plot.
So, how near to real life is this scenario?
The role of undercover police officers is well documented, but surprisingly there is little statutory control over what they can and cannot do.
They cannot, of course, kill people, otherwise than with a lawful excuse, such as self-defence, but by necessity, they have to get involved in some level of criminality otherwise they would be quickly exposed.
The difficulty lies when the boundaries become blurred; can we always tell when an officer is a bystander or lowly participant, and when, as in the case of John Corbett, they appear to be the instigator of a serious crime?
At the moment there is an enquiry underway concerning undercover policing, but its findings are some years away yet. In the meantime defence lawyers need to carefully peel away the layers of secrecy, navigating public interest immunity obstacles in a fight to uncover the real story of their client’s involvement in alleged criminality.
This work can be slow and painstaking, but experienced lawyers know the law inside out and are well placed to ensure that your corner is appropriately defended. Only by shining a light on this often secret police world can a jury fully explore all of the facts and arrive at a just verdict.
As serious crime becomes every more organised and sophisticated, and traditional surveillance techniques are frustrated by modern technology and encryption, it is likely that the police will have to rely even more on old school techniques to gather evidence.
But we also know that human behaviour is complex and undercover police do not always keep to the rules, on occasion being guilty themselves of crime and encouraging others to commit crimes that they otherwise may not have (a legal concept called entrapment).
BSB solicitors and undercover police cases
Undercover officers regularly feature in cases we have been involved in. Past cases involving undercover officers that we have been involved with include the acquittal of a client charged with murdering his ex partner despite and undercover operation that arranged for officers to befriend and live with him for six months in an attempt to draw out a confession . Our client only became aware of this evidence when the transcripts of their conversations were provided to his defence team in the weeks prior to his trial. We also acted fro a client who was prosecuted as a result of an attempt to entrap him by the so called fake sheik working as an undercover journalist for the now defunct newspaper News of the World.
Many of our clients are often arrested as a result of police acting undercover as “test purchasers” in drug cases.
How we can assist
If you need specialist advice, then get in touch with our team of expert criminal defence lawyers on 0207 8373456 and let us help, we have the necessary skills and experience to assist you in respect to any criminal investigation or prosecution.